History Channel’s “The Bible – Part 1” – some random thoughts #thebible #historychannel

March 4, 2013

Aside from the kung fu angels, it wasn’t really terrible. In ten hours, how is one supposed to present a story of such complexity? Producer Mark Burnett takes many liberties with the story, but how can we expect him to know anything about the actual biblical text? The real problem is that supposed Christians will be equally as clueless when they view, and then try to explain this rather complex storyline.

To be fair, the plot is rightly set around God’s covenant of land and salvation with Abraham.This was the correct theological choice. The narrator continues with that emphasis and it (mostly) works. Abraham is shown as virtuous, trusting and obedient. Without some unpacking, the scene depicting the near sacrifice of Isaac stands as the action of a capricious and bloodthirsty Deity. We get plenty of divine judgment; the flood, the destruction of Sodom, the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn. All of these, taken in isolation present the typical view of an angry Old Testament God. Serious Bible students know that this is a fairly common distortion of the true nature of God.

The mini-series properly presents the aspects of violence in the Sodom scenes. What we do not see is the complete lapse of an entire community into the use of brutality as a routine form of entertainment. (Sound familiar?). We do not get even a moment with my favorite scriptural grump, Jacob. Same thing for Joseph. Again, it is a big story to fit into ten short hours. The script does not use much for the biblical record and drifts into considerable speculation. We have no idea, for example, of the personal conflict that might exist between Moses and the son of Pharaoh. .

I think I detect two real problems. First, most average Christians with little serious knowledge of the Biblical narrative will be hard pressed to quickly sort out what really belongs in the story and what might be a tool of the script’s writers. The best possible value of this program is as a conversation starter and this is made more difficult by the speculative portions. Secondly, while this is a fair attempt to tell the story of Abraham’s family, of which Christians are members, it may not actually point viewers to the inspired written word of God, the text of the Bible. The Old Testament scriptures are more than stories, they are amazing literary masterpieces that reveal the plan and character of the Almighty. That is something we read in a book with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Plenty is left on the floor.

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2 Responses to “History Channel’s “The Bible – Part 1” – some random thoughts #thebible #historychannel”

  1. Marie and Ken Ray Says:

    Good points Pat. We also commented on the fact you really need to know the Bible fairly well to follow what was going on. Definitly got the impression that God’s people were violent. Then again as you say, hard to put it all in there in just 10 hours. We have been studing the Bible for years and are still figuring out the wonder and meaning of how it involves us today.

  2. Rev Dr Bruno Rush Says:

    Good stuff, Pat. I felt that the biggest problem was that the (cleaned-up and virtuized) human leads came off as the heroes rather than as broken people who the real hero, God, still blesses in spite of their serious flaws. To me this changes the whole thrust of Scripture’s narrative(s).


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