The Bible on The History Channel: Final

So here’s a question: Would you watch The Bible on The History Channel again? I can definitely say I would not. As far as I am concerned it missed its mark–at least the mark I set for it as a potentially viable, useful, inspiring account of the Bible. It was needlessly violent, did not offer any real purpose behind the violence it did show (particularly violence that was not merely incidental and not tied to the furthering of Israel, etc.). God was conspicuously absent, and frankly it was kind of boring.1 Now, on to the final installment.

Roma Downey & Mark Burnett

Roma Downey & Mark Burnett (Photo credit: Sharon Graphics)

Don’t Bore Us With Details!

There were the usual liberties taken, with the story.

Not surprisingly, the passion followed a traditionally Catholic viewpoint and Mary the mother of Jesus was quite active, beyond scripture of course.

After the crucifixion, Mary the mother of Jesus is sent off to Galilee by none other than Mary Magdalene. Of course, Jesus’ mother was in the Upper Room at Pentecost (it’s not likely that she went all the way back to Galilee and back to Jerusalem, and of course she is not shown in the Upper Room in the Burnett/Downey version.

The Ascension was lame and incomplete. Peter looks at his fellow disciples ( and Mary Magdalene of course) and says, “We’ve got work to do!” No awe. No wonder.

Kudos for making an effort at depicting the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. There were actually 120 in the Upper Room and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. The reaction of the disciples after the experience was sort of  a “Hey, that was a cool experience!” Peter’s sermon was non-existent.

Mary Magdalene was prominent once again, even replacing John as Peter’s partner in the account of the crippled beggar’s healing in Acts 3 and 4. The account overwhelmingly is about Peter and John: the Burnett/Downey version was largely Peter and Mary.

The martyrdom of Stephen was anticlimactic; almost an add-on. It marked the beginning of the scattering of the church.

Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road was thoroughly botched. B&D had him shouting “No!” to the risen Lord! In fact, he was portrayed as maniacal before his conversion and referred to as Paul before and after (every Sunday Schooler knows better! Why not the world in on it?).

The beheading of James the brother of John was shown, proceeded by a fabricated story of fear and dispersion (the dispersion actually began after Stephen’s martyrdom five chapters earlier), and Mary Magdalene once again the voice of wisdom keeping the disciples straight. No sense of Holy Spirit boldness moving in the disciples, only in Mary M.

Too much was made of Peter, though his imprisonment after the beheading of James is ignored), and Thomas’s doubt was overblown. For Thomas seeing was believing, but not in the Burnett/Downey rendition (again due to the underplaying of Jesus’s actual bodily resurrection).

I sort of liked the summary scene depicting the various directions the apostles took as the Church began to grow and spread.

We see Paul as he is trying to minister to the Church that is afraid of him and then we see Paul reach out to Luke saying “I can’t do this alone!” while Barnabas is “chopped liver” or something, even though he was instrumental in helping Paul gain credibility in the Church. Paul was certainly not alone and the New Testament doesn’t depict such a needy Paul.

And then what is this appearance of Jesus to Peter? More “touched by an angel” type story telling. And then the angry “seizure” of Peter on behalf of Cornelius. Entirely misses the true essence of what really happened! I have to wonder what is going on in Burnett and Downey’s minds when they simply decide to tell the story differently than is written, even changing the actual details to form a different story! O course, the events that took place at Cornelius’s house were completely truncated to leave out the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them as Peter was preaching, an important detail.

The treatment of Paul in prison is good and his confidence at the end is inspiring. And, ignoring the reduction of the Book of Revelation down to something very ordinary, and Jesus’ last statement “May the grace of the Lord be with all God’s people!” (a possible nod to people outside of the Christian faith?), the final words of Jesus telling of His coming, etc. were effective.

The Resurrection

On a more serious note, I felt that the resurrection was not dealt with full on. It was treated as though somehow Jesus was “alive” but the story never really emphasized that He had risen from the dead. In fact in one place we hear Peter declaring, “He did not die! He is still with us!” I assume the B&D Peter simply meant that it was as though he had never died, and that His influence was still with them. Lame. The scene at the tomb was so sedate. In fact, coupled with their reaction at the ascension, you have to wonder what it is going to take to impress these people?


Oh, there’s plenty more. I do not have time to trace out the ways in which Peter was “pope-ified,” but you can watch it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s out on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow.

1 Any story can be told imaginatively and in an inspiring way that leaves the listener changed or at least informed. I don’t feel the BHC did that.

Categories: History Channel Bible

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2 replies

  1. I have been following your blog for the duration of the miniseries and have picked up on many discrepancies and learned even more from your notes. Thank you Pastor Scott! A few of my “moments” of disappointment were how they depicted many of the characters not in the way the Bible describes. Moses (making him look crazy), Abraham was too young, the ninja angels shocked me, Samson (I’ll just leave it at that), and especially that they did not quote Scripture with the angel visiting Mary. Calling Paul, Saul before he was renamed Paul by Jesus, and in general my biggest disappointment was the lack of Scripture quoted at all. I would NOT ever watch this series again. In fact, I tried to DVR it from the first night and for some reason my DVR did not cooperate and I am actually happy about that! Perhaps the greatest blessing that came of it was my Mom watched with me and I was at least able to tell her what was wrong with what was being shown. More reasons we should know our Bible and read it every day!!


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