A lot of people are watching The Bible, the current 5-week miniseries airing on the History Channel. Many Christians were very excited about it as they waited for it to begin. Many people hoped that it would be a great discussion starter, an effective teaching tool, a handy guide to the vast contours of the biblical narrative. Its popularity indicates that viewers are pleased with what they’re seeing, and are hungry for the meal it serves up each Sunday evening.
I don’t doubt that this program is starting discussions. I don’t doubt that non-believers are tuning in and watching, people who are otherwise not likely to find themselves in a conversation about the Bible. And there is some truth to the suggestion that getting people talking about the Bible is better than leaving them not talking about it all.
Nevertheless, I have pretty serious concerns about the series. I have to be upfront and admit that because we are Netflix users who don’t have cable or satellite anymore, I have only seen the first two hours of The Bible so far. Accordingly, I can only fairly comment on those two hours. But what I’ve observed about those two hours is quite troubling.
One could probably nitpick very easily about any series like this. Little details are bound to be changed or omitted that might matter to some more than others. But it is possible for the details to be a little inaccurate or stretched here and there without betraying the Bible and the God at the heart of the Bible. I don’t think there’s any need to nitpick. Where I’d like to focus my concerns are in three areas:
1) The relative weight given to different sections of the story: the choices of what material to include say a lot about how you read the whole thing, and the choices in this series are, to my mind, very misleading in that respect;
2) The excessive reliance on violence;
3) The portrayal of the people of God, Israel, in the OT narrative.
I’ll take one post to deal with each of these, over the next few days.