The History Channel’s The Bible Parts 5 & 6: The Absent God

funny-History-Channel-Dr-EvilIt’s no exaggeration when I say I’ve been mulling over in my head for a great deal of time exactly how I was going to write this. There are so many ways in which this miniseries is just plain wrong that it was difficult to figure out which angle to take. When watching this latest installment of History’s series “The Bible”, I probably woke my sleeping daughters at least three or four times yelling at the TV.

The easy and obvious tack is to pick apart each detail of Scripture that is incorrectly portrayed. There certainly are a lot of them. In the Daniel portion there is a confusion of Darius with Cyrus. The timing of the arrival of the Magi seems to be off when compared with Matthew’s Gospel. When Joseph hears the truth about the Child in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, it is not in a dream. When John the Baptist sees Jesus, he sure looks like he’s meeting Him for the first time. And when John the Baptist is beheaded, there is no wedding, daughter, request, or silver platter. But these are details, and though they’re important, these oversights fall by the wayside when the real issues are examined. There were also a couple of artistic licenses taken — the snake in the wilderness during the Temptation comes to mind. But again, one expects a certain amount of license even for a dramatization of the Bible.

I had a couple of sheets of paper with scribbles and arrows and a bunch of underlines, trying to make sense of how to present some of the more glaring problems with this presentation. No one’s faith is going to be shaken by a mistake over Darius, or by Magi showing up to the manger. But there are a number of issues that must be noted, and many of them undercut the major teaching of Holy Scripture. As Lutherans, we believe that the Bible speaks two words to men: God’s Law that convicts us of sin and shows us the need for salvation, and His Gospel that shows us how He has saved us in Christ. For us, it all comes down to this teaching about justification. Now, it should come as no surprise that a program put together by a modalist, a new-ager, and many Christians who hold to erring confessions of the Faith will not be Lutheran. I hope no one expected this series to even feel Lutheran, because there was never a shot at it. At the same time, I think most of the truly glaring errors can be reduced to this: God is simply missing.

I wish I had a really eloquent way to say it, but I don’t. God just seems to be away from His desk, asleep at the switch, or completely aloof from His creation. Take Nebuchadnezzar. The conversion God managed to pull off with him was truly amazing. Daniel records the song he sings after the Lord preserved the lives of the three young men in the furnace: “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:3) Yet, History makes no mention of his conversion. No God at work here.

In the account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, Matthew’s account (Matthew 3:13-17) is full of references to the divinity of Jesus and the activity of the triune God . After John protests that he ought to be the one being baptized, Jesus responds, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). The Son is obedient to the Father’s will, and will remain obedient. The Father, then, calls down from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and comes to rest on Him (Matthew 3:16-17). And yet, nothing of the sort is shown in the miniseries. The divinity of Jesus is not so much as hinted at, and after Jesus emerges from the waters of the Jordan the only thing portrayed is swirling clouds and deafening silence.

Next, we find Jesus wandering out into the wilderness, but not being led by the Spirit. It is as if the makers of this miniseries go out of their way to excise any divine activity. So Jesus is tempted by the devil, but the response to the temptation reveals what the makers of the series think about the Word of God. Even Jesus Himself uses Holy Scripture to refute Satan’s lies (Matthew 4:1-11). But in this series, Jesus is speaking the words anew, never prefacing them with the word “It is written”. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). But the lesson the viewer takes away from this, I guess, is that when we are tempted by Satan’s lies we should try to be clever just like Jesus. Oh, and not to be missed is when Satan tosses a stone to Jesus and in the tossing it becomes bread. Do they really think Satan has the ability to create? Again, no God active in His Word.

The scene fast-forwards to John the Baptist in prison and about to be beheaded. As mentioned previously, John is not speaking against Herod’s sin (Matthew 14:1-12). Rather, he is preaching — but he is preaching an alien gospel: “He [Jesus] will bring a new age of righteousness and justice. His [Jesus’] power will draw all men to a new world.” The underlying worldview isn’t too hard to detect; the very words “new age” are coming out of John’s mouth! This obviously has nothing to do with the justification of the sinner before God. Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28), but that’s not why the Jesus of this series came. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any real need for God becoming Man, and certainly no need for that Man to hang lifeless on a tree for the sins of the world.

Then we see Jesus calling His first disciple, Peter. I must say that this portrayal was flat-out bizarre. Along with what Chris Roseborough calls “Vidal Sassoon Jesus” (due to a first-century Jew having hair to rival a conditioner commercial), this was a Jesus who looks like Luke Wilson, acts like Woody Harrelson, and speaks like Rick Warren. And he’s doing that oh-so-pious looking-slightly-upward-all-the-time thing. But He walks out to Peter’s boat and says, “Peter, just give me an hour, and I will give you a whole new life” — text from the Holy Bible, Purpose-Driven Edition.

Lastly, as Jesus and Peter are on the boat, Jesus tells Peter that they are going to “change the world.” Again, this is the purpose-driven Jesus one would expect from a production that uses Rick Warren for expert advice. Rather than speak of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10), saving the world through Himself (John 3:17), revealing the Father (Matthew 11:27), preaching the good news of the kingdom (Luke 4:43), doing the will of the Father (John 6:38), proclaiming the year of thee Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19), giving life (John 10:10), or fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), the creators of this series choose to turn Jesus the Savior and remake Him into Jesus the Generic Revolutionary.

In summary, it was most disheartening to see the total absence of explicit divine activity in the world. The Gospels are chock full of it, but instead we’re treated to seemingly random snippets from the life of a long-haired visionary who has some vague notion of his purpose. As others have pointed out, there was little reason to expect anything else, given the kind of “experts” that were consulted, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing when you actually get to see it.

About Pastor Daniel Hinton

Pastor Hinton is associate pastor and headmaster of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, having majored in poultry science, and of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was ordained on Holy Trinity 2011. He has been married to Amanda for fourteen years, and has five daughters and one son. He grew up in the ELCA, and left in 2004 over issues of scriptural authority. It was because of a faithful Lutheran campus ministry that he was exposed to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. As headmaster of Trinity Lutheran School, which has been open since 1892 and is accredited by the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, he spends a great deal of time reading old books and teaching his students old and beautiful things.


The History Channel’s The Bible Parts 5 & 6: The Absent God — 61 Comments

  1. @Nicholas #47 pg 1
    @Carl Vehse #48

    Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

    Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor… Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:10, 13)

    “CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is when you attack the ISSUE and seek to
    resolve the issue in a healthy manner.

    DESTRUCTIVE antagonism is when you attack the PERSON and
    seek to destroy and demean him or her.”      – Pr Likeness  

  2. After enough times trying to respond to trolls like John Rixe, “Eh”, et al, to no avail, all you can really do is LOL! Let the moderators deal with them.

    I do hope the moderators will do an IP check on “Travis,” as he just may be the same person as “Eh” and “searching” turned out to be, as was evident from their comments alone.

  3. EH :
    My question is of all the things that you could be ridiculing and tearing apart you choose this. So if you’ve started watching this and stopped what holsom Godly show did you watch instead. I don’t read anything that resembles Christa Love.

    What’s “holsom” precious? And who is Christa Love? LOL

  4. Eh :
    I’d like to encourage you to to focus on what’s most important Christ and his redeeming Blood. Not prooving your doctrine over Salvation and Love!!! After salvation for sinners comes. then the rest God will teach.

    No comment necessary.

    And there is nothing in the continued ravings of Eh/searching/Travis that hasn’t already been answered in the multiple posts about “the Bobble” or in the previous responses to trolls like “Eh.”

  5. “Those making comments are reminded to temper their words and deal with the substance of the debate, not the personalities involved.” – BJS Moderator

  6. I’d hope would be able to understand my words even with a few misspellings. That’s what I get commenting with my phone.

    Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise. (Proverbs 13:10 NLT)

    But you have failed to answer any of my questions. Explain to me how you are showing Christs love.

    That’s fine if you want to attack i really don’t care. I’m not apart of you Lutheran group or your church more would I ever be. I’m not saying any of you have been wrong with checking for Biblical accuracy against this show but what I am saying there’s no point ripping this apart when we are to be out sharing the Gospel not upholding doctrinal tradition leave that to the Pharisees. Christs love is most important sharing his word. So strike me done on your blog I don’t care I live in a relationship with Christ I don’t need you’d approval. I pray your relationship will strengthen with Him as well and not your stronghold to your tradition.

  7. @Eh #7

    Pr. Hinton answered your questions when it still appeared that you were here to ask sincere questions (before you were discovered to be sockpuppeting). Pretending that your questions haven’t been answered further demonstrates insincerity.

    Pastor Daniel Hinton :

    searching :Shouldn’t you be happy that some of the stories from your Bible are being shown on TV? A TV SHOW.. not a documentary?? I’ve read many people commenting on all this…. and I don’t get it.

    First, thank you for your comment, and I pray God would bless you in your seeking, that you would find Him and know Him. But in response, to your question: I’m actually not at all happy about this portrayal, because these simply are not the accounts found in Holy Scripture.
    There is a single story told in the Bible: A loving God created a perfect world, and man plunged it into sin by his sin and rebellion. This loving God reached out time after time to His people, promising blessings and redemption from their sin. His people rebelled, and God brought them back to repent and believe. Finally, when the time was right, He sent His Son into the world to save the whole world from its sin. The Son was perfectly obedient and His death won the redemption of all mankind. Jesus rose from the dead, and those who are in Christ will rise again also to live forever with Him in eternal peace in the Resurrection.
    History’s series “The Bible” doesn’t seem to be telling a single story at all; it seems more like Forrest Gump, where the protagonist stumbles from anecdote to anecdote with nothing to connect them all. Look, I know it may seem nitpicky to you that we’re dissecting this TV series. But as you point out, Jesus is the only way. That’s why any competing claims must be demonstrated to be false. Portrayals like History’s are especially dangerous because they so closely resemble the Truth. But it’s not as if they got someone’s hair wrong, or messed up a date here or there, or got events out of order. They missed the whole point of the whole Bible. The real Jesus is the Son of God, obediently fulfilling the Father’s will to save man from his sin. In this TV series, Jesus is a long-haired rebel who has a “purpose” to “change the world”.
    This is not a small matter; it’s everything. It’s not just a matter of life-and-death; it’s far more important still. Since Jesus is the only way to the Father, it’s important that His story (the Gospel) be told as it truly is. Let’s say that insulin is the only way to treat certain types of diabetes. Would you correct a doctor who prescribed aspirin to treat those types of diabetes instead of insulin? I would! It really doesn’t matter what his intentions were; the solution to the disease is insulin and not aspirin. Or consider a situation more analogous to this one: what if the doctor were administering insulin, but insulin that was contaminated with toxins? Would you still correct him? I would! Again, I really don’t care about the intent if the outcome is going to damage someone. That’s the situation here. As I said in the post, there is simply no God in this show. The best that can be said is that in this series God is like the Great Pumpkin: Lots of people talk about him but no one sees him or sees any evidence whatsoever that he even exists. This is as opposite from the real Bible as anything could ever be. That’s not nitpicky; it’s care and concern that what everyone — Christian, seeker, and skeptic alike — is watching will not teach them about a false Christ or a false god.

  8. If you’d like me to explain to you how me and my wife were both making comments without either of us knowing just ask. I live on a large farm with multiple homes with wifi connection I was in our shop working when I stopped to take a break and commented on this blog at the same time in unaware my wife was commenting with her own agenda back at my house. I figured out what had happened when Paster sheer said what he did. You don’t need to know anymore. So if you want to continue to bad mouth a fellow Christian with your heartless assumptions be my guest you will be judged by your acts one day so do what you will.

  9. And Nicholas I’m still waiting for Your response to my earlier question you’ve made no effort to explain yourself except repeating what others have already said or you continue to bash others and point out misspelled words and other pointless attempts to disagree with me and others . tell me how my view is wrong and what your view on what I’ve asked is. How are you showing Christs Love. How are you being an over flowing vessel of Gods love and blessings to others it’s very hard to see that in what you’ve said here. I’ve agreed in many areas on your view of the show except that by standards of tv it was still good to watch. Lots of interest has spread because of it so lets use it to spread the gospel and be Christians. Not scold people because they liked the show.

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