The Bible – Night One review…

bible-parableSo last night the History Channel docudrama “The Bible” premiered.  It was overall a hard episode (actually two episodes) since it covered the time of Creation (covered by Noah retelling Gen 1-3 on an Ark filled with terror and worry) all the way to the story of Rahab and the beginning of the conquest of the Promised Land.  It was very interesting what the writers chose to cover and what they chose to not cover.

The chapters of the Scriptures which are covered in these first two hours are:  Genesis 1, 9, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 21, 22.  Exodus 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11, 12, 14, 20.  Joshua 1, 2.

First, some hopeful thoughts.  I am hopeful that people may actually ask their pastors about this more or even get back into the Scriptures after seeing this to get “the rest of the story” so to speak.  Face it, if you are going to cover thousands of years of human history in a matter of two hours, there are going to be some real gaps (like Jacob or Joseph) and very shallow stories (Abraham and the covenants with God).  It is simply impossible to cover such a vast amount of material in a good way in that amount of time.

That being said, in my article on this last week I warned about the Board of Advisors for this project.  In particular it included Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.  The fingerprints of these two men and their theology come through in this (as it should if they were the Biblical advisors for it).  Osteen’s reward and glory theology certainly came through in the story of Abraham, who is really depicted as a self-interested, greedy for gain kind of man who is put to tests and ultimately rewarded for his works.  The great covenants of God are boiled down to rewards for Abraham’s actions.  No mention of Abraham being asleep during any of them.  Rick Warren also promotes this “LawFULL” attitude of the Scriptures.  Remember the Law contains that which we do, and this series is certainly focusing on the Law in that respect.  I even had to chuckle as the word “purpose” showed up on the program, a hat-tip to Warren’s works on that word?

Accuracy?  This series claims to have stayed true to the spirit of the text.  If so, they miss a lot of the Spirit of the text.  The accounts of Scripture do not describe Noah and his family being worried and anxious on the ark, nor does it describe the rainbow being shown while they are still on it.  This is more than just a picky point – as what is missed by just showing the rainbow over a ark still afloat is God’s gracious words and promises to Noah.  The sign of the covenant is missed.  Instead the description of the Noah segment involves “Noah endures God’s wrath”.  That is part and parcel of how the series depicts man and God.  It often sides with man doing something and downplays God.  For instance, the Nile river turning to blood involves Moses apparently being crafty and leaving out God’s voice.  The same is true of the crossing of the Red Sea, which is again depicted as Moses waiting at the shore (no cover of pillar of cloud or fire) and somehow coming up with the idea to strike the Red Sea to make it part.  Instead of showing how God spoke and commanded things to be done, a lot of scenes just depict a human character coming up with something to do.  This is also true in their depiction of how the Law is given (or found in the case of the movie) on Mt. Sinai.

Artistic license is one thing, but there seems to be other things at work in this series.  For instance, in the account of Gen 22 (Abraham offering Isaac), the servants are not involved and instead Sarah is, and the mount to offer Isaac is in the backyard instead of being three days away.  This whole chapter is very poorly represented and shows what I called “Christlessness” in my cautionary article.  First, the distance of three days is not noted (instead it is within running distance for Sarah, who somehow knows that Abraham is going to kill Isaac).  The two young servants that go with Abraham and Isaac are not included, and so Abraham’s faith-filled words of telling the servants to stay and that he and his son will return (Gen 22:5) are forgotten.  These words reflect Abraham’s faith in the promise of God that through Isaac there will be One offspring who will come and be a blessing to the rest of the world (missed opportunity to bring Jesus into the picture).  Abraham also fails in the movie to say that “God will provide for Himself the Lamb” which is a clearly foreshadowing of Jesus (possible a text that John the Baptist preaches on in John 1?).  Not only that, the animal provided by God at the moment of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac is not a ram as the text says (which also helps us understand that Abraham is not just thinking about the here and now in this chapter, a ram is not a lamb).  This is another opportunity to proclaim the central message of the Scriptures – salvation of humanity by Jesus, which is left out.

One of the opening descriptions of this series really captures the problem of the series – it is centered on man.  The opening said these things about the Bible: it “helps define who we are, the choices we make, how we live, how we love, how we struggle and overcome.”  In other words, the Bible is not about Jesus (Gospel), it is about us and how we are to be (LAW).  That is a very dangerous and erring view of the purpose of Sacred Scripture.

As I mentioned above, in the many missing accounts (again too much ground to cover in two hours) it is notable that the accounts of God speaking and working are left out.  In particular the account of the giving of circumcision is left out.  This also fits with their description of what they think this Bible is all about (human beings doing stuff).  As circumcision is a sign of the covenant to be believed, it does foreshadow the Church’s sacraments today, so leaving it out is a key choice in the theological bias of the writers.  A similar argument could be made for the leaving out of things like the manna from heaven and water from the Rock, both are left out and with that opportunities to highlight Jesus.

Here are some other random thoughts about the first couple episodes:

Abraham comes off as a kind of a selfish man looking for his own good

The show did use the word “Lord” for when Abraham greeting the three messengers who came to him (good)

The entire account of Sodom is a mess compared to the account of Genesis 19

The angels who go to Sodom are depicted as sort of like ninjas who fight by the sword and can cause men’s eyes to bleed by looking at them a certain way.

Sodom is depicted as a place of mainly heterosexual depravity

Abraham and Sarah are both named that way right away, taking away God’s role in renaming them and promising them things

The ten plagues are done in a matter of a minute (or less)

The Passover is first announced that God will kill even the Israelites, which is then reversed when they ask about it

Moses is hardly depicted as a humble servant of the Lord, saying things like “with your power I will set my people free”

The Exodus is treated very poorly without any of the struggles of the wilderness nor examples of God’s provision and grace

Throughout the episodes the phrase “must trust in God” is used as a rallying cry, but in the end comes off as nothing more than a proclamation of Law in which the people will be rewarded for their work of trusting in God.

 

The chief problem I find in this series is the troubling view of Scripture (man centered, works and reward focused view).  The other problem of this “biting off more than can be chewed in a two hour episode” hopefully is better handled when thousands of years of human history is not condensed into two hours.  I think this second problem may be cured in future episodes, but the first and chief problem will still remain.  So my final suggestion – READ THE BOOK, it is better than the movie.

 

 

 

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Associate Editor of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. He manages the work of BJS in cooperation with KFUO and is a regular host of Concord Matters (and is also the regular guest on His Time to discuss BJS articles each week). He also oversees the great work done for Steadfast Throwdown. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

The Bible – Night One review… — 27 Comments

  1. To paraphrase a friend’s comment – Well, at least it might get some people to learn a little about the Bible, even if it might not be totally correct – they probably don’t know much about it.

  2. As you mentioned, Moses is a LOT braver in this miniseries than he ever was in the Scriptures. In fact, he even seems braver than Charlton Heston.

  3. PH is sick at home, & so wanted to see what someone thought of the angels. Thank you for your thoughts, even w/Strep, ya made him laugh. Thanks for the new phrase, “I’m gonna go ninja angel on….” Like PH said, “like angels need swords, yeesh.” Thing #2, was almost angry about how they handled Abraham & Lot’s departing. I will say though, it was great to hear them both, actually reciting & quoting Scripture to correct the errors they saw.

    Wretched had a great commentary on it’s clip today. Ninja angels, spot on.

  4. Pastor Scheer,
    I have a bone to pick w/you, lol. The boys are trying to figure out songs, “Ninja angles, revenger’s in disquise. they were read robes, they’ll melt your eyeballs, they wear red robes, etc.”

    Now, it’s really sad, yet kinda cute, my contribution was, don’t make me melt your eyeballs, lol. It’s great to see two little lutheran kids, seeing what a farce, this whole thing was. I hope, we can keep a bit of that here on this thread. Pastor H, should do a paraody, when this whole thing is over with. We won’t be watching after yesterday.

  5. Rick Warren and Joel Osteen… theological experts. :)

    Sounds like yet another item which won’t make me sorry I’m without cable!

  6. @Beggar #1 said
    “To paraphrase a friend’s comment – Well, at least it might get some people to learn a little about the Bible, even if it might not be totally correct – they probably don’t know much about it.”

    Is that how you respond when Mormons come witnessing with Bibles (and Books of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants) in hand?

    Let’s just stop kidding ourselves and start calling it “The Book of Abraham” miniseries.

  7. I was disappointed but not surprised. “Christian” movies tend to be like “Christian” rock music in that we are so hopeful we can have theology and entertainment at the same time and usually get neither. It has some value in visualizing a historical way of life but so do many of History channel’s shows (without the Christian marketing). Way too much “man” and not nearly enough “God.”

  8. Pastor Scheer,
    A good overview of scripture being distorted. Some additional comments:
    · Genesis 6:5-8 omitted.
    · Genesis 9:11-17 not explained.
    · Abraham + Hagar = flesh = bondage, Abraham + Sarah = free = promise identfying two covenants!
    · Significance of ismael and Isaac = two nations

    Much more of course, but adding the above could have put God back into the picture. This type of movie is dangerous to viewers who will believe the movie instead of checking the scriptures. Hitler once said, “The bigger the lie the more who will believe it.”

  9. helen :
    Rick Warren and Joel Osteen… theological experts.
    Sounds like yet another item which won’t make me sorry I’m without cable!

    You ain’t missing anything. Just stick with BJS and Chris Rosebrough, and you’ll learn all you need to know, and more.

  10. I have often lamented the fact that so many people (even many self proclaimed Christians) will read the Left Behind books or The DiVinci Code or Chicken Soup for the Soul and get all wrapped up in tv specials like The Gospel of Judas or now The Bible, but they won’t come to church to hear the Word or receive Christ’s Gifts…

    Matthew 23:37

    In Christ, Clint

  11. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #11

    Well, if getting on God’s good side is just a matter of “being a good person” and declaring, “I never stole from anyone or killed anyone,” then what is the need to go to a church?”

    Sadly, that’s the attitude of many who call themselves, “Christian”!

  12. My Evangelical friends who watched with me asked if Noah wrote Genesis! From their point of view, he must have because the movie puts him in a recitation mode.

    Then, they both thought I was over-reacting to the content that would have made the Christo-Centric message obvious (i.e., passover, and the Angel/Pillar). From their point of view they thought it was “good!”

    Even the AIG write up is glad the flood is world-wide and the big miracles are real. But the intent of each “prophet” was always Warrenite!

  13. Wow…..you can certainly write anything you want in these ” blog type critiques”… It’s very easy to criticize what others have actually done. I’m not thinking that their target audience was people like yourself, who obviously know all there is to know about the Scriptures, and have your own opinion on how they ” should” be presented. I look forward to your multi million dollar production on how you think it should be…. Then we’ll read the “blogs” on how your attempt to ” reach the unchurched” is rated.

  14. @Dave #15
    It is very easy to criticize, but as we all know when something is put out there publicly, it needs to be open to criticism (like this blog posting is open to criticism). Iron sharpens iron, no?

    Dave, are we not to judge all things by Scripture? Don’t we want to try to do the best we can in presenting the content and message of Scripture to people?

    The producers have mentioned that their target audience is both believers and unbelievers, so since those two categories cover every single human being, I guess that would include us.

    If you are a multi-millionaire, I would be happy to receive your donation to such a project, but being a parish pastor I do not have such resources.

  15. @Dave #15

    It is easier to start fresh (hence all the great work in Africa) that to undo all the garbage that is being put out there (American media). If you can’t do it right, it might not be worth doing at all. (I try to live by that, and put my best foot forward as much as possible) It is a first fruits thing. If I do a half-butt, sloppy job, good chance I’ll have to fix it or redo it anyway. (speaking from years of carpentry experience) I feel for the pastors who will now have to deconstruct the Deconstructionism. Like Dr. Ralph “Rafe” E. Spraker, Jr. with his friends. (Noah “wrote” Genesis? really??)

  16. I think sometimes, we tend to forget that vital book, Jude. Short, sweet, and very to the point.
    Jason, I agree to an extent. I’ve never been one to be quiet about the Gospel or my loving command to do so. It is far easier, to speak & share w/those who know little or nothing.
    I know many in many a Denom, who lament the same things we speak on here. They don’t understand what’s happening or what to do either. I think long ago, that used to be called winnowing. If that be the case, it’s His House, we are under His foot, It & we belong to Him. Be brave & of great courage, speak up & out, it’s the right thing to do. Do so knowing, the backlash from where you least expect it to come. It always has, & always will. He said so.

  17. I enjoy the Visual Bible Series for the Gospels …it sticks to the words of scripture with a little ad-lib to the drama. I think we have to be cautious when portraying the “hero’s of faith.” They are not mini-Jesus’s. I’ve heard sermons that made Joseph to be almost another Jesus. The pastor stated that NEVER did he waver from his trust. I can’t imagine that a human did not exhibit doubt at any point during his/her life. While it is true that they are examples of those who trusted God in difficult circumstances, we also need to realize that they were sinful humans. In prison or in the hole, Joseph maybe cried, asked why, and felt frustrated. This is not given to us in the Bible. We need to take care in sermons or visual productions that we don’t make them out to be “too” perfect and yet not make it seem that they were only rewarded for the acts of faith when it counted. The proper portrayal is that God used them in his plan of Salvation, that should be a greater emphasis than the individual actions of these people (understanding that we can also learn from their actions and be encouraged by their faith).

  18. Dave :Wow…..you can certainly write anything you want in these ” blog type critiques”… It’s very easy to criticize what others have actually done. I’m not thinking that their target audience was people like yourself, who obviously know all there is to know about the Scriptures, and have your own opinion on how they ” should” be presented. I look forward to your multi million dollar production on how you think it should be…. Then we’ll read the “blogs” on how your attempt to ” reach the unchurched” is rated.

    The very use of the term “unchurched” betrays the seeker-driven mindset. Since when did “church” become a verb?

  19. If you are going to watch this do so with your Bible on your lap. and follow the story as they go and you will see the difference. My hope is that it will get people back in the Word and that Bible Classes will become Bible classes again. We need to learn and know Gods Word and Pastors need to get back to the basics with there teaching.

  20. What they did in King David’s story line of depicting NO repentance on David’s part made me want to cry! You may as well tear Psalm 51 out of your Bibles.

  21. Let’s stop criticizing & pray for one another, that the world would see how we love one another.

  22. Judy> Speaking the truth and upholding the integrity of the Scripture is being loving. I didn’t say they were bad people. I’m sure the intent of the producers is good~~just misguided.

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