The Bible … on the History Channel?
A review of the TV series The Bible
Published: 1 March 2013 (GMT+10)
All images supplied by Motive Entertainment
You may have heard that this Sunday, March 3rd, 2013, the History Channel (USA) will premier the first of five 2-hour episodes of the “epic docudrama”, The Bible.
Last October, highly-acclaimed producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice, The Apprentice, Shark Tank, etc.) and his wife, actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) invited Creation Ministries International’s (US) CEO Gary Bates and myself (Scott Gillis) to join with 25 other Christian leaders to attend a special private preview of their upcoming film. After dinner and viewing a handful of scenes from the rough cut footage, Gary and I had the opportunity to personally discuss CMI’s mission with Mark, and he consequently asked if we would be willing to review the opening Creation scene and give him some feedback. The producers, fully knowing that we were Bible-believing creationists, ultimately not only sent us the opening scene, but we were one of the few organizations trusted to review the entire 10 hour production before it airs for the first time this weekend.
‘The most important project we have ever undertaken.’
Despite their undeniable success in the industry, Mark and his wife Roma described the film as “the most important project we have ever undertaken”. In fact Mark told us that the majority of the production costs came out of their own pockets. They explained that this project was seen by many of their friends in the industry as a move that might risk their own reputation and careers. Although the History Channel on occasion had asked for input into the film’s content, Mark and Roma said they wanted only to “honor the integrity of scripture”. Roma described to us how she fell in love with the Bible when she was just a “wee girl in Ireland”, but making a TV series out of it only made her love it more.
I’m sure you can imagine that an endeavor to reduce the entire biblical narrative into a 10 hour dramatization would be a difficult challenge for anyone. In fact, anyone making a movie about the Bible is going to be open to all sorts of criticism from many directions. For example, as to be expected in a made-for-TV dramatization, most of the time the dialogue does not incorporate the scriptural text. However, the stated goal of Mark and Roma was to take the written biblical account, and translate it effectively for the television medium to a largely Bible-illiterate audience.
Overall, anyone watching will see that this is a first-rate production. In this day and age where the Bible is under attack from secularists and atheists like never before, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey should be commended for taking a stand on the true claims of Scripture. They have attempted to show the Bible as real history, and particularly that Jesus is the Savior of all mankind. We at CMI will be praying that God blesses this effort, that God uses this series to open the eyes of unbelievers, and of Christians who ‘reinterpret’ the Bible’s history.
What follows is a concise review and summary of the film by CMI’s Information Officer, Lita Cosner.
When the mainstream media sets out to cover the Bible, it’s usually time for Christians to prepare for an onslaught against our beliefs and Scripture. But The Bible is encouragingly different.
An endeavor to reduce the entire biblical narrative into a 10 hour dramatization.
Challenges in adaptation
Any television series of this type will have to add details not present in the narrative, and will have to ‘pick and choose’ stories to create a cohesive narrative that is appropriate for the television audience. Some people might see these decisions as ‘taking liberties’, but it is clear that the producers’ intent is to make an ancient text accessible to a modern audience, and the decisions they made are ‘respectful’ to the narrative. The sweeping story, condensed down to a mere 10 hours, covers from creation through the Old Testament, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and the beginning of the Church.
In a few places, they depart from the details in the biblical narrative (for instance, when Jesus—and Peter, very briefly—walk on water, and during Lazarus’ resurrection). There are also some mostly-minor errors in depiction. For instance, the high priest is depicted surrounded by dead bodies at one point—but this is inconsistent with the Mosaic Law, which would forbid him to become unclean by being around dead bodies (even accidentally touching one of them would make him unclean and unable to perform his duties as high priest). Jesus and his disciples would have eaten the Last Supper reclining against pillows, not seated at a table. They also would not have ceremonially washed their hands (in fact, one rather notable argument with the Pharisees centered around this ceremonial hand washing). Slightly more seriously, at the Last Supper, ‘Jesus’ seems to have a sudden revelation about His death, but the Gospels unanimously affirm that Jesus had been teaching about His death and Resurrection since they set out for Jerusalem. However, the errors do not detract much from the whole, so it would be a shame to dwell on them too much.
The Bible is not a G-rated book, and occasionally The Bible reflects this. While never gratuitous, the series does depict scenes of violence (particularly during battles, and two scenes of people having their eyes gouged out). There is no nudity, but there are a few references to sex (nothing more ‘graphic’ than a view of Hagar’s and Bathsheba’s bare backs). Parents may want to exercise discernment in allowing younger viewers to see the violent scenes.
There’s a lot of room for error when people try to depict creation, so we were pleasantly surprised by the excellent portrayal in the opening scene of the first episode. Noah and his family are portrayed on the Ark, in the treacherous seas at the start of the Flood, and Noah narrates a paraphrase of Genesis 1, emphasizing the six days of creation. A wide pan shot of the Ark shows the truly massive scale of the vessel, and the camera zooms out to show the entire world underwater, which then morphs to the globe with the continents of today.
Creation doesn’t only feature in the first minutes of the film. It’s notably a constant reference. When Abraham tells Sarah that God has promised him a son, he says, “Our Creator who made the stars will give us descendants to populate our land.” When Moses first appears in front of the elders of Israel, they are skeptical and say, “Pharaoh is the only god we have to fear.” Moses replies, “Who created the earth, the sea, the sky? Who created you? Pharaoh or God?” And when Jesus multiplies the fish he prays, “We thank you Lord by whose word everything comes to be.”
Miracles and talking to God
It would be easy for a modern series on the Bible to ‘edit out’ the supernatural parts of the narrative, or to make them ridiculous, and that sort of a series would find a sympathetic audience in Hollywood. However, The Bible creatively and respectfully shows the miraculous events in the Bible.
At key points in the narrative, God talks directly to Abraham, Moses, and other characters, but with the exception of the burning bush, we only hear the human part of the conversation. At times, someone might wonder, “Is Abraham nuts?” But then the narrative clearly shows that Abraham did hear from God. When Samuel tells Saul that God has taken His favor away from Saul, we might wonder with Saul whether God, or Samuel’s political amibition, is talking. But the way things unfold clearly shows that God really did remove His blessing from Saul’s kingship.
One of the most awesome series of miracles in the Old Testament were the plagues on Egypt. Some theories try to explain them away with naturalistic events, but the producers of The Bible show them as clearly miraculous events. For instance, the Nile turns to blood (to the horror of Pharaoh, who is swimming in the Nile, and his servants) as Aaron’s staff hits the water, and is recognizable as blood (not red algae in the water, for instance).
Jesus’ miracles are also highlighted in the series—including healing a paralyzed person and a leper, multiplying fish and loaves, and walking on water. These are all presented as real miracles without any hint of there being a naturalistic explanation.
God in The Bible
From Noah to Abraham to Moses and the other protagonists, faith in an invisible God who has spoken and given promises, even in the face of impossible odds, is a constant theme in the film. “God is with us”, “God has promised”, and “trust in God” are very frequent lines. The powerful portrayal of faith even in the face of great uncertainty and danger, even death, is a constant theme. We can often read the stories of biblical people ‘knowing the ending’ and not realizing the great struggle they would have had in maintaining their belief over periods of years with no discernible action by God. Yet the series highlights how faith is always proved right in the end, as God is always faithful to those who trust in Him.
Most of the time, God’s presence, words, and actions are explained through the human protagonists. This is ultimately a smart decision, since many would object to any depiction of God, and the ‘disembodied voice’ often comes across as cheesy.
There are a few exceptions however. When Abraham has the three visitors who promise Isaac’s birth, one of them, whose face is never shown, is clearly the actor who will later portray Jesus. This is actually a theologically sophisticated portrayal, as many believe that the Old Testament theophanies (places where God revealed Himself in a visible form) were appearances of the Second Person of the Trinity, who of course was to be incarnate as Jesus Christ.
The Gospel in The Bible
The Bible clearly presents sin as what broke our relationship with God, and what causes God's judgment. Characters throughout the series are saved by faith in God, and in the New Testament, faith in Jesus. The episode which includes Jesus’ ministry draws the dichotomy between the Pharisees, who believed that strict adherence to the Law was what led to salvation, and Jesus and His disciples, who emphasize faith in God and forgiveness for sinners. Substitutionary atonement isn't spelled out in detail, but it is made clear that the Resurrection was the basis for the disciples’ early preaching about Jesus.
A sweeping history
It’s common for people to read the Bible as a disjointed narrative, as if each book and story of the Bible were disconnected from the rest of Scripture. One thing that The Bible does really well is connect the history of Scripture as one continuous whole. Abraham is Noah’s descendant, and the Israelite slaves in Egypt are Abraham’s descendants, and so on. A few lines of well-chosen narration continue this flow through gaps of hundreds of years. And there’s no hint that some characters are less historical than others.
One exception to this, surprisingly, was Jesus. I felt the series could have done a slightly better job of connecting Jesus to the rest of the narrative as David’s descendant and successor (the Eden part was far too short to include the ‘seed of Eve’ prophecy, or that would have been another possibility).
The depiction of the various protagonists may help people, especially those unfamiliar with Scripture, to see the characters of the Bible as real people, who took part in real historical events. Even the ‘bad guys’ were appropriately sympathetic (with the understandable exception of Herod the Great, who was as disgusting in real life as he is portrayed in the series).
The Bible—worth watching
The Bible is a brilliant production that brings the history of the Bible to life, and it’s immensely encouraging that a series of this caliber will be airing on The History Channel. No series could possibly perfectly convey the message of Scripture given the constraints of the medium. But I believe The Bible could expose people to these stories for perhaps the first time. People who won’t pick up a Bible will perhaps switch on The History Channel. And if we as Christians ‘get behind’ efforts like these, perhaps we will see more high-quality productions based on the biblical message.Addendum, 19 March, 2013
Since the original review article was published (above) more than half of the series’ installments have been aired. In addition, the producers (Burnett and Downey) have conducted several interviews as to why they would invest c. 22 million dollars of their own money to make it. They have consistently commented that biblical literacy is at an all time low (referring to the US in particular), and that even if people do not go to church, it is important that all should be exposed to the biblical stories, because they have shaped our culture. They also stated another purpose for the series was to encourage discussion and dialogue, or ‘water cooler’ talk. To that end they appear to have been successful, because the series is the no. 1 rated program in its time slot. In short, when it has aired, it has beaten everything else on every other channel. In a day when we complain about less interest in the faith, this is no small achievement and certainly encouraging. Even if the program is not your ‘cup of tea’, disparaging it around the water cooler in front of non-believers would not be very wise. We encourage all believers to be prepared to engage others regardless of how questions arise and to do this “with gentleness and respect” as the Scriptures command. CREATION.com is a great way to help find answers for the questions people ask, and are likely to ask, as a result of this series. We pray that it at least encourages more people to read the Bible and find out what it actually says.
Something which actually presents the real history of the Bible fairly and accurately... in the mainstream media?
I wonder how many miracles the Lord performed to get this through the gates which are routinely guarded by those who routinely deny Him?!
A huge well-done to Mark and Roma. As He once said, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48) Those few Bible-believers in a position to make their influence felt truly have a huge responsibility, and these two have really lived-up to it here.
Since my journey with Jesus 3 march 1980 Ive been praying for TV coverage that justifies bible confidence in the public media ,thank you for rising to the need and to creation scientist eery where, even today I was distained due to my stand for Jesus, well done good and faithfull.
You know, I was actually worried about this show coming out. Every time I saw it being advertised, I was feeling sceptical, expecting it to be hijacked by "progressive" Christian opinions on Genesis. Your involvement in the production process has convinced me to study early for midterms and have some free time Sunday night. In the end I'll still use the presentation of proper fauna and flora before the flood as a litmus test for the docudrama's accuracy on Genesis ;).
all the best,
Thanks for your comment. I do want to mention that the brief depiction of fauna and flora upon creation could be construed as more diverse than what creationists would consider the original created kinds, however, this is a very small detail that only lasts for seconds.
How exciting to hear that in the midst of the general decline of the West there are still those who love God and are being used by Him to proclaim His truth.
It's highly appropriate that this battle is being held in a History forum as that's what this is over, not science. What's the true history - what the Bible says, or what naturalism claims?
Again - WOW! Praise God.
I'm glad that this is happening. Wow! I'll pray for this. I'll pray that those who will watch the series will be enlightened, see the Bible as a history, and see Christ as their only way to salvation.
Does anyone know if/when this will air in South Africa?
Seached the History channel listings on DSTVs site but could not find anything.
Thanks for your comment. The producer told us Wednesday that the series would air Sunday on the History Channel, regardless of country, but based on the feedback we are receiving, this may not be the case. Check your local listings.
Great review! I was looking forward to this series, but of course had reservations with it being on the History channel, as many Biblical documentaries and programs on tv are fraught with error. Glad to read your review! Thanks CMI!
I wrote you previously ruing this coming attraction based on the History Channel's past depiction of the Bible and Christianity. So, thanks to your endorsement, I am now looking forward to this production. You are a blessing in many ways. Thank you.
Thanks for your comment. Yes, based on typical expectations from The History Channel, skepticism would be expected. Thanks to the producers efforts, this film defies those expectations.
Wow. A very exciting development indeed!
(And another beautifully cogent article from Lita and Scott.)
this is greatly encouraging.i was also very heartened to watch a documentary about penquins on discovery [i think]which was presented extremely well and i did not hear even a hint of the usual evo propaganda associated with most nature TV
So we don't have to avoid it like the plague?
I was a very skeptical when I heard that 'The Bible' will be on the History Channel. Of course, I thought that it would only be more of the same lampooning of Christian beliefs famous in the secular world. I honestly wasn't planning to watch (see it once, see it a million times).
But, I am actually encouraged by this. Thanks for the review. I will watch and I will tell my friends to watch as well.
Great review. May God use this to save His people! Thanks!
I am really looking forward to this series. Everything I have read about it and the producers has been immensely positive. I am planning on hosting a viewing part on my house Sunday night for the premier and am planning on trying too serve some traditional Jewish food to my guests! :) If nothing else, such a public presentation of the Biblical narrative affords us a great opportunity to enter into othe public discourse as we highlight the truth of the Bible and the amazing transformational power of the Gospel!
This is great! Like everyone else is saying I too heard about it but, was planning on not watching it because shows like this usually butcher the scriptures and display it in a way that makes the secular audience laugh at the truth. God bless those involved in the making of this Docudrama. And also God bless them in the coming pursecussion of there careers for standing for truth.
-Grace & Peace
"They explained that this project was seen by many of their friends in the industry as a move that might risk their own reputation and careers. "
How exemplary is this that they would go through with the project in spite of this very possible result. They are worthy of our prayers of protection and when they meet our Lord they wont be disappointed!!!
I appreciate your endorsement of the project; it gives it the credibility it lacked in my mind coming from The History Channel. With that said, I will only be enjoying the Old Testament portions.
I'm glad for their sensitivity in not depicting God the Father in the OT: "Most of the time, God’s presence, words, and actions are explained through the human protagonists. This is ultimately a smart decision, since many would object to any depiction of God..." However, in your article (and I know in your ministry) you clearly believe Jesus is, "Second Person of the Trinity, who of course was to be incarnate as Jesus Christ."
Connecting the dots, there's a general sensitivity in portraying God the Father, but not the same sensitivity in portraying God the Son. The argument could be made that Jesus took on the form of humanity, so it's fine to portray him that way. I would say yes, if the film was careful not to show the actor's face, so the viewers would not have an image in their mind that this is what Jesus looked like. Maybe that's what the directors did, which I would be delighted to hear.
Thank you for your comment. We certainly understand and appreciate your concern about portraying God the Son. The second commandment forbids "graven images" of God, for it is idolatry to worship a created object rather than the creator, the one true God, but perhaps another reason is that no image in any form could fully reflect God's glory. When God became incarnate in the form of Jesus, God took on the image of fallen man. Jesus retained that image after the resurrection, and that glorified body will be retained when he returns and we will see him face-to-face. Just like there has been a long tradition to portray Jesus through the arts in a respectful manner, it is reasonable for the producers to portray the human likeness of Jesus.
THANK YOU! ! I've been waiting for a indepth review by a "legitamate" source. Until now I wasn't sure if I would watch; but I will. However; of all the singers available - Cee Lo Green !!! I think they could have made a better choice. But at least the message is getting out.
It will be refreshing and encouraging to see the 'true' facts of the Bible being portrayed for a change on secular TV. It is my hope that people will finally see the real truth brought out concerning the Holy Scriptures. Kudos to those who worked to get this out to the general public.
I remember watching Davey & Goliath as a child, and it does have an impact on you when you see a favorable presentation of the things of God even if they are not 100% accurate and they sometimes take some liberties. They are more and more people that who are totally unfamiliar with anything about the Bible. I am excited to see Christian ideas move into film. Our culture and families are crumbling in the USA as we shift more and more towards relativism, so to hear about this series and done by someone trying to bring the text into film and let it speak for itself, I think it is fantastic!
i don't think i am going to be on watching that tv serie. it is made by pagan people, and it could have hidden messages in it. looking good but having but message hidden.
We certainly understand your concern, especially with some of the programs that have been aired on secular television as well as countless films. The producers did claim to be believers and that their intent was to represent the film with biblical integrity. Compared to our expectations before viewing the film, we were pleasantly surprised.
I have been very skeptical about this series since the hype and commercials began. I distrust almost everything History has aired and immediately distrusted this production. Thank you so much to the producers for allowing CMI to review this. I am pleased to hear that this is a fair and nearly accurate portrayal of our Holy Scriptures.
I wonder if the series will stay true with the Bible on a literal 6 days of creation, and tie our 7 day week to this fact? How much of Creation Week is covered in the show? I can see this being a huge sore spot if indeed the producers went with it, the amount of secular criticism as a result would be huge im sure.
Thanks for your inquiry. Actually, the creation portion of the film is only a minute or two in length. As discussed in our review, the story is narrated by Noah while on the ark, which reinforces the oral tradition that was passed down to him, and subsequent generations. Although the sequence is very short, the narration mentions Day1, Day 2, etc., and no mention of millions of years or eons is implied, a refreshing departure from what would be expected. No, the 7 day week is not covered in this context.
Well, I guess I'll be the lone dissenter in saying that we won't be watching this series. The primary reason is that we believe the 2nd commandment expressly forbids representing God (the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) in any form (i.e. actors, voice-overs, pictures etc.). That would exclude all the episodes where God speaks, and of course all the ones where Jesus is portrayed by an actor. Next, transferring the Bible to another format does not give us the freedom to add or remove from God's Word. At best that makes movies and series like these historical fiction.
Thank you for your comment. We certainly understand and appreciate your concern about 2nd commandment. As replied to Jill (above), the second commandment forbids "graven images" of God, for it is idolatry to worship a created object rather than the creator, the one true God, but perhaps another reason is that no image in any form could fully reflect God's glory. When God became incarnate in the form of Jesus, God took on the image of fallen man. Jesus retained that image after the resurrection, and that glorified body will be retained when he returns and we see him face-to-face. Just like there has been a long tradition to portray Jesus through the arts in a respectful manner, it seems reasonable for the producers to portray the human likeness of Jesus.
Based on the screen shots, the movie seems to have the same problem the Creation Museum has, in depicting Adam through Noah as Japhethites. It's genetically impossible for negroids to have descended only from people with light skin--it seems to imply some sort of Moronic Curse which darkened their skin.
We too noticed that skin color (actually the varying levels of melanin, see http://creation.com/racism-questions-and-answers to learn more) were inconsistent with CMI's views on such, not just in the first couple, but throughout the film. We have long stated that Adam and Eve must have had a "medium brown" level of melanin in order to contain all the genetic diversity we see today. However, we assume that none of the producer's consultants made the them aware of this detail.
What a marvelous opportunity for the world to see. I am so pleased to hear that the hollywood effect will be minimized. I pray that there will be preparation for questions with answers that support the truths of scripture.
Thank you. Nice to hear about the Bible story being on the history channel. May GOD richly bless you and continue to make you a blessing in the lives of those HE sends your way ... HE is able !!!
What a great news, The Lord prepare people to do His plan, His mercy endures forever and no doubt these fine people were prepare by Him, congratulations to Mark and Roma for hearing The Lord's Voice. Let's pray that this project may be translated to other languages.
Awesome really appreciate some of what the History channel does, so great to have God and his story portrayed faithfully.
Anyone know when it show's in NZ ?
I heard this advertised on Christian radio. Knowing that The History Channel (and others) many times, if not most times, has a penchant for planting seeds of doubt when it comes to the Bible, I wondered aloud, "Why are they advertising this?" But after reading the article I find myself looking forward to seeing it. Thanks!
When I see that people such as Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Erwin McManus and Tom Peterson were somehow involved in consulting on this series, I immediately lose any interest. Please don't get giddy about the fact that creation science people were allowed to preview it.. but, surely discernment should go further than that.
We certainly understand your concern. We were surprised as you can see in our review. We do not think we allowed any "giddy" attitude to sneak into our evaluation :)
Please could you tell me if it will show in New Zealand, I've been searching for hours and still can't find out. and if yes, when? I really want to watch this because it's not often something like this is made and due to your commendation.
One of the producers told us that it would play worldwide on the History Channel, but based on feedback, this does not seem to be the case. Unfortunately, we do not know the answer.
"Jacques B., South Africa, 1 March 2013
Does anyone know if/when this will air in South Africa?
Seached the History channel listings on DSTVs site but could not find anything.
Scott Gillis responds
Thanks for your comment. The producer told us Wednesday that the series would air Sunday on the History Channel, regardless of country, but based on the feedback we are receiving, this may not be the case. Check your local listings."
I've just checked the listings for the next two weeks on the History Channel here in the UK - it's not showing here either.
However, we will be treated to a series on how mankind evolved..... :-(
This is very encouraging. I hope God's Spirit takes it and blesses it as it has a favorable review from the fine folks here. Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ was able to gross something like 300 million dollars due to his faithfulness to the Gospel stories. I'm pretty sure that if God blesses these people with a good return on investment, then they will turn that around and make more biblical productions, so it would be great if the Christian community supported it and told their friends about it. This could be the beginning of a whole new front opening up in the spiritual war for the battle of humanity's hearts and souls
May God richly bless......
As for your comment on Jesus' 'revelation' that He was going to die when they were at the last supper table, I agree with you. He might have had the vision made stronger there as God began to forsake Jesus (this is speculation) but He clearly knew His fate long before that.
One of the points I like to use when witnessing to folks is that Jesus had a clear understanding of the way He was going to die.
In Luke 9:23 He states:
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Why would He use the cross as an example? He hadn't been to it yet. This must have really perplexed His disciples but it implies one of two things. Either the disciples added that to His narrative....OR IT WAS TRUE!
Which do you think it was considering the disciples wrote this in front of 'such a great crowd of witnesses' (and they weren't above debating any points at that time in the church's age)?
So yes, Jesus clearly knew long before His crucifixion how He was going to lovingly redeem us to His Father (thank you Savior!)
This looks really good, do hope we can see it tonight and have it recorded for when we may be out of town . I have tried to share this information with others, and others have shared it with me. I have seen older renditions of the Bible done many years ago, i.e. in the late or mid 60's and can remember recording that on my tape recorder casset back then. So hopefully it will be comparable to that and continue to be better.
I am glad to hear that they do not try to depict God the father, but is Jesus face shown in the new testament portion? Any depiction of God (father, son or holy spirit) would be a violition of the 2nd commandment.
Thank you for your comment. As we responded to Jill and Ken, the second commandment forbids "graven images" of God, for it is idolatry to worship a created object rather than the creator, the one true God, but perhaps another reason is that no image in any form could fully reflect God's glory. When God became incarnate in the form of Jesus, God took on the image of fallen man. Jesus retained that image after the resurrection, and that glorified body will be retained when he returns and we see him face-to-face. Just like there has been a long tradition to portray Jesus through the arts in a respectful manner, it seems reasonable for the producers to portray the human likeness of Jesus.
I watched the first series from creation to Abraham. I didn't think it was necessary to transform the angels that rescued Lot and his family from Sodom into some kind of Ninja warriors. A little too much literary embellishment, my opinion.
Yes, I agree with you. When I first viewed that section, it was way too much 'Hollywood'. I was taken off guard so much, I actually chuckled.
My wife and I were looking forward to watching the series. About 10 minutes in, I turned to her and said something is seriously missing here. They have left out the sinfulness of mankind which has caused the judgements being shown. I said that I wondered who the 'expert' theologians were who consulted on the filming? Then I found out it was Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes et. al. I am SO disappointed that they decided to utilize 'Pastors' who don't believe in the sinfulness of sin. THAT is the message which needs to be told to the masses today. 'A' for effort, 'D-' for content!
Thank you for your comment. Although the producers do demonstrate sin and disobedience as what broke our relationship with God and brought on judgement (ex: The Fall, Noah speaks clearly of the cause of the flood judgement, Lot's choices and consequences, as well as scenes in future episodes), we did state in our review that the concept of substitutionary atonement was not spelled out in detail. However, in a few episodes, they do connect Jesus' death to the Passover.
I'm sad to see one of our family's favorite ministries (CMI) supporting this miniseries. There are many theological problems with this series which were apparent in the first episode. This probably stems from the Board of Advisors for the miniseries, which includes seeker sensitive pastor Rick Warren, and Prosperity Gospel preachers Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes. The miniseries is also produced by a devout Roman Catholic, Roma Downey, who, while a talented actress, has some very problematic theological views, at best. The depiction in the miniseries of Abraham/Isaac borders on blasphemy. Isaac does not beg for his life & he is not as young as he is depicted. In reality he was around 20 years old & could never have been overpowered by a hundred year old Abraham. Also, Abraham was not pleading with God not to do this, he had FAITH in God, and he said to his men that he AND Isaac would come back from the top of the mountain, revealing that he had faith in God that even if God allowed him to kill his son Isaac, that God would raise him from the dead. Abraham KNEW that he and Isaac were going up that mountain...and also BOTH were coming back down the mountain. "Abraham said to his servants, 'Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then WE will come back to you.'” (Genesis 22:5, my emphasis) This account of Abraham and Isaac is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, but it MUST be properly taught. I learned this story as a young girl in a theologically liberal church that did not give any context or explanation of this as a one-time event meant to point us to Christ, our ultimate sacrifice, and to show that even though God stayed the hand of Abraham over his son, his only son, whom he loved, that when it came time for God's hand to fall upon his own Son, his only Son, whom he loved, God did not stay his own hand. BUT, out of GREAT MERCY and LOVE for mankind, God let his hand fall upon his Son SO THAT his wrath could be appeased and atonement could be made for undeserving sinners. Understood in context, that story of Abraham and Isaac is almost unbearably sweet to the saved sinner who looks upon it and marvels at God's great love. Without the context and understanding of the sacrificial system (pointing to the future, greater Sacrifice yet to come), the depiction of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible miniseries just seems cruel, and God comes off as capricious (which was how I viewed the story of Abraham/Isaac, and ultimately how I viewed God as a young girl learning this story without the proper context).
Thank you for your comments. We also read your post on the CMI Facebook page that also pertains to this miniseries. We appreciate your concern and the respectful way you presented yourself.
I first wanted to say that our intent was not to ‘support’ the miniseries as much as reporting our reaction to it. Also, we were not reviewing the producers’ theological views, but our response was more of a surprise of the final product, especially compared to our expectations of something most Christians would except from a typical History Channel treatment of the Bible. Regarding the producer’s “Board of Advisors”, we were unaware of those you mention until people responding to this article pointed out who they were. Since you are familiar with CMI, I’m sure you are aware that we take issue with such compromising doctrine, but we have not perceived an over-reaching theme in the film that shouts out this doctrine.
Regarding the Abraham and Isaac sequence, we do agree with you in great part. Even beyond the issues you detail, there were inconsistencies with the narrative. However, I did watch that sequence again, and I think there might be some other details to consider. In Scripture, God asks Abraham to take his only son, whom he loves, and sacrifice him. I believe the producers related this difficult command from God and tried to express the deep emotion a father would have carrying out this in obedience. In the film, as Abraham binds his son, although Isaac says “What are you doing … you hurt me”, when Abraham lifts his son to the altar, Isaac does not struggle or fight as you implied. Once on the altar, Isaac pleads “Please … please, father”, but could this not reflect the pleas Jesus made to His Father in Gethsemane?
As we stated in our review, the subject of substitutionary atonement, which is paramount in this scene, was not adequately emphasized throughout the film, but we presently do not see a factor of “blasphemy” in this scene. We agree with you, that this account in the Bible (not “The Bible”) shows Abraham’s faith and points us to the ultimate sacrifice.
We are a ministry that specializes in the origins issue, the flood, and related sections of the Bible, and how the evidence makes sense of the historical account of the Bible. Although The Bible mini-series brushed by these portions of the narrative in blindingly fast fashion, we were still surprised that these scenes did not contain the typical History Channel overt evolutionary timeline and overtone.
Again, thank you for your thoughtful and respectful feedback.
Having watched the first section last night, I feel I must comment. Though I appreciated many excellent portrayals of scripture that gave good insight to God and His work, I struggled with numerous outright errors in the scriptural narrative. Example: Abram was the one that approached Lot with the need to separate as they approached the promised land. In the movie, it appeared that Lot and his wife were the instigators of the move and that Abram even begged them not to leave. In Genesis Abram said, "we need to separate. You choose which way you desire. If you go east, I will go west..."
Then, once in Sodom, Lot was portrayed as a rather meek and shallow man seeing two strangers arriving in sodom who appeared afraid of the townspeople and looking for shelter. God's Word reveals Lot as a respected leader of Sodom sitting in the gate where those in authority sat. Seeing strangers arrive, he implored them to come to his home. Though relunctant at first, they did go with him. When the men of Sodom sought the strangers, there was an obvious lustful desire in the men desiring the strangers. This is what led to the blinding of the attackers. I can only assume that there was a decision by the writers not to approach the issue of homosexuality. I was caught off guard with the ninja attack by the angels, though I found that a bit humerous.
Lot's daughters appear to be about 9 - 11 years old at the time of the destruction in the movie. Overlooked in this presentation would be the lack of Lot's final sin and humiliation. Moab and Ben-Ammi, sons of the daughters were the result of that transgression. The young girls portrayed in the movie would have been too young to have plotted such a grevious sin. These are but a few of the misquotes found I found.
After watching a major portion of the 1st episode, I was shocked that any pastor, much less any Christian ministry dedicated to the complete truth of the Biblical account, would endorse this. The author here was way off to suggest that "In a few places, they depart from the details in the biblical narrative" and that "There are also some mostly-minor errors in depiction."
I found a number of serious problems - especially in the depiction of Moses. For instance, the producers were more than merely "taking liberties" by suggesting that Moses regularly fought with Pharaoh's son, which led to Moses's identity being revealed and his killing of the Egyptian. But much worse was Moses's reaction to God at the Burning Bush - "With Your power, I will set my people free!" Really? That's almost the complete opposite response Moses had! The Bible indicates that he offered multiple excused in order to do anything but help free His people from slavery.
These might seem minor to some, but they undermine the Biblical storyline - that men and women aren't the heroes of Redemptive history - God Himself is! Ultimately, this series only further promotes stereotypes of the OT that we as Christian pastors and ministers should be seeking to expose and lead our folks to reject. I am saddened that this review is being used by other sites to promote a movie that will not help Christians to understand the OT better - and thus not help us to cherish the Gospel more.
Thanks you for your comment. We appreciate and in great part, agree with your concern. We are a ministry "dedicated to the complete truth of the biblical account", as can be clearly demonstrated by our website and resources. The intent of our review was to communicate our surprise at the lack of what was expected from a film airing on The History Channel. We did not in any way imply that the film was perfect, but given both the source and restrictions of the television medium, we were reporting that it was more compliant than most Christians would have expected.
You are correct in your critique of the depiction of Moses response at the burning bush, but with constant referral to "trust in God", "God is with us" and "God has promised", it seems the producers have attempted to make not men and women the heroes of The Bible, but God.
I am not as pleased with the production as most. I felt it distorted the characters of Moses and Abraham. Moses would never have allowed himself to be put on the people's shoulders and take credit for God's work. Abraham was a rightous man who trusted God without question. And God's messengers who went to Sodom never got beat-up according to scripture. The whole movie was totally Hollywood. I had two friends watch it with me; One a new Christian and one a Non-Christian. Both thought it was a typical Hollywood action film. But, we have to remember that it is the History Channel which 99.9% of the time comes from a secular point of view. If we really want people to believe in Creation, maybe the film should have started with Creation and not just have Noah mention it.
I will watch the second part, but if it does not improve from a Hollywood action film to the true message of the Bible I will not watch it to the end.
Thank you for your comment. We agree that the film was "Hollywood", and in the review and many of the comments, we have conceded this to be the case. Being that CMI focuses on Creation, the Flood, and related issues, we too would have appreciated a longer and in depth treatment of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. However, we were surprised, given the source of The History Channel, that the normal evolutionary paradigm was missing. Regarding your comments about Abraham's character, although he was a man of faith and by that faith, was considered righteous, he was an imperfect man nonetheless, and on many occasions did not "trust God without question".
What I appreciate most is the fact that they seeked true Biblical input and that no Face was given to Jesus in the relevant scenes, this address a big problem I always have with these kind of Films and how Can you ever ascribe a voice to God? Seems to me, based on just that, that they made effort to honour God. I just flipped over the program the other night, very reluctant to watch, since these almost always give a perverse account to some degree, but will watch it now :-) Thanks for the review/ feedback.
I was also disappointed after viewing the first episode. While not being a production that overtly called the Bible a lie, there were things that gave me pause. When the show repeatedly skipped over hundreds of years of God's interaction with men to then focus at length on something like Lot and and Sodom I began to see a bit of Hollywood. When it then contradicted the Bible with the Angelic swordplay Sodom, I realized that something more was going on than the need to compress the account to fit the time allotted.
If the Bible said that the Angels blinded the mob outside of Lot's door and the TV show gives us several minutes of Ninja fighting instead, a reverence for God's word is not in the show.
It gave me a greater respect for Cecil B. Demille
Thanks for your comment. Yes, we stated in the article as well as have agreed with many respondents about the "Hollywood" factor. However, as has been pointed out many times in the past, Cecil B. Demille's film was quite "Hollywood" as well.
I was watching it up to where Lot was in Sodom and the angels came to get them. That is where I stopped because to me they made the angels look weak. Then when the angels came out and blinded the men by Lot's door I thought " Yes, they got that part right. The part that I just stop watching it is when the angels started walking more and here comes other men who were not blinded. What happen here?? But the next part got me when the angels were turn into ninjas. I just couldn't go any further. To me that was wrong.
Yes Ron, we agree with you and the other commentators on some of the details in this scene as well as others. As we stated, this was a dramatization for television, and they would take liberties. We hope that many believers will take this opportunity to initiate discussions about the Bible with family and friends that have never given it serious consideration before.
Scott and Lita - good job on your objective balanced review, neither endorsing nor condemning the series, but remaining neutral throughout! Brothers and sisters - you may like this series or hate it, but the fact is: The Bible was the number one cable TV program in it's time slot! Please don't miss this opportunity to share God's Word with tons of people who normally wouldn't be open to it!!
Thank you so much. We appreciate your perspective, and it seems that you understand that we clearly stated in our review that this was a dramatization, but many seemed to miss this point. With the usual limitations on Hollywood, it should seem obvious that a production on any topic, especially the Bible, would take some liberties, but the producers seemed to be well-meaning to make a representation for the television medium, where millions never see anything about the Bible. No doubt people will find flaws, and we commend them for that, as we too strive to be accurate in all we do here at CMI. However, believers could take this unique opportunity to intentionally initiate discussions with their unsaved family and friends and begin to open minds to consider the truth of the Bible for the first time.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see episode 1 of The Bible. As Lita mentions in her review, there are disputable representations of certain events and certain lacks in terms of theological truths that are central to the Christian faith. OK. But I believe that Dr. Samuel Logan, International Director for the World Reformed Fellowship has it right when he says that it brings to life what many today consider to be a dusty old story. Dr. Logan emphasized in the quote I found on (website reference deleted per feedback rules) that our faith is founded on HISTORICAL EVENTS and thus viewers will find their appreciation for the Bible significantly enhanced.
As someone who still prefers to read the Bible, I was of course expecting that liberties would be taken with the text and even story lines. However, like Ms. Cosner, I was greatly impressed by the "good faith" attempt to accurately portray the teaching of God's Word. If you look for weaknesses, you will surely find them; The Bible, the Mini-series, is not inerrant! The Bible, the Word of God, IS inerrant and authoritative.
For those who argue against pictorial representations, why would you watch this? Are you not sinning in so going against your convictions? Many of us do not believe that this is actually sin though, and we believe that it is a useful tool in presenting a part of the Truth to a modern generation. It is my hope and prayer that the Spirit of God will minister to many who may never otherwise hear the truth.
Quote: "However, the errors do not detract much from the whole, so it would be a shame to dwell on them too much."
Just give Satan a small opening and soon HE will take control of the whole message. Either the Bible is depicted correctly or it is not. Or as the Bible itself says: "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough," Galatians 5:9. It is just like depicting Mary as a Caucasian, or JESUS as being handsome. No wonder the world cannot connect with the real JESUS who is described in Isaiah 53:2 this way: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." By depicting JESUS in the wrong light we put too much emphasis on the outside and not what is in our hearts. The world needs truth not that which they are attracted to. GOD does not need any help in bringing those who are HIS to HIMSELF. If humans put their faith in special effects and distortions, then when they do come face to face with JESUS, HE will say, "I do not know you," Matthew 7:23.
Hello ek S.
Thank you for your comment. We understand your concern. As can be demonstrated through our books and the thousands of articles on our website, CMI is vitally committed to and focuses on disseminating the complete truth of the biblical account. In your comment, you are implying that Satan will use the inconsistencies and errors in this dramatization, and we were careful to point out that they exist, and will "take control of the whole message", hindering all that view it from connecting with the biblical Gospel. Then is the only way to completely assure that the Word of God is not distorted in any way would be the public reading of the text, in the original languages, without translation, without illustration, comment, or depiction of any kind? Obviously, for centuries, the Bible has been depicted through many means: sermons, artwork, books and yes, movies. The essence of any critique of a message then, would not be whether it is an exact representation of the original text, but to what degree it agrees and varies. Since this depiction will be viewed by the public, and in this case, millions will see through an unlikely source such as The History Channel, we as believers can use this opportunity to communicate the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and kindness.
The intent of our review was to communicate our surprise at the lack of what was expected from a film airing on The History Channel. We did not in any way imply that the film was perfect, but given both the source and restrictions of the television medium, we were reporting that it was more compliant than most Christians would have expected.
I am from South Africa .... please could anyone tell me what time it will be screened in this part of the world???
I have enjoyed the series thus far. It was particularly nice to hear familiar scriptures within the adaptation. As a Black female, I loved seeing that big black man as Sampson as well as so many other Black faces. My list of Bible adaptations are as follows: Kings of Kings (loved that fine Jesus as a Kid) Ten Commandments (who didn't like the red sea parting) A new Ten Commandment movie a few years ago (liked the parts after Moses crossed red sea) and niow The History Channel series The Bible. Ya Done Good and Thank You. God's continued blessings for you and yours.
Thanks for your comment. In this dramatization, there were many times that we noted some interesting use of actors with differing amounts of melanin in their skin. As we stated in our review, the actors that played Adam and Eve, for example, were quite light, and CMI has long stated that they would likely be of "medium brown" skin. See here, here and here for more information.
I am recording the series for now but am not expecting much from it after reading the comments here and other places. I will most likely 'give it a go' but if it gets too unBiblical, I'll stop. I cannot stomach any more 'Hollywood' movies about the Bible that are full of errors and misrepresentations.
I have not heard anywhere online any mention of the series going into Paul's epistles and other New Testament books, including Revelation. Are they included and if so, how much? I mean, it IS the WHOLE Bible isn't it?
As we have stated, since this dramatization is being viewed by millions, we hope that believers will view this as an opportunity to begin discussions that could lead many toward the truth of the Bible and perhaps the Gospel.
As we mention in our review, this film covers through the early years of the church. I'm sure you can understand that it would not be possible for any producer to dramatize the entire Bible within a 10 hour television miniseries.