Last night (March 3), the History Channel rolled out The Bible, a mini-series brought to us by Mark Burnett (Survivor) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel).
First of all, I applaud the effort to increase Biblical literacy. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have been very public about wanting more people to get into the Scripture. In this day and age of increasing hostility to Christian ideas and values, this is a good thing. I also liked the production values. Although not necessarily epic in its depictions, it does show life in the desert as dirty and sweaty and man's relationship with God as sometimes challenging.
Most of the instances of "creative license" can be overlooked. For example, the Bible doesn't depict Sarah figuring out that Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, whereupon she dashes up the mountain to stop him. On the other hand, it doesn't say she didn't do that and the scene does not change the event itself. The announcement to Sarah that she would have a child was a little eerie to my mind, with a shadowy figure whisping through the tent and disappearing while talking to Sarah. But that doesn't ultimately hurt the Biblical text either.
But the part that got me was (wait for it!)...the Ninja Angels! In Genesis, we read that the men of Sodom were struck blind, so that they grew weary trying to find the door. whereupon the two angels led Lot and his family out of the city. But in The Bible version, the two angels cast off their cloaks to reveal armored warriors (okay so far). They then strike the men at the door with some painful condition (I always imagined a bright light, but okay...struck blind...got it!). And then the angels pull out their swords (no problem necessarily, since the Bible does speak of some angels having swords) and then engage in an extended, martial arts style fight sequence with the armed men of Sodom as they lead Lot out of the city. It was a neat scene, it was an exciting scene, but one that made me both laugh and shake my head at the same time.
Again, I do not want to disparage any sincere effort to introduce people to the Book of Books. Even the inaccuracies can prompt teachers and students to dig in the Scripture and say, "Hey, this is what the Bible really says...". But ultimately, for me, there's nothing really new here. There have been dozens of dramatizations of Biblical events over the years. Some are high budget, epic depictions (The Ten Commandments), some are evangelistically motivated (Jesus), and yes, there are a few that were so inaccurate and awful that I have to wonder what drug the producers were using at the time (NBC's Noah's Ark). But as good and positive as The Bible mini-series is; frankly, I've seen it all before.
The Bible mini-series is sincerely motivated, respectful in it subject matter, and better than most made-for-television productions. I have not seen any of the accompanying resource material (study guides, curriculum, and so on), but it is being pushed heavily within the evangelical world. But for me, the shortest summary is the one that holds true to a host of adaptations from literature: