When I first found out The History Channel was airing a 10 hour series called “The Bible” I shuddered. The History Channel has never promoted anything scripturally related that accurately reflects the Judeo-Christian worldview of our sacred text. But the deeper I dug into the background of this miniseries the more excited I became. Could somebody finally get it right? So after researching it, I promoted it to my church with my fingers crossed behind my back.
In truth, I’ve never been a fan of movies that depict the stories of the Bible. Too often cinematic Biblical films are poorly produced, low-budget efforts that combine wretched acting with badly written adaptations of the greatest story ever told. The question I’ve always asked when watching these efforts has been, “How can you take a divinely inspired story that is replete with drama, emotion, epic battles, kings, betrayal, murder, and love and turn it into an absolute train wreck?” Somebody at some point has to get this right. From my vantage point, which is purely subjective, “The Bible” comes pretty close.
Produced by Mark Burnett (Survivor) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel), the series seeks to tell the grand story of the Bible to a new generation by picking up on the general theme of God’s love, the passing of the faith between generations and hitting narrative highlights of the people and events that tie the theme together. With the first episode in the books, I would give it a grade of B+ in the context of what Burnett and Downey are trying to accomplish.
Episode 1 starts with Noah and his family riding out the flood in the ark as the family patriarch retells the story of the creation and fall. This was a twist I didn’t expect but it was fresh and definitely made me want to keep watching. From there the story moves to the call and life of Abraham, then to the Exodus story, culminating with the spies going into Jericho as Joshua prepares his army for the battle. Were there scenes missing that I would have like to have seen? Sure. The story of Joseph is one of my favorite Old Testament stories, but isn’t covered and neither is the tower of Babel which is to be expected when trying to pack the entire pentateuch into a 2 hour time frame.
What I really liked about last night’s episode was the fact that God wasn’t left out of the equation. The writers didn’t attempt to mask the truth that God spoke to men like Noah, Abraham and Moses, moved their hearts, and they responded in faith to a God that could not be seen with human eyes. One of the most poignant moments was when Pharaoh looked at Moses and said “Your invisible God will do nothing for you.” (or words to that effect). The world at that time couldn’t grasp the idea of an invisible God interacting with the affairs of man, and so it goes with our world today. God cannot be fashioned into a manageable image yet people try to make God manageable and turn Him into what they think He should be. Last night, God was clearly seen as the Creator of the universe and the one orchestrating a plan to set things right after the fall.
“The Bible” showed a great progression of faith being passed from Noah to Abraham to Moses and then to Joshua. Ultimately, it worked, in spite of ninja angels in Sodom and Sarah running up Mount Moriah to save her son. I can cut some slack on that because it does make for good, compelling drama. “The Bible” is worth watching if for no other reason than it can spark dialogue with family, friends and community. My barista at Starbucks today asked my opinion and it opened a door for conversation. I hope these type of conversations continue to develop because awareness of God’s word can never be a bad thing for Christians. I can’t wait for the next episode.