The Bible is getting a sequel.
U.S. television network NBC said on Monday that it will produce a follow-up to the History Channel’s popular miniseries The Bible, which topped ratings when it premiered in March.
The sequel, which does not have an expected air or production date, has the working title A.D.: Beyond the Bible and picks up in the time following Jesus Christ’s death.
It is the first announced project of Comcast Corp-owned NBC’s long-from programming initiative.
My purpose for reviewing History Channel’s five-part The Bible has centered on the ongoing need for Christians, and my Presbyterian tribe especially, to tell the full and accurate story of God’s dealing with human beings through history. The question in my mind has been whether this television series has helped or hurt our efforts, whether there is anything of use in a Christian education setting, and whether it has been a faith-builder or a doubt-caster. To the last question, I would have to say that the episodes have steadily pointed toward a God with power, purpose, and goodness. Miracles have not been dismissed with alternative natural explanations. God has been shown to intervene benevolently. And I am happy to say, in Episode Five the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not nuanced in anyway: the tomb is empty upon Mary’s inspection and Jesus appears to the disciples as the Scriptures say. That fact alone, not to mention the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, propels the disciples into evangelistic ministry, as well it should!
Makes me wonder if anybody watching this came to their own inevitable conclusion: if Jesus rose from the dead, he must be Lord and Savior, worthy to be worshiped, obeyed, and proclaimed! But I get ahead of myself . . .
Good television and good storytelling involves, among other things, setting up a conflict and working it out to its conclusion. How we tell the gospel story—or more importantly, how the Bible tells the story—builds suspense by illustrating the problem of human rebellion against God, exposing the conflict generated by that problem, and finding resolution. So often in evangelical presentations of the gospel, we cut right to the chase with an invitation (demand?) to seek forgiveness of one’s sin by believing in Jesus Christ. But without a backstory, that invitation can come across as meaningless to the postmodern or very possibly be misunderstood.
This is why New Tribes Mission, connecting with unreached people groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Pacific islands, does not present Jesus Christ as its first Bible story. Missionaries spend weeks if not months directing a dramatic presentation of the Old Testament, much as History Channel’s The Bible has done this month, from the very beginning. In a long, fruitful conversation with NTM’s Director of Field Ministries, Don Pederson, this morning, I asked him what the greatest benefits of a narrative/chronological presentation of Scripture are to the biblically illiterate. After decades of practice and research, he offered three primary advantages NTM has observed:
A narrative approach enables a change in worldview based on the character of God. “In the beginning, God created . . .” establishes God’s holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, truth, power, and authority overall creation. Belief in Christ starts here with a shift from, say, animism or pantheism to monotheism.
Narrative establishes an Old Testament framework for understanding otherwise cryptic references in the New Testament, like “the Messiah,” or “atonement,” or even “In the beginning . . .”
After learning the full message starting with Creation, those who confess faith in Jesus Christ give testimonies that demonstrate a better understanding of the gospel, adoption of salvation by faith (not works righteousness), a full grasp of costly grace, and Christian discipleship relying on the power of God.
Read more at http://wordtolife.wordpress.com/
Continuing in our evaluation of the five-part series The Bible on History Channel, Episode Four weaves story threads artfully if not completely accurately. The span of time shortens now, from hundreds of years to just two or three, the period of Jesus’ public ministry. There are some great scenes that could be used as clips for a Sunday school class, but as usual, I have some quibbles about details. Today I will explore the “ministry and miracles” (M & M) part, which appeared in the first half of the episode. In my next post, I will analyze the depiction of Christ’s last week.
The major M & M scenes covered in this episode (in this order) are these: Telling the parable of the sower, forgiving and healing the paralytic lowered from the roof, healing the leper. We see him overturning the money-changers’ tables, calling the tax-collector Matthew to discipleship, preaching the Beatitudes to a multitude, feeding the 5,000, teaching the Lord’s Prayer, and redeeming the woman caught in adultery. There is the stormy sailing on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus walking on water, calling Peter to join him. At this point, not at the beginning of his ministry as depicted in Luke 4, Jesus reads the Isaiah 61 scroll in his home synagogue, announcing the purpose of his ministry. [This appears to be the chosen bridge between his Galilean ministry and the conflict with religious elites in Jerusalem.] We then hear that John the Baptist has been beheaded, and the political stakes are elevated.
Not a bad sampling of Jesus’ life and work!
Episode Three of History Channel’s The Bible makes the leap from Old Testament to New Testament times. The fast-forward is appropriate to the feeling one has as one turns the page from Malachi’s prophecy in the Old to the gospel of Matthew in the New. What happened? Circumstances have changed dramatically.
We enter the world dominated by Rome. Yes, the producers choose to illustrate the desecration of the Temple in an extra-biblical way (my readers may be able to help me find the source for this, if it exists beyond the producers’ imaginations). And yes, the emphasis is again on violence, which makes for stimulating TV (I guess for some; I am getting tired of it myself). But there is no question of the sea-change that has taken place, and Rome is a brutal regime with its power in evidence everywhere.
When I visited the Holy Land in 1987, I was bowled over by the overwhelming presence of Herod. The Romans were builders, and they built to last: aqueducts, palaces, monuments, fortresses, seaports . . . and, of course, the Temple for the Jews of which only one wall is left now. It is fitting for the New Testament to open with this observation, even though the Scriptures do not focus on that history very much. Some think the brutality and disgusting character of Herod may be over-acted in this production, but I do not hold that opinion. A guy who weighs well over 300 pounds and has to be lifted by mini-crane into and out of his swimming pool, who has his family members killed in cold blood, and who is paranoid enough about his power to murder male babies must be portrayed in the most vicious and cunning way possible. We are not disappointed in this case.
Continuing our examination of the History Channel’s five-part series The Bible, the third episode that aired last night offered highs and lows, and overall I was disappointed. Serious factual errors marred the Exile narrative, and after studying 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah and Daniel again today I have finally sorted out the problems. I understand the difficult choices that must be made in order to condense the story, but the episode entitled “Hope” gave wrong information. So, in order to equip my friends hoping to use the material for a Sunday school class, I offer my comments and corrections.
The period covered by this episode starts with the reign of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, whose story is found in 2 Kings 24:15–25:7. It concludes with Jesus’ call to the fisherman Peter to follow him and “change the world.” Yikes! This is a span of about 600 years, much of which is called the “Intertestamental Period” (the four hundred years between the last word in the Old Testament and the opening of the New in approximately 4 BC).
The first segment depicting the fall of Jerusalem at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar and the exile was generally all right factually. It is the tale-end of a bitter and violent history, ending with the monarchy of Zedekiah. The serious problems with chronology begin with the second segment featuring Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) as the central characters.
Monday I gave a rundown on the plot elements and poetic licenses issued for the second installment of The Bible on History Channel. Today let’s go back to a theme that was evident in the first episode and see if it carries through the second. That would be the voice of God: what God said, to whom, and how they knew it was God talking. In the first episode, you remember that Noah, Abraham, and Moses all reported hearing God give them specific instructions, which in all cases were preposterous but necessary for God’s plan to unfold. In week two, as the Israelites stand on the verge of claiming God’s promise, they contemplate the taking of Jericho. It looks like an impossible task, but the two spies who gather intelligence bring back the report that “their walls are strong, but their hearts are not.” With the confidence that their victory is sure, nevertheless, the leaders of Israel must still make a decision about how to approach the formidable structure of Jericho’s walls.
God sends “a commander of the Lord’s army,” presumably an angel, dressed for battle to tell Joshua what to do. The coming battle will be a psychological one, in which God will split the rock himself. All the warriors have to do is walk around the walls of Jericho, shouting praise to God, blowing their horns, and standing. They follow instructions to the letter, and the city falls into their hands.
Read more at Bringing the Word to Life.
In my review of The Bible: Episode One, I mentioned the voice of God as quiet and young-sounding. Noah, Abraham and Moses unmistakably heard God’s voice and distinguished it from their own inner voices. Consequently, they gave great weight to the message they heard. Sarah needed a little convincing—I mean, if your spouse came home and said, “God spoke to me today, and we’re moving to a place he will show us when we get there,” what are you going to say? “Are you feeling all right? Are you having delusions?” It’s just not the sort of thing one expects or one claims with a sound mind. And in all these cases, God had been silent a long time, and yet the hearers were convinced of the Voice’s origin.
By the Rev. Mary Holder Naegeli
Last night’s opening installment of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s The Bible on the History Channel was alternately inspiring and curious. For a skeptic like me, who believes that commercial television has a poor track record of rendering of the Scriptures faithfully, there were many pleasant surprises in this production. A few missteps, too, but all in all I give it a positive rating while observing with interest some of the editorial choices.
It is the making of those choices that interests me as a Christian educator and Presbyterian teaching pastor. If I were to design a curriculum to unveil The Bible in ten hours, what would I include and what would I leave out? What a torture to even think about it! So this review must begin with an affirmation that two Christians in Hollywood would want to take a stab at it at all, with all the risks that undoubtedly entailed.
Three main characters are presented in the episode entitled “Beginnings”: Noah, Abraham, and Moses. The story starts with Noah in the ark with his family and all those animals in close quarters. As the ride get rough, he encourages his family with the telling of the creation story. The photography and effects here were quite good and awe-inspiring. The description of the Fall and degradation of humanity is swift, but it gets the point across that human depravity had necessitated a rescue of one righteous family and a restart after the flood.