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Holy Half-truths

Although it's no longer the main reference point for Western culture, the Bible still influences world events. From the lecture hall to the corner pub, debates rage over interpretations of the Bible's anecdotes. Now Mainz, Germany-based broadcaster ZDF, is hoping to spread the discussion to the living room with the commission of the 4 x 52-minute series The Bible Enigma.
March 1, 2004

Although it’s no longer the main reference point for Western culture, the Bible still influences world events. From the lecture hall to the corner pub, debates rage over interpretations of the Bible’s anecdotes. Now Mainz, Germany-based broadcaster ZDF, is hoping to spread the discussion to the living room with the commission of the 4 x 52-minute series The Bible Enigma.

Produced by Wiesbaden, Germany’s IFAGE Filmproduktion, Enigma will try to parse fact from myth with the aid of scholars and archeological researchers. The four epochal stories examined correspond closely to the history of the Jews and the development of Christianity: the forty-year flight of the Israelites from Egypt, which culminated in Moses receiving the Ten Commandments; the conquest of Jerusalem by King David; the travails of the prophets Isaiah and Daniel in Babylon; and the millennial time of Herod, the Roman overlord of Judea, during whose despotic rule a rabbi named Jesus earned the title of messiah.

Blending interviews, footage from recent digs in the Middle East, reenactments and CGI-based models of antiquity, Enigma will provide viewers fresh perspectives on these stories, including those of Israel Finkelstein, a controversial Jewish archeologist who argues that the Bible’s key figures are figments of legend.

At a cost of about †350,000 (US$448,000) per episode, Enigma (shot on DigiBeta) wraps this fall. ZDF has international rights. MS

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