The History Channel Bible

I heard about the History Channel’s broadcast of a Bible mini-series through predictable channels – the buzz through evangelical church culture that we should all watch this so that major media outlets would produce more like it.

I’m not moved by such marketing ploys. I did feel some sense that I SHOULD watch the first installment so as to be able to responsibly review what I believed others would be watching. But I didn’t even do that.

However, my friend Bill is a much more fair and honest critic of culture and of the contemporary religious scene than I. He has done us a favor and issued a generally favorable review of the first segment of this series. Bill has the background and grace to do this well. His wisest point was his reminder that we live in a biblically illiterate age, so that ANYTHING that in a reasonably accurate way tells the bible’s stories is going to be a helpful thing.

Much more critical was a review published in the NY Times. Interesting to me was that this review did not, as we might expect, take shots at the series’ attempt to be biblically faithful. Rather, the reviewer felt that the series falls short of really capturing the grand flow and passion of the whole bible. The series gives snapshots of biblically reported events but fails to root them in an overall narrative. That seems like a fair critique, as Bill as well compares the series to the bible story books of our collective youth.

The NY Times reviewer notes that

By taking on the entire Bible, even at 10 hours in length, Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey force themselves into a clumsy “Bible’s greatest hits” approach. This doesn’t serve the source material — so rich in interconnections across time — very well, and it doesn’t make for very involving television.

and then suggests

Those looking for something that makes them feel the power of the Bible would do better to find a good production of “Godspell” or “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Well, in my mind, perhaps not. Rather those looking for something that makes them feel the power of the bible arising from is marvelous interconnections across time would do better to find a good church and a faithful pastor/preacher whose goal it is to do just that.

9 thoughts on “The History Channel Bible

  1. The tv was on but I watched with only half my full attention. I think it’s good if the series contributes to people’s Bible literacy. At the same time, I was bothered by some minor details that were not true to the Bible’s narrative. For example: After Abraham releases Issac from the altar, Sarah suddenly appears, running up the mountain. Genesis says that father and son traveled a long distance from home, and nothing about Sarah being on the scene. Yes, a minor detail, but people unfamiliar with the story will be sure it happened exactly that way: “I saw it on tv!”

  2. I didn’t watch it. My mom’s biggest complaint is that, while the show mentioned Abraham’s faithfulness to God, it never mentioned God’s faithfulness to us.

      1. Gus

        There was no need to mention God’s faithfulness. It was hugely portrayed in the opening of the Red Sea!

  3. gus

    I watched it, but agree with Randy, that a good preacher would relate the Bible to the hearer much better than the latest attempt to illustrate it.

    1. But even here my ambivalence shows. The preacher needs to show how the parts interrelate and point to Jesus, but that is aided if the hearer has some basic insight into the parts.

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