The Bible is a television mini-series, produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. It is based, very loosely, on the Bible. Burnett and Downey say that they consulted “a wide range of pastors and academics” while preparing the series. Their consultants included people like Joel Osteen, rabbi Joshua Garroway, and Catholic cardinal Geoff Tunnicliffe. Also included were Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, “40 Days of Purpose” creator Rick Warren, noted modalist T.D. Jakes, and a blend of evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, and even the superintendent of the General Council of the Assemblies of God. A real mishmash of perspectives, ideas, and traditions.
Given my job, I felt obliged to watch the series. As of this writing, three episodes have been released — each more troubling and problematic than the previous one. After watching each week’s entry, I wrote short reviews and posted them on the GCA Facebook page. At the request of some of our readers, I’ve assembled those comments here (along with some updates). What you’ll gather rather quickly is that I am not a fan.
Last night I recorded the History Channel’s first episode of their Bible series. I watched it tonight. Just turned it off, in fact. I’m saddened by it. So much money and production value poured into a completely fictitious account of the Old Testament.
But, here’s what really bothers me –
Biblical ignorance runs rampant in our land. People who don’t know any better are going think that this is how the Bible actually reads and what it actually teaches. The critic of the Bible has all the more reason to discount it since the God of this series is cruel and haphazard. And the biblically ignorant folk who watch this will come away with a completely false concept of God, His word, and His interactions with the children of Israel.
The details count. And the producers of this program turned the details into a mishmash of badly scripted soap opera moments while ignoring the great weight of theology and events that really could have been recounted accurately just as easily. For instance, was it really that tough to put a ram in a thicket caught by his horns? Why make it a lamb standing around by a bush? The type of Christ was completely abolished by their lackadaisical retelling of the story. And, by the way, what was Sarah doing running around in the wilderness by herself looking for her boy after taking a headcount of the local flock? Why insert a fairy tale and ignore the important details?
According to the Bible, Abraham took Isaac and a couple young men with him on a three day journey to Moriah –“So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.’” (Gen. 22:3-5)
But, the History Channel’s retelling of this story had Abraham and Isaac alone wandering just around the corner from their camp — close enough that Sarah was able to reach them between the time they built the altar and the time that Abraham raised the knife — and they completely omitted Abraham’s instruction, including his confidence that both he and the boy were going to return. After all, this was the boy through whom God had promised innumerable seed. Abraham’s act of utter faith was reduced to him arguing with God that he felt he’d been tested enough.
What a repugnant program this is.
The Moses character was utterly inaccurate (and his motivations were way too Mickey Rourke for me). But why? Why create a lie when the truth would work just as well?
And, of course, the DVD is for sale. And the work book. And the 30 Days of the Bible program (echoes of 40 Days of Purpose, anyone?). And you know the producers and pitch men (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, et. al.) are going to claim that this is a great evangelistic tool. They’ll encourage their listeners to buy the DVD and share it with their friends and family. Apparently, Peter’s description of false prophets didn’t sink in — “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” (2Peter 2:3)
But, if anyone anywhere is moved or convinced by this program, what have they been convinced to believe? Certainly not the truth. Once again the wizards of Hollywood have decided that God’s word needs editing, improving, reworking, and dumbing down. At best the people responsible for this mess are merely ignorant for sake of a payday. At worse, they are the willing accomplices of the father of lies.
I can only imagine what they’re going to do to the gospel account when they get to it.
I’m so sad about this. America needs to repent of a whole litany of sins and rebellion. But, this organized effort to misrepresent the Scripture (while making the rounds of television shows talking about how pious they are and how true to the text they attempted to stay) sits heavy on my conscience because the church at large is not correcting and rejecting it. The producers have done a “good” job of creating ecumenical acceptance and promotion of their hackneyed tale. I wish the church were more devoted to the Word and less enamored with the show-biz that permeates modern evangelicalism.
I need to go to bed. It’s late. My throat hurts. My ears and sinuses are burning. But, my heart hurts more. I am sad for the state of modern Christianity.
Even so, Lord, come soon.
Despite making us look like gluttons for punishment, last night David Morris and I fired up the DVR so we could watch the second installment of The Bible series from the History Channel. Oh my. We kept pausing the playback to list the multiple errors in each scene. And again, I wonder why the producers continually chose to tell a novel, made-up version of these stories when then actual Biblical account would have been just as easy to tell and much more compelling. The massive amount of political correctness that permeates this series is nauseating. And the whole thing suffers from both leaving out vital details and inserting soap-opera-like stories and motivations that are utterly foreign to the Biblical text. What a mess.
As I said about the first episode, there are plenty of biblically-ignorant folk in the world who are going to believe that what they saw on the screen was actually what the Bible says, thinks, and promotes. This series is just adding to the confusion and background noise that makes it so difficult to accurately teach Biblical history, doctrine, and theology. They have turned the truth of God into a lie.
Then again, one accomplishment the producers did achieve was that they managed to take some of the most exciting, compelling stories in human history and make them mind-numbingly boring.
So hey, that’s something ….
I finally watched the third installment of the Bible series on the History Channel. It’s pretty much everything I expected. More of the same … same lies, same falsehoods, same heresies, same lack of historic veracity, same utter disrespect for the text of the Bible as written, same dumbing down of the Bible, same insertion of Purpose Drivel, same denial of sin, redemption, the necessity of a Savior … etc, etc, etc.
However, I did notice something significant. I wasn’t surprised at the constant historic revisionism, but when the character playing Daniel told the the character playing Cyrus that there was a prophet living at the time called Isaiah — quote: “There’s a prophet here in Babylon, Isaiah, he says …” — well, that’s just utterly wrong and there’s no reason to get it so wrong. Unless you have an agenda.
Isaiah died a good century before Cyrus was born, but he also predicted Cyrus, by name, as the ruler who would let the people of Israel return to build their temple. [By the way, the Bible series keeps representing the Jewish folk as poor, dusty, downtrodden people, but many Jews did not return to Jerusalem because they had become so prosperous and well-to-do in Babylon.] But, why did the writers of the Bible series insist on placing Isaiah in the Babylonian context?
They did the same sort of dance around the prophecies of Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel began recounting it. He said, “You are the head of gold …” at which point the king interrupts him and insists, “Tell me about the rock that smashes the other kingdoms,” effectively erasing the prophecy that accurately predicts the succession of kingdoms to follow Babylon — Medo/Persian, Greece, Rome and the ten-toed kingdom that’s on the earth when Christ returns.
I sense a pattern here.
The Bible series insists that the Jews were returned to their land under Cyrus because Daniel was such a brave, vision-casting sort of leader. But, nothing is said of the fact that Jeremiah already prophesied that the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years and that time period was fulfilled. There’s nothing of the angel visiting Daniel and prophesying the 490-year future of the Israelites, leading to the Messiah and time of the end.
It’s obvious that the writers and producers are systematically eliminating or explaining-away all the accurate prophecy in the Old Testament. The TV version of the prophets merely heard from God, but there’s no hint of accurately foretelling future events. (Oh sure, there’s a vague hat-tip to the concept when Herod asks about predictions concerning where the King of the Jews would be born, but the whole episode is brushed away like a fluke. There’s no mention of the nearly 400 OT prophecies that Jesus accurately fulfilled.)
Anyway, here’s what I’ve concluded: The writers and producers of the program eliminated and late-dated OT prophecy on purpose. As I’ve often argued, the consistent accuracy of Biblical prophecy is evidence of the Bible’s divine nature — it is the very word of God, God-breathed. But, if the producers believed the Bible was God’s own word, they would never take the liberties they’ve taken with it. So, they’ve downplayed, underplayed, or ignored the prophetic elements of the very stories they’ve chosen to tell. But, in the end, it’s really a complete denial of the holiness and divinity of the Bible.
And it’s blasphemy. (Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for a religious deity or irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things, like the Holy Bible.)
The whole thing — the whole series — is a mishmash of gratuitous scenes of violence, angels who act like hypnotists, occasional insertions from the inter-testamental period (like the eagle on the temple, a story we find in Josephus, but not the Bible … probably inserted to satisfy the Catholic consultants who include the Apocrypha in their Bible), and historic inaccuracies like the wise men seeing the star prior to the birth of Jesus so that they could make their journey early and get to Herod and then the manger on time. This despite the fact that the Bible says they visited the family at their home when Jesus was a young boy, leading Herod to kill all the boys 2 and under … but hey, those are just details, so why bother getting any of it correct?And they came into the house and saw the Child (paidion) with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matt. 2:12) Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. (Matt. 2:16)
Also, there weren’t three wise men. The Bible doesn’t say how many there were. On TV, Herod called the leader Balthazar, which name is not in the Bible, it’s a medieval Catholic tradition that probably dates back to Bede the Venerable in the 8th Century. In this series we saw no attempt to get Mary a room at the inn. When Jesus was baptized there was no dove, no voice from Heaven.After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17)
In His dealings with Peter, the show gave us no sense of Jesus’ divine ability to effectively call people to Himself. And, of course, there was the horrid insertion of words into Jesus’ mouth that He simply never said, like, “Change the world.”
(Oh, and when Jesus was in the desert, did that snake come out of him, out from under him, or just emanate from nowhere?)
I don’t know why every modern depiction of Jesus makes him look like a white surfer dude. He was a middle Eastern Jew. Here’s how Isaiah described Him –For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. (Isa. 53:2 NASB) For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. (Isa. 53:2 KJV)
Likewise, they always portray Satan as nasty looking. He slithers and hisses. He broods and exudes ugliness. Yet, Ezekiel says of him –Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (Ezek. 28:17)
Granted, the fall from Heaven may have had some negative impact on his appearance, but I have always thought that a vital part of Satan’s subtlety was his ability to make himself and his ways appear attractive. Or, as the apostle Paul put it –For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Cor. 11:13-14)
Medieval art has influenced our thinking. Now we think of Jesus as glowing constantly, with a halo around His head, while Satan is a split-hoofed beast with horns, a pitchfork, and a pointy tail. That might help sell some Underwood ham, but it’s not what the Bible describes.
And here’s the worst part: There are so many people who are functionally illiterate where the Bible is concerned and they are going to think that what they’re seeing is an accurate portrayal of Jesus’ words, actions, and intentions. But, the Jesus of this series is NOT the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of this series is the invention of Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, TD Jakes, and their friends in Hollywood.
Read your Bible, people.“Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…” (Rom. 3:4)
This series is as damaging as anything Rome, the Mormons, or Islam have done in their denial of the historicity, perspicuity, and trustworthiness of the text of the Bible. And the sub-biblical church in America is all excited about it. Confessing evangelical apologists for this series are making the same error they always make (just as they did with Mel Gibon’s movie, The Passion of the Christ), they are embracing this series, despite its multiple errors, with the assumption that “something is better than nothing.” They like the fact that something called “The Bible” is on TV and getting big ratings, despite the fact that it actually undermines the very Bible they claim to embrace. The Church should be universally outraged at this travesty and they should reject it wholesale in order to send the message to Hollywood that we will not allow our sacred texts to be maligned and manipulated just to sell DVD’s.
But no. The church at large will be silent. And the errors will be compounded. And Christianity will suffer as more people embrace the mis-truths and lies that make up this series.
There’s an agenda at work here, folks. And it’s not good. Despite claiming to present “The Bible,” the producers are systematically undermining the Word of God and inserting the words of men — words that are more acceptable, more palatable, more pleasing to the easily-tickled ears of worldly people.
But, they won’t tell anyone that they’re sinful, depraved, spiritually dead, incapable, and desperately wicked. They won’t explain that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Him. And they won’t tell anyone that the Bible is the very word of God and, as such, humans have no authority to mess with it, alter it, change it, adapt it, or deny it.
They won’t tell the truth.
But, then again, that’s no surprise.
The Bible (the real Bible) said it would be that way –I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2Tim. 4:1-4)
In other words, the Bible is true even when it predicts that people will not tell the truth about it.
Let me add that Chris Rosebrough over at fightingforthefaith.com has been doing a series of programs exposing the various errors of this series, as well. Drop by and give him a listen.