Friday, April 12, 2013



The Bible is large. It is divided into 66 book, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. It was composed by many authors, all writing under the influence and guiding present of the Holy Spirit, which is to say God (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). It contains many stories, histories, poems and personalities.
Needless to say it is a complex and layered volume. It is filled with thrilling tales that make for great drama. These contain the gamet of human emotion and struggle as well as battles and adventures of epic proportion. Many of these have had great allure for film makers since the birth of movies. Films based on the Bible go back to at least "Passion Play" (a series of shorts that equaled about an hour in length) in 1903 and Vie et Passion du Christ in 1905. Most have presented a singular episode such as "Adam and Eve" (1912), "Noah's Ark" (1929), "The Ten Commandments" (1956) and "The Nativity Story"(2009). Few commercial filmmakers have dared tackle the Bible as a whole.

In the mid-1960s John Huston announced he was filming "The Bible" in its entirety. In 1966, "The Bible" was released, but with the subtitle, "In the Beginning..." It included several parts of Genesis, such as Noah (played by John Huston himself). The others were Cain and Able, The Tower of Babel,Sodom and Gomorrah and the life of Abraham. I remember the hype for this film and most of the attention in the media focused on the Creation sequence, most notably that the actors portraying Adam and Eve would be performing in the nude.

This probably boosted ticket sales. However, as spectacular as many of the scenes were and as perfect as were Adam and Eve's bodies, "The Bible" never got further than "In the Beginning". None of the promised sequels were ever made.

On Sunday evening, March 3, 2013 the History Channel showed the first in it's series, "The Bible". Produced by Rona Downey ("Touched By an Angel") and her husband Mark Burnett ("Survivor") it promises to cover Genesis through Revelation in five two-hour long shows. Television might be the best outlet to present the dramatization of the Bible, but I don't think 10 hours is enough time to do it. My main criticism of this endeavor is the feeling of being rushed.

A brief synopsis of the first episode would probably be helpful.

It began with the Arc being tossed upon raging waters. Inside the boat Noah is reciting the creation story to his family. He tells this from when God said, "Let there be light", touching on the creation of man, Cain killing Abel up to God's decision to drown the whole world because of man's evilness. These scenes flash by as he talks with little explanation. For instance, we see Cain strike down Abel, but receive no explanation of why Cain did this or what happens to Cain afterward. We basically jump from that first murder to pictures of people drowning in the flood.

This portion begins with the arc in the middle of the water and quickly ends there. There is no sending out of birds, no olive branch, no landing on dry land. We are literally left adrift at sea. Perhaps the most effective part of this sequence is giving us a picture of just how enormous the arc was.

We go quickly from the Flood to Abraham. We have parts of Abraham's life, including the destruction of Sodom, up to the moment when he is stopped by God in mid-knife of sacrificing his son. At this point we are transported to Egypt and Moses. The stories of Jacob and Joseph are simply ignored. We
see young Moses (pictured right) being egged into a sword fight with Pharaoh's son (a passage I missed somehow in Exodus). Pharaoh breaks this up and then tells his daughter she better tell Moses he really isn't her son. Moses goes out, wanders about, kills an Egyptian overseer and flees while Joshua hides the body (another passage I missed, I guess - the part about Joshua hiding the body that is).

And suddenly it is 40 years later and there is a burning bush speaking to a much older Moses
(pictured left with Aaron).  Now Moses is much quicker to agree to the idea he must save his people than he is in my Bible. In my Bible he argues with God that he isn't up to the task, especially since he can't speak well. In my Bible, God tells him his brother Aaron will do the speaking for him, but in this film Moses accepts the challenge pretty quickly and he doesn't meet his brother until he returns to Egypt, and Aaron doesn't speak for him at all. Moses also walks about with this odd smile on his face most of the time.

We get a flip-book sequence of plagues -- frogs hopping about, locust swarming, burning hailstones, etc, and after each a picture of Pharaoh yelling, "No!" The Passover is passed over rather quickly and then Moses is parting the Red Sea. Once across the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's dead army floating upon the water, we are told that Moses led his people to Mt. Sinai and there received these stone tables from God. Moses shows the tablets to Joshua, declares they now have The Law and tells Joshua to lead the Hebrews to the Promise Land. There is no coming off the mountain to an orgy and golden calf, no wandering about the desert for forty years, not even a representation of Moses' death, let alone any explanation of why Moses couldn't lead his people into Canaan himself.

We simply leap to Joshua and his followers standing and looking at a walled city. "We must take Jericho," Joshua says and then sends two spies to the city.

We go inside the walled city and this man stops a woman on the street. He calls her Rahab and his
"little whore". It comes across as a bully of a man harassing a young woman. Other than his calling her a whore nothing establishes that she just may be one. She goes on her way and the man laughs.
Right after this we see the two spies scale the wall, drop to the other side to immediately be confronted by about a dozen Jerichoians, who they rather easily dispatch, although a couple flee crying, "The enemy is within the walls." The two spies run about and meet Rehab, who directs them to an escape route. One spy pulls this rope from about his waist and tells her to hang it on her window and she will be safe when their army attacks.

And at this point we are told continued next week.

I am out of breath telling it here, which to me is the biggest problem with the series. It is rushing to get everything in on schedule, but not fleshing out the sequences with what they really mean. I wish they had decided to continue beyond five weeks and ten hours and develop the characters and plot more fully.

However, the initial presentation had the highest ratings of the night, even in the coveted 18-34 age group. It not only out rated everything on the networks, but was the highest rated show on cable this year so far. We will see if these ratings hold up through the next episodes. My hope is they do and it makes people curious enough to read the Bible for the full story or drives them to approach people of faith for more explanation.

There is some license taken, but perhaps not of such import to quibble. For instance, we all ready mentioned that Moses was much quicker to accept God's request than was so in Scripture. Another example was when Abraham was stopped from sacrificing Isaac. Scripture tells us God supplied a sacrifice, a ram that had its horns caught in a bush. In this film it was a lamb with its hind leg caught. I also don't know if the Angels sent to Sodom wore shining armor and were expert in martial arts style sword fighting.

I would mention that Rona Downing is playing the Virgin Mary. I don't know why there wasn't a
younger actress hired to play this part at the birth of Christ. Rona Downing is 52 years old. She might pass for Mary at the Crucifixion when she would have been a woman in her mid-to-late forties (pictured right), but she does not look as convincing as the teenage girl who God chose to be the mother of Jesus (pictured left).

We saw they used a younger actor to portray the young Moses, so why not a younger actress to portray the girl Mary?

I hope I have not been too picky in my comments about Part One. We need more shows that would portray the Bible stories in a truthful way. Still, we also need explanations of why these things were included in Scripture. Ask: Can we easily see how these pointed to the future Christ in this film?
It is also funny to me that Rona Downing and Mark Burnett have written a novelization of the series. Hopefully in this the meanings are explained, but at the same time I wonder why do we need a novelization when we already have the Bible and have it abundantly in many fine translations?


I was going to say, "I'm back on the roller coaster called the History Channel's 'The Bible'".  But it is more like being in a Funhouse. You are often in the dark, but tableaus keep lighting up in front of you. Some of these surprise you, some delight, some scare. You turn a corner and there is a Bat with a human head dripping blood, then into the dark followed by another scene, perhaps a giant spider web with a huge arachnid at its center. Maybe as in the photo illustrating this paragraph you are plunged into a strata of Dante's Inferno. The depictions depend on stereotypical familiarity with certain stories. In a Funhouse they are used to startle and entertain, but not to edify.

This is how I feel watching "The Bible". I am going along some maze and suddenly action breaks out before me. The scene is one of a long popular tale in both Sunday School and secular Hollywood or TV. It tends to be entertaining, but never quite explains why it happened and why it was important
In "The Bible, Part 2" we begin with some repeat of where Part One left off. There is Joshua saying once more that all that stands between taking Canaan is defeating Jericho.You know when I was a boy this Battle of Jericho was quite a popular theme. (Of course, I was a boy much closer to the actual event than many who may have been watching its reenactment on TV.) There was an old Spiritual created by slaves in the mid-1800s called "Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho." It seemed to be sung on radio and TV a lot when I was a child. Even Elvis did a version (see video).

 (Elvis performing "Joshua Fit Do Battle of Jericho.)

Part Two rehashed Joshua sending the two spies to Jericho in its beginning sequence. It was exciting.
These spies were like Navy Seals or something. They crept up to the city walls and threw a hook over the top then used the attached rope to scale the wall. Upon dropping down on the other side they are attacked by several men, who they fight off with swords while yelling, "For Israel". Running down a hallway they encounter Rahab (pictured right), who tells them where they can find escape. One spy gives her a rope from around his waist and tells her to tie it on her window and her household will be spared when the Israel army attacks. The spies escape the city and then, after Joshua speaks with an Angel, we see the city fall, amidst a clatter and shout, into a pile of dust.

Say what?

What is all this wall scaling and sword fighting? I don't recall reading this in Joshua Chapter 2, the book in the actual Bible. First of all, Joshua isn't standing looking at Jericho when he sends the spies. He and the Israelites haven't even crossed the Jordan River into Canaan yet when he sends the two spies over to "Search out the land". Actually they left out that whole march where the Jordan River opens up to allow them to cross on dry land and the priests pick up some rocks to make a monument. Yeah, God parted more than the Red Sea for Moses. I guess the producers felt another such crossing was too redundant.

And those two spies when they reached Jericho did not fling up some big old repelling device. Who were they supposed to be, Batman and Robin? They came to Jericho, went into the city and took up lodging in the house of a prostitute. You know that was pretty unsuspicious behavior, I bet, couple of guys going into the big city and heading for the local house of ill repute. It was certainly a lot less suspicious and risky as scaling the walls in the middle of the night. Oh, and guess who the prostitute was? Rahab.

Now the King of Jericho found out and sent men after them. But Rahab hid the spies and when these men demanded they come out,  she told them, "'True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.'” (Joshua 2: 4)
The King's men did just that, pursued, but the spies were still hidden on Rahab's roof and they escaped three days later. The rope the spies gave Rahab wasn't just a convenient belt, it was a scarlet cord, a symbol of salvation, but who has time for such details when you need to show the walls crumbling and then getting on to Samson.

Yes, turn the corner, and a commercial, and here comes the Samson tableau. It is introduced with the Narrator telling us that Joshua took Canaan, then Joshua died and local magistrates ruled the people, but a new threat arose called the Philistines. Jericho tumbled and out of the dust rode the Philistines. Wow! 
You know the Book of Joshua has 24 Chapters. Jericho fell in Chapter 6. A few more things happened before we get to Judges, and still more before we reach Samson. None of the ensuing battles under Joshua were mentioned, not even the one with the longest day. I suppose the allotments of land and the Cities of Refuge being named wasn't very film-worthy, so we skipped right to Samson. Samson was going to save Israel from the Philistines.

We got nothing about the evil Israel engaged in after Joshua died, how they turned to worshipping Baal and other Gods. Nothing was said about this sinning being why God allowed them to be under the hand of the Philistines for forty years. 

We also skip through Samson's life pretty lickety-split as well, so a few niceties like facts needed to be dropped. After an Angel stands whispering in the ear of the wife of Manoah (the parents of Samson), we see Samson, a bulky man with long dreadlocks, striding toward the camera. Keep in mind that in the Book of Judges Samson doesn't get even a mention until Chapter 13. Such people as Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah and others who came before Samson must have been left on the cutting room floor.

Samson tosses a couple people around and before you know it he is marrying a Philistine woman, much to his mother's chagrin, but the Philistines don't appear real thrilled about it either. 
In this film there are two Philistine big shots who go and demand Samson's wife tell them where he is. When she can't they set her house on fire with her locked inside. Samson is furious they killed his wife and attacks them, then flees into the hills. (Now this isn't quite the way I read it. They don't have Samson and his wife breaking up over a riddle, don't have a bunch of foxes with flaming tails, don't have an interfering father-in-law -- yeah, go to the source and look it up.) The Philistine big shots (the same two) now threaten the Israelites if they don't bring them Samson, which they do. He breaks his bonds and reaps havoc with a donkey's jawbone (pictured left). Oh, by the way, somewhere in all this action he notices this woman named Delilah.

Now that his wife is dead, he takes up with this Delilah and once again those Philistine big shots come
along (the same two) and bribe Delilah to find out his source of strength. The big lug finally tells her it is his hair and falls asleep in her lap. She pulls out a big pair of scissors and begins snipping off his dreadlocks. (Uh, wasn't there this guy she called to do the dirty work of shaving his hair?) Speaking of snipping, let's cut to the chase, the two big shots and a bunch of soldiers pop in and Samson awakes and has no strength to fight. They grab him and the main big shot walks over and thumbs out Samson's eyes. Next thing we know Samson is in some building surrounded by people. He calls on God for one more burst of strength and then begins ramming these huge supports. Everything collapses and everybody dies. Samson's mother (she didn't die) brushes the debris off her dead son and cradles his head.

And we are off to the story of Saul and David. Yeah, there should be a story about a woman named Ruth in-between, a tale of redemption, but who has time for that. 

To tell the truth, I'm getting exhaused from the pace and this post is growing long. I'm not going to compress the lives of Saul and David into a few paragraphs as the film does in a few minutes. I will just make a couple comments.

I liked the actor's portrayal of Saul (pictured right). I think it captured a man who started out on a high note, got too full of himself and then became somewhat paranoid. You can see the struggle on the man's face.

It is interesting to learn that the Young David (pictured left), at the time he slew Goliath, spoke with a kind of near-cockney British accent. He lost this as he grew older. 

We have a scene when David, striped to the waist comes dancing into town. His wife Michal awaits, which seems to be something of a depiction of 2 Samuel 6:16-17, except on the way David runs into his very good friend, Uriah the Hittite and his lovely wife Bathsheba.  I mean, really? Bathsheba doesn't make her debut in David's life until 2 Samuel 11, and I don't know much about a close friendship between David and Uriah. At any rate, David has sex with Bathsheba, gets her pregnant and has Uriah killed. 

The remorse of David did not come through for me in this film. I also was confused by the prophets in
the film. We started with Samuel, but I didn't get a sense of Nathan being properly introduced. At any rate, we were shown Bathsheba holding the doomed offspring of David's sin, which took emphasis away from the punishment David was suffering. 

I just feel the filmmakers keep missing the point.

I assume we will pick up with the remainder of David's reign next time, when his house is at war with itself, but am not certain. When we left off in Part Two, David and Bathsheba were with their second child, Solomon, who played with a small model of the proposed Temple. We were told by the Narrator that David would not build the temple, but his son would, but then Solomon would also fall from grace. So, I really don't know where next week will pick up. Maybe we will jump right to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and I dread how that might be portrayed. (Pictured left, the older King David.)
Again, I am glad this show is on air and doing well. I really hope it leaves people wondering why these things happened and they turn to their Bibles or to those who might answer such questions. And there are questions, the film leaves a lot more questions than answers. 


Jeremiah (pictured left) was known as The Weeping Prophet. He wept over the fate of Israel. I weep over the "The Bible Series" on the History Channel.

Last week in Part 2 they left off with David and Bathsheba watching their son Solomon as a toddler play with a model of the Temple. We are then told Solomon will someday build that Temple, but will stray from God. And with that they dispatched the whole reign of Solomon, thus covering a great deal of Kings and Chronicles in one sentence, not to mention Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.

They also managed to skip over Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs and all the other prophets, except Daniel. Maybe there isn't enough bloody action in those other Books to satisfy the filmmakers. They have turned The Bible into an action-adventure story.

We began last night's edition with Jeremiah walking along in a yoke, looking a little like a deranged
Larry Fine of the Three Stooges with his wild hair fringing a balding pate. We are soon into the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (pictured right) and the capture of King Zedekiah and his sons. This allows for another scene of eye-gouging, a often favorite Three Stooges activity, although the comic trio never actually poked anyone's eyes out with their thumbs as Nebuchadnezzar does here.
We are left with the statement that Jeremiah escaped capture and fled to Egypt for safety.

Jeremiah did not flee to Egypt for safety. He was taken capture by Nebuchadnezzar, but later released with a choice of going to Babylon or staying in his own land. He remained in his land with a remnant of others. Eventually these others decided to go to Egypt, against the warnings of Jeremiah. Poor Jeremiah, no one ever wanted to listen to him, much to their regret. He went to Egypt with the remnant then and his final fate is unknown, although those who insisted on going there came to a bad ending.

Actually, "The Bible Series" is somewhat misleading on the fate of Nebuchadnezzar as well. We last see this Babylonian King chained in a room being offered a bowl of food by Daniel. Daniel gives him the bowl and Nebuchadnezzar drops to all fours to lap it up. (In what Chapter and Verse is this found?)
 Nebuchadnezzar did go insane for seven years, living in the wild like a beast, eating grass. At the end of this period, with a new appreciation for God, he was reinstated in his mind and rule. But never mind The Bible, we're doing the History Channel Bible here.

And it's much more urgent to portray Daniel's friends in the furnace and Daniel in the Lion's Den (pictured left) then shuffle along explaining cause and effect.

Daniel came across as a bit too wimpy for my taste in this production, all quivery. The picture in my mind of this man is one of sterner stuff. He stood up to powerful rulers on what he believed and was a man of tremendous faith, but he seemed somewhat of a milquetoast in this film.

By the by, in the furnace scene, it looks like Nebuchadnezzar goes up to look in the furnace and suffers a badly burnt hand, rather then his minions being consumed by the heat.

At any rate, the Old Testament was dispatched last night.

So on to the New Testament, which opens with the incident where Torah students attempted to remove
the Roman Eagle Herod had placed atop the Temple he had built. The students are pulled down (shown) and  later burned alive (not shown). This event did occur, but I am not certain it is referenced in the New Testament. Anyway, we now are immediately after introduced to Joseph and Mary, who suddenly find themselves caught in the middle of an attack by Roman soldier's collecting unpaid taxes (pictured right), as found in Luke 3:72. (just kidding, there is no Luke 3:72, but there isn't any record of Mary and Joseph being terrorized by Roman tax collectors either. I guess the scriptwriter wanted a little more action here.) 

We then have a red-hooded Angel telling Mary she shall be with child from God, followed by an obviously pregnant Mary being berated by Joseph for betraying him. But never-fear, soon a small child grips Joseph's hand. The child turns into one of those red-hooded angels (pictured right), puts Joseph in a dream-trance and when he snaps to, Joseph runs to Mary to apologize and tell her he believes, after which we watch Joseph and Mary being assaulted by the villagers angry at her for being pregnant.

We move on to the birth of Christ, which apparently was a busy day
indeed. We have our 52-year old virgin Mary (played by Roma Downey herself) and Joseph (not played by Mark Burnett) arriving in Bethlehem during some kind of monsoon. While Joseph runs about willy-nilly crying for help, Mary is screaming the baby is coming. Meanwhile, one of the three wise men arrives at the palace of grossly fat Herod (apparently the other two Magi were cooling their heels down at a local Starbucks; never mind we really don't know there were only three). Herod (pictured left) has a hissy fit and the wise man leaves, while scribes search out where the Messiah is to be born. Back in Bethlehem, Mary gives birth and almost immediately both shepherds and the Magi arrive. As they kneel to present their gifts, Herod is ordering his soldiers to kill every boy child in Bethlehem and again Joseph is visited by an Angel. He then says to Mary, "We have to leave right now."

We are then treated to a protracted scene of soldiers brutally slaughtering babes as the narrator intones, "The massacre of the innocents."

In a flash we see Joseph leading Mary, seated on a donkey, holding a young Jesus astride it before her. It is a few years later and they are moving into Nazareth. They pause to gape at a hilltop where dozen's of crosses with victims of crucifixion are visual. Mary sweeps her cloak over the young Jesus' eyes to spare the child such a sight, but too late. We see the boy looking. In literary terms this scene is called foreshadowing; In Biblical terms this scene is called pure fiction.

A banner now says, "25 years later" and we are told that John is baptizing in the Jordan.
A few observations:

After John baptizes Jesus we are shown a picture of sky (right). There is no Trinity established in the film, no voice of God declaring Jesus his son and no Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. Just some clouds with a bright splotch of sky between.

After the Baptism Jesus is shown staggering
across a desert and then collapsing, with his arms flung out as if on a cross. A snake slithers out from beneath him and when Jesus looks up there is a figure in a green hooded outfit. On closer inspection we see this person is President Obama...I mean, Satan (pictured left).

Now don't any one get mad at me for that remark. I'm not making any political comments here. It wasn't my idea, I thought Satan resembled the Emperor of the Evil Empire in "Star Wars", but I saw a review online this morning asking why the character of Satan resembled President Obama and now looking at the actor there is some resemblance.

Satan does a Reader's Digest version of the temptations and then turns back into a snake and slithers away. The Narrator tells us Jesus resisted Satan. But where were all those red-hooded Angels now. Scripture tells us Angels came and attended Jesus after Satan left.

Again things happen very rapidly. Jesus is walking along a seashore, sees a man fishing, walks out and gets in the boat. The man is Peter and Jesus tells him to fish where Peter has said there are no fish. Of course they haul in net after net of fish. Then Jesus tells Peter he will make him a fisher of men and they will change the be continued in Part 4.

Okay, something similar did happen with pulling in tons of fish where none had been caught earlier, but in the film version there was no sign of James and John being involved. It also presented Peter and Jesus as total strangers just meeting. At the time this instance happened Jesus was preaching and the crowd was pressing in on him. He went onto Peter's boat to escape the crowd. He already knew Peter, as well as James and John, but these earlier meetings were never presented in the film.

While Jesus and Peter are hauling in fish, we have scenes of Herod Antipas personally overseeing John the Baptist being beaten in prison. We also have Herod ordering him beheaded just to shut him up. This is not how John's beheading went down. If I remember correctly, Herod considered John a Holy man and kept him safe, wanting to kill him, but fearful of harming him because of the people who though John a prophet. And does anybody recall some girl named Salome?

Pictured on the left is a beaten up John the Baptist just before Herod indicated to a guard to cut off his head.

Besides the President Obama remark online I also saw this review:

"In a time where disaster and despair are everywhere, many question the presence of God. On Sunday, March 3, the History Channel premiered a new TV series that’s taking the world by storm. The Bible is a 5-part, 10-hour series retelling stories from the most important book ever printed. Every Sunday for five weeks, viewers can tune in to watch the amazing retelling. From Genesis to Revelation, the epic stories are told in a truthful yet entertaining way to appeal to audience members from every generation and background."

Perhaps the last line is the problem for me. It says the tales are told in a truthful way, but a truthful way does not exactly equal truth. The film's emphasis is more on the entertainment appeal to the masses. Still, this series is a huge hit. The repeat on Wednesday night beat out "American Idol" in the ratings. Maybe I should look at it as Paul looked at those giving the Gospel for less than grand motive, people are hearing the Bible stories. When a film is a big hit, many people run out and buy the book.

Perhaps this will encourage many people to read THE BOOK, The Bible. But then again, maybe they will just buy the novelization written by Mark Burkett and Roma Downey, and I don't know if that will be truth or merely entertaining stories told in a truthful way. 


I understand the difficulties of undertaking to film "The Bible". No matter how large the filmmaker's ego, the Bible is larger. Even just the first few books of the New Testament are overwhelming in depth and scope. How do you encapsulate the life of Christ into a few hours, made even shorter by an enormous number of commercials taking up precious minutes?

Well, let's just forget historic fact, Scriptural truth and meaning. Let's try to squeeze in as many popularly known characters and miracles and utterances of Jesus as possible, never mind accuracy of timeline.

One interesting development in Part 4 borders on heresy. This was in increasing Jesus' Apostles from 12 to 13, the thirteenth being Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is also portrayed as being one of the leaders of the group, just below Christ and equal with Peter.

Lets just walk through the March 24 showing of The Bible and take notice of her constance presence.
This presentation was called, "Mission". It opens with a long shot of Jesus and his Disciples
walking across the landscape. The Narrator intones, "With a growing number of Disciples, Jesus walks about performing miracles."

It is difficult to count the number in these shots or distinguish individuals, but the small figure in maroon next to Jesus is Mary Magdalene.

Here is a closer shot of the troop walking along on their mission "to change the world".

I tried counting heads and came up with 13. A few are hard to see behind the others, but 13 would be the correct number, except the figure second from the right is Mary Magdalene. There were four members of this group (besides Jesus) that are actually identified by name in the series so far: Peter (who I have not heard yet referred to as Simon), Matthew the Tax Collector, Judas the Traitor and Mary Magdalene. I think there was one scene when somebody yelled, "Thomas, don't doubt", but aren't certain.

Soon this group is gathered in the courtyard of a house and Jesus is speaking. We get a glimpse of
people carrying something in the background. The people gathered about Jesus begin glancing up toward the roof and suddenly a man drops through. Another person is lowered and caught by the first,
this second one paralyzed. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man his sins and a Pharisee, one who is with Jesus almost as much as his Disciples thorough out this episode, calls it blasphemy. Jesus then tells the man to stand and pulls him forcefully to his feet. The man stands as Jesus lets go, then takes first a few hesitant steps before shouting, "I can walk!". This represents an event that occurred in Capernaum during the first year of Jesus' ministry. In Luke 5 of Scripture Jesus is in the house and there are some Pharisees there. These men are thinking, "This is blasphemy,” but they do not speak it out loud. Jesus senses their thoughts. This is the passage:

Luke 5:20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked,“Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 

And look what happened with that paralyzed man:

25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Jesus did not pull the man to his feet, struggling to lift him as it appears in the film. The man got up immediately, picked up his mat and went out.

As they leave the house, a leper makes his way through the crowded street to Jesus. Jesus cures the 
leper. (The leper bore a striking resemblance to the paralyzed man.)

Now, in Scripture Jesus cures a leper PROIR to the paralyzed man dropping through the roof of a crowded house. In fact, it is the curing of this leper that really begins drawing the people and results in a house too crowded for the friends to bring the paralyzed man in through the door.  But Jesus cured a lot of lepers, so this may have been just an incidental curing.

Actually, after leaving the crowded house with the paralyzed man he didn't run into a leper. He left the house and saw Matthew the Tax Collector in his booth and called him to follow.  [Go read Luke 5, Matthew 9 and Mark 2.)

Back to the movie -- Not long after curing the paralyzed man and leper in Galilee, Jesus is approached by a group of men shouting "whore" and shoving a woman along until she falls on her knees and prepares herself to be stoned. This is the familiar story of the adulterous woman, but that didn't occur until much later than the other two cures and happened at the Temple Courts in Jerusalem [Read John 7]. If I remember correctly Jesus bend down to write something on the ground with his finger, then stood and said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be first to throw a stone at her."

No bending to write here. Jesus picks up a stone and approaches the woman as if to strike. She covers her head with her hands to ward off his toss, but Jesus turns and says, "I will give this stone to the first man that tells me he never sinned."  The last man to drop his own stone is that pesky Pharisee who pops up everywhere. Okay, sure, small quibble, I suppose, but why the change? What was wrong with the original?

We now jump to the Sermon on the Mount, which was a mount back in Galilee and occurred well
before the Adulterous Woman stoning. We don't have the whole sermon. (Is this The Bible or an episode of Dr. Who? The time travel is amazing.) We get a few of the "Blessed are" quotes, and a drib and drab from the rest of it.  Near the end Mary Magdalene sitting on a nearby rock, looks up and asks, "How should we pray?" (Pictured right)

Jesus smiles sweetly and says, "like this," and they all bow their heads, close their eyes and tent their hands before their faces as he begins, "Our Father..."

We now watch Jesus and the Disciples traipsing along their way as Jesus continues speaking the prayer, except for the "Power and Glory" part. [Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are Roman Catholic.)

We jump to the dark inner halls of the Temple. Nicodemus comes hurriedly up to Caiaphas and others of the Sanhedrin.

 Nicodemus tells Caiaphas that Jesus of Galilee is coming to Jerusalem. (Nicodemus is the tall dude in the dark cap, Caiaphas is in the white cap.) That same pesky Pharisee that has appeared everywhere Jesus went is also here, so he really gets around, perhaps he is Dr. Who.  Caiaphas tells Nicodemus to relax, "Nothing good ever came from Galilee."

Gee, that phrase sounded familiar. Oh wait, yeah, way back after Jesus left the wilderness encounter with Satan. That was when he first met Andrew, Simon Peter and John, way before The Bible Series has Jesus bump into Peter there on his boat trying to catch fish. It was on their trip back to Galilee where Philip was found and went and told Nathanael and Nathanael said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Then they all went to that wedding in Cana where Jesus changed water to wine. You didn't see any of that or how Jesus really met his first Disciples. The Bible Series didn't think that important enough to include. [Read John 1 & 2.]

Anyway The Bible Series put a paraphrase in the mouth of Caiaphas as all of Galilee, not just Nazareth, but that's okay I guess. Then Caiaphas and the men all walk away laughing at Nicodemus.

As the Council members walk down the hall chuckling, Jesus, Mary Magdalene and his Disciples
crest a hill. They all look with expressions of surprise and amazement, including Jesus, at people spread shoulder to shoulder down the other side. Jesus asks for the few fish and bread the Disciples have, holds the basket up in the air and brings it down full of food. Now a Disciple does the same with an empty basket (I think Peter, but the Disciples aren't well defined in this film, so it may be John) and brings it down full of bread and fish. The Disciple says, "He said ask," as he raises the basket and "it shall be given" as he lowers it and then laughs with glee (pictured right). Mary Magdalene and the others begin lifting baskets and passing the results to the crowd.

We now return to the Temple Halls where Nicodemus hurries to tell Caiaphas that 5,000 people showed up to see Jesus.

Jesus goes to Nazareth and a lady tells Mary he is back. Jesus goes into the Synagogue and reads from Isaiah the prophesy, "The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor...etc." (Isaiah 61:1-2) After reading it Jesus says, "Today this has been fulfilled."

Well, guess who is there and hears him say this? It’s that same pesky Pharisee, who immediately follows Jesus out side yelling about blasphemy. Now in the real Bible, this happens very early on in Jesus career. He goes to his home town, Nazareth, reads Isaiah 61 and says the prophesy is fulfilled that day, but it is not a Pharisee who gets upset. The Pharisees don't care about Jesus enough yet, he is still a rather unknown. It is the people of his town, Nazareth, that get angry and try to throw him off a cliff. He didn't tell his mother or anyone else, "It has begun" (pictured left). Instead Jesus moved to Capernaum and made that his home base to begin his ministry, subsequently having that big fishing day with Peter.

Time really gets distorted in this movie, because the next scene takes us to a street in Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem. Jesus and Mary Magdalene are met on the street by Martha, who says Jesus is too late, her brother is dead. Jesus asks to be taken to the tomb, which is opened and he goes in. He kneels behind the corpse and after a moment Lazarus' eyes pop open, (Jesus looks a bit surprised.) Lazarus gets up and they exit the tomb.

Outside an anxious Martha waits comforted by
Mary Magdalene. A little behind is another woman. We aren't really introduced to this lady, but I am guessing it might be Martha's sister Mary. This whole Martha and Mary of Bethany relationship is a very important story in the Bible. It touches on more than just the mere raising of a dead man (Lazarus). It is a great lesson for the Disciples. It also teaches about faith verses works. It teaches many things, not the least the coming death and resurrection of Christ.  Mary of Bethany is an important figure, but she doesn't even get a mention here.  Click here to read a study of Mary and Martha, "One Needful Thing"  And why is Mary Magdalene so front and center all the time?  In the photo that is Martha in the blue headpiece being held by Mary Magdalene.

Once more back to the Halls of the Temple where Nicodemus hurriedly tells Caiaphas that it is rumored
Jesus raised a man from the dead. Nicodemus then says Jesus is coming to Jerusalem. Caiaphas says,

"We can't have this fraud showing up at Passover."

The Narrator tells us that Passover is the biggest event of the year. We have some scenes in here somewhere that include Pilate, who is threatening to close the Temple and cancel Passover if there is any trouble.

We now see Jesus riding a donkey among a swarm of people waving palms. He waves at the cheering crowd with Mary Magdalene
right there by his side. See her smiling just off his right arm. She and he and the Disciples enter Jerusalem .

We are shown an arial shot of Herod's Temple and are told by the narrator that the temple "is the holiest place in the Bible."

Jesus then proceeds into the Temple. He looks about. We see people exchanging money, buying lambs
and birds and squabbling. Jesus begins turning over the moneychangers' tables as Mary Magdalene looks about. (Pictured right)

Nicodemus now shows up to confront Jesus on what authority he has to do this. Jesus stands nose to nose with Nicodemus and tells him, "You say your lofty prayers and laud your piety in the Temple, hypocrite, you can't serve both God and money."

Jesus then turns to the crowd and tells them it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Nicodemus holds up a coin and demands Jesus say whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar.  Mary Magdalene looks on a bit apprehensive standing between Nicodemus and Jesus.  Jesus, of course, asks whose face is on the coin. Nicodemus flips the coin to him remarking, "Caesar." Jesus says, "Then give Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's," and flips the coin to a nearby Roman centurion.
During all this we see Barabas talking to people (bald fellow in the scene pictured left) and beginning to rouse up the crowd. Barabas confronts Jesus calling for a revolt against Rome. At this point Barabas is moving closer to Jesus with people shouting all about him, railing at Jesus and Christ raises a hand and Barabas is apparently struck dumb and backs up.

A completely fabricated scene.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene and his disciples begin moving out of the Temple. Jesus stops by a little
girl and asks her if she sees the beautiful building. Kneeling down, and smiling, he tells her not one of these stones will be left standing.

Ut oh!

We are quickly back in those dark corridors of the Temple, but not before Nicodemus is upbraided for letting Jesus make a fool of him.

Now Nicodemus and Caiaphas stand speaking to Malkis, the leader of the Temple Guards. (pictured left) "He said what?" asks Caiaphas. "That he would tear down the Temple in three days," Malkis reports. Caiaphas tells Malkis to get this Judas fellow he had told about and bring him there.

Jesus washes his hands, has a vision of being nailed to the cross and picks up some bread. He tells the disciples around the table this will be their last meal together. He breaks the bread and shares the wine, then says someone will betray him and sends Judas on his way with a pat on the cheek.
Jesus and MARY MAGDALENE and his disciples exit the building.

Back in the Garden of Gethsemane Mary Magdalene and the Disciples are sitting or standing about when who shows up, but Nicodemus.  Nicodemus and Jesus go over to the side and we have the Born Again speech that should have happened back in John 3. You know, the night meeting between these two after the first cleansing of the Temple, before John the Baptist was arrested, before Jesus had all his Disciples, before Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, before just about everything in this episode happened. Well, at least they put it in somewhere.

Back at the Temple Judas accepts his money for promising to show where Jesus is going to be.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus tells Mary Magdalene he is going to pray. She watches him walk off to a private place, where he asks God if this must be done. When Jesus finishes his prayer, Malkis and Judas, Guards and Disciples and Mary Magdalene come through the bushes (pictured right). Judas kisses Jesus, Peter cuts off Malkis ear, Jesus restores the ear and is arrested. Everyone else flees with Mary Magdalene sort of directing traffic.

We end this episode with Jesus surrounded by the Council in the Temple. Caiaphas asks if he is the Son of God. Jesus replies, "I am and you will see me coming with the clouds and sitting on the right hand of God." Everyone steps back from Jesus. Caiaphas rips his clothes and declares Jesus guilty of blasphemy. "The penalty," he says, "is death," to be continued next week.

In film it is often a practice to combine or invent characters to represent several characters rather than hire more actors and run up expenses. Thus The Constant Pharisee is understandable. Pharisees, Scribes and Saduccees were constantly popping in on Jesus to question, harass and challenge him. It is a cost saving to have one representative of these many, thus The Constant Pharisee (pictured left).

This is sort of the same thing done with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is always entering the scene to report on Jesus' activities. However, Nicodemus is only referenced in Scripture three times. The first time is in John 3, which is early on in Jesus' ministry. Nicodemus comes to Jesus in Secret at night and Jesus talks about how a person is born again.

Nicodemus is spoken of again in John 19, after Jesus has been crucified.  In verse 19 we are told
Nicodemus, brought myrrh and aloes to help Joseph of Arimathea prepare the body for burial. In this
passage it describes Nicodemus as "who earlier had come to Jesus by night." This refers to Nicodemus' visit in John 3. We can know this because John uses a similar introduction of Nicodemus in the only other mention.

The other reference to Nicodemus occurs in John 7:50, where it says "who had gone to [Jesus] before.”

This reference comes about the middle of the ministry and Jesus was spending a good deal of time preaching during the Festival of Booths. The Chief Priests and Pharisees have been attempting to have Jesus arrested with little success. Nicodemus is present when the officers report their latest failure to arrest Jesus and he says, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” The Bible Series does contain Nicodemus saying this, but in a different context. The Chief Priests reply to him, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

I suppose this is sort of when Caiaphas says in the film, "Nothing good ever came from Galilee."

And then along came Mary, Mary Magdalene that is, seen in the left photo comforting a child as Jesus speaks with the adulterous woman just saved from a stoning.

Mary Magdalene appears in only eight chapters among the four Gospels, all except one taking place during the death and resurrection of Christ. She is pictured watching the crucifixion from a distance with many other women, "among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother (Salome) of the sons of Zebedee (James & John)."

She is also noted as standing below the cross with John, Jesus' mother and Mary the wife of Clopas.
Later Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome go and buy spices to anoint Jesus' body.
On Sunday morning these women go to the tomb. Mary Magdalene gets there ahead of the other two women. Jesus appears to her and she hurries to tell John and Peter. The other two women are met by an Angel, see the empty tomb and run back in fear. They are also met by Jesus and told to go tell the Disciples.

The only other place Mary Magdalene is mentioned outside of the Passion Week at the cross and tomb
is in Luke 8. We are told Jesus and the twelve Disciples go traveling from village to village preaching the Good news. Also with them are several woman that Jesus had healed. These women now follow Jesus helping to provide for him and the Disciples from their means. Only three are listed by name: Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, Susanna and Mary Magdalene from whom seven demons had been driven out.  So there were many women traveling with Jesus, just as there were 
several witnessing his death and some going to the tomb.

This is about the extent we know about Mary Magdalene from Scripture. The only other information about Mary comes from Apocryphal manuscripts that were rejected as part of the canon. It is from these non-Scriptural writings that any picture of Mary Magdalene being the closest person to Jesus and a leader among the Disciples can come. These are the sources that led to such heretical books and films as The DaVinci Code and Last Temptation of Christ. These writings are also the source for the cults who claim Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers and had children.


I have throughout my running commentary on this series been somewhat brutal about its accuracy. Perhaps I should be more forgiving. I understand the difficulties of the undertaking to a certain extent. But you also have to realize the subject is very dear to my heart and they didn't have to do some of the things they did.

Film is a powerful medium. People look at a movie based on a true story and they accept what they see as truth when often it isn't. When Pontius Pilate asked, "What is truth?", he asked a very profound question. What is truth in this world? When you turn on the TV and hear talking heads arguing any subject, can you really discern the truth? Truth is a rarity, so when you believe someone is truthful and then you catch them in a lie, even a little lie, it is very hard to ever believe them again.

We can even look at the film to see how hard trust is to regain by their presentation of Paul. When he
first appears he stirs the crowd up against Steven, even picking up the first stone. (Scripture simply says that when Steven was stoned there was a young man in the crowd who had their cloaks at his feet and his name was Saul of Tarsus. In this episode he is always referred to as Paul and never Saul.) Saul then goes on a rampage of brutalizing Christians. (Let's overlook the meeting with Caiaphus and being assigned Malkis to help him.) The point is, after his conversion, Paul has a hard time persuading the Christians to trust him. Once trust is lost it is hard to regain.

I didn't really care for this portrayal of Saul/Paul as something of a sociopathic maniac in the beginning by the way, but who knows...maybe he was.

Anyway, I believe the Scriptures and I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I also had History Channel as a favorite for several years. I enjoyed their various historic enactments. But if they are to take historic events and change happenings and characters and take literary license for the sake of dramatic effect, how can I trust anything they say?

I never expected "The Bible Series" to be perfect, but I never expected so much to either be added or deleted for the sake of entertainment. My real hope, especially as it proved popular, is for people unfamiliar with the Bible to go to Scriptures with real interest and this would open them up to discuss the meanings of The Word. But what happens if they turn to the Scriptures and find a number of things quiet different from the TV series?  Will they trust either?

But you know, the Word of God and The Gospel have survived thousands of years and all kinds of attacks. God's Word has a way of being heard and getting under the skin, even if the ones presenting it do so out of wrong intent. Certainly the Passion scenes were gripping. These made we winch several times.

Of course, they stuck with traditional images, rather than perhaps historic fact. Most likely Jesus would have carried the patibulum or crossbar of the cross upon his back, as the thieves did. The patibulum generally weighted about 100 pounds. You can imagine then what the longer piece, the stiles weighted. Christ would have struggled with the crosspiece alone in his beaten state, especially after a scourging. He would have loss a lot of blood and been dehydrated. Remember he hadn't eaten and had little or nothing to drink over this period of time as well.

The other tradition used was portraying Simon of Cyrene as a Black Man. This belief came about because Cyrene is in Libya. However, there existed at the time a large colony of Israelites living in Libya, around 100,000. It is more likely Simon was one of these Jewish colonists come to Jerusalem for the Passover. But these are small points and it is possible Simon was black.

I was cringing more at how they presented Mary Magdalene as one of the Apostles, speaking in
tongues at Pentecost, urging the Disciples to show faith and going out to spread the message (Mary apparently taking the Gospel to Antioch, right).

I was also a bit mystified at the scene where John hung from a chain and these Roman Guards poured a bowl of something into his mouth. The narrator had been telling us how each of the Apostles died and said, "John was poisoned in Rome."

A little later we are told the "Roman's failed to kill John, however" and he was banished to Patmos.We see John's eyes open as he lays on the prison floor and then he spits up.

I went searching for this tale and could find nothing about the Roman's poisoning John. The only "legend" I found was that the Roman's had thrown John into a pot of boiling oil to kill him, but he didn't die.

Anyway, enough of my carping because much of what was shown was close to Scripture. I think the Word of God gets heard where people have become seekers, even if in the mouth of demons. That seemed to be somewhat the attitude of Paul and that's good enough for me.

Philippians 1:15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

And so I rejoice too.

And in Luke 9:49-50 we find:

 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him,
because he is not one of us.”

 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

In the end, The Bible Series is for us, because it opens the doors and makes it easier to talk of these things.

1 comment:

  1. Could not have put the words out there any better, but of course we have talked about this movie haven't we? LOL