The Bible Series: Viewer Discretion Advised

by Sarah Abbey

For the past three weeks I’ve turned on the History Channel with over 68 million viewers to watch The Bible. The mini-series produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey has taken Hollywood by storm; it has surprised millions with its popularity; and it has caused the religious to stand up and cheer that the sacred is getting a in positive portrayal. As one review put it, “This time, Hollywood got it right.” Yet in the midst of all the positive hype there are some who have held back their praise, frustrated or downright upset with how it is interpreting the biblical narrative.

This has left me with the following question: did Hollywood get it right, or is this min-series an interpretive failure? Whether you are a Christian who is familiar with the narrative of the Bible or someone newly exposed to its stories, this is an important question. The Bible makes extraordinary claims about its authority and the priority it should have in our lives. For example, 2 Timothy 3:16 states:

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, and for training in righteousness.

And 2 Peter 1:20-21 claims:

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

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Therefore, it seems only right that we move from passive TV watchers to evaluating if The Bible series is worthy of our praise. Rather than go into all of my reasons for or against the series, I’d like to suggest three discretionary tips for your consideration as you continue to watch this series unfold.

Discretionary Tip #1: Know what the series claims about itself

The most important thing you can do when watching and interpreting The Bible is to pay attention to the announcement that appears before the beginning of each episode. It states:

“This program is an adaption of the Bible stories. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.” (emphasis mine)

If you pay attention to nothing else throughout the series you need to pay attention to this. Why, you may ask? This sets the tone for all that will follow. Any adaption of a book that attempts to stay true to its spirit means the door has been left wide open for adding to, subtracting from, and changing the book’s story. It means poetic license will abound and subjective interpretations are more than likely to occur…


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