Media sources have recently reported that so far more than 80 million people have watched the History Channel's mini-series "The Bible" (Not sure if they are counting noses more than once, but that's still a lot of people!). A first blush most Bible-believing Christians would say that's a good thing! But after watching the first couple of installments of this much heralded series, I’m not so sure.
First, the series seems to go out its way to emphasize violence. Yes, there is no question that the Bible contains many incidents of wars, battles, and murders. Yet, this series seems to major on such things. In fact, it sometimes inserts violence where the Bible describes no such thing! For example, the visit of the two spies to Jericho is begun in this series with the slaying of several residents of the city, something which the true Bible does not even hint at. Also, the scenes of violence are often especially graphic, such that some have said this series is not "family friendly." This may serve to attract modern audiences who are accustomed to (and even expect!) gore in many of today's TV programs and movies, but it does not fairly represent the Bible, which often downplays the more graphic and sensational aspects of human sin, even while it stresses its dire consequences.
Second, the series proceeds with much unevenness, stalling over what is a relatively minor incident and then lurching suddenly hundreds or years ahead to the next incident. Granted that trying to cover the Bible in ten hours (including an ample dose of commercials!) is no easy task. But why spend an inordinate amount of time on the story of Lot and skip completely over the story of Joseph and his brothers? Or pass over Solomon and Hezekiah to dwell on the relatively insignificant Zedekiah? Could it be because Zedekiah had his eyes plucked out and that makes for better television ratings?
Third, much of the dialogue in this series is either fictional or heavily paraphrastic of biblical dialogue. As a result some of the best lines of the Bible are either watered-down or not used at all. For example, the story of Daniel's three friends who were cast into the fiery furnace is depicted with them first cowering and then screaming in fear. Compare this with the faith and courage they show before Nebuchadnezzar as described in Daniel 3:16-18.
Fourth, as a pastor friend of mine said to me, this series is actually contributing to biblical illiteracy, because people who don't know their Bibles are given a mental impression of the Bible and its contents that is misleading in many instances. Yes, each episode begins with the disclaimer that what follows is an "adaptation" of biblical events, which they hope is in the "spirit of the Book." But if you are already pressed for time in trying to cover the material, why insert extraneous or misleading material? Depicting Samson as an African-American may win you points for "inclusiveness," but what impression does it give to the biblically illiterate about the history of the Jewish nation?
In a word, this series is a "mixed bag," with few redeeming moments. For me personally it disappoints more than it enlightens or inspires. I can understand the motivation of its creators, and I don't question their sincerity. But the end-product seems to be the result of misguided thinking that sees the way to attract people to consider the Bible is to titillate their senses with gore and to rewrite and recast much of what actually happened.
By the way, I do think the character who plays the devil does resemble an older version of the President, but you didn't hear that first from me!