Are You Watching 'The Bible?'

Are You Watching 'The Bible?'

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If you are, you have a lot of company. The History Channel's five-part miniseries The Bible has drawn huge ratings, beating out both network and cable competition on Sunday nights. And that was before the silly controversy over whether the actor picked to play Satan was picked because he looks like Barack Obama (oh, please) brought a wave of extra publicity. If anything, the audience should only grow, especially as the series moves into the New Testament, with a finale set for Easter Sunday.

Part of the reason for the ratings is that viewers have a degree of trust in the people behind the series. Producer Mark Burnett (Survivor) and his wife, Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel), are Christians who consulted with ministry leaders (including Focus on the Family President Jim Daly) during its development. So going in to the series, Christian viewers got strong signals of the producers' good intentions. That's not something they normally can expect from Hollywood.

Of course, presenting the Scriptures to a mainstream audience — in just 10 hours — is a big challenge. There's the problem of deciding what to include and what to leave out. There's the difficulty of presenting biblical concepts (e.g., the times when God commanded violence and the role of God's Old Testament prophets) to viewers who lack biblical literacy. There's the issue of whether it's OK to take dramatic license, and if so, how much.

From what I've seen so far, the show gets much more right than wrong, though it has weak points as well as strong ones. But I'll leave the reviews to you. Are you watching The Bible? What do you think of it?

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  • i didn't watch it because i don't have cable. but, the history channel panders to conservatives, so it's really just conservatives that are watching the show in droves. i don't think it's drawing in any new viewers outside of the typical demographic.

  • @syd: I respectfully disagree,  The History Channel does not pander to conservatives.  Especially when it comes to documentaries about Jesus or Christianity, they have Bible scholars (most who aren't even Christian) give their theories as to what "really" happened.  The mini-series, The Bible, takes a center-left approach.  The advisors for this project (T.D. Jakes, Joel Olsteen, Rick Warren, etc.) are not your mainstream conservative Protestant Christian pastors.  Still, The Bible mini-series sticks to what the Bible actually says, more or less.

  • I don't have cable (does anyone  age 20-40 have cable anymore?!), but I noticed that it hit the top 20 for ratings.  Sounds like it might be worth checking out on dvd....

  • Missed this past Sunday's episode, but I wasn't all that happy with it. A couple of issues come to mind:

    Sodom: Softpedaled. There were a few very brief cuts showing couples (both gay and straight) involved in public displays of affection, but overall the impression was that the Sodomites just wanted not to have visitors in their town rather than wanting to compel visitors in their town to collaborate with them in their sexual entertainment. This is the gay-friendly revisionist line.

    Samson: Blaxploitation or D. W. Griffith? We do not need to be encouraged to imagine a man of sub-Saharan origin as roaring like a gorilla and lusting insatiably after Caucasoid females, even if he is depicted as one of the good guys.

  • I tried watching like 5 minutes of the first episode I think, where Moses was in the street talking to someone. I know they are trying to go authentic and all with the language and tones and all, but I was just too bored with the tone and the verb-age of that dialog to keep watching. I figured if they were going to talk like that for five minutes everyone in the whole series probably would.

  • I don't plan to see it. I have read all the main stories so many times.

  • I purchased the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, which I've been enjoying.  I appreciate the logistics and years involved putting this together, I do wish the project well and am pleased it's finding success.  But I did find myself disappointed in the previews and subsequent reviews I've read. I may watch the blu-ray when it comes out, but I can just tell it never rises above "made for tv", and the project itself just isn't aiming for anything more than a product sold and distributed to Churches.  And it looks like a very modern evangelical take on things, which I don't find particularly challenging or satisfying.  But those are probably the very reasons it was funded in the first place.... doesn't mean I should feel obligated to watch or promote it though.

    There are big budget Biblical films coming in the next few years I'm looking forward to - Noah, and possibly two Moses projects.

  • Ok, here is what I think.  Personally, I am really enjoying The Bible series.  Being raised in a Christian home, my parents made sure that we knew all of the stories and parts of the Bible.  And so far, I have not seen anything that really wavers from the point of the stories.  The additional content that has been thrown in has not wavered to far from what is written in the Word.  People should realize that being 2013, in the times we live in, there are a lot worse things that people could be watching.  Besides, there are people that this series will touch and make more interested in getting a Bible and learning more, and even drawing non-believers in to going to church and turning their lives over to God.  I give it a 2 thumbs up rating myself.

  • I have been watching "The Bible" and I very much enjoy it. The best result that I have seen is that it makes me want to study the Word even more. In just about every scene I am questioning if they stayed true to God's Word so I end up watching it again with my bible in hand. Most of the scenes are pretty accurate. I have probably done a total of 30 extra minutes of bible study because of the curiosity that this series has stirred up. I am really excited for the next installment tonight and the last installment on Easter Sunday!

  • I watched about 20 minutes of the first episode...I guess if you don't expect an epic movie, it's ok. It's kind of like a narrated, visual storybook. The scenes switch from one character/time/place to the next with a little narration to tie them together. In each vignette there is some human drama (i.e., crying and hugging), a crisis of faith, and an action scene or two. Then a bit of narration and the story moves on to another character/time period. I think it's a little corny. The characters just look and act like modern Europeans in robes and sandals. But it is kind of fun seeing how they present different characters and events.

  • Given the nature of secular media in our culture I wasn't expecting much but wanted to watch it to see just how far off they would be.  The History Channel certainly takes VERY active "artistic liberty"!  Maybe the costumes, buildings, etc. are as authentic as they can reasonably be but the MESSAGE is so far off the mark they should have just called this "The History of the World".  I guess Mel Brooks beat them to that!  :)

    I'll continue to watch.  There is still some entertainment value.  Even when they get it wrong it stirs the spirit as I recall what actually happened and especially the true message behind the stories in the Bible.

    In my opinion, the other "Mel" (Mel Gibson) did a much better job with the heart of the message and his movie was just as authentic as far as I am concerned.  I'd love to see someone do the rest of the Gospels in that same spirit!  The old testament would also be wonderful if they were done as well as The Passion of the Christ.  I suspect that there are a lot of forces in this world keeping that from happening!

  • I watched a couple of episodes with my best friend yesterday afternoon. (She has cable; I don't.) And the inaccuracies drove me bananas. I was pleased that the show did get some things right. But yeah, the other bits... GAH!

    They left off the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night ā€” the way God's presence manifested Him to the Hebrews (not Israelites!! they weren't IN Israel yet!) as they escaped from Pharaoh and the reason that Pharaoh and his soldiers didn't catch up to the Hebrews as they crossed the Red Sea: God, in the pillar, kept Pharaoh and his army at bay. Otherwise, couldn't Pharaoh and his chariots have caught up with a group of people who numbered in the MILLIONS?

    Um, was Samson of Nubian extraction? I'm not sure about that, but it just felt off.

    Abraham was 100, and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born. Um, FAIL, Mark Burnett.

    There were other things that bugged me, but those are the ones I can think of at the moment.

  • Besides a few short-comings many people seem to be liking it. I'm not a huge fan, I mean I get that the Bible has some pretty graphic stuff in it, but it's different, at least for me, to read it rather than to see it. I'm not a fan of The Bible 'cause of the graphic-ness of it. But I'm not suggesting that it would be better "watered down."

  • "soundtrack by Hans Zimmer" Ok, I guess I'm in. Hanz Zimmer is my second favorite soundtrack guy.

    :P Yeah, Kellie, I'm with you, No cable here either. Maybe we'll watch it if it makes it to Netflix. Otherwise, we and the rest of America-without-cable will do without. :P

    Joy: YES. I felt that exact way about The Passion of the Christ, too. There's just something... unsettling about watching reinacted violence rather than violence that purely exists as the product of imagination.

  • AndreaElena,

    Just a note. It's perfectly fine to refer to the people leaving Egypt as Israelites. In fact, the beginning of the book of Exodus (far before they came to the promised land) refers to them as the "children of Israel." They were named for their ancestor Israel (Jacob), not the land they lived in. Their land was known as Israel only because its people were known by that name.

    Also, Abraham and Sarah were 100 and 90 when Isaac was born. However, they probably did not look as old as people of that age today. People living in those times often lived longer because they did not have the build-up of mutations in their genome as we do today. They simply didn't age as fast back then. They were far closer to the original perfect creation than we are. Thus, Sarah in her 80's, when she was taken by Pharoah, was still a beautiful woman. And while she was past the usual age of childbearing when she gave birth to Isaac, she probably didn't look like a shriveled old woman either.

    I haven't seen all of the series yet, but what I have seen seems to live up to its purpose. It's purpose wasn't to give a full and exacting portrayal of the entire Bible. Come on - it's only 10 hours long. It was meant to give a historical perspective on the Bible while introducing the Biblical account to an audience that is primarily ignorant of the Bible. The idea seems to be to present it as a dramatized history in hopes of encouraging people to be curious about it and look deeper. In that, it appears to be doing exactly what it was meant to do.

    Also, we Christians too often get wrapped up in our "Sunday School Fairy Tale" version (as I call it ) or in quibbling about details (many of which aren't actually stated one way or another anyway). This series gives a bit of a fresh persepctive. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it is making people curious and portraying the Bible as real history. That makes it a good thing in my book.

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