Monday, April 1, 2013

What's Wrong With The History Channel's "The Bible" Series Part 5

I'm so glad this TV series is over! I'm tired of watching it, and writing about it - I've got more important things to write about. Everybody's been asking me, "Are you ready for the last episode?" In more ways than one - yes! So here I am, late Sunday night, writing a review on the last episode. Another fine mess I've got myself into - ha!

Well, if you've read my previous posts on each of the first four episodes of "The Bible" on the History Channel, you've got the gist of where I'm coming from. So far this series has been full of misconceptions, out of context quotes, and over dramatized scenes, and worst of all, inaccuracies. I don't know about you, but I believe knowing and declaring the truth of scripture is important.

Yes, I know, a show about the Bible is good in a sense that everyone is talking about it. But I wonder how much of the talk is "Wait a minute, that's not how it is in the Bible!" One of the producers was interviewed recently, boasting that Twitter was lit up over the show. What he didn't say was how much of it was lit up, talking about all the  things that were wrong with the show.

The key to understanding what this series is about can be easily overlooked. It comes at the very beginning when a text comes on the screen that says, "This program is an adaptation of Bible stories. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book." Therein lies the's an "adaptation". An adaptation by definition is "a composition rewritten into a new form." And that statement has been true to form in each episode. But why rewrite the Bible? Like I said in my last post, this series is like a movie that is "based on a true story" but is not the true story.

I was really hoping that this last episode got it right. It actually started out fairly well! Either that, or I've been desensitized watching the five episodes. I tried to overlook many details that were questionable, and have even left many out of this post. But there are some very important things I wish they hadn't left out, and some things that were added unnecessarily. 

In this final episode, the portrayal of the chief priests was done well. The flogging and crucifixion of Jesus was powerful, maybe a little too much emphasis on close up, dramatic blood scenes for a TV show. A lot of it reminded me of the movie "The Passion of Christ", which is so much better than this show. 

Not emphasized correctly:
1. The show didn't portray Pilate very well as one who really wanted Jesus released. In the Bible, Pilate even says,"I'm innocent of this man's blood." He doesn't say that in the show, even though he washes his hands. OK, I could let that slide I guess.

2. In the show, when Jesus dies, the curtain in the Temple just falls. In the Bible, it's torn in two, which is very significant.

3. In the show, only Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb to find Jesus gone, not the 3 women that the Bible talks about. This whole scene is botched. The show leaves out the angel at the tomb, and while Mary is inside, Jesus shows up! This is another one of the typical hodge podge scenes. I feel like the editors cut out all the important scenes for sake of time.

4. When Jesus is saying His last words to the disciples before ascending into heaven, in the TV show, He leaves out most of the important words of the 'great commission', and He doesn't say one of the most incredible statement's in the Bible, "I'll be with you always, even to the end of the age." Then, instead of ascending into the clouds, He just disappears. The ascension is one of the foundational truths of scripture. Again, it's like the producers are saying, "Let's cut this part out, we don't have time for it, it's not really that important, and no one will know the difference anyway."

5. The TV show pretty much does a massacre of Acts chapter 2. It leaves, perhaps in the cutting room floor, one of the most significant events, the Holy Spirit ascending on the disciples like tongues of fire. Then leaves out Peter's sermon that's the big part of Acts 2. And leaves out how 3000 were baptized as the church begins.

6. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is misrepresented. In the show, Paul is portrayed to be belligerent and resistant when He encounters Jesus. In the Bible, he is opposite - submissive and humbled.

My conclusion about this TV series is this....Bible believers long to see the Bible promoted, and would love to see the Bible ACCURATELY represented in film. I believe a large portion of the millions of viewers for this series are such people. Unfortunately, as in the case of this series, it usually doesn't happen. I believe one of the best attempts is the movie "The Passion Of The Christ". There are other not so well known movies, such as "The Gospel of John", starring Christopher Plummer. You can find it on Amazon. The dialogue is entirely scripture, word for word! It's a great one - much better than the History Channel's version, or should I say adaptation.

So next Sunday night, I suppose we can all watch ESPN, or some movie, or better about reading the Bible!!!!!! Time much better spent. Two hours reading the Bible is much better than two hours watching TV. Start with the New Testament and read a little each day. If you have a smart phone, get the Bible app "YouVersion". If you have a laptop or computer, go to They both have the entire Bible, as well as reading plans. Or simply pick up your Bible in book form, and read it!!!


  1. Yikes. I've just recently heard about this series and I've been very intrigued so I started reading up on what people were saying about it. I found your blog posts about its inaccuracies and it sounds like they take some very unnecessary liberties with the Biblical narrative. Some things in the Bible are ambiguous enough to allow this sort of storytelling, but other things (like the things you've pointed out) are really explicit and obviously emphasized. It seems strange to change them for TV.

    I am curious what you think are some of the best film/TV adaptations of the Bible?

    Also I'm curious to ask: what do you think of the other "mainstream" efforts like Cecil B. DeMille's "Ten Commandments" or Mel Gibson's "The Passion"? And what did you think of that 60s Biblical epic, "The Greatest Story Ever Told"?

    1. HI Chris - my favorite is "The Passion" and I like "The Gospel Of John" because of it's word for word, from scripture, dialogue - as far as 10 commandments and the greatest story, i would have to watch them again - i can't remember much of them - ha

  2. From William Cook (didn't have a login to use right now)
    I am so glad you wrote this on your website. I've been constantly troubled as I watch the episodes (been watching DVR recordings of each episode), and been especially troubled at the things that are represented 'differently' for no good reason, presenting a different representation of the word than what is in scripture - and doing it consistently! I was especially surprised when Mary (the mother of Jesus) and Joseph were depicted during a Roman soldier invasion of Nazareth, where she runs to her home only be surprised by an appearance of the Angel Gabriel! I was astonished and couldn't imagine the purpose of this depiction. Rather, this tender and all-important moment when she was 'announced' to be the mother of Jesus and made her choice - I am the Handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word! And yet, in this moment as in so many others, they chose to use other words that change the meaning and the importance of what they're saying! Again, a few minutes later with Joseph upset that Mary is pregnant, he meets Gabriel almost on the street - rather than in a dream - why change it? And while I've not had the chance to see the last episode in full yet, I saw part of it where they're depicting this Mary (are they referring to her as Magdalene? and yet, in the series she's depicted as the sister of Lazaras). For some reason they choose to show her with Peter in the first healing of the cripple on their way to the temple - and yet, in the Acts of the Apostles, its very definintely Peter and John who encounter him and both of them interact with him in that healing, and who are arrested afterwards. Yet they show someone with Peter (must be John) just after, but 'Mary' is not there... the liberties they take must have had some purpose, but it was not one that I can either agree with or find trustworthy. Their liberties do not stand the test that they were doing them in order to shorten the scenes for costs or to make it more dramatic. As many know, the actual scriptures are very dramatic, as you've noted in your reference to the Passion of the Christ which was extremely dramatic! God bless you for writing your article!

    1. well said - it appears by their 'interpretation' that they never even had a Bible scholar on hand to advise them on scripture as this 'screenplay' was written and edited - sure doesn't seem so - as you pointed out, it would be just as easy to represent scripture accurately than to change it

  3. Jesus never cried out during crucifixion.