Situated in a remote valley on the Sinai Peninsula is a small Christian monastery that has withstood the ravages of time and history since AD 565. It is one of the oldest working monasteries in the world — and is filled with hidden treasures.
Pilgrims and tourists from around the world flock to St. Catherine’s Monastery, and some will climb nearby Jebel Musa, the traditional Mount Sinai. Few get to see the vast collection of ancient manuscripts hidden in the monastery library.
From September 2, 2021, that will change with the release of the documentary, Codex Sinaiticus: A Journey in Biblical Discovery, which takes viewers on a rare visit inside St. Catherine’s Monastery to meet with Father Justin, chief librarian to a collection of more than 2,300 ancient manuscripts.
As Father Justin shares the history of the ancient Bible texts discovered there, he states, “These are not just historical texts, these are living texts.” He notes how understanding the story makes a significant difference for trust and faith today.
In the combined production of Hope Channel Norway and the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, hosts Tor Tjeransen and Victor Hulbert take the viewer on an inspiring journey inside the monastery. Through an additional series of shorter video clips, they guide the audience to relive the biblical accounts of Moses and the children of Israel, bringing modern insights to their inspiring — and sometimes distressing — stories.
The documentary was not easy filming, producers said. Hope Channel Norway worked hard to gain all the necessary permits to visit and film in this historically significant but high-security region. It involved meticulous preparation, prayer, and perseverance. Even with those permissions, it was an answer to prayer to gain entrance past the Egyptian security forces, who had recently turned away a film crew from a major international broadcaster.
Silja Leknes and Sindre Hammersbøen worked with camera and sound to give viewers access to rarely seen sights. They also had to carry equipment to the top of Jebel Musa (Mount Sinai). In one of the clips, an out-of-breath Tjeransen jokes that he could understand why Moses stayed there 40 days and 40 nights after the effort of making the climb.
“My delight,” Hulbert stated, “is that Hope Channel Norway and TED Communication working together [allowed us] to produce the series in two languages at reduced cost and easily make it available to other language groups for their translation and use.”
It was an experiment in working together bilingually, but as both hosts learned from each other and blended their skills, they believe that they have a format that could easily be repeated in the future and used by other teams.
The documentary and the accompanying short videos, “Moments from Sinai,” are more than just a travelogue or historical journey, the producers said. Watching a spectacular sunset from the mountain top, Hulbert and Tjeransen found themselves sharing the story of Moses and God’s faithfulness to a young Australian couple who had climbed the mountain but knew nothing about the Bible. The lively conversation during the descent led the couple to want to explore the story further. That is the purpose of the series, they said. Exploration and discovery leads to faith development, helping people to develop trust in Scripture and, more importantly, the God that Scripture reveals.
“Moments from Sinai”will be followed later in the year with a second series filmed in Jordan.
Codex Sinaiticus: A Journey in Biblical Discovery will be released on the TED YouTube channel and several other platforms. Clips from “Moments from Sinai” will be released at the rate of one per week until the end of October 2021. The Norwegian version of the documentary is available on Hope Channel Norway.