These are some general thoughts from watching the shows. This is not meant to be exhaustive or a formal review but simply highlight my impressions from memory and a little bit of re-digging
into the Scriptures over the past several weeks.
* Provided a general sense of Bible literacy for those who have little to no knowledge about the Bible. This is important as not just unbelievers lack knowledge of basic Bible facts or stories but believers do as well. I probably cannot count the number of times someone has asked me as Pastor, “Is that really in the Bible?” Hopefully this is causing people to read and then fall in love again with the greatest God, Redeemer and Savior the world has ever known.
* Perhaps will be a draw and reference for planting gospel seeds and interest among unbelievers.
- John 3:16 was quoted verbatim and was marvelous testimony for the gospel
- Jesus’ words (as recorded in Scripture) and person are always powerful and attractive.
- Jesus’ passion events are terribly provoking. Another vivid reminder on film to portray the account is sobering, humbling and heartfelt. Reading the actual accounts in the Gospels is even better as they show Jesus’ suffering but also His strength and victorious cries from the cross. His death was real and so was His conquering of death.
µ Provided a mostly accurate and straight-forward portrayal and history of Biblical events. (The Flood was world-wide as demonstrated of camera pan of globe and spoken by narrator. The Red Sea engulfed the Egyptians; etc.)
- This is in great contrast to the usual variety of biased theology of shows normally produced by The History Channel.
- I say mostly accurate because there were slight inaccuracies. Here’s a few:
- No reference in Scripture to Sarai chasing after Abraham in the assumed sacrifice of Isaac.
- Outside the Bible was Pharaoh’s son becoming new Pharaoh with a unique relationship to Moses.
- Faith of Rahab to hide spies was missing and seems quite relevant (Joshua 2:9-13; cf Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31).
- Samson’s strength was in his hair but beyond that simply, because of his Nazarite vow to the Lord (Judges 16:17).
- David’s responses to Saul and to Goliath were incomplete. My favorite line from David was missing, “Your servant has struck down lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God… I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied… For the battle is the Lords” (1Samuel 17:36, 45-47). The point is not that David is a warrior or even a lucky shot but that the living God is greater than Goliath, the Lord delivers and saves those who trust in Him.
- Magi came to Jerusalem after Jesus’ birth not Bethlehem, and where was the mention of Shepherds whom had a unique role in the Scripture during the birth announcement.
- Inclusion of Mary Magdalene with the Disciples/Apostles as much as she was likely a bit overdrawn for today’s
- Quotes and references were sometimes disjointed and placed in different order, than Scripture has to fit narrative stories together. Sometimes quotes or references were missing entirely that probably should have been included to help key understanding.
- High Priest called Saul the name of Paul of Tsarsus when the name change did not happen until after his conversion. Further, Paul’s baptism was by sprinkling rather than immersion (hey, I’m a Baptist!).
- Probably several other (and some I will refer to in my critique) but again my point is made – “mostly accurate” with a few choice inaccuracies and artistic license.
µ Special effects of Noah with flood; Exodus with Moses; not to mention the vivid portrayals of Abraham & Lot, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, Saul, David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the Disciples of Jesus and others were unique for a modern context.
- Covering 600-700 years of time in one segment was fast paced but well done and accurate. In fact it was probably one of my favorite parts of the series seeing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace and then Daniel in the lion’s den.
µ The story of the Apostles and early church each following in Jesus’ footsteps and to die a martyr’s death shows their faith was lived out in its fullest because the truthfulness of events in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
- I found myself wanting to hear and know more about Steven, Luke, Timothy and others.
µ Um… God’s angels were some baaaad ninjas or maybe they were the original Jedi?!?
µ Ahem… a lot of Christian singles may be finding the love of their life with all the advertising by Christianmingle.com as a primary sponsor for the series. Seriously, this is no knock on singles or the company itself, but just an observation of the manner people establish and sustain relationships today.
µ Creation seemed to be a flashback rather than a central component of God and Scripture. The same was true with a minor showing of the sin of Adam & Eve but thankfully was referenced as a background foundation moving through the rest of the Bible.
µ Skipped biblical characters of Jacob, Joseph, Judges (minus Samson), Kings (minus Saul, David, Solomon), Prophets (minus Jeremiah, Daniel… others?).
µ Lacked promises or hints of God’s redemption/atonement through a Messiah (Gen 3:15; Sacrificial System; Passover; Judges/King; Prophets)
µ Lacked emphasis of God’s “law” as emphasized in with Moses and onward through the Kings and Prophets.
µ Lacked context to narratives. Admittedly this would be hard in shorter tv/dvd segments but often context is missing which provides key understanding and interpretation. (See lack of reference to reasoning of judgment on Sodom & Gomorrah; or lack mention of Jacob or Joseph to why Israelites are who they are and even in Egypt; etc.)
- No surprise of the politically correct view to negate reference to sin of homosexuality.
µ Weak view of repentance in David’s response to Nathan’s rebuke (“We’ll see…” vs. “I have sinned against God”; Psalm 51); among many others for the call to discipleship with Jesus (“follow me”; “deny self, take up cross”).
- Jesus’ famous quote from John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth and the life” was included but stopped short in completing the statement – “No one comes to the Father except through me.” This was unfortunate as it gives a clear view of Jesus’ message of exchanging self and self-made religion for faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
µ Weak view of preaching the gospel as Jesus’ main mission and purpose: Jesus tells Peter their role is to “change the world” and is assumed as a synonym for preaching/telling the gospel. At Jesus’ ascension, He tells the disciples to “preach unto all creation” rather than “all peoples”. The language is subtly different but I believe is enough to miss the actual point. Christians are not called to love the world or in fact change it. This emphasizes a temporal priority rather than an eternal and spiritual emphasis on God’s kingdom. Even preaching to “creation” over “all peoples” (ethne – people groups) gives credence to the temporal rather than eternal souls.
- Jesus’ focus was “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
- Lord’s Supper event lacked a fuller meaning of substitution beyond the bread and cup that Jesus gave saying, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 27:29).
- Even later, Paul is found preaching “love” rather than the heart of Paul’s message in the NT was “Christ crucified” (1Corinthians 1:23, 15:3; Galatians 1:11; 1Timothy 1:15-16; etc.).
- The overall point is that Jesus came not to make the world good but to bring payment for sin through His death; to bring life out of death.
µ Lacked signs of Trinity. The absence of Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism; absence of Jesus speaking of Father or of the Holy Spirit (see John 14-16); making disciples in the Triune name of God (Matthew 28:19). Thankfully at the ascension there was a mention of being filled with the Spirit and inclusion of the Pentecost event, though seemed like a subjective experience rather than an explicit statement from Peter about the Spirit (Acts 2:14-41).
µ Lacked strong emphasis on Jesus’ deity (Thomas’ response “It’s you, Jesus” vs. “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28); Roman Centurion saying, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).
µ Lacked explanation and time on the Revelation account. Understood that the producers were running out of time, ha! In fact, I remember this happening in seminary classes going through New Testament survey and the last few weeks and days are left barely covering the last book of the Bible. However, there is some rich meaning, tying themes together about the person of Christ, heaven, hell and the kingdom of God.
µ The cast lacked a greater ethnic diversity that would have been present not just in OT but also NT and in general. Example alone is Jesus’ “whiteness” and with a bit of a European accent. Jesus was a Jew and God is the designer of every tribe, language, people and nation among the earth. Heaven is going to be a beautifully diverse place under a single strand of grace through the gospel.
µ The depiction of Satan as black, and worse comparative of President Obama was regrettable, whether wittingly or unintentional. Satan could be portrayed as evil and even dark without having to be black. In 21st Century society we must still be careful of racial overtones and hidden meanings. It is offensive regardless of intent. Unfortunately, our country and much more the Christian faith does not have the luxury of addressing racial issues in a vacuum. We can and should do better in the future.
Well, I’m sure I will have addition and deeper reflections. Perhaps not deeper but at least further thoughts. I hope this helps those who are asking my thoughts about the movie series. My encouragement to you is yes, watch the series, buy the dvd if you want and watch it with a group of friends. We may do so as a church. But more, compare and contrast it with the book. As usual, the book opens the eyes, the mind and the heart in greater ways than the movie ever could.