The Bible – new TV series on History Channel. Waiting to see, but consider a warning…

bible-parableThere is a new series of docudramas coming to the History Channel this Sunday night.  It is called “The Bible”.  This may turn out to be good, but I would offer a couple cautions.

1.  The History Channel (and any of those channels like Discovery) have hardly been friendly to a traditional, conservative, or orthodox understanding of the Scriptures.  Many of their programs seek to build doubts and promote higher-critical understandings of the Word of God.

2.  The Board of Advisors for the project is found here.  It includes the likes of Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, a couple folks from the Roman Catholic Church, a woman who was a co-founder of “Women in Ministry for Obama”, and a couple “scholars” attached to Fuller Theological Seminary (known for its Church Growth methods).  That’s it, those are the advisors.

3.  I have heard this promoted heavily by Glenn Beck.  Beck is a mormon who claims Christianity as his own.  Mormons are not Christians.  They use the Scriptures to promote their false religion of the Law and morals.  While Beck provides interesting political commentary, his views on religion are not to be taken as any form of orthodox Christianity.

There are a couple things to be on the lookout for in the program:

Higher-Criticizing – the idea that the Scriptures are man’s understanding of God and thereby can be tinkered with.  This includes mythologizing the true histories of Scripture, minimizing miracles (or just “scientifically” explaining them).  Beware, this understanding of the Scriptures is not in accord with the Scriptures and places the creature higher than the Creator.

Over-emotionalizing – This is natural in historical movies produced today.  There is often an attempt to put our current societal thoughts and emotions upon the figures of the past.  This would fit under the category of “artistic license” but should be careful.

De-doctrinalizing – It is natural that if something is going to be palatable to such a wide audience that the actual strict teachings will not be allowed airtime.  If you look at the variety of folks used as advisers you get the sense that if there is any consensus around the teachings of Scriptures there it will be of the lowest-common-denominator type (which in the end is a denial of Christ’s own command that all things be taught).  Beware, the new man created in Christ Jesus through the waters of Baptism never (and I mean NEVER) wants to oversimplify the teachings of Jesus and remove the most offensive ones, or make them one of many equal teachings.  The Old Adam wants outward unity at the expense of the full teachings of Jesus.  To paraphrase C.F.W. Walther – those who do not care about the teachings of Jesus do not care about salvation.

Christlessness – The sum and total of the Scriptures is Christ.  Jesus taught that – “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me”  (John 5:39).  Also: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  Also: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ” (John 20:31).  Beware this, because without Christ the Scriptures are boiled down to a book of the Law, morals, and “do’s” (and do nots).  This moralism is the false teaching of the Devil, the leaven of the Pharisees, and does great damage to the Gospel of Christ.

An example of this can be found in the very first episode’s description:

As Noah endures God’s wrath in his lonely ark, he recounts man’s descent from Adam into wickedness. God has sent a flood to cleanse humanity, to offer a new beginning. Years later, Noah’s descendant Abraham is given a message by God. He is promised a land of his own, and starts out on the long and arduous journey to reach it. Abraham’s only descendant, his nephew Lot, chooses his own path and leaves his uncle to start again in Sodom, where he will escape death when the sinful city is destroyed by God. Meanwhile, Abraham reaches the Promised Land but his covenant with God is still not complete – he has been promised offspring as numerous as the stars. But his wife, Sarah, is barren. Much to her pain she encourages Abraham to sleep with servant girl Hagar to father a child. Ishmael is born. But years later three angels from God arrive with exciting news – Sarah will indeed bear a child, Isaac. Abraham is now forced to choose between his two sons. He casts Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. God then exacts on Abraham one final, terrible test. Calling for the sacrifice of his one remaining son Isaac, Abraham is forced to prove his faith in his new God. He passes the test and Isaac is allowed to live. The faith of the Israelites begins here, with the family of Abraham. Isaac has a son called Jacob who God re-names Israel…

Notice how Christ-less this is.  There is no mention of the first promise of Christ, just Noah pondering a fall and new beginning.  Abraham is a man who has a covenant with God, and the number of his offspring is mentioned, but not “the” Offspring in whom all the world will be blessed.  Notice also the “three angels” is also free of Abraham’s calling them “the LORD”.  Free from mention of promise to Sarah, the story of Isaac is explained.  The whole of Gen 22 is Christ-less in the description.  Behind it all is the language of human works.  Noah’s endurance.  Abraham proving his faith in his new God.  Abraham passing tests.  It certainly raises a few red flags which should be heeded.

Reading through the descriptions there are many other red flags that show up.  A later description paints Jesus as a revolutionary rebelling against the Law of Moses instead of being the fulfillment of the Law.  There is clearly a political/revolutionary view of Jesus in this program.  This more political view of Jesus is taken into the work of the disciples as well.  Peter is describes as finally understanding Jesus’ message and having his faith rewarded.. again strange language.  The final episode description concludes with this: “And all who have the courage to keep the faith will be rewarded” which again is not a very good way to describe the Lord’s work of sustaining us in the faith until the end.

These things require a discerning eye, for leaven is small but can ruin a very large lump.  These things should not be taken in without discernment according to the Word of God.

We here at BJS are working on producing a set of our reviews on this program and hope to have a review of each week’s programming the following week for our readers to consider.  Stay tuned to our site to find them in the coming weeks.

In the end, I would suggest reading the book rather than the movie.  The Book is far more interesting, and infinitely better at delivering Jesus to you than any movie ever could.




The Bible – new TV series on History Channel. Waiting to see, but consider a warning… — 37 Comments

  1. I can only hope that my LCMS congregation (a member of Willow Creek) will not be promoting this movie series anytime soon.

  2. “2. The Board of Advisors for the project is found here. It includes the likes of Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, a couple folks from the Roman Catholic Church, a woman who was a co-founder of “Women in Ministry for Obama”, and a couple “scholars” attached to Fuller Theological Seminary (known for its Church Growth methods). That’s it, those are the advisors.”

    If that’s not enough to make you run screaming to change the channel, I don’t know what is! 🙂

  3. To expect the world and Christians of a false doctrine to present any wholesome and Scripturally accurate program about the Bible is about as fruitful as watching Star Wars, Episode IV:A New Hope over and over again in the hopes that Obi Wan Kenobi will actually win the lightsaber duel against Darth Vader.

  4. Has The History Channel ever done anything that has helped or promoted orthodox Christianity in the past? I can think of many programs that have damaged the church, but I can think of none that have been a positive…

    Thanks, Clint

  5. O’Reilly interviewed them last night and kept saying most of the Bible is allegories. He questioned if they really believed Adam and Eve were real people and Noah’s story, etc. Of course people hear him saying he is a Catholic and went to Catholic school and think he “knows” what he is talking about. Besides, now he is writing a book about the death of Jesus. Can’t wait to see what his explanation is on that!

  6. From Cal Thomas commentary march 1, 2013

    This Sunday night the history channel will begin a 10-part series called “the bible.’ it was produced and paid for by two friends of mine, the actress Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. Both of them spoke and showed clips at our annual media dinner last month.

    The film is the best depiction i have seen of events written in god’s word. They have tried to be faithful to scripture and consulted many theologians in the process. Yes, some artistic license was taken, but none i have seen that opposes biblical truth.

    After seeing some clips, one guy wrote me, “i saw one error in it.” Could we please rejoice that the subject is being aired on a mainstream cable channel? It is a work of love by Mark and Roma. They told me their goal is to get people reading the bible.

    Please pray for this series and those who watch it. The final episode is on Easter Sunday with the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Watch or record it all. You will be thrilled and i hope blessed. History channel Sunday night. I’m Cal Thomas in Washington

  7. The “history ” channel has a simple formula for any program on a Biblical topic.

    1. This is what the Bible says.
    2. This is what really happened instead.

  8. If Beck is promoting this, I would not put much credence in the series…I have seen after all, his sucking up to the papacy…The post modern emergent church and all of its forms as well as mormonism and the rest are headed back to Rome.

  9. Frankly I’m surprised this got attention on the blog…I assumed all the readers were stronger than the winds of pop culture…

  10. If past experience is any guide, this will be just another example that Marshall McCluhan was right: The medium IS the message. It all of imagery, and you know what God says about images.

  11. Just how far off the reservation will I be for noting that the quoted first episode’s description of God is more akin to that of the muslim god? It’s almost as if there were an effort afoot to confuse and conflate Christianity and islam. Nawwww, couldn’t be.

    The description certainly does not describe the same loving and merciful God the Scriptures have shown to me all of my life.

    Still, I am wary of any attempt to normalize islam in our culture. There is little doubt in my mind that such an effort to confuse and conflate Christianity with an evil and barbaric religion is indeed under way. After all, if it can be shown that there is little difference then it is a short step to sharia law and other such evils.

    God have mercy upon us!

  12. Nicholas :
    @Joe Strieter #12
    That sounds like the Calvinist view.

    I figured someone would accuse me of that. Not to worry—I’m no Calvinist. Nor am I an iconoclast. However, I’ve had enough experience with commercial imagery to view it with lots of suspicion. I once used a film version of part of Luke’s Gospel for an evening Bible Class. After viewing the video several times, I came up with a list of questions for the class to consider as they watched the video. One of the questions was geared to a discussion of Jesus’ teachings from the video. As I recall, there was one parable and some other teaching that Jesus did. When I got to that question during discussion, nobody could remember what Jesus taught. They could remember that Jesus was handsome, he smiled too much, and that there was some neat scenes of the Sea of Galilee. But nobody–nobody could remember ANYTHING that Jesus had taught! They were caught up in the medium, but the medium had become the message. When I read them the relevant passages from the Bible, I got a few, “Oh yeah’s.” It’s the same with pastors using film clips during their sermons to demonstrate a point. The congregation has switched to “entertainment mode,” and any teaching goes right out the window. I’ve seen it plenty often.

    This is the problem with this series as I see it. It is entertainment, first, and everything is geared to that experience. I’ll go so far as to say that it is only marginally “God’s Word.” But I digress–I stand by my statement regarding “graven images.” When we move past statues, paintings, yes, even icons, into movies and videos, we’re treading on dangerous territory. Cal Thomas (#7 above) is quoted as saying they “take some artistic license.” Despite his claim, I have wonder what happens to “Biblical truth.” I certainly hope my pastor doesn’t take any ‘artistic license” as he preaches this Sunday.

    I offer a quote from Malcolm Mudderidge’s little book, “Christ and the Media” (1977). As he describes the media’s obsession with entertainment and image, he claims that truth is left behind. As he says, “The camera not only CAN lie, it ALWAYS lies.”

    We walk by faith, not by sight.

  13. Nicholas :
    @Joe Strieter #16
    Sorry. I didn’t mean it as an accusation.

    I didn’t take it that way. I’ve come thru my “Reformed” period. No offense taken–it is a common reaction. In fact, I’m thankful you called attention to it. Gave me a chance to get up on my soapbox. By the way, I spelled “Muggeridge” wrong, and I highly recommend “Christ and the Media.” In it, he posits a fourth temptation: Satan offers Jesus his own TV show, subject of course, to a few qualifications. But you’ll have to read the book to see how Muggeridge resolves the issue. The book is a fun read, even tho its more than 35 years since publication.

  14. J. Dean :
    @Joe Strieter #16
    You need to speak to those in the church who have become media-dependent!

    Oh, I’ve done that–in spades–it’s very frustrating–like pushing on a rope. Here on BJS, I’m afraid I’m preaching to the choir. It sounds as tho I got my point across here, at any rate.

  15. Wow! with “scholars” like those, why would they bother trying to get Dr. Matthew Harrison. : )

  16. Emeritus Prof. of History, 2013 “Footsteps of Paul” tour host, and 3rd Synodical Vice-President Paul L. Maier spoke in Austin this weekend, and said he had been asked originally to take part in the “The Bible” series back when plans were for it to be a historical documentary, but was not involved in preparing the drama it ended up being. Maier said he hasn’t see any of the shows, but he did review a book that was prepared based on the series. He said there were numerous errors in the book, including a common one of having the wise men show up at the manger on Christmas with the shepherds.

    In my opinion, the involvement of Joel Osteen in “The Bible” series is analogous to a floating cockroach in the soup de jour.

  17. @Carl Vehse #22

    Not sure about the cockroach metaphor, but I’d make it a nest of them what with Rick Warren and TD Jakes in the soup also. Nobody could accuse them of being Bible scholars. I’m amazed that Dr. Maier was invited. If I were hm, I’d have showed up just to see the direction things were going. I doubt that the wise men showing up at Christmas is the most egregious error. When the Bible is morphed into drama, something is lost, and a lot is added.

    Rick Warren’s version of the flood narrative is that Noah, who was driven by knowing his purpose in life was to make God smile (isn’t everyone’s?), did just that. And so God smiled and then used him to save the world. That’s enough for me.

  18. I arrived at one of my churches this morning to find a hand-written poster encouraging the church to watch this mini-series. I took it down, but I appreciate knowing that I can direct my members who ask me about this series to a good review.

  19. What a joke.
    This “show” was more of a platform to sell advertisement to and
    Here’s an idea, use two hours each Sunday till Easter and maybe there after to read The Bible as a family and get the real meaning.

  20. @Joe Strieter #23

    I said, “Rick Warren’s version of the flood narrative is that Noah, who was driven by knowing his purpose in life was to make God smile (isn’t everyone’s?), did just that. And so God smiled and then used him to save the world. That’s enough for me.”

    So, we watched a bit of the Moses-confronting-Pharaoh story. I could not believe my ears when Pharaoh (who looked like Yul Brynner) asked Moses, “Why…?” and Moses replied, “God saved me for a purpose.” So, now we know that Moses had a purpose-driven life! Rick Warren strikes again! But, I watched just a bit more. The angel of death scenes looked just like left-overs from the fog that killed the firstborn in “The Ten Commandments.” And the wall of water looked familiar, also. I was waiting for a cameo by Cecil B. DeMille, a la Alfred Hitchcock.

    The canned computer music is awful.

  21. Mr. Pasco is correct. One of the worst productions I’ve ever seen of a Biblical nature. They didn’t get hardly anything right. Everything was corrupted. Reading the Bible is a far better use of time.

  22. Very disappointing indeed. Glad I taped “Wicked Tuna” and “Mudcats”…

  23. The battle scenes seemed to show up again in the Vikings show that followed the Bible show. Also, Ragnar, the Viking protagonist, seemed to share that odd little smile that Moses wore. Ragnar appears to be purpose-driven as well. Maybe in a slightly different direction, but still . . . .

    Kind of got a kick out of watching two consecutive shows that sought to appeal to both my spiritual and my ethnic identity. But, just wait, both Moses and Ragnar will turn out to be extraterrestrial aliens.

  24. @backinthefold #30

    “Also, Ragnar, the Viking protagonist, seemed to share that odd little smile that Moses wore.”

    Yeah, I wondered, “What’s with that smile on Moses’ face?” also. It detracted from the persona. I didn’t see all of the Moses-Pharaoh confrontation, so I’m wondering if Moses said, “Let my people go,” and if the reason for letting them go was given (“so they can worship God”). I also thought the crowd leaving Egypt was bit smallish, but that’s just nit-picking. “I have a purpose” was enough to ruin things for me. Sheesh!!

  25. In the part about Lot in Sodom, never once was homosexuality shown as a part of the sinfulness of the city… how politically correct of them!

  26. Per usual, secularists are using tv to make their case. Ignoring what makes the Bible actually interesting, God intervening in the lives of men, all so they can live without consequences.

  27. that is why, we should stay in bile study. i need help i teaching my daughter right from wrong.

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