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The Bible as military history
on March 10, 2014
This 90-minute History Channel documentary (ignore the dust jacket that says it is 100 minutes) from 2005 is a fun and fast-moving analysis of military battles in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, starting with Abraham's rescue of his nephew Lot and continuing through the military exploits of figures like Moses and the judge Deborah. Unlike many older History Channel videos deceptively packaged under recent copyrights in the same style of artwork, this is actually a modern (i.e. within the past ten years) production that features excellent CGI animations and rousing battle recreations. This video is no stale 1990s documentary with still art photography and pompous voiceovers, like many older History Channel or A&E biblical documentaries, but is a slickly produced "infotainment" tour of the Bible in the more current History Channel style.
The film's details about weapons and tactics are a bit excessive, and the Vietnam veteran-professor who provides most of the analysis seems just slightly on the crackpot side, but it's fascinating to see the Biblical battles presented in a way that presumes the reliability of scripture as a historical text. While one wishes for a bit more stuff on the archaeological record of these events, the documentary offers the intriguing hypothesis that the Bible is a treasure trove of accurate military history replete with rich information about ancient battle tactics, and it does so in an entertaining way. The film is just a touch bloody, but it's not excessive, and it's not boring at all. It's certainly modern enough to hold the attention of young people today, with appealing graphics and visuals that catch the eye. I would recommend it for religion students both young and old, but also for military history buffs who enjoy learning about ancient military culture. "Bible Battles" is not very deep, but it's fun, and it is respectful of the religious texts without trying to deconstruct them.