Beginning with a quest to find the Ark of the Covenant — the biblical chest containing the Ten Commandments — a two-episode series that attempts to answer ancient religious mysteries begins Sunday on NBC.
The first of the series, called “Biblical Mysteries: Ark of the Covenant,” is described by NBC as an “action-packed, one-hour documentary” in which biblical scholar and “modern-day ‘Indiana Jones’” Mike Sanders journeys to one of the Middle East’s most dangerous territories to find the elusive ancient ark that once held the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.
Eventually led to a Palestinian-controlled village reputed to be a training ground for terrorists, Sanders gets set to uncover what would be one of the greatest archaeological finds of the age. The disappearance of the ark — which was constructed under strict instructions at the direction of God, as recorded in the book of Exodus — has confounded scholars for centuries, but Sanders believes he has found the sacred object buried at the site of a former Egyptian temple in Israel’s volatile West Bank.
Also set in the war-torn region is “Biblical Mysteries: Sodom & Gomorrah,” which features Sanders’ quest to find the ruins of the ancient biblical cities, ultimately taking the explorer to the bottom of the Dead Sea. Employing the same Delta mini-submarine used to explore the wreck of the Lusitania, Sanders searches for solid evidence of the destruction of the cities.
Believed by many to be merely figurative places used in a metaphor about the consequences of sin, Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in the Bible as having been destroyed by God. Yet Sanders’ belief that the cities actually existed is fueled by NASA satellite photographs showing anomalies in the Dead Sea.
Located between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea dive was preceded by years of negotiations to obtain clearance from the Israeli army, the Jordanians and the Palestinians. At the last minute, according to NBC, the Jordanian government withdrew permission for diving in its territory. But the expedition continued, sparking what NBC publicists called “an international incident.”
The two missions are significant as Sanders and his colleagues attempt to prove that the Old Testament of the Bible is not mythical, as many scholars believe, but a literal, historical account of the ancient world and the works of God.
Sanders, who was born in Leeds, England, now resides in Irvine, Calif. He has published numerous academic works on Egyptology and biblical archaeology, in which he explains how simple errors previously made in Egyptian chronology have led to what he believes are inaccurate theories about certain archaeological findings. Sanders’ extensive research has fueled fascinating new theories in the field of biblical archaeology.
Both specials are produced by Union Pictures for Channel Four in the United Kingdom and Alexandria Productions, Inc. for NBC. They air on consecutive Sundays, March 4 and 11, at 7 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
More information about the work of Michael Sanders can be found on his “Mysteries of the Bible” website.