Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The third installment of The Bible mini-series has just aired. Jesus has been born, tempted, and calling disciples, even as John the Baptist is being beheaded (oops, sorry, spoiler alert!).

Some "off the grid" folks wanted me to give them a bottom line, thumbs up-or-down evaluation of the mini-series. Apparently, my previous review confused them.  Did I like it or not?  And as I re-read my review of part one, and as I monitor the countless comments and reviews on Facebook and other sources, then yes, there is a mixed reaction, a confusing set of approvals and disapprovals, sometimes in the same post!

So why the confusion? Let me share my gut feeling.

There are really two "Bibles" here (before you take up stones to stone me, let me explain!). As a Christian, I believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word of the Living God, sufficient in all matters of faith and practice. But to others, the Bible is a collection of morality tales. A producer can easily portray the latter, but will never be able to accurately portray the former.

Media transfers are difficult. I ended my previous post with the phrase "The Book is better;" that is, I find the source material far more superior than most derivatives. This actually holds true for most publications that have been adapted into a movie or TV show. A movie maker has maybe 30 seconds to show a scene that took up 12 pages in a novel. Even the most "faithful" of adaptations take certain liberties. So when people say The Bible series is not like the Bible, they're right.

But furthermore, no matter how well intentioned a producer may be, they're not going to get it all down. One of the critical reviewers was upset because, not only does the series leave out a lot of material, but it does not explain how the events of the Old Testament tie in to God's redemptive plan revealed in the New. In other words, "why can't The Bible be more of a complete expositional message?" When I think of the many hours spent in Bible survey and introduction classes in college, the answer is obvious: it's not realistic to have a 45 hour mini-series!  With all due respect to those who wonder why The Bible isn't more like the Bible; well, what did you expect?

But I also believe that the positioning of this mini-series was off.  "Positioning" is a marketing term referring to the image or identity of a product in the minds of the consumers. The Bible was pushed and promoted as a way to introduce people to the Book of Books so they might read and study it more. There were whole curriculum packages made so churches could ride this wave. I haven't seen the materials, but I suspect that, in the end, if Bible studies were launched, they were focused more on correcting the unfortunate portrayals in the mini-series and filling in the expository blanks.

The Bible mini-series is what it is: an adaptation of stories from the Bible. Marketing aside, it is entertaining and well produced.  But in the end, it's not that different than dozens of other adaptations of stories from the Bible. If people are drawn to the Scriptures because of what they saw, I'm okay with that. My hope is that they follow up in a good, Bible-teaching church. Not only will they discover the real Bible, but they will also get to personally know the Author of the Book.

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