A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Friday, April 5, 2013

Thumbs Up & Down for The Bible Series on the History Channel

TV is TV. That's what I have been trying to keep in the back of my mind as I watched the five week bible miniseries.  For TV to work, they need sponsors and sponsors will only pay big money if they know there will be a lot of viewers. If you want a lot of viewers, shows need to offer what people want to see. Even on the History Channel which includes commercials, it all comes down to the mighty dollar and ratings.

Having said that, I thought the miniseries served an important purpose. It reached many people who have no intention of reading sixty-six books which were written several centuries ago. In memory of the great movie film critic Roger Ebert, here is my humble review.

Thumbs Up:
  • The History Channel excels in the area of helping us to understand the culture and history of different ancient historical eras. The Bible miniseries gave us a sense of how kingdoms ruled. From the Babylonians to the Romans, we were able to see how the Jewish people often lived in the shadows of these mighty empires. A church member once asked me what the Romans had to do with the story of Jesus. The answer is a lot! They are the ones who ultimately put Jesus to death on a cross. You can't tell the story of Israel and Jesus without some focus on the geo-political realities of those time periods. You just can't.
  • While I understand that many were dismayed by the violence in the mini-series, it did expose how biblical times were very violent. If a people wanted to claim land, they didn't just go to a real estate representative. They had to take it by force! I'm not condoning violence, but just saying that this was how things were done during that time. And oh by the way, that's still how it is done sometimes in our so called civilized and enlightened modern world.
  • Some biblical character portrayals I especially liked - Abraham and the Apostle Paul. Daniel Day Lewis couldn't have done a better job!
  • I thought for the most part, the depiction of Holy Week and the crucifixion were very good.
  • I liked the realism of the disciples healing people in the name of Jesus. It showed that they were a little unsure about this new found power to heal, but they tried it anyway and people were healed. We as viewers could identify with the disciples, something that the New Testament writers also try to convey in their writings.
Thumbs Down:
  • The David & Bathsheba Story, especially in how they made it seem like David was buddy buddies with Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. Again, I think the producers felt that they needed a little more modern day drama to show what a terrible thing David did when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, but it really wasn't necessary and I felt this story went off script too much.
  • Post-Easter Resurrected Jesus - I know that it is next to impossible to depict someone in a resurrected body especially since nobody has ever seen someone in this state, but I felt that the producers made the risen Jesus look a little to ghostly. Yes, I saw the hole in his hand from the nail but that was a bit cheesy in my estimation. I wished they would have made Jesus seem a little more physical since the gospel accounts tell us that the risen Jesus ate fish with the disciples and they could touch him!
  • I felt the New Testament was way too rushed. Yes, the crucifixion is a key part of the Jesus story, but they could have shortened it to make more room for John and the Book of Revelation which is such a key book in the entire bible. Which leads me to my final not so positive...
  • Yes, they ended with John, the island of Patmos, and his Book of Revelation letter, but there was nothing about how that letter powerfully concludes by saying that heaven will descend on earth at Jesus second coming and all of creation will be made new.  The ultimate Christian hope was kind of swept aside for some modern day version of, "all that matters is that you accept Jesus in your life so you can go to heaven someday." Yes, part of the good news of the bible is that God's people will receive eternal life, but the bigger picture is that God wants to make a new heaven and earth.

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