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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.This archeological detective story tackles some of the biggest questions in biblical studies: Where did the ancient Israelites come from? How did the worship of one God—the foundation of modern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—emerge?

In return, Abraham and his people, who will become the Israelites, must worship a single god.

Near the banks of the Nile, in southern Egypt, in 1896, British archaeologist Flinders Petrie, leads an excavation in Thebes, the ancient city of the dead.

Here, he unearths one of the most important discoveries in biblical archaeology.

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.

It is hard to appreciate today how radical an idea this must have been in a world dominated by polytheism, the worship of many gods and idols.

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