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The Bible's Buried Secrets

The Bible's Buried Secrets was a landmark two-hour NOVA special taking viewers on a scientific journey that began 3,000 years ago and continues today. The film presented the latest archeological scholarship from the Holy Land to explore the beginnings of modern religion and the origins of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). This archeological detective story answered questions about the veracity of stories in the Bible: Where did the ancient Israelites come from? Who wrote the Bible, when, and why? How did the worship of one God – the foundation of modern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – emerge?

The idea that science could prove aspects of the scripture as untrue put some people up in arms. A religious-right organization launched a massive petition campaign urging Congress to defund PBS because of this film. So The Bible's Buried Secrets launched an extensive public education outreach initiative to demonstrate the compatibility of science and religion and spawn interfaith dialogue. First, the initiative assembled pastoral leaders from the three great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – to discuss common roots of the Old Testament and reconcile biblical teachings with scientific and archeological discoveries. Many of these ecumenical “Religious Perspectives” appeared on the program’s website.  These faith leaders also wrote blogs and op-eds, posted on social media, and appeared at project events. The initiative hosted a series of nationwide events at colleges and universities, divinity schools, churches and synagogues, religious conventions, and cultural, historical, and scientific institutions. The signature panel discussion, “Science and Faith: Complementary or Contradictory?,” developed in partnership with the Interfaith Center of New York and Newsweek magazine, was televised and streamed. Additionally, The Bible’s Buried Secrets conducted a major publicity campaign, including op-eds about the compatibility of science and religion and the commonalities among the monotheistic religions. Simultaneously, the project crafted messaging documents and guided PBS and CPB executives and the 350 public television stations on how to manage the controversy. 

This proactive campaign turned the controversy into an asset. It took the wind out of the sails of the PBS defunding effort, and segued the heightened awareness into maximum positive publicity for the project. The project was the most-publicized project on PBS that year and delivered one of NOVA’s largest broadcast audiences in its previous decade.

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