The History Channel premiered The Bible on Sunday, March 3, 2013. This is a five-part series and 10-hour docudrama produced by Mark Burnett and his wife and actress, Roma Downey. Mark states that the goal of the film “Is to breathe fresh visual life into the sacred text- the Bible,” because it’s “the book that changed the world”. And as the Biblical text is explored, we see such significant episodes as Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
As expected, I was pleased with some portions of the first episode, but disappointed with others. I’d recommend watching it if you haven’t already, but it’s certainly beneficial to know the Biblical passages beforehand so that you know where the film deviates from the text. Plenty of creative license was taken, and that’s fine when retelling a story- so long as it doesn’t detract from Scripture, which it often did.
Some general criticisms would include the accuracy of the events that were portrayed, the amount of time available to do justice to the actual historical events, the portrayal of certain characters, and the portrayal of God and His characteristics.
To be fair, even though ten hours is a good chunk of time, it’s just not enough to produce an epic story of this nature and meet or exceed expectations. In fact it would be nearly impossible to find anyone who could produce the entire Bible in ten hours and satisfy all critics. So, from that perspective, I’d say it was satisfactory. The director and producer did manage to create a concise history, and I believe they achieved their goal, but I think they made some unnecessary sacrifices along the way.
The Genesis event was extremely brief- at least for my liking, as was the account of Noah; the entire account was told in just five minutes and leaves little room for criticism. As a creationist, however, I’d certainly like to have seen some kind of visual reference to dinosaurs, especially on Noah’s Ark, but it wasn’t meant to be.
The story of Abraham, on the other hand, was given plenty of time to develop, but I was disappointed that the Word of God wasn’t always audible; there were times it seemed as if it was just a figment of Abraham’s imagination, which was odd.
Some accuracy was lost when Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. In the Biblical text two servants went with them, and the four of them went on a three day journey with a donkey, but in the film it was only Abraham and Isaac, and they traveled a short distance to where the sacrifice would take place. And Sarah, sensing that Abraham was going to sacrifice her son, ran after them in desperation to see if she could rescue him. This removed some of the impact from the actual event. For example, Moses told his servants to “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” It was as if Moses had faith that he and Isaac would both return, but this aspect was missing.
Entire events were skipped or glossed over, such as the accounts of Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and the twelve tribes of Israel. The story picks up again with the Israelites being enslaved in Egypt where Moses was a young man in Pharaoh’s household. We see him sparring with the future Pharaoh before killing an Egyptian, and then fleeing into the desert for forty years. Later, when it was time for Moses to confront Pharaoh, he went boldly, which is counter to the Biblical account. And when Moses parted the Red Sea the water rained down upon them like there was a storm, but the Bible tells us that the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, so the impact of God’s power seemed minimized.
Perhaps the last thing that bothered me was that God’s holiness wasn’t depicted. For example, Scripture tells us that when Moses went to look at the burning bush, God told him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground, but the film left this part out. It also skipped the part where Moses’ face was radiant after seeing God’s glory pass before him. Either of these would have tremendously enhanced the film.
Overall I liked the story that was told, but wish it was more accurate and true to Scripture, even with the allowance of creative license and a tight time frame. Some people won’t like that the Bible has been visualized at all, which is a legitimate criticism as well, however I do enjoy visualizing God’s Word in my own imagination, and therefore I also like seeing how others depict these same events using their own creativity, and this was no exception.