God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

The History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman taping Bible Secrets Revealed

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman taping Bible Secrets Revealed

I’m excited and a little nervous to announce that I’m appearing in two episodes of the History Channel’s upcoming Bible Secrets Revealed, which starts airing nationwide this Wednesday, November 13, at 10:00pm EST.

Read the whole story — including air times, links to more information, and video trailers from the series — in my latest e-newsletter.

UPDATE (December 19, 2013): It turns out I had a prominent role in the 5th episode, as well: “Mysterious Prophecies.” You may be able to watch the whole thing on-line via the “Bible Secrets Revealed” Video page.

UPDATE (December 1, 2013): Learn more about “The Life of Adam and Eve,” which I describe in the third episode, from the sneak-peak look at “The Unabridged Bible.”

UPDATE (November 26, 2013): The third episode — “The Forbidden Scriptures” — airs tomorrow (Wednesday) night. This could be the most enlightening of the episodes, because it addresses something most people don’t know much about.

I remember talking about this in depth on camera, and I’m told that some of my explanations made it into the final show.

Here’s the official description, from the History Channel:

The books, gospels and epistles found in the Holy Bible are writings considered to be divinely inspired. But are there chapters of the Bible that are missing? Have stories been censored and characters deleted? And if so, just who decides what is included—and what is forbidden?

UPDATE (November 20, 2013): The second episode airs tonight: “The Promised Land.” When I was interviewed, I declined to comment publicly about the connection between the Bible and Modern Israel’s borders, so I’m not in this one, but I’m curious to hear what other people say. Here’s the History Channel’s description:

It is considered the most sacred place on Earth. But it has also been carved up, sub-divided and fought over for thousands of years. Was the area known as “The Promised Land” really given by God to a “chosen people?” For the Jewish people, it is the land where David was King, where Solomon built a great temple and where Abraham and his descendants could live in peace and prosperity. Christians believe they have a right to this area because, according to the New Testament, Jesus will first appear here when he returns for the Day of Judgment. Since the Crusades, Temple Mount in Jerusalem has remained under Muslim control and is the site of one of the most sacred mosques in all of Islam. Perhaps God’s real promise was not to Abraham, but to all of humanity, and that a “promised land” was to be earned—not simply given. Could this land of religious tension and endless warfare actually become a Promised Land of peace as foretold in the Bible?


November 12, 2013 - Posted by | announcements | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I am looking forward to the series, knowing that you and Dr. Ehrman will both be appearing in it.

    Comment by Colleen Harper | November 12, 2013

    • And not just us. I’m told that dozens of scholars are involved in the 6 episodes.

      It’s odd (and a little nerve-racking) to have been interviewed for the show but to have no idea what the final product will look like.

      Comment by Joel H. | November 13, 2013

  2. Congrats! I’m sure you did amazing. If I had tv, I would stay up late to watch it.

    Comment by jasonmfry | November 13, 2013

  3. Having now seen the first episode, what is your opinion of the final product? Do you believe your views were represented completely and fairly? Do you think the overall project was fair to the Christian viewpoint?

    Comment by JR | November 15, 2013

    • All in all, I thought it was well done.

      More than anything else, my views were represented briefly — I suspect because the focus of the first episode shifted from translation to the Bible more broadly. (I’m told that I’ll have more a role in the 3rd episode.)

      As for fairness to the “Christian viewpoint,” I think the program was generally accurate and fair, and (unlike some other programs) I don’t think it was hostile to religion. But I don’t think there’s a single Christian viewpoint to which to be fair.

      Comment by Joel H. | November 15, 2013

      • What do you mean by your last sentence exactly? Can you expound upon what you mean?

        Comment by George M | November 18, 2013

  4. George: What I mean is this. I think there are lots of “Christian viewpoints,” and they do not entirely agree with each other. So it’s hard to answer a question like “was the program fair to the Christian viewpoint?”

    For example, I’ve traveled around the country lecturing to Christians and Jews about the Bible. Most of my audiences, even including a Southern Baptist Church in Alabama, appreciate what I’m able to contribute to the understanding of Scripture. Yet a certain segment of the Southern Baptists were so appalled at a Huffington Post piece of mine that they preached against me one Sunday morning. These are both “Christian viewpoints,” but they obviously disagree vehemently.

    More generally, I don’t think there is a single Christian viewpoint.

    Comment by Joel H. | November 18, 2013

  5. By the way, Eric Jobe has a critique of the show. Even though I don’t agree with all of his analyses, I think his overall position is very well thought out.

    Two of his points jump out at me:

    First, he write:

    If we believe, as I was taught as an undergraduate at Oklahoma Baptist University, that “all truth is God�s truth,” then Christians need not be afraid of secular Biblical scholarship.

    Without this acknowledgement, I believe, people of faith will have trouble benefiting from the hugely exciting advances in science that the past 100 years have seen.


    It is [wrongly] assumed [by the History Channel show] that any “story” which has lost its supposed “original” historical accuracy is not valuable to the person of faith.

    I believe that without this acknowledgement (namely, that the Bible has value beyond its original historical accuracy), people of science will have trouble benefiting from the hugely significant contributions of religion.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Comment by Joel H. | November 18, 2013

  6. I thought you were fine. The show was a rehash of other videos like it. What I want to see is a discussion on how the entire consensus view on Judas in the gnostic gospels can be so far off, in light of the fact that he isn’t mentioned by Paul, or anyone else before Mark. I think Judas is pure fiction. In the Gospel of Judas, Judas is the sacrifice at the climax not Jesus, when read in its proper mystic context. This opens up the possibility that James, from the preceding text in the Codex Tchacos, “James”, can be seen as ‘Judas’ since that text has him disappear as well and lead fellow disciples to spiritual liberation, as Judas does in gJudas. I found plenty of evidence to support the view that Judas is a cover character for James in canonical ‘Betrayal’, and in Clement (thanks to Dr. Eisenman) and Gospel According to the Hebrews. judaswasjames.com

    Comment by Robert Wahler | November 18, 2013

  7. Dr. Hoffman:

    Ok, I see what you mean. I guess a more specific question should be asked then. What do you think the consensus of the views expressed in the episode were concerning the view of Jesus as a historical person?

    I’ve seen the episode and I wasn’t very impressed. Not much was said in detail and the scope was far too broad. They jump from topic to topic only covering surface information. One example of this is the phrase “son of man.” They take one instance of its use in Mark about the Sabbath but don’t mention its other uses, especially how it is used in the Gospel of Matthew and how it relates to its usage in Daniel and the Enoch scroll, they just say that the phrase means “a man,” or “a dude” as one commentator said. Another one is the word “adam.” My overall impression of the show is that it serves to stir controversy more than it intends to reveal anything about the Bible. The episode was basically a collection of controversial statements said with little force to back anything up. Considering how this episode was on translation in the Bible though, I thought you would have had more of a voice. Hopefully this serves as an introduction to the series and not the standard of how each episode would pan out. The one thing I despised about it was the dramatic style almost all documentaries have nowadays–it’s so annoying.

    As to my view on the question I posed you: I think what most (not all) of the scholars hope to achieve here is to establish that the “Gospels” are purely fictional and, therefore, Jesus is also fictional. It comes across quite clear in their tone and the curtness of their statements. Concerning the virgin birth, no one mentions anything about the concept of proof-texting and what the author hoped to achieve, or what he wanted to convey, by using a proof-text, because clearly the context of Isaiah 7:14 isn’t about a messiah at all, so there must be something else that is intended other than a literal interpretation. But it’s not their intention to give a religious interpretation because they are not religious. The purpose is fault-finding.

    Comment by George M | November 19, 2013

    • Considering how this episode was on translation in the Bible though, I thought you would have had more of a voice.

      Thanks. In spite of the title, the episode turned out not to have much to do with translation at all.

      I think what most (not all) of the scholars hope to achieve here is to establish that the “Gospels” are purely fictional and, therefore, Jesus is also fictional.

      I’d be careful assigning too much blame to the scholars. I know I spent a few hours in front of the camera, mostly talking about matters in which I am an established expert. But my one comment that the producers included in the show was an off-hand remark I made about Bible apps, based on something someone showed me a couple of years ago. I imagine there’s a media scholar somewhere who actually knows something about the process by which texts are re-interpreted through changing media, and he or she is probably frustrated that I didn’t mention any of the key points. Similarly, we don’t know the full context in which the scholars intended their words to be interpreted, any more than they got to choose the texts and images that would appear as they spoke.

      And I don’t have a problem with making a topic interesting by referring to real controversy. I learned a long time ago that it’s hard to learn if you’re not having fun, and controversy can be fun. But as a scholar who writes for a popular audience, I start with trying to understand the facts, and then try to make my writing interesting.

      I know that some of my colleagues do things the other way around. They start with controversy and then pick and choose their facts to support it, in the end misrepresenting things.

      I don’t think that Bible Secrets Revealed fell into this tempting trap. I think what they said was as accurate as you can expect in mainstream media.

      On the other hand, I do think that the show missed perhaps the most important aspect of the Bible. As you point out — and as Eric Jobe explained so eloquently — the Bible’s religious value has little to do with most of the topics the show addressed. In this sense, it was one-sided. I suppose (though I could be wrong because I don’t know anything about aviation) that it would be like doing a show on mechanical problems with airplanes and forgetting to mention that they fly pretty well and are exceedingly safe.

      Comment by Joel H. | November 19, 2013

      • Well, thanks for that. That was quite informative.

        Comment by George M | November 19, 2013

  8. Another observation/critique by Fred Clark dubs the series, based on the first episode, “Bible Secrets Referenced.” His point is that the episode mentioned a lot of interesting material but didn’t really explore it.

    I was mostly watching the show to see how the entertainment giant Prometheus created 40 minutes of television. (Among other reasons, I was curious what they would do with the text, because I created my own informational text-based “Exploring the Bible” videos.) I think they did a great job.

    But I do wonder what it was like to watch the show if you didn’t already know the content. Anyone care to weigh in? Did you learn anything new from the show?

    Comment by Joel H. | November 19, 2013

  9. […] The Life of Adam and Eve (which I mentioned on the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed: The Forbidden Scriptures). […]

    Pingback by Sneak-Peak of “The Unabridged Bible” « God Didn't Say That | November 29, 2013

  10. Joel, in Episode 5, at a point where the subject is the book of Daniel, you say, “Daniel is a book about what happens at the end of time,” and then you say, “Rome was taking over; Herod was ruling Jerusalem.” Care to explain what was going on there? It sounded like two separate comments from you about two different things got spliced together.

    Comment by James Snapp, Jr. | January 10, 2014

    • I don’t remember exactly, but I think I was talking about two things:

      1. The last few centuries of the millennium, and how they produced apocalyptic literature, such as Daniel, Revelation, the War Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls), and others; and

      2. The final century before Rome sacked Jerusalem, when such apocalyptic literature seemed to speak directly to what Jerusalemites were experiencing.

      Comment by Joel H. | January 12, 2014

  11. […] The History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed […]

    Pingback by Review Joel M. Hoffman - The Bible's Cutting Room | November 23, 2014

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