Hating On “The Bible” Miniseries

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m skeptical of media that barely dresses up a point of view with a few tidbits of action, drama, or acting, barely concealing that it is a diatribe against this or that thing which someone holds dear. And I’m doubly skeptical of those pieces of media which come from the Christian sector, having forgotten that Jesus spent most of his time teaching in parables, that is stories, framing theological truth in the midst of narrative.

That said: Christians should be hoping that The Bible on the History Channel is watched by millions of viewers. And based on last night’s Twitter and Facebook traffic, it was. That means people were considering the stories they’ve heard over and over (or never heard before) and were reflecting on their own lives. That means the good news of God’s love was a subject beyond the walls of Sunday morning services.

Unfortunately, too many Christians failed to see the big picture in the first episode, which covered from Eden to Rahab, and I wonder what they were expecting. Given ten hours (minus commercials), a budget of less than twenty-two million (chump change for ten hours of special effects and acting), and the scope of both the Old and New Testament, there were going to be some edits to the “script.” Given that the show dramatizes the most widely read book… ever… there’s going to be some difference of opinion in how “literal” a translation it is. (Seriously, how many people were able to grasp the big picture of Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty without deconstructing the attention to detail?)

Honestly, if you think Eugene Peterson’s The Message is blasphemous, you’re not going to like it. If you think that only the words used in the translation of your choosing can be used to describe the scene taking place, you’re not going to like it.

But if you want to consider the bigger picture, how the God of the Trinity made him/herself known to humanity, and showed the power of God’s love for humanity, then buckle up.

Sure, I could’ve done without the guy I call Ninja Angel who helped bring justice to Sodom; I didn’t particularly like ol’ Scottish dude playing Abraham. I know that there wasn’t a conversation between Abram (he was Abraham throughout) where God changed his name and delivered a monologue about stars or sand. But what WAS there was pretty phenomenal.

God shows up and saves Noah and his family after years of human depravity, and then facilitates the growth of Abraham’s nation-to-be. God uses the brokenness of Moses and the doubt of Joshua to form leaders from broken, messed-up people who will lead God’s people where they need to go. And The Bible did that while displaying a pretty awesome burning (but not consumed) bush and a parting of the Red Sea (eat your heart out, Charlton Heston!) Still, my favorite part was the heart-wrenching depiction of Abraham’s faithfulness in presenting Isaac as a sacrifice and God’s miraculous response.

Maybe instead of nitpicking the parts, we need to consider the whole. Maybe instead of arguing for Ruth to be included or Adam and Eve to eat an apple, we should consider what would happen if we invite a friend or group over to talk about how we see God moving in The Bible and how God moves in our lives. Maybe we should let the Story speak for itself like Jesus often did, so that God’s glory would be revealed in our hearts rather than deconstructed in our minds.

If you’re not down for that, maybe you should go read the Bible. I heard there are some crazy stories in there.

If you missed The Bible miniseries last night, it will encore at 8 p.m. on Monday night on Lifetime. Next week’s episode will air at 8 p.m. on The History Channel on Sunday night.

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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3 Responses to Hating On “The Bible” Miniseries

  1. Oh I agree. I was so disappointed in the series which had looked quite good from the trailers. Well yesterday at church our Pastor ran a short segment based on Abrahams sacrifice of Isaac. My husband and I caught at least 4-5 errors unfortunately. (With their budget couldn’t they afford two extras to act as servants to travel with them?) Well, we’ll give it one more try next week and hope it improves. But “as for me and my house,” we’ll trust in the original script. Thanks for your post!

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  2. Ben Horrocks says:

    ^^^^Respectfully, did you read the blog post Ellie? It (the mini-series) wasn’t meant for you, someone who is already a Christian, but rather for NON-Christians who might be never pick up a Bible on their own but would watch a mini-series. Read this to learn more about what motivated and guided Roma Downey to bring it to life. http://www.eveningsun.com/ci_22717232/roma-downey-felt-inspired-bring-bible-tv

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  3. Jacob Sahms says:

    Ellie and Ben, thanks for your thoughts. I do think there is a misconception here about the purpose. Downey and Burnett are careful to point out that they’re storytellers not teachers, and keep pointing people back to the Bible (the book) and church, in every interview I’ve heard so far. I don’t see anything different here in the series than when a pastor uses an illustration from someone else and adopts it as their own to make the point; is the truth there valid? have the details been changed to protect the not-so-innocent? The Bible series focuses on God’s love for humankind as told in the stories of the Old Testament (in episode one) and makes it vivid storytelling that even a non-scholar can wrap their minds around, which is more than some sermons accomplish!

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