An Epic Fail of Biblical Purportions: How The Bible Miniseries Became The Most Incorrect Televised Adaptation Of Scripture In History
When I first heard about The Bible miniseries being created by husband-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, I was extremely hopeful that a faithful adaptation of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) would be shown, and that it would get millions of people to look at The Bible again. Little did I realize that it would do just that, except not for the reasons I had thought.
After watching three parts of the five-part miniseries, I was very disappointed and frustrated on how events from the Bible were portrayed. Races and ethnicities were all over the place and didn’t match the regions where the Bible’s events took place. Also, certain events were left out of the miniseries entirely, including some major events that explain others that were included.
I decided to take it upon myself to figure out where the miniseries messed up in its adaptation of Biblical events. Little did I realize that the errors contained in the television miniseries were more numerous than I had even realized.
What follows is a amalgamation of several different sources that explains The Bible miniseries’ errors, and even an inside look at who helped create the miniseries in the first place. After looking at this fully, you should be able to see the same thing that I realized. The miniseries has succeeded in getting people to read their Bibles again, except that they have started reading it again to correct where Burnett et. al. messed up.
Note: This post is very detailed after the jump, with lots of information about where the miniseries messed up, and who helped the producers mess it up. The sources I used in this amalgamation of research is included (with links) at the end of the post.
If you listened to the critics’ reviews, History Channel’s The Bible was destined to become an underwhelming miniseries not worth viewers’ time. The Los Angeles Times dismissed it as “flat and often tedious,” Entertainment Weekly called it a “cheesefest,” and the Philadelphia Enquirer labeled it “cardboard characters surrounded by CGI.” Apparently, viewers weren’t listening. The premier pulled in 13.1 million viewers and each additional episode has garnered over 10 million. About 4 in 10 Americans have watched at least one episode of the show.
But some Christians questioned the historicity of some of the finer details of the show’s portrayals. The creators seem to have anticipated such controversy, which is why every episode begins with the following disclaimer: “This program is an adaptation of Bible stories. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.”
Inaccuracies are inevitable when one moves a work of art from one medium to another (in this case, from literature to film). Such deviations are acceptable depending on the kind and scale of liberties taken. In The Bible’s case, the inaccuracies are often significant but do not seem to compromise the Biblical meta-story itself. Even still, viewers should be aware of which flourishes deviate from the Biblical text. Here are the 10 that stick out in my mind. They are listed in chronological order:
1. Noah’s creation story. In the opening scene of episode one, Noah and his family are bouncing around inside the ark, tossed by the tumultuous waves outside. Noah recounts the creation narrative as it appears in Genesis, but there’s one problem: the story was not written until later. Conservative Christian scholars believe this story was drafted by Moses many centuries after Noah’s flood; more liberal scholars claim it was penned even later.
2. Angels know martial arts? When God’s messengers rescue Lot and his family from Sodom prior to the city’s destruction, the television show depicts them defending the fugitives with swords and Jet-Li-style martial arts. The Bible, however, makes no mention of such a battle or any kind of weapons used by the angels. Instead, the text claims Sodom’s residents were struck with blindness (Genesis 19), which would have made their escape a lot less exciting… and less bloody.
3. Abraham’s lamb. When the Jewish patriarch, Abraham, is about to sacrifice Isaac, the television show portrays a lamb showing up just in time to take Isaac’s place. In the Bible, however, it was a ram (Genesis 22:13). The lamb is more aesthetically pleasing and sweet, but it is not which the animal the Bible says appeared.
4. Saul – he’s #1. In the biblical account, King Saul goes into a cave to “relieve himself” when David cuts off a piece of his robe and spares his life. The Hebrew word here is clear that the Israelite king was defecating (1 Samuel 24), but the television show portrays Saul urinating. The latter act is more viewer-appropriate, but technically inaccurate.
5. Jeremiah, the escape artist. When the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem, a wild-eyed Jeremiah escapes undetected by the invading army. According to the scriptures, however, Jeremiah was captured, bound in chains, and later released (Jeremiah 40:1). Additionally, the television show tells of Daniel and his three compatriots being captured during the siege, when in fact, they were deported more than a decade after Jerusalem’s destruction (Daniel 1; 1 Kings 24:10-16).
6. Cyrus and the lion’s den. The Bible says the prophet Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den during the reign of Darius (Daniel 6). In the television show, however, Cyrus is still in power.
7. Jesus’ birth…how romantic. The birth of Jesus has been romanticized in Western accounts, many added details have no root in scripture. The television show riffs on the popular version with the pregnant Mary riding to Bethlehem on a donkey pulled by Joseph. The Bible never mentions a donkey, and it almost certain that they would have travelled there in a caravan with their family and friends in tow (Luke 2).
8. Wise men, yes. But punctual, no. Consistent with the romanticized but fictional tale of Jesus’ birth, the television show depicts three wise men riding camels to visit the newborn babe. But the Bible never says how many magi there were. And though the wise men arrive at the same time the shepherds do in the series, they visit the infant Jesus later in the Biblical account (Matthew 2:1-12).
9. John the Baptist’s girl problem. In the show, John is arrested and executed because he is stirring up trouble preaching about a Messiah that would deliver the Jews from Roman oppression. In the Bible, Herod was actually a fan of John’s preaching (Mark 6:20). He arrests John because he is preaching about Herod stealing his brother’s wife. But even then he is not executed. That is, until Herod’s wife and step-daughter get revenge by requesting his head on a platter (Mark 6:21-15).
10. Jump, Jesus, jump. The desert temptation is one of the most dramatic stories in The Bible–both the series and the scriptures. But the television show has Satan taking Jesus to a cliff where he tempts Jesus to jump off. The Biblical account says Jesus was taken to the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5-7).
“The Bible” miniseries has truly brought in divine ratings for The History Channel these past few weeks. Despite at least one major road bump (Satan appeared in a black hooded robe and was promptly compared to President Barack Obama), the episodes — which selectively feature certain stories in both the Old and New Testaments — have been well received by millions of viewers every week. But as the series comes to a close Sunday, it’s worth asking – just how accurate was the series, in the end?
Telling the story of The Bible is a tricky business, said biblical scholar Dr. Peter E. Enns, who teaches Biblical Studies at Pennsylvania’s Eastern University. But it was clear, he notes, that series creators Mark Burnett and Roma Downey had an agenda – and that every episode they told had one goal: To get to the climax of Jesus’s life and death.
“They were focusing on the final stage of the Bible story, which is Christ’s appearance,” he said. “It’s all a buildup to that. They take a celebrity approach to The Bible, and highlight the figures people know and present them in ways that make it seem that when you get to Jesus, you’ll feel that this was how it was meant to be all along.”
That can lead to some problems with the series; for Enns, there were some clear issues with “The Bible.”
Telling Samson’s story
Samson is a “minor character in the Bible,” said Enns, but gets a lot of screen time in the series. Why? He’s a precursor to Christ, said Enns: He gave his life for the community, is unjustly treated, chained and blinded. “We’re seeing Jesus in preview form,” he said.
Jesus again got a preview in the scene where three visitors meet Abraham on their way to destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. “In the Bible, these three figures are clearly angelic divine figures, but it’s ambiguous,” said Enns. Instead, since one is referred to as “Lord,” the miniseries transformed him into a proto-Jesus, never clearly seen in the show, but highlighted as Christ. “In the Old Testament, that’s completely out of bounds,” said Enns. The other two angels are also problematic: “When the two angels in true ninja fashion take out swords and start swing-kicking, that’s a gratuitous moment.”
Sarah wants to save her son
Sarah running after her husband Abraham and son Isaac as Abraham takes him to be sacrificed to God was “stupid,” said Enns. “It’s what a mother would do, but Sarah is nowhere to be found in that sequence. They turn the scene into an ‘I want to save my boy!’ moment rather than a test of faith.”
Too many Caucasians
Arguably, “The Bible” was more multicultural than many versions have been in the past. But in 2013, the portrayal of characters with Scottish and British accents and clear European looks was just wrong, said Enns. “You have Mary who looks like someone you’d bump into at the water cooler and she speaks wonderful American English,” he said. “It does not do justice to the foreignness of the story.”
Sympathy for the Devil
While not precisely an inaccuracy, Enns gave a thumbs-down to the image of Satan and the resemblance to the president – a comparison he made after watching the episode. “What I thought was if the resemblance was not intentional, someone should have pointed it out,” he said. “It was a very unwise decision to leave it there like that. So many people noticed it immediately that it makes it hard to imagine no one on set did.”
All of that said Enns knows that retelling The Bible is a tricky business. “It’s impossible to please everybody with a show like this,” he said. “You talk about God, you’re going to make enemies, especially with the sacred book.”
Christians used to be known for producing great art and classic literature, now we’re so afraid of the evils of the culture at large we’ve created a Christian subculture where we buy and sell sub-par Jesus junk. Purged of bad language and suggestive dress, we’ve insulated ourselves from the non-Christian culture at large. Occasionally smart executives will use this against us.
“Christian” has become a corporate marketing niche…
- We have Christian bookstores, Christian television stations, and Christian websites.
- Those who are curious can flip through a Christian best seller, thumb through a multitude of Christian magazines, or sit back and enjoy a blockbuster Christian motion picture.
- One can quickly find Christian solutions for any and every problem a bewildered American faces—there are Christian exercise videos, and Christian weight-loss programs.
- And now, thank goodness, even Christian vitamins.
I’ll never forget walking out of the movie theater after seeing Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and saying to another staff member, “That was the biggest evangelical hype since Y2K. We were duped.”
And then the hype for The Bible mini-series on The History Channel started flooding my inbox.
The Bible will provide the church with the greatest opportunity for outreach and discipleship since the Passion of the Christ. – Scott Evans, President and C.E.O., Outreach, Inc.
Oh geez, I thought. Surely the church will see through this.
No such luck.
Since debuting March 3, 2013, THE BIBLE has been seen by more than 68 million people, and according to producer Mark Burnett, “The most-read book of all time is the most-watched TV event of our time!”
Please. Jesus. For. The. Love. Of. God. No.
Fortunately most Christians were spared the cheesy pre-marketing to pastors to get the Christians in their churches to watch the show.
- The Christian marketing tie-ins.
- The email blasts.
- The ads in periodicals targeting church leaders.
- The pre-done Bible study materials and sermon series.
- And finally the Rick Warren endorsement.
Ah, yes, the ever-coveted Rick Warren endorsement, virtually ensuring every white suburban congregation in America would not only hear about the series, but also view it as the single greatest evangelistic opportunity of the 21st century.
I believe the church has been waiting for an outreach tool like The Bible. – Rick Warren
Rick. Please. Tell. Me. They. Forced. You. To. Write. That. Under. Threat. Of Bamboo. Under. The. Fingernails. Torture.
Is The Bible mini-series bad because it’s teaching the Bible? Of course not.
It’s bad because, well, it’s just bad television. Period. Mediocre acting following a jumbled plot filled with a Scottish talking Noah and Ninja assassin angels saving Lot and destroying Sodom.
As Madeleine L’Engle once observed, “Much so-called religious art is in fact bad art, and therefore bad religion.”
Or as the boys from South Park would say, “Think about it! It’s the easiest crappiest television in the world, right? …All the Christians will buy our crap!”
Am I wrong?
These are my thoughts on “The Bible” miniseries running on the History Channel on Sunday evenings. I felt compelled to comment on it after informing folks that it was airing.
I looked forward to watching this series, particularly since it was advertised as being produced by Christians. The trailers and reviews I saw looked interesting. I discussed the news of its airing with friends, both Christians and non-Christians.
While I can understand and accept some creative license in presentation, I do get concerned when Biblical events and truths, or the presentation of my Lord, are WAY OFF BASE. From the two episodes I watched, “The Bible miniseries” overlooks and in some cases, changes, the core message of the Bible and alters facts from Biblical accounts. I would think anyone that undertakes a production like this – covering Scripture events from Genesis to Revelation – must be dedicated enough to invest the money, sweat and time to produce it. So I find myself uncertain as to what happened with this production.
I watched the first 2 episodes today, including the episodes “Beginnings,” and “Homeland.” That was, unfortunately, as far as I could go. I think that Roma Downey, Mark Burnett and their teams had an enormous job in front of them in selecting Bible events and figuring out how to present them, and pulling all that together. I liked a few of the special effects in some of the scenes – Lot’s wife turning to salt; God’s angels sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah were actually presented as warrior angels instead of wispy beings in filmy robes.
Still there were many things that made it hard to watch this series. These are a few:
Noah & the Ark
The Bible miniseries opens with Noah on the ark along with his family and the animals, all being tossed about on rough seas. They are struggling to plug leaking holes in the ship and thus keep the ark afloat. It would seem from this depiction that the ship’s design, provided by God, was faulty and insufficient to keep them safe. In Scripture, the ark was a strong, well-constructed ship designed to preserve Noah and his family and the animals safely until dry ground appeared again.
In the film, Noah’s sons are small children. In Scripture, they are actually grown, married men, and they bring their wives with them onto the ark.
In the film, as Noah tells the story of Adam and Eve, he does not mention the promised Redeemer, who would one day be born and redeem Adam, Eve and all of humanity. This is a critical oversight.
In Scripture, in Genesis 3:14-15, it is written, “And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all domestic animals and above every wild living thing of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.”
This is a vital, important verse in Scripture because it is the first prophecy of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would be born of a woman by the Holy Spirit, and who would one day conquer Satan. The victory over Satan was won on the cross when Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind and provided forgiveness for those who put their faith in Him.
All history in the Old Testament focuses on the expectation of this promised child – the Messiah – being born one day. The Old Testament centered around the lineage of the Messiah. None of this was conveyed in the Bible miniseries.
In the same section of the film, Noah explains God’s punishment on the earth to his children as being due to “Bad choices! Bad decisions!” Yet Scripture tells us in Romans 5:11 that “Wherefore, as by one man SIN entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The film (thus far) does not mention the reality of SIN and neglects to mention God’s plan of redemption of all humanity through the Messiah (Jesus Christ, the Savior). The primary message of the Bible is lost before the story ever unfolds.
In the telling of Adam and Eve, and their sin in disobeying God (by eating the forbidden fruit) and believing Satan’s lies on the character of God in the Garden of Eden, the Bible film depicts their being cast out of the Garden of Eden as though there is no hope of redemption. God is simply done with them. This is not true! In Scripture, Adam and Eve did sin but the Lord made it clear that He would provide a way of redemption and forgiveness.
In Scripture, after Adam and Eve sinned, their nakedness made them feel ashamed. Yet God showed His grace and willingness to forgive them by sacrificing an animal to make clothing to cover them. God’s act of sacrificing a creature to cover their shame with animal skin is a foreshadowing of God providing the ultimate sacrifice: His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of mankind. The film leaves you with the impression that God has written them off.
The Bible miniseries ignores that the Messianic bloodline established with Adam and Eve would be continued through Abraham. In Scripture, the Abrahamic covenant is God’s promise to Abraham that He would make of him a great nation, and that his seed would inherit the Promised Land. This was a foreshadowing of all believers in Jesus Christ receiving eternal life in Heaven. This is critical for people to understand God’s plan of salvation and Jesus’ presence throughout all of Scripture. In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”
Additionally, in the film, Abraham is portrayed as a scruffy, sometimes wild-eyed nomad scraping a living to survive in the desert! Again not true! The Scriptures say, “And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” (Genesis 13:2)
The film also presents that when God deploys His angels to test Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, the angels arrive at the home of Abraham’s nephew, Lot; but the angels are portrayed as beaten up, begging for Lot’s help and protection! Yet there is no place in Scripture where any angel of God was ever harmed or even a little bit frightened of the Sodomites. While I enjoyed that the angels were depicted as warriors in the film, the Jet Li-like martial arts techniques simply looked crazily out of context!
In Scripture, God sent His angels to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family before God’s destruction came down on the city. Their rescue of Lot and his family was a picture of God’s salvation (the ongoing theme throughout the Bible) for those who believe in Him.
Abraham & Isaac
Imagine my shock in the film to see Abraham ARGUING with God about sacrificing Isaac, shouting and rebelling, and complaining about God’s apparent excessive need for Abraham to prove his faith. Not true! There is no arguing or griping. In Scripture, Abraham listens to God and obeys. The Bible tells us he rose up “early in the morning” to pack for the trip, and took his son Isaac to Mount Moriah. He tells his servants that he and Isaac were going on their own but would “come again.” Abraham never doubted that Isaac was going to return alive.
The Bible clearly tells us that Abraham believed God. He trusted God. Abraham offering up his son Isaac as a sacrifice was a test of his obedience to God (Genesis 22). This was a foreshadowing of the time when God Himself would offer His own Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
Certainly Abraham would not have wanted to lose his son but he knew that God had promised him a son; that Abraham would be the father of many nations; and Scripture also tells us that Abraham believed that even if Isaac had died, God would raise him up from the dead to fulfill His promise to Abraham. In Hebrews 11:17-19, we read, “By faith Abraham, when he was put to the test, had already brought Isaac for an offering; he who had gladly received and welcomed God’s promises was ready to sacrifice his only son, Of whom it was said, Through Isaac shall your descendants be reckoned. For he [Abraham] reasoned that God was able to raise him up even from among the dead.” Abraham knew that God would make a way for the sacrifice to be accomplished and he trusted that Isaac would return with him alive.
Other discrepancies include the film showing Abraham’s wife Sarah chasing after him to stop him from sacrificing Isaac (she didn’t as Hebrews 11 tells us that Sarah had faith that she would conceive a child at age 90), and a baby lamb showing up to take Isaac’s place on the altar (in Scripture, it was a ram).
Moses & the Israelites
Another thing that disturbed me in this sequence of the film was when Moses was informing the Israelites of the Death that was to come as the final plague on Egypt. One of the Israelites said to him (paraphrasing from memory), “But we’ll be safe, right? We are protected?” Moses responds that Death was coming to everyone.
Another … well, lie. The Israelites as the people of God were to be protected. They were given specific instructions by God to follow so that they would be protected (painting the blood of a lamb on their doorposts). This was never made clear in the film.
Other things in the film that were “off” was the depiction of the Israelites as they left with Moses looking sick and crippled and wounded, and really, really POOR. Yet the Bible says in Exodus 12:35-36, “The Israelites did according to the word of Moses; and they urgently asked of the Egyptians jewels of silver and of gold, and clothing. The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they gave them what they asked.” Psalm 105:37 says, “He brought Israel forth also with silver and gold, and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.”
The last thing I will mention is the account of David and Goliath. This is one of those awesome passages in Scripture.
The film shows David facing Goliath but the character of David they depicted looked rather nervous and frightened to me. And what does he yell at this great Philistine enemy? He quotes Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd…” before he slings his rock to fell the giant enemy.
Don’t get me wrong. Psalm 23 is a beautiful psalm. It is one of my favorites. But the Bible miniseries downplayed what could have been an amazing retelling of God’s power, and David’s boldness and courage in his faith. Compare that to Scripture’s account here:
In 1 Samuel 17:44-47, we read, “The Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the ranks of Israel, Whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will smite you and cut off your head. And I will give the corpses of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
No contest. Scripture wins every time.
The Bible itself – true Scripture — tells us that all of these events in the Old Testament happened: “as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age…” (1 Corinthians 10:11). What are we learning from presentations like this if they are not presented according to Scripture?
The Holy Bible is not just a series of exciting stories or myths. It is the written Word of God. There is life and power in the Word. We should not change God’s Word to that degree where you are changing key elements and core teachings to make a story more exciting, to win more dollars at the box office or even to suit the preferences of the general public. That said, I don’t claim to understand the heart or mind of the producers behind this film; I am puzzled. Perhaps they intended to produce something to draw interest and engage people with the Bible in some way. I don’t know.
So I found the series disappointing. I watched what I did tonight and wrote this blog because I felt a responsibility to those I inadvertently might have encouraged to watch it. If you really want to know the Bible, get yourself a version/translation you can understand and start reading. Find a good, Bible-based church or a knowledgeable Christian to help you understand. But don’t look to Hollywood to explain God’s heart, or love, or gift of salvation. Ever.
The simple Bible truth is: God offered His own Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to take the punishment for mankind (for us, the punishment we deserved) for the sins that mankind – you and I - committed. Just like God provided the ram to Abraham as a substitute for Isaac, God provided Jesus as a substitute for you, so you would not have to go to Hell. Instead, because of Jesus, you are adopted as God’s own child, and you can experience God’s love in every way on this earth (as promised in His Word - healing, provision, blessing, etc.) and then spend eternity in Heaven, in happiness with Him. Why? Because God loves us. He loves all people and is “not willing that any should perish.” Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, where He shed his perfect, sinless blood, was the only way to provide forgiveness to all of us, all mankind, for all eternity. It is by faith that you receive the promises and the gift of eternal life.
When last we checked in on The Bible, I had noted that the series was, to me, off-key, not quite appropriate for any of the possible audiences, save for one: those who appreciate cheesy shows on television. The critics have mostly panned the show; biblical scholars have picked apart its inability to capture the complexity and strangeness of the biblical stories and its hopeless whitening of the biblical world; and conservative viewers (on the show’s Facebook page, among other places) have complained about liberties taken with the text.
But there must be a lot of cheeseheads, because the show continues to bring in very strong ratings. The second episode was down, somewhat, from the first (from over 14 million viewers for the first to over ten million for the second), but it still led the ratings for that evening and was the 11th rated show for the week. (I should add here that the series Hatfields and McCoys actually did much better, for what that’s worth).
If I gather correctly from emails and tweets, a good portion of these are parents who want to introduce their children to the biblical stories, and who have found the episodes reasonably good in drawing kids in enough to make them want to learn more.
It’s hard to argue with that outcome. But by the end of hour six, I begin to wonder. Hour five and much of hour six (carrying us from the end of David to the baptism of Jesus—regrettably missing some cool stories from the New Testament of Jesus confounding the religious teachers at the temple) carries us along mostly from one sword fight and rampaging Babylonian/Persian/Roman legion to another, knocking the Jews about from one place to another. How many slow-motion scenes of the sword being pulled out from the dying man do we need to get the point? I began to feel like a parent telling a kid to turn off an excessively violent video game.
But in thinking through the Old Testament section, the parallels between The Bible and The Lord of the Rings grew unmistakably clear. Here, David is Frodo, a sprightly lad who bests Ent-like opposition with his sling; and Daniel, another Hobbit-ish young man who invokes faith in order to continue the quest. Various white-haired prophets serve as Gandalf, and the countless stormtroopers on the side of the enemies of our heroes, with their carts and battering rams constantly battering at the imperiled gates of our heroes. The portentuous music, rapid-cut pacing, and nearly nonstop action sequences also resemble the parallel epic tale as told in the recent movie. So does the exclusion of women, who in this miniseries are mostly there as villains (Hagar, Bathsheba, and of course the infamous Delilah) or as virginal princesses awaiting their turn to be given to the hero. At least Lord of the Rings had some female heroes. The Bible does, of course, but The Bible, miniseries, does not.
And that speaks, too, of my issue with the series. The Lord of the Rings is a lengthy adventure tale with lots of twists and turns for the chosen characters, but we know that it serves the purpose of a happy ending. And, god knows, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The Bible picks and chooses its stories in an attempt to piece together a narrative that fits a like genre, down to the heroic background music. In doing so, however, action film replaces dramatic story, prose replaces poetry, and convention robs the story of its fundamental strangeness. When the series needs strangeness to depict miraculous events, it invokes ninja angels and the like, ironically making the story too familiar to us.
On occasion, the series turns down the volume, briefly, and we get some glimpses of biblical scenes portrayed with some effectiveness. Daniel in the lion’s den, and his later recounting of his dream life, is nicely done, for example. Sadly, that is a few minutes of film in comparison to the better part of an hour taken up with the story of Mandingo, err, I mean Samson, about as unsubtle and racially stereotyped a portrayal as one could possibly imagine. Even for cheeseheads, that portion of the show was nothing other than excruciating.
By the end of the sixth hour, Jesus is in the boat with Peter, getting ready to set out on his journey. We’ll see where this goes from here, but at least (one hopes) there will be a lot less sword fighting. Presumably we can all watch The Vikings, the show on after The Bible, to get what we want of that. But, frankly, the filmmaking style of The Vikings so closely resembles The Bible that it is difficult to tell that we’ve moved from one series to another. Genre miniseries-making trumps historical context every time.
The first episode of the History Channel’s "The Bible" television mini-series aired Sunday, March 3, 2013. I initially decided to watch it because I had heard a lot about it and that it was going to be very well done. But I also wanted to watch it because I knew GotQuestions.org would be receiving a lot of questions about this series—especially if any scenes were unbiblical or if the series took too much artistic license. Overall, the first episode, Beginnings, was good. I personally did not have a huge problem with any of the artistic licenses the producers took.
There were three primary instances in which the storyline did not completely agree with the biblical account:
1. Sodom and Gomorrah
In the telling of the Sodom and Gomorrah story, the episode nowhere states why God destroyed the two cities. There may have been a vague reference to Sodom being evil, but that was it. When the two angels run into Lot, they appear as if they had already been assaulted by the men of Sodom. Nowhere does the Bible say that the men of Sodom ever actually attacked the angels. Further, the idea that angels can be physically harmed by any human being is unbiblical.
Absolutely nothing is said about the men of Sodom wanting to homosexually gang rape the two angels, which is what the Bible describes (Genesis 19:5). Also, in the TV episode, the two angels had to swordfight the men of Sodom in order to help Lot and his family get out of the city. The Bible does not mention this, and, if the angels had to actually fight the men of Sodom, they would not have needed swords. Hadn’t they just struck a bunch of the men with blindness (Genesis 19:11)? And where were their swords when they were assaulted earlier? I shouldn’t complain though. Seeing the angels in action was pretty cool.
2. Abraham and Isaac
In the episode, when Abraham takes Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice as God commanded, Sarah discovers the plan and runs after them. The Bible nowhere states that Sarah knew anything about what God commanded Abraham to do. In the biblical account, Abraham and Isaac traveled for three days (Genesis 22:4). In Beginnings, the near sacrifice of Isaac took place so near their camp that Sarah was able to run to the place where her husband might have killed her son. While such a timeline makes for a dramatic moment in television, it does not align with the biblical account in Genesis 22.
3. The calling of Moses
In the episode, Moses readily accepts God’s call to free the Israelites from slavery and is very bold with Pharaoh. In the biblical account, Moses is extremely reluctant to accept God’s call (Exodus 3:11–4:13), and Aaron is made the primary spokesman (Exodus 4:14-16). And this isn’t the first time that detail has been overlooked in movie history. Have you ever seen The 10 Commandments (1956) or the Dreamworks animated film The Prince of Egypt (1998)?
Those were the only significant issues I noticed in the first episode. I applaud the producers for staying much closer to what the Bible says than most attempts at producing “biblically-based” or “biblically-inspired” movies and shows. The actors and actresses were good and most of them looked appropriately Middle Eastern. The special effects and cinematography were also well done.
I do find myself questioning some of the choices in regards to what stories were included or excluded. Why include the account of Abraham freeing Lot from the kings of Mesopotamia (Genesis 14), but not include the stories of Jacob and Joseph? If I had been advising the producers, I would have told them to remove Lot from the storyline entirely to make room for Jacob and Joseph—especially Joseph. But I never did get an email from Mark Burnett asking for my input.
Let’s hope episodes 2-5 are equally reasonably close to the biblical accounts. God could certainly use the History Channel’s “The Bible” television mini-series to get more people interested in what the Bible says. More biblical literacy would do our culture a world of good. And, if I am correct in guessing what the core message of the series is supposed to be, it is a good message for all of us: “Trust God!”
The second episode of the History Channel’s "The Bible" television mini-series first aired Sunday, March 10, 2013. It covered the time from Joshua sending the spies to Jericho (Joshua 2:1) until the birth of Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24).
After watching episode 2, I realized how incredibly difficult it must have been to select which biblical accounts to include in this mini-series. There are so many great stories worthy of being reenacted, but they only have five 2-hour episodes to work with.
Overall, I found the episode good and reasonably biblically accurate. However, the producers took much more “artistic license” than in episode 1. Also, the storyline departed from the biblical text seriously enough in a few instances:
1. Samson’s Story
Samson is played by an actor of African descent, as were numerous actors and actresses in his story. Biblically, Samson was an Israelite, the son of an Israelite father and mother (Judges 13). While it is possible that some people of African descent had settled among the ancient Israelites, Samson was definitely not of African descent. As an Israelite of Semitic origin, his skin tone would have been light to dark brown at best. While it is not necessarily a huge problem to have Samson portrayed by a black actor, the true, historical Samson would not have been black.
The way the episode portrays the circumstances of Samson’s birth makes it almost seem like a miraculous birth, along the same lines as Mary and Jesus. Samson’s father was never mentioned in the episode, and Samson’s mother says, “God gave [Samson] to me.” Yes, Samson’s conception was miraculous (see Judges 13), but it began from normal human conception, similar to the account of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac.
Later in the Samson story, the Philistines kill Samson’s first wife (and her family) by burning them alive in their home as punishment for her marrying Samson. Perhaps they were trying to make the story more emotionally dramatic for viewers, but this is not based on biblical history. In the biblical account, Samson challenges the Philistines to answer a riddle. The Philistines cheat by getting Samson’s wife to get the answer to the riddle from Samson. In anger, Samson leaves. The Philistines then give Samson’s wife to someone else. When Samson discovers this, he gets revenge by catching foxes, tying torches to their tails, and then setting them loose in the Philistines’ fields, thus burning their crops (Judges 14-15). The Philistines then get revenge by burning Samson’s wife and her family to death (Judges 15:6).
2. David’s Story
In episode 2, the Prophet Samuel finds David alone in a field and anoints him there. In the Bible, Samuel meets with David’s family first, with David being left in the field by himself, since he was the youngest. David was anointed by Samuel only after God revealed to Samuel that none of David’s brothers was His choice to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16).
The episode later portrays Uriah as David’s right hand man, while in the Bible, that role is reserved for Joab (1 Chronicles 11:6). However, Uriah was one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39), so it is possible Uriah was with David when he conquered Jerusalem and the Jebusites.
The one artistic addition I have a very strong disagreement with happened while David was dancing as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem. During his dance, David stopped to flirt with Bathsheba, who was among the crowd of people present. In the Bible, David was “leaping and dancing before the Lord”—a pure act of wholehearted worship on David’s part (2 Samuel 6:12-19). Yes, David had his flaws, and yes, David later sinned greatly with Bathsheba (as the episode reenacts reasonably accurately). But the fact that the producers had David stop worshipping the Lord at such a devoted moment so he could hit on Bathsheba is, well, disappointing to say the least.
There were several other minor issues, but the ones above are what I anticipate GotQuestions.org will receive questions about. Again, overall, the episode was good. Could it have done a better job at sticking to the biblical text? Definitely. Does the episode, and the series, receive my endorsement? Yes, but only in the sense that I endorse anything that gets people talking about, thinking about, and hopefully studying God’s Word.
The third episode of the History Channel’s "The Bible" television mini-series first aired Sunday, March 17, 2013. It covered the time period of the kings of Israel and Judah until Jesus’ calling of Peter to be a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-18).
While there are no crucially important deviations from God’s Word, there are many accounts in episode 3 that do not exactly match the biblical accounts. Here are a few I noticed:
Wrapping Up the Old Testament
The episode says the Prophet Jeremiah escaped Jerusalem when the Babylonians destroyed the city. The Bible says the Babylonians released Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:1).
Later in the episode, Daniel and his three friends are taken captive when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Bible records them being deported approximately 11 years earlier (2 Kings 24:10-16; Daniel 1).
The Book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar possibly becoming a believer in the one true God (Daniel 2:47; 3:28-29; 4:34-37). However, episode 3 portrays Nebuchadnezzar merely paying lip service to the God of the Israelites.
In the Book of Daniel, the account of Daniel being thrown into the lions’ den occurs during the reign of Darius. In the episode, it occurs during the reign of Cyrus. After witnessing Daniel survive the lions’ den, Cyrus allows the Israelites to return to the Promised Land. In the Bible, the decree is completely unrelated to Daniel surviving a night with the lions.
I found it strange that The Bible mini-series essentially skipped the entire time period of the kings of Israel and Judah. Solomon’s reign is not mentioned at all. The construction of the Temple is not covered. The split into the nations of Israel and Judah is not reported. These were crucially important aspects of Israel’s history.
The reason for the exile into Babylon is absent from the episode’s storyline. The Bible is clear that Judah was being punished for the same reason as Israel had been approximately 136 years earlier: serial idolatry and a refusal to obey God’s laws.
Beginning the New Testament
During the story of Jesus’ birth, a common mistake is made by having the Magi visit at the same time as the shepherds. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi arrived much later, possibly a matter of years later (Matthew 2:1-12).
The episode describes Herod the Great placing a Roman eagle at the entrance to the Temple, which would have been sacrilege to the Jews. After his death, the people are shown rising up in a revolt against the Romans. Neither of these events are recorded in the Bible, however both appear to be historically accurate.
In Satan’s tempting of Jesus in the desert, the episode portrays Satan taking Jesus to a mountaintop and telling him to jump off. In the Bible, Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple (Matthew 4:5-7).
The episode has John the Baptist being arrested and beheaded due to his preaching about the coming Messiah. The Bible records John the Baptist being arrested for preaching against Herod Antipas who had stolen his brother’s wife. He was then beheaded due to a vengeful request from Herod Antipas’s wife and step-daughter.
There were several other biblical inaccuracies, but those are the ones that stood out to me during my initial viewing. None of them are major deviations from the biblical accounts, but none of them really seemed to be necessary to tell the stories well either.
I am also surprised at how the majority of “The Bible” mini-series roles are portrayed by Caucasian actors and actresses, which is especially true in episode 3. Joseph and Mary were as white as can be. Adolescent Jesus was somewhat Middle Eastern looking, but the actor portraying Jesus as an adult does not look Semitic at all. Ultimately, I do not have a problem with this, just as I did not have a huge problem with Samson being portrayed by an actor of African descent. But it is important to remember that Jesus was not a blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian.
As with episodes 1 and 2, my hope for episode 3 is that it will encourage people to actually pick up and study God’s Word to learn what it truly says about the events covered in the TV mini-series. No movie reenactment is ever going to be completely accurate. These are manmade, and mankind is always fallible.
So far, I would say the History Channel’s “The Bible” television mini-series has been reasonably accurate, inasmuch as they can be in the short amount of time they have and considering their target audience. But it could have easily been much more faithful to what the Bible says in many instances without losing cinematic appeal. I see little to no value in most of the “artistic license” the producers took in this episode. After all, biblical history has plenty of excitement all on its own.
The fourth episode of the History Channel’s "The Bible" television mini-series first aired Sunday, March 24, 2013. It covered the time period of Jesus’ calling of Peter to be a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-18) to Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:66).
I was pleasantly surprised that episode 4 stayed so close to the biblical account of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels. As I viewed on Sunday, I found very little to be unbiblical. The vast majority of Jesus’ dialogue is quoted directly from the Gospels. While it was refreshing to see this, I noticed that several of these quotes were said in coordination with the wrong events.
Here are a few more items I did not particularly care for:
Mary of Bethany
In many of the disciples’ scenes, Mary of Bethany was shown to be among them. The episode seemingly portrays her as one of the disciples. Now, it is entirely possible that Mary of Bethany was indeed present during some of those scenes. However, the Bible definitely does not present her as having any sort of leadership role equal to that of the disciples. Also, in a couple of scenes, while the disciples were complaining or doubting, Mary stands firm, telling them to obey and trust Jesus. Granted, the disciples often misunderstood or doubted Jesus. However, the Gospels do not portray Mary of Bethany having such a prominent role.
Jesus Walks on Water
This scene from Matthew 14:22-33 was well done except for the fact that it closes with Peter coughing up water instead of with Jesus calming the storm.
The scene portraying Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead had Jesus going into the tomb, while John 11 records Jesus, from outside the tomb, calling Lazarus to come out. Also, in the episode, once Lazarus comes back to life, Jesus has a surprised look on His face. Because He was intentional about His every action, Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen; He would not have been surprised (John 11:15).
Barabbas, a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16), appears in several scenes. In one them, he encourages Jesus to prove that He is the Messiah by conquering the Romans. In the Gospels, Barabbas only appears when Pontius Pilate offers to release Barabbas or Jesus (John 18:39-40).
The episode portrays Nicodemus as being a close confidant to the high priest Caiaphas. John 3 says Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He is never presented as being especially close to Caiaphas. The episode also uses Nicodemus to question Jesus, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?” Matthew 22:15-17 has the question being asked by a nameless Pharisee. It could have been Nicodemus, but the Gospels definitely do not identify that particular Pharisee as Nicodemus.
In the episode, Judas needs some convincing before he is willing to betray Jesus. In Matthew 26:16, Judas deliberately seeks an opportunity to betray Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss, one of the disciples assaults Judas. While I actually enjoyed the scene, the idea does not come from the Gospel accounts.
It was interesting how the episode portrayed the political issues between Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas. Pilate is depicted as a brutal character, crushing any rebellion against his authority. In the episode, Caiaphas’ issue with Jesus is primarily a matter of preventing a riot that would cause Pilate to close the Temple during Passover. While this was very likely part of Caiaphas’ concern regarding Jesus, in the Gospels, Caiaphas is more concerned with Jesus due to His popularity and His claims to be the Messiah. Caiaphas did not want to lose power as a religious leader. That is the primary reason he wanted Jesus executed.
While not without its problems, “Mission” is my favorite episode of The Bible mini-series so far. It stays very close to the biblical Gospels in most instances. The vast majority of Jesus’ dialogue comes from exact quotes of Scripture.
I am hopeful the final episode on Easter will give an explanation of the true meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection—not just report the events from a historical perspective. My final conclusion on the series will be based primarily on what it ultimately says about the death and resurrection of Jesus, as those are the core issues of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15).
The producers of this 10-hour series have hopes that it will impact millions and their grandest hope in telling the grand narrative of Scripture is that the world would know God’s love for us all. While it is a noble ambition to desire the Bible to be presented in a compelling way to those who would have otherwise never opened the book, I fear that the positive aspects of this series will end with good intentions. In other words, I believe the intentions in making this production are genuinely good. For example, I can do nothing but commend Roma Downey when she says,
Our prayer has always been that the dramatization of these stories will drive viewers to go to the Bible itself and drink in the actual text, because it is a book that changes lives.
However, I also fear that little good will follow. On the surface it sounds great. The meta-narrative of Scripture will be on TV screens throughout the world on five Sundays in March. But when the lights are low and the title THE BIBLE flashes on the History Channel, I fear that what we see will be a distorted presentation of the Bible. For example, note this distortion and surface level understanding of God’s love on the part of Burnett and Downey:
[W]e wanted to show how the Old Testament connects seamlessly to the New Testament. How they are one sweeping story with one grand, overriding message: God loves each one of us as if we were the only person in all the world to love (Huffington Post).
Downey derives this from St. Augustine who once said: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love”. But who is she referring to? Believers? All people? And if God loves each of us the exact same with such intensity then why does he only effectually save some? Do you see how this thought in and of itself could easily lead to universalism (the teaching that every single human will be “saved”)? And this is a minor example, for probing matters of theological discrepancy in a production such as this would just be nit-picking. THE BIBLE may provide just enough biblical information and knowledge to confuse. Other, more serious, distortions flood my mind. Will Jesus be presented as an inspirational historical figure worthy of imitation or God in the flesh worthy of worship? Will the Catholic view of Mary being sinless be presented? Will there be a flavor of universalism added to the theme of God’s love? Or to avoid all of these pressures, will it be extremely vague? Sure, the stories will be accurate (I assume). The characters will be correct. Much Scripture will be quoted (maybe). But what may be added or left out is what frightens me. Now, I must admit that I am a major skeptic when it comes to productions of biblical material. Often the theology behind the good intentions of these films and series’ is so poor that I would rather them not even be produced. Why the concern? Why the apprehension? Why the skepticism? Why the harshness?
Reason for Concern
The answer can be found on the Board of Advisors page. The following are biblical and theological advisors for THE BIBLE mini-series:
- Joel Osteen–Lakewood Church
- Rick Warren–Saddleback
- Rev. Samuel Rodriguez–National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- Donald William Wuerl–Archdiocese of Washington D.C.
- Bishop T.D. Jakes–The Potter’s House
- Dr. Cynthia Hale–Ray of Hope
- Richard Muow–Fuller Theological Seminary
- Dr. Miroslav Volf–Yale University
- Anthony Basil Taylor–Diocese of Little Rock
Honestly, I was shocked at this list when I first read it. But then upon further thought, I am more shocked at myself for being shocked in the first place. Now, let it be known that I do not know anything about the majority of these individuals. While I have strong convictions against many of the core beliefs of the Catholic Church, I know nothing about these particular leaders within the Catholic Church which have been chosen as advisors. It may in fact be that I agree with them on numerous theological and biblical points (probably not). But I just do not know. Nevertheless, Catholic theological influence gives me pause. Side Note: If you are wondering why there is so much Catholic influence in the making of this mini-series, I will note that producer Roma Downey is Catholic. I also believe the Bible is clear that women should not serve as pastors or elders (1 Tim. 2:11-12). Therefore, in principle I have issue with core theological aspects with at least three of these contributors (Wuerl, Hale, and Taylor). However, I have never heard them preach or speak nor have I read anything of theirs. Therefore, it would be unfair to judge them on the little that I know of them. I will also point out that while I do disagree with Rick Warren on a few matters, overall I have no issue with him being involved in the making of this TV series. It is in fact his presence that doesn’t have me completely writing it off (plus the fact that I have yet to see it). So I want to begin my concern with some slight approval. It may just be Rick Warren’s (and other evangelicals involved) evangelical influence that saves some integrity in the presentation of the biblical texts in this series. I can only pray that his influence (and that of Richard Muow) is much stronger than the rest–and that may be the case. My hope is that Warren’s endorsement of this mini-series is true:
The key to [THE BIBLE’s] effectiveness is that it lets the Bible speak for itself, without commentary, excuse or qualification, which makes it unique. This is living history at its best!
I also want to make clear that these serious concerns that follow are just that–concerns. I have not seen this mini-series. Therefore, for all I know it may be both biblically sound and theologically rich. So, for argument’s sake, it is possible that this small group study and TV series will be very beneficial. I will also note that there are those who have seen the series and have nothing but praise for it. See a very positive review of the mini-series from The Christian Post here. And here are other endorsements by many Christian leaders both Protestant and Catholic. In my humble opinion, though, I fear that the twist placed on THE BIBLE will be one that is unbiblical.
Two Startling Names
The reason for this concern lies in two names on that list. Despite the benefit of the doubt I give to the Board and the producers, I cannot keep silent and be content with two startling names on this list–Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes. Evangelicals have been at arms with both Osteen and Jakes and their teachings in the blogosphere so I will not spend time here going to war with these two prosperity gospel proponents personally. Fine articles by men with far greater prestige than I can be found here:
The reason for this disapproval and refutation of Osteen, Jakes, and their prosperity gospel (from Reformed guys in particular) is not the result of some type of misplaced and judgmental, Reformed elitism which is attempting to root out any teaching outside of Calvinism. That is simply foolish. There are many non-Calvinists who also take issue with Osteen and Jakes. The reason evangelicals such as myself take issue with the prosperity gospel promoted by Osteen and Jakes is the fact that they are leading thousands astray by their teachings. Love for Scripture, truth, the glory of God, and people leads evangelical leaders and Christians to unabashedly and gladly refute the evil that is the prosperity gospel. The more I allow the thought of Joel Osteen contributing to the content of this mini-series (and I assume small group content as well) to saturate in my mind, the more hesitant I become to support it. The last thing I want is for Osteen and Jakes to lead even more people astray through a certain twist they may have had a part in placing on THE BIBLE.
Prosperity Gospel Heresy
The heretical positions of Osteen (prosperity gospel) and Jakes (prosperity gospel and Modalism) give me pause when it comes to the possibility of the content of this mini-series and accompanying small group considering their influence in the production. When I consider the deadly duo of Osteen and Jakes, my mind races to 2 Peter 2:1. Peter warns that there will be false teachers who will “secretly bring in destructive heresies”. I do not want to make any qualm about this: Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes have secretly snuck a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel into their churches which has replaced the sovereign Lord Jesus who satisfies amidst suffering and pain with a caricature of Jesus that portrays him as a lovie-dovey bestower of immaculate wealth, health, and success as a result of faith in him. This teaching did not originate with them, but they have popularized it in our time. O, may this false teaching rot in the deepest pit and darkest corner of hell! For in this “gospel” there is no place for the hurting widow. In this “gospel” there is no place for the broken mother whose child is dying of cancer. In this “gospel” there is no place for persecuted believers. In this “gospel” there is no place for the impoverished and poor. In this “gospel” there is no place for martyrs. In this “gospel” there is no place for Paul or Peter or James or John or Stephen or Andrew or Matthew. And in this “gospel” there is no place for Jesus–our homeless, poor, and suffering Savior. There may be room for the rich young ruler who went away sad at the prospect of having to give away his riches (Matt. 19:21-22), but there is no place for Zacchaeus, who gladly gave away his riches (Luke 19:6, 8). There is nothing there but a mirage with the title “Jesus” given to it. I despise the teachings of Osteen and Jakes because I am jealous for the glory of God. I despise their teachings because I have a love for God, truth, Scripture, and people. My heart breaks when I think of the thousands who gather in desperation to hear from these men who propagate such heresy. I cannot support them, nay, I will not support them. This all may seem harsh to you, but when the blind are leading the blind, harsh language is appropriate. When false teachers are leading the masses astray, harsh language is necessary. When money-changers are turning the house of prayer into a den of thieves, whips need to be drawn and the ungodly need to be driven out (Matt. 21:12-13; cf. John 2:13-17). And when these men and many more like them are teaching such things that are furthest from the gospel of Christ, I cannot help but hear the cries of thousands plummeting into an eternal hell along with their cars, homes, cash, jewelry, good physique, and health. The treasure they have stored up on earth under the encouragement of Osteen and Jakes will become moth-eaten, rusted, destroyed, and stolen, while they miss out on the one true Treasure whom they claim they are believing in (Matt. 6:19-20).
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21).
Osteen’s Influence on THE BIBLE
My heart breaks. My eyes shed tears. My body trembles. Now consider with me how preposterous and frightening these words are from producer Mark Burnett:
We’re [referring to Burnett and his wife] not qualified to teach the Bible. But we learned from Joel [Osteen] and Victoria [Osteen’s wife].
The full video interview this quote was taken from can be found here. Joel Osteen, the heretic and false teacher, offered guidance and advice in the writing of the scripts and storyline of THE BIBLE. The man who doesn’t consider himself to be gifted as a teacher of the Bible is giving advice for the teaching of the Bible. What could be a ground-breaking opportunity to speak gospel truth to a wide audience is tainted by the participation of Joel Osteen (and I put T.D. Jakes in this category as well). This is ludicrous! And what startles me the most is the fact that Burnett seems to be heavily relying on Osteen for biblical knowledge. What a joke! If this is the case, then this is just not something I can support, endorse, or encourage Christians to take part in, particularly young or immature Christians. It is very easy to twist Scripture to fit into your own personal theology–just look to Osteen and Jakes, for they have been doing this for years. This is why I am worried that the accuracy of the over-arching themes of the Bible will be absent. And what scares me even more is the fact that so many are blindly going into a small group study through a series that was advised by Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes. This may just be another way for these men and other advisors in this project to secretly and sneakily infiltrate the church of Christ with false doctrine and heresy.
So where do I stand? I believe I have made myself very clear. Even though I think this project has good intentions and may even have a lot of truth behind it, I am very hesitant to support this mini-series. Initially I was excited about it, but after learning of Osteen and Jakes’ involvement and influence, I am now taking a step back. I stand in a “wait and see” and “be on your toes” position. Know that my thoughts here have merely been concerns, fears, and hesitations and not indictments or condemnations. With the possibility (or probability) of the heavy influence of the likes of Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes, I worry that the spin on the biblical text will be erroneous, to say the least. I will be watching this series carefully and prayerfully. I am wondering what will be included and what will be left out. Osteen has informed us that,
Part of the making of ‘The Bible’ is you have to have some artistic license, because not everything is recorded.
What all this will entail, I can only speculate. I will not however take part in the small groups nor will I endorse or encourage anyone to take this series as absolute truth. If you plan on watching THE BIBLE and/or participating in the small group study, I beseech you to beware. Beware of false teachers, for they come disguised as sheep, ready to devour as wolves and they will lead many astray (Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 24). If you are a young or immature Christian or a non-believer, I would encourage you to watch this series with a mature believer. May the God of peace and power, mercy and majesty keep us and guard us against such false teaching for the glory of Christ.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1)
While the Obama-esque image of Satan from Mark Burnett’s History Channel mini-series The Bible is making headlines this morning, it’s worth noting that the religious consultants on the project, at least the ones named in a TV Guide article on it, are a “Who’s Who” of notorious evangelical homophobes:
Burnett and Downey approached History and struck a deal, which included a sizable CGI budget to bring state-of-the-art realism to the Great Flood, the parting of the Red Sea, God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and other Bible stories. The duo then formed an advisory board with some of America’s top spiritual leaders.
"We weren’t qualified to teach the Bible, but we knew plenty of people who were," says Burnett, whose interfaith panel included pastors Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, Bishop Michael Sheridan, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez.
These advisers were also supposed to appear on screen, since the original plan was to make The Bible a docudrama — reenactments peppered with lots of talking heads. But things went so well during the nearly six-month shoot in Morocco that the miniseries took a different course.
That’s Osteen, who said “I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life” and called it “sin” many times, Prop 8 supporter Rick Warren who compared homosexuality to poison and compared acting on gay urges to assaulting someone, TD Jakes who has called homosexuality a “brokenness” despite his son getting arrested in a sex sting, Bishop Michael Sheridan who has called homosexuality “intrinsically evil” and told Catholics who vote for gay marriage that they can’t receive communion, and Samuel Rodriguez, who teamed up with NY state senator Ruben Diaz to rally opponents of same-sex marriage, and Jim Daly, the head of virulently anti-gay Focus on the Family.
A reader to Towleroad writes:
It’s worth noting that not only does every member of that panel have a distinctly anti-gay history, but that the panel is entirely conservative. Mark Burnett has made quite a bit of cash on the backs of gay contestants on his various shows, so I’m curious why any progressive or GLBT voices are suddenly lacking when he’s looking for perspective this time around? It’s 2013, and I thought the media was improving at least a little bit in thinking that the only religion that exists anywhere is right-wing religion, but apparently not in this case. And why—particularly- did Burnett seek out Focus on the Family for this, when FOF is not a church, last time I checked, but a thinly-veiled anti-gay organization?
I hope that this investigation has been eye-opening!
Sources Used In This Post
- 10 inaccuracies in The Bible … the miniseries, not the book
- One scholar takes issues with ‘The Bible:’ 5 things the series got wrong
- Why THE BIBLE Mini-Series Is Nauseating (or What I Learned Watching South Park)
- The Bible Miniseries - My Review
- Hebrew Bible as Lord of the Rings
- Is The History Channel’s “The Bible” Miniseries Biblically Accurate? Ep. 1: Beginnings | Ep. 2: Homeland | Ep. 3: Hope | Ep. 4: Mission
- Why I Hesitate to Support “The Bible” Miniseries
- Panel of Notorious Homophobes Advised Mark Burnett on The Bible miniseries