Some Thoughts On “The Bible” Mini-Series

In the weeks leading up to Easter, the History Channel has been broadcasting a new min-series called “The Bible” which offers a dramatic recounting of some of the major stories and characters of the Bible.  So far, this mini-series has received a lot of publicity and has done very well in attracting viewers.  Last week, Nielsen Research reported “The Bible” drew a larger viewing audience than “American Idol,” and, in fact, drew a larger audience share than any of the major television networks.  Apparently, a lot of people are watching “The Bible.

I’ve been watching too, and I have a couple of thoughts and observations.  For starters, watching some of these Old Testament stories is a much different experience than reading them.  As a theologically trained pastor, I understand the Bible (especially the Old Testament) reflects cultural norms and ancient traditions that are much different from our 21st century American reality. But still, seeing some of this on my television screen as opposed to reading it in my study, I became more aware of just how “earthy” some parts of the Bible can be.  To watch Abraham slip into the tent of his wife’s servant, Hagar, so that he might get her pregnant (while his wife sits outside by the campfire) was just creepy.  I found myself turning away when Abraham bound his own son and placed him on a stone altar in order to offer the boy as a sacrifice to God (even though I knew an Angel would stop him from carrying out the act).   The fall of Jericho was quite violent and bloody, and it seemed odd to see the Hebrew warriors cheering God’s name while covered in the blood of all the people they had just slaughtered.  And even though I knew young David cut off the head of the giant warrior, Goliath, there was something about seeing David holding that cut-off head in the air like a quarterback holding up a Super Bowl trophy that I found distasteful.

This mini-series is reminding me that the world is sometimes a violent place, and in ancient times, even more so.  Atheists often criticize the God of Jews and Christians, claiming that if this God is real, He is not worthy of our love, worship or obedience because He is such a violent, blood-thirsty God.  If all we knew of God is what we discover in portions of the Old Testament, the atheists might have a good point.  But while parts of the Bible are worthy of  an “R” rating, there is a bigger story taking place here.  Those who study literature call this the metanarrative.  It is the over-arching story found in the midst of all the smaller stories.  A metanarrative helps us to find meaning in those smaller stories that seem to confuse (and sometimes even offend) us.  The metanarrative of the Bible is that God is working through the normal customs and traditions of the ancient world to bring humanity to a place where we can receive the Savior.  God is preparing the soil for the seed of salvation.  In the midst of violence, injustice, death, and suffering, God is “working all things together for good” (Romans 8:28).

I am looking forward to watching the New Testament portion of the mini-series.  I am sure the images on my television screen will remind me that Jesus was born into a violent world that was often unjust and full of suffering.  But I know the story, and I know what is going to happen. Somehow love will be evident and new life will arise in the midst of (and in spite of) the cruelty and suffering.   A bloody cross and a rocky tomb give way to a resurrected Savior and a new community of people committed to love God, love one another, and bring good news of great joy to the broken world.

I often summarize the Bible by saying that in the Old Testament, God is saying, “Do you believe me when I say you need a Savior?”  And in the New Testament, God is saying, “Do you believe me when I tell you I’ve sent you a Savior?”  Watching parts of this mini-series, I am very much aware of our need for a Savior, and very thankful for the Savior who came and died and rose again.  The metanarrative of the Bible tells us that someday the Savior will return, and all the wrong in our world will be made right.  Peace and justice will rule completely, and love will be made perfect.  Until that day, we live in tension, between the world that is and the world that is yet to come.

While “The Bible” mini-series is a great way to bring the Bible into our modern world, I am glad we don’t live in the same time and place as Abraham and David.  And yet God is still at work through the current realities of our modern lives, in the midst of the good and the not-so-good, working to make His love known and working to bring good news of great joy to our broken world.  As a pastor, I am glad I get to be part of the new community Jesus Christ has made possible.  Yes, there are parts of the Bible I find difficult to watch, but the over-arching story is still beautiful, powerful, and life-changing.  I realize that until the over-arching story reaches its magnificent conclusion, my own small narrative is just part of the bigger story.  I must be content to do the best I can to live a life that honors God, dealing with the broken world that is, while anticipating the perfect world that is yet to come.  Some might argue that my anticipation of that world is simply a foolish, false hope, but when you see God at work in the midst of nomads, shepherds, warriors, and kings, it’s not so difficult to see God at work in our modern world as well.  And when you can see the big story that guides all of our little stories, then you can be sure that for those who trust in the Savior, the best is yet to come.

Have you been watching this show?  What are your thoughts?

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8 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On “The Bible” Mini-Series

  1. We too have been watching some of the series, although we have missed some of it. Although there is a lot of violence in it we have also been allowing Jake (10) to watch some of it with us; however, we make him turn away when we feel a part is too violent or just inappropriate for him to see. We discuss some of the events with him as we feel is needed to explain them at his level.

    I too look forward to the New Testament part of the series, especially since it is my favorite part of the Bible. For Jake I think his take away is more than a blood and guts movie and he can better understand this world is not all roses. I think the New Testament will show him how much God has done for us, how he loves us, and how he desires a relationship with us.

  2. We have not only been watching it, but are recording it for the kids to finish watching on Mondays. Although there are parts of the show that are hard to imagine a kid watching, as they are 9 and 13. They read the bible and I think this helps them bring some of it together. In fact Trey always seems to know were the show is and what’s going to happen. I do wish they had the budget and time to lead up more to the parts they are showing as I fell some of the stories are portraying bits and pieces and leaving us a little confused. But maybe that’s what their trying to do, make us seek the bible and read it more or get conversations going over the Bible, as well as finding people tuned in and starting to search and learn more to bring them into the Church.

  3. What I have found while watching this mini series is that we need to be reminded over and over again,year after year what the Good Book really means. More and more people are becoming very visual in understanding what the Bible means because unfortunately people don’t read as often. So many people in our country have lost faith because they have lost their way or have become so cynical about religion. We don’t have the prophets today that existed during the Old Testament or New Testament. It’s never too late to reach out our hands to God and to ask for forgiveness since we are all sinners. I can only hope that The Bible mini series offers people a way to reconnect with their faith. I think we need more programs like this that offer insight on the Holy Scriptures instead of the Satanic movies you always see at the theaters.

    Did anyone notice in this series that Mary has been included with the rest of the apostles? She is included everywhere they go. Could this be an admittance that she is one of the chosen apostles? Could this have been included because of the recent finds of the Lost Books and Gnostic writings? What are your thoughts?

  4. Good question, Ray. There is no doubt that Mary and other women would sometimes accompany Jesus on his ministry journeys. We are even told that some of the wealthier women supported Jesus financially. But I don’t think Mary or any of the other women were included among the original 12 Disciples. Jesus specifically chose 12 disciples in order to draw a connection to the original 12 tribes of Israel. But that is not to say that the women were not important and were not involved in Ministry. Jesus was “ahead of his time” in terms of recognizing the inherent worth of women, seeing them as created equally in the image of God.
    Most of the Gnostic gospels and similar documents were written so long after the life of Jesus, that they are considered historically unreliable. I don’t think the producers of the mini series are relying on any of those documents, although they are interesting to read.

  5. I like the series to a point, namely that it get some of the stories out to the people that may not be familiar with the stories. What I have a problem with most of the time with the History Channel’s “telling” of Bibles stories now and in the past is it’s selective censoring of parts that may be “offensive” to some because of the immorality that has become part of everyday society now. You know I am not one for watering down the Bible to not hurt feelings. One story that comes to mind is about Lot and the actual sin that Sodom and Gomorrah was being condemned for. I’m sure they would leave out Roman 1 altogether….I could go on, but you get the point. Great post Pastor.

  6. Now that the mini-series is complete Im beginning to watch it again, while its not perfect and takes some liberties I would definitely recommend it to others as it hits the big points and keeps with the spirit of the stories. Many dramatic moments: Abraham and Isaac, Moses parting of the sea, death of Saul, Babylonian exile and Daniel, Birth of Jesus, justification of the tax collector (interesting they used Matthew here), walking on water, crucifixion, resurrection appearence to Disciples and Thomas, conversion of Saul, Paul meeting Luke (fantastic scene), death of the disciples and Jesus appearing to John on Patmos. I realize this constitutes most of the high points of the series but it was so well done that I wanted to specifically call it out. Love the fact they were able to include the book of Acts in the series. Things make much more sense. Imagine if the producers had the funding to tell the stories of the Bible literally word for word. It would have been breathtaking!

    One thing Im still curious about is why does Mk 14:12 seem to indicate that the Lords Supper was on the day of Preparation for Passover when it was clear that Jesus was crucified on that day?

  7. Thank you for a great post, Rev Miller. As a lay person with a leaning toward sharing the Word in the world, I find it gratifying to hear that the ratings for this production/series were so high. In my experience, when folks hear Bible they turn it off. That they were watching is good.

    Our visceral reaction to the visual is not surprising. That’s what TV and movies do to us. People seem to crave the “bigger impact.” This comes even in a small way when we listen to a book read on tape rather than reading it to ourselves. More senses, more sensation. Perhaps the producers knew this and were inviting this. So they would have an audience. All to the good.

    Now I can see this going 2 ways. Either, people toss it off as fiction. Not real. That’s what we do with “reality tv” – “it’s okay they act that way, it’s not real.” Or take it as non-fiction (as you and I do). But then, if that’s real, how can I possibly believe in a God who would allow that? Ironically, I think both are okay. For the not- yet- believer, option 1 gives them a story place from which to start thinking and moving toward God. Option 2 gives us pause to consider the truths we had not seen quite so personally in living (and dying) color. And that gets our attention in a new and powerful way.

    Either way, it is good to take note that when another interprets a story for me, I am meant to receive it with a critical eye and a compassionate spirit. Translators always take liberties. A story re-told is always a bit different from the first. As a Christian I can invite the mind of Christ to translate into my language and show me the truth. Prayerful consideration, in the name of Christ, opens the story to us. For the not- yet- believer, who hasn’t met this Interpreter, I guess that duty would fall to us. If asked. Conversations like this one prepare us to answer. Thank you.