I am uniquely unqualified to discuss the newest History Channel documentary “Bible Secrets Revealed.” Not only do I possess no expertise in film production, I haven’t even watched this particular production. Moreover, I have a handful of friends and colleagues in Bible Secrets, so it would take special consideration to say anything tactfully less than entirely true.
But my interest here has less to do with the content or packaging of Bible Secrets Revealed and more to do with the question of scholarly involvement. On such matters I turn to the handsome, charming, and allegedly British, Mark Goodacre; the man who never met a camera he didn’t like.
AL: Mark, you're the veteran on such matters... what would you say to folks who criticize individual scholars (interviewees) for the overall content of such documentaries?
MG: I think it shows real lack of imagination. Any documentary is a group product, with script-writers, researchers, consultants, and of course there will be many things that any individual won't like, and it's kind of daft to criticize any individual participant for the whole thing. There are lots of things that didn't appeal to me about the first episode as individual pieces, but overall it did a superb job of setting out some of the issues.
AL: Okay, so I'm a devil's advocate here. What about this reply: "But you must know what you're getting into based on previous work put forth by that particular channel."
MG: That would also show lack of imagination or perhaps ignorance. Programmes shown on the History Channel are made by a variety of different companies. So the previous thing I worked on for the History Channel was made by Lightworkers Media in the UK, a completely different company from Prometheus, who are making Bible Secrets Revealed. That's not to say that the channel is irrelevant, but it amuses me first to see people criticizing the History Channel for being too conservative and then to criticize it for being too liberal.
Mark was kind enough to allow me to rehash this conversation for the purpose of this post. I would reiterate another point that I’ve made in other contexts: the divide between scholarship and the general public is still too wide. We need more scholars willing to interview, not less.