I said the same prayer for the History Channel’s presentation of the Bible that I did for GSN’s Great American Bible Challenge last summer: please Lord, don’t let it be stupid. For the sake of Christian’s everywhere, I hoped it would not be something I had to apologize for to non-Christians/ unbelievers.
The Bible premiered tonight on History. For the most part, I would have to say that I liked it. Getting the story of all scripture into ten hours is an ambitious undertaking. Some things must be left out, and other parts of the story condensed. But if that’s the case, then why add anything that is not included in scripture? For all the drama the Bible contains, why add anything for dramatic effect? The producers must have known that some of us would be watching that know the Bible well. For our sake, why not remain as true to the original as possible?
Let’s begin with what they did right, and there are many such things. The film opens with Noah and his family on the ark, recounting the creation to fill in the back story. The forbidden fruit is not an apple, and the ark is not shaped like a modern ship. I was impressed by the visitors who came to Abraham and Sarah. While they did not state overtly that one of them was Jesus, it was strongly inferred. The angels that came to rescue Lot were men; armored men wielding swords, not women in choir robes. There is dramatic license taken, but they deal with Hagar and Ishmael and the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. A good portion of the first two hour segment was devoted to Moses and the Exodus, and they covered a lot in the time they had.
Like I say, overall the Bible is well done. And yet, some things made me wonder. Drama was added between Abraham and Lot’s wife. Rather than Abraham offer him a choice, Lot demands they separate and that he head toward Sodom. His wife does a lot of yelling at Abraham that would not have happened in that culture at that time. I can understanding leaving out the sexuality of Sodom and Gomorrah given the time slot and hopes that churches and families would buy the DVD set. The men of Sodom demanded Lot give them his visitors, but not to have sex with them and Lot did not offer them his virgin daughters. But after striking the men of the city blind (very accurate) they then pull out swords and start hacking people up. They were not all powerful, but certainly stronger and more able than mortal men. But the Bible says nothing of bloodshed at their hands. The Moses story was abbreviated by necessity, but I would like to have seen some indication the Egyptian magicians could imitate some of God’s signs by their “secret arts.” Still, the plagues, the Passover, the crossing of the Red Sea – not too shabby.
The Bible depicts events of the Bible narrative in dramatic form, relying a little on narration mostly for time’s sake. There is no lecture, and no scientists or archaeologists explaining why the biblical account could not have taken place as described. As a teaching resource, my preference would be to read the scriptures first, then watch the dramatic interpretation as opposed to watching the film and explaining what the Bible says as it goes along. The producers are people of faith and History, like other media/entertainment outlets, has discovered a way to tap into the Christian audience. Is it stupid? Far from it. If you haven’t given a chance you should. Everyone is not as cynical as myself, you might even enjoy it.