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This absence of historical evidence leads scholars to take a different approach to reading the biblical narrative. They were good historians and they could tell it the way it was when they wanted to, but their objective was always something far beyond that.

They look beyond our modern notion of fact or fiction, to ask why the Bible was written in the first place. (Reading from the Bible, "Revised Standard Version," Exodus ) And the Lord said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I make a covenant with you and with Israel." The traditional belief is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, the story of creation; Exodus, deliverance from slavery to the Promised Land; Leviticus; Numbers; and Deuteronomy, laws of morality and observance.

And it is the Jews who give the world an astounding legacy, the belief in one God.

This belief will become the foundation of two other great monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam.

Often called the Old Testament, to distinguish it from the New Testament, which describes the events of early Christianity, today the Hebrew Bible and a belief in one God are woven into the very fabric of world culture.

But in ancient times, all people, from the Egyptians to the Greeks to the Babylonians, worshipped many gods, usually in the form of idols.

It is here, between two of history's greatest empires, that Israel's story will unfold.

The way to understand Israel's relationship to the super powers—Egypt and Mesopotamia on either side—is to understand its own sense of its fragility as a people. I will make your name great." According to the Bible, this promise establishes the covenant, a sacred contract between God and Abraham.

The primary way in which the Bible looks at the origins of Israel is as a people coming to settle in the land of Israel. The Lord said to Abraham, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. To mark the covenant, Abraham and all males are circumcised; his descendents will be God's chosen people.

Now, archaeologists and biblical scholars are arriving at a new synthesis that promises to reveal not only fresh historical insights but a deeper meaning of what the authors of the Bible wanted to convey.

They start by digging into the Earth and the Bible.

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