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Too Many Battles, Not Enough Bible

by Michael R. Shannon

Any television show that simultaneously confounds the pagans and the heretics can’t be all bad. But there’s a basic flaw in the History Channel’s The Bible that makes it hard for the cultural Christian or the spiritual seeker to absorb the message.

This is not to say the program isn’t popular. In fact, it’s wildly popular, but I fear we are preaching to the choir. The opening episode of The Bible attracted 13.1 million viewers, the largest cable audience of the year, and topped both editions of “American Idol” the same week.

Episode two had 10.8 million viewers, more than any other program in the same time period and it finished 11th overall for the week. The third episode gained viewers, inching up to 10.9 million, and was number nine for the week.

This is even more startling when you recall, as Daniel Wattenberg of the Washington Times pointed out, that The Bible “lacked the ready–made, large scale promotional platform and popular lead–in that can drive strong ratings for a new show on a major broadcast network…” It also lacked the nudity, bad language, obscene cartoon characters and titillation that excites the prurient interest of many cable TV viewers — although it does contain some off­–screen fornication, adultery and murder.

On the other hand The Bible had thousands of mentions in church bulletins and word of mouth to help build the audience. (The program is proving to be a Godsend for youth ministries across America.)

So what’s not to like?

As the program is structured it appeals to Christians who know the Bible or think they know it, yet it answers no questions and puts nothing in perspective for the curious viewer who wants to learn more about the Good Book. In fact, the program runs a very real risk of alienating those viewers.

It is very easy for them to ask: Why does a supposedly loving God command King Saul to kill everyone? Why are the Israelites attacking Canaanites who have done them no wrong and were there first? Why did it take 40 years to get from Egypt to the Promised Land? Why didn’t Moses get to enter the Promised Land? What did the Sodomites do that was so bad? (No pun intended.) If David is such a sinner, why does God love him and not other sinners He had killed? What did a child like Ishmael do to deserve banishment? Why did God toy with Abraham and Isaac?

And those are just the questions from the first two episodes! After about the third killing spree Buddhism starts to look pretty good, to say nothing of Unitarianism.

The Bible is ten hours long but even that length means much is truncated and condensed. (Why couldn’t The Hobbit have dispensed with some of the padding and been only Hobbit I and Hobbit II, giving the excess to The Bible?) The series cries out for a narration to bridge the gap and provide continuity and explanation.

Even better, each episode should be followed by a 15–minute scholarly discussion among experts to put the events into an overall context. I don’t mean the secular culture’s favorite Bible experts: Bart Ehrman, the agnostic professor of religion, and Karen Armstrong, the failed nun who is liable to believe most anything. This duo would chuckle and explain how these blood–thirsty folk tales are a product of their time, with little relevance to today’s enlightened society. If God were commissioning a bible nowadays, the content and teaching would be much different.

No, the overview portion would feature solid, believing scholars who can explain and put the Bible into context. They could observe Genesis concerns the long fall of man and how God intervenes to save the righteous few. Once He sets the Israelites apart from the rest of man, God’s intent is for them to be a pure and holy race: literally the chosen people. He knows man is weak and He does not want the Israelites to be contaminated by the fallen tribes in Canaan, who are sinners that practice child sacrifice; fallen beyond the hope of redemption.

The Israelites spend 40 years in the wilderness because they did not believe God and rejected His command to take the Promised Land. God waited until that generation died out and only the two good spies — Joshua and Caleb — remained. Moses did not enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed God in front of the Israelites.

David was a sinner and a serial sinner at that, but he recognized his sins and begged God for forgiveness. Even at that he paid a price for his transgressions. Ishmael was banished because he was the product of a sin originating with Sarah and was not part of God’s plan for Abraham, but even at that God heard Abraham’s plea and Ishmael fathered a great nation. But it was a nation that contended with the Israelites.

And God tested Abraham’s trust to prove he was worthy to be the founder of the chosen people.

But none of this is evident from just watching The Bible.

The producers could even have had young people ask the questions of the experts in a roundtable setting. It would not be any more unrealistic than an Obama town meeting or episode of Real Housewives of DC and might bring some of the searching to Christ.

No doubt the DVD will have something like this in the ‘extras’ portion. Unfortunately, that will be too late. Only the sold buy the DVD, the browsers have already moved on.

17 comments

  1. The primary intent of this production obviously is to make the creators of it wealthier, not to teach any Biblical principles, otherwise why would they focus so much attention on the “action scenes”(the Hollywood “ninja-style”, blood-splattering battle scenes) and the blatant political correctness (I didn’t know there were so many black Jews or angles, or that there were Asian martial-arts angles, or that no one in Sodom was homosexual, just bad bullies, etc.).

    Worse, the fact that they are also selling a book that tells the story of the Bible as portrayed so inadequately in their mini-series in effect means that they are rewriting the Bible and selling their version to make money.

  2. What people fail to see is that the bible is written in allegories…Death can be interpreted as the death of the soul, too complicated and it will take a very knowledgeable theologian to explain it after every single episode; there will always be questions.

    • it is not about money, they have plenty just like the rest of their progressive friends, it is to create doubt and disbelief, to present a warped view of the Bible, and you don’t need a theologian to explain it, you need the Holy Spirit to live it thru you! The allegory lie is even worse, something started by a ‘converted’ sodomite priest (St. Augustine) who wanted to ‘intellectualize’ the church. Study the history! I have and will match my degrees to theirs. yes I went to hear their side and I watched the way they lived!

  3. Why is never a good question when it comes to God. Mose’s asked God to explain to him why the evil prospered, and the good suffered. The answer was, “I will do as I choose, as my ways are not your ways!”

    It is in the end all about faith, that God has a ultimate purpose that is good for everything that happens. Those that lack faith in Heaven ask why.

  4. Fascinating that “The Bible” is followed by “The Vikings”. Hard to distinguish which characters are the more barbarous. In the former, there is only one really good guy. In the latter, most of the main characters value honesty, loyalty, integrity and courage; but they doubt their deities.

  5. I was looking forward to this series after hearing some pre-release comments but when I watched the first part, I found so many inaccuracies, I spent more time going thru my Bible and pointing them out, my son was watching with me, than watching the movie.

    I thought Ninja’s started in China/Japan, but found out that they were at Sodom protecting Lot! Also, something that really stuck out was when Moses was at the Red Sea, the Bible said he “lifted up his hands” and the sea parted. In the movie, it showed Moses taking his staff and putting it in the water and the sea parted. Didn’t Moses get into trouble for not following God’s instructions in the wilderness in getting water from a rock? He could not step into the promised land for his disobedience.

    I know this is a movie series, but a lot of people will not read a Bible and believe this is how things truly happened. It just saddens me how people miss inform others when things relate to Christian beliefs and hardly anything is said? I for one would not give my heart to Jesus by what I saw, it would not convict me of my sins nor realize what a just, loving, and righteous God I serve.

    What if a movie was made on the Koran and inaccuracies were made like in this series? There would be an uproar! I really believe we are in the “last days” and it is really, really important to be knowledgeable in the Word so we can answer peoples questions if we are asked or in conversations about religious topics.

    After watching some of the second part, I could not stand to watch it anymore.

    • I agree somewhat with all that you are saying here, but if we are in the last days we had better be reading the right version (among the many) of the Bible. I do credit this mini-series with perhaps creating interest in younger peoples’ minds to actually try to READ the Bible.

  6. It would have been Very good to have a Q&A session after each episode.

    St. Augustine is not a Saint by accident!

  7. As someone who has studied the Bible for years, I found the presentation profoundly inaccurate and offensive, I didn’t get past the first episode. The ignorance displayed on screen was too irritating to my soul to watch!

  8. If you want to know what GOD, YAHWEH, said, you need to go back to your Hebrew roots. All of these translations are just the opinion of the person that translated them. You need to go back to the Hebrew, because that is the language they spoke in Israel, to learn the meanings, and the reasons why, all of these things happened. It helps to understand the language, and the culture of YAHWEH’S people. Remember YAHWEH’S people were scattered to the ends of the earth, we are everywhere, not just in Israel.

    • The most accurate and reliable translations from the Greek because of the accuracy of their writings and words. After all is said and done trust the holy Spirit through prayer and all things will be made clear. May God bless you!

  9. Questioning the intent or overall effectiveness of this TV mini-series to attract non-believers to the Bible and Christianity is like trying to sell the reality of the whole concept of gravity to an airplane full of determined skydivers. Silly.

  10. Even with it’s shortcomings. I’m pleased this film was made. The timing is good too as cultures are descending into corruption.

  11. I am not a Bible scholar therefore I probably did or would not notice the things that were not accurate. I did notice that it was too vague and would leave a non-believer to have more questions than they answered. I believe all the action scenes were made to appeal to a younger audience just on that basis alone. It is no accident that the History Channel put the Vikings on after the Bible. It’s the progressives way to injecting their secular views and trying to melt them into one.

  12. I’m only familiar with the Bible and all the sequences of it. I am at least entertained by the movie shown on the History Channel. If it was to teach me anything, they did a poor job. They reminded me of what I have read in the past and I was able to follow along with it, but I hope that there weren’t any atheists looking into it for answers. The best way is probably to start reading it with a bible study from a church. Then you’ll have any questions answered when needed. So many details were missed in this movie, and it is really an awesome life experience to have and feel… It has all helped me a lot through tough times and even now with all the worries and fears out there.

  13. My only comment is people always seem to use the words religous and faith as if they mean the same thing. To me the difference is simple: Religion is man made and Faith is God Given. You will understand at his will and timing.

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