The Corny and Cliche
A Review of “The Bible” series on the History Channel (Episode 1)
With all the chatter recently surrounding the new “Bible” series premiering on the History Channel, I vowed to pen a blog each week addressing the good, the bad, and the theologically ugly aspects of what I wrongly assumed would be a documentary of Biblical events. Instead, what you and I got, is a fast paced (tonight’s episode spanned some 2500 years of history) drama featuring certain primary characters. All this to say, my blog will be very much different than I had originally imagined.
Obviously, I had to smirk as the opening scene of “The Bible” mini-series depicted the bald-headed Noah, apparently from the highlands of Scotland, commemorating the days of creation, the fall of humanity and Cain’s slaying of Abel, all the while running to and fro to patch leaks in his big boat. Shrugging off my judgmentalism, I forced myself to swallow the reality that this production was, no doubt, going to be cheesy and cliche in parts. So, with my diet sweet tea in hand, I settled in for the two hours of Biblical drama.
Having considered myself to be somewhat of a Scriptural fanatic, I was shocked to find that Abraham could channel his inner William Wallace when his boy Lot was being tortured by…umm, who were those people again? Furthermore, I was astounded to witness the two angels of the Lord, one moment bloodied by a few angry men, and the next moment opening a can on the wicked, though hapless citizens of Sodom. And, apparently, Moses and Pharoah’s kid were bitter rivals in their youth, and God wanted to see that rivalry burst into full flame by calling Moses back to Egypt after 40 years – thus the symbolism of the burning bush (a scene in the series which left out almost every key moment of God’s conversation with, what should have been, a bare-footed Moses). Yea, I seemingly missed all of the above stated elements in my studies of Genesis and the first half of Exodus.
Ok, so I understand that there will be liberties taken when depicting the story of the Bible. While I am not comfortable with these twists and turns I must tolerate them if I am ever going to make it through this series.
So, what of the theology communicated through this first episode? Herein lies the heart of why I record my thoughts for your enjoyment (and if you think this blog is laborious I have no idea how you made it through those two hours of History Channel TV last night) – but anyway…
From what I saw in episode one, there were no glaring theological pitfalls. I was super bummed that the entire stories of Jacob and Esua, as well as Joseph’s journey from slavery to power were completely left out. I was also looking forward with amusement to seeing Abraham call his 90 year old pageant-worthy wife his sister twice (to protect himself) and then see his son Isaac do the same thing years later. I didn’t much like seeing Lot depicted as a weakling, though I was annoyed with his wife and kind of enjoyed watching the transformation from human to salt statue.
In all seriousness, my biggest issue with the first episode – which will no doubt be my primary objection throughout – is that Jesus is the central character and hero of all the Bible. From the opening lines of Scripture we see Jesus moving in creation. We hear the prediction of His triumph in Genesis 3. We witness a vivid illustration of His salvation in the Ark of Noah. We understand the significance of Isaac, the willing and obedient son, laying down to be sacrificed by his father. We ponder the sobering reality of passover – the blood of the Lamb causes the angel of death to pass over us. Though there were references to these truths in the episode, very few viewers will come away with the realization that this is indeed the point and purpose of these events. Every one of them points forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. I know, I should be content with the fact that the History Channel didn’t completely butcher the Bible (yet); but, alas, I am left wanting more. I want the whole truth to get out.
So, my encouragement to each of you, is to intentionally discuss these prophecies with others who are watching the show. Needless to say, there are millions of people who don’t really know Jesus who will be tuning in and learning from this series. Seize the opportunity to share how all of Scripture points to our Savior (Luke 24:25-27). Then keep watching this series and reading this blog. I’m sure we’ll trip up on something crazy sooner or later.