After having watched some clips and reading a few reviews, I was really looking forward to watching "The Bible" Series on The History Channel this month. I was really encouraged by some of the interviews that I had seen by it's creators, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on their reverence for the Bible and their desire to tell the story of the holy scriptures in an authentic way. However, after having watched episodes 1-3, my opinion is decidedly mixed.
- Part 1- I thought the idea of Noah in the ark recounting the story of creation was very effective. I also thought the scene with Abraham and the three angels was largely authentic. Also, I thought the scene of Abraham with the one Angel left behind, who many believe to be the pre-Incarnate Christ, was done well. In the movie, they intersperse Abraham's dialogue with the Angel with scenes from within Sodom. To me this was a creative way of telling the story.
- Part 2 - Probably the most Biblically-based part in this section was the story of the Passover. They told the story of how the Jews were to slaughter lambs and place the blood over the doorposts of their dwellings, thereby instituting the first Passover. This would protect them from the death angel as it passed by.
- Part 3 - I thought the scene with Joshua's encounter with the Commander of the Lord's Army interspersed with scenes from the fall of Jericho largely worked. Later, in the Samson section, the last scene in which Samson pulls down the temple around him was well-done. His mother finding him in the rubble, although not part of scripture, was moving.
- Part 4 - To me this was the best section so far. Most people don't know the story of King Saul. By and large, I thought this story was told well. Saul was a man whose started out well, but his pride and his unwillingness to obey God's commands became his downfall. I was pleasantly surprised at how this was summarized in the movie. Although the narrative was compressed, they authentically told of Saul's unwillingness to destroy the Amalekites and his subsequent removal as king. In the David section, I loved the fact that they included little-known details, including the taking of Jerusalem through the water tunnels. The story of David and Bathsheba was well done, including the scene in which Nathan confronts David and the resultant punishment for his behavior.
- Overall - The cinematography is great! The sets largely have an authentic feel and the use of the Moroccan landscape works well. They really did a first-class job in the special effects as well.
- Overall - There were many troubling errors throughout the series. I get that they had to compress the narrative in places. I would give them that mulligan due to time constraints. And I'm not too troubled by a certain amount of artistic license. Even in previous Bible depictions, such as Cecil B. Demille's "The Ten Commandments", there are contrived scenes of what might have happened that don't violate the spirit of the text. However, in some cases, "The Bible" series strays far from the original in important details.
- Part 1-Though much of this section strayed from the Biblical narrative, the Sodom scene was the worst. It seems to me that they tried to make this politically correct. You would never know by watching this scene that Sodom became infamous because of rampant homosexuality. The angels were shown cowering in Lot's house, then later coming out and zapping the townspeople with blindness. In the movie, Lot is kind of heroic in sheltering the angels. In the Book, Lot doesn't show very many admirable characteristics. He hesitates and equivocates and finally is drug out of Sodom by the angels. Also, I never pictured these angels as Ninja warriors as it shows them in the movie. That didn't exactly work!
- Part 2 - First of all, I was amazed that they completely left out the stories of Jacob and Joseph. I understand that they were extremely limited on time, but even a passing reference would have connected the stories of Abraham and Moses. Someone unfamiliar with the Biblical account would have no idea of how the children of Israel got to Egypt or even why they nation was called Israel! Moving on, while the story of the plagues was done creatively, my biggest problem with this section came after Israel crossed the Red Sea. One of the main themes of the Old Testament, which is also referenced many times in the New Testament, is the failure of the Israelites in the desert to obey the voice of God. Their wilderness test would foreshadow future tests that Israel would fail time and again. All of this pointed to the need for a Savior who redeem them (and us) from sin and it's consequences. In "The Bible" Series, the only section from the forty years of wandering in the wilderness was in the giving of the law. Amazingly, they left out Israel's disobedience in making the Golden Calf at Sinai and their subsequent disobedience in refusing to enter Canaan at Kadesh-barnea. The result of this would be that they were doomed to tour the Sinai desert for a generation. These are not petty grievances. This is really the central theme of the Old Testament. I would hope that someone watching "The Bible" Series would search these things out, but it would have been so much better if they could have made these central themes plainer.
- Part 3 - The most egregious error to me in this section (and one that would be repeated in part 4) was that the Ark of the Covenant was just sitting out in the open in a tent. God took pains in the scripture to ensure that the Holy Ark was only to be seen by the High Priest, and then only once a year. It was never to be viewed by the everyday Jew. The only time it was ever out in the open was when it was captured by the Phillistines. Later on in part 3, Samson is portrayed as a man who truly wants to do God's will but stumbles in the process. This is actually very different from the Biblical Samson. In the Bible, Samson is a man who has great talent and strength from God, but continually fails because his heart is set on himself, not on his Maker.
- Part 4 - Although this section to me seemed the most authentic, the scene of the anointing of David was a real missed opportunity. In the series, Samuel finds David in the meadow and anoints him there, to be king after Saul dies. The real story is so much more compelling! In the Bible, Samuel goes to the house of Jesse because God tells him that one of Jesse's sons is to be the new king. Jesse puts his first seven sons in front of Samuel one-by-one, but the prophet refuses each one. Finally, Jesse tells Samuel that he has one more son out in the field tending the sheep. Obviously, Jesse never even considered that David could be the one Samuel would pick. But that's exactly what happens. Samuel chooses the least son, and he becomes Israel's greatest king-that is, until David's Son, the King of Kings, would come.
Conclusion - Well, this was an ambitious project, and I'm glad they attempted it. The fact that the ratings have been through the roof shows how that people today are truly spiritually hungry. I think it also shows that folks intuitively know that the Bible has something to offer that they're missing in their day-to-day lives. I would hope that this would spur a new-found interest in the Biblical account, which is times better than anything Hollywood has yet to come up with. All-in-all, I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!
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