Adetailed Atlas might help to follow the first of 11 spex on tales from the Bible. With airborne cameras skimming endless dusty mountain ranges and far-flung deserts, production moves firmly forward lecture-like, using commentaries, paintings, drawings, statuary and landscape to illustrate points; the result is a dutiful docu.
Particularly difficult for “Moses at Mount Sinai,” is the starting point: There’s no proof positive, as a testifier observes in the spec, that Moses even existed. And there’s no trace of the 12 tribes of Israel — in the desert for 40 years; archaeologists have found no bones, no shards, no human relic along the trail in the vast desert.
Writer-producer Lionel Friedberg, following the extraordinary life of Moses — leading the Hebrews out of bondage, witnessing the burning bush, parting the Red Sea (a rabbi suggests it may have been a swampland), bringing the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai — does build a solid narrative structure.
Starting with Moses as a babe in the bulrushes to his final mountaintop view of the promised land before his death, program identifies people, situations and places — all but mysterious Mount Sinai, the location of which has never really been determined. (But, as a rabbi comments on the docu, “We have a tendency to worship the mountain and ignore the teachings.”)
Program takes two stabs at identifying the location of the mountain — either Jebel Musa in the Sinai Desert or, 45 miles north of that spot, Serabit El Khadem, site of ancient copper and turquoise mines. St. Catherine’s orthodox monastery, shown briefly, has stood for hundreds of years at Jebel Musa, and foliage rumored to be related to the burning bush still flourishes there.
TV has a tendency to either neglect Bible specials or pass off anemic, poster-colored, flamboyant dramatic forays based on Bible stories. There’s a need for biblical stories on TV to serve as reminders to those who’ve forgotten them or as an introduction to the uninitiated, whether as a religious or a literary experience. This”Bible” serves that need.
More, the use of university-connected “experts” (their titles aren’t mentioned) to comment on Moses the Lawmaker gives history a modern-day perspective.
Straightforwardly narrated by Richard Kiley, with biblical passages — including chapter and verse — delivered sympathetically by Jean Simmons, program pays an involving homage to Passover. Production values are basic, but the heroic, sacred story itself carries the day.