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AD: The Bible Continues
Review of Episode Eleven

By Gary F. Zeolla

This review is continued from AD: The Bible Continues: Review of Episode Ten. This episode consisted of four main storylines: the ongoing saga surrounding the pending arrival of Caligula’s statute to be placed in the temple, which Caiaphas has termed “the abomination,” and the conclusions of the stories of Joanna, Tabitha, and the Ethiopian Eunuch, the latter for whom AD made up the name of Gabra.

 

Caligula’s Statute

 

Caligula’s statute is on its way to Jerusalem, and this is causing quite a stir in Jerusalem. The zealots are armed with weapons from Ethiopia and preparing to go to war against Rome, while Pilate and Caiaphas are plotting to stop this revolt, which will most certainly result in the massacre of the zealots and the destruction of Jerusalem.

As I mentioned in my review of Episode Nine, Caligula did propose this, and if the title of this miniseries was AD: Conflicts Between Jews and Rome then it would be appropriate for AD to spend so much time on this storyline. However, given that the title of this miniseries is AD: The Bible Continues and given that the Bible does not mention this event, then I am finding it rather exasperating that so much time is being spent on this event while Biblical events are being skipped or slighted. I will withhold any more comment on this storyline until I see how its outcome is portrayed in AD in the final episode and how closely that compares to the research I have done on what really happened. 

But here, I will comment on this storyline beginning with Caiaphas making an impassioned plea to the Jews to unite together, putting aside their differences, so that they can combat this abomination. James is in attendance and goes back to Peter and the other apostles and says this will be a good time for them to plea with Caiaphas to end his persecution of them and their followers. Peter is hesitant at the idea at first but eventually acquiesces. James then goes to Caiaphas, and he agrees to end the persecution. But he first demands that the Nazarenes stop proclaiming Jesus is the Messiah. James says they cannot do that as Jesus is the Messiah, and more, He is the Son of God. Caiaphas grimaces but agrees they can so preach.

It was encouraging to see James’ courage before Caiaphas in proclaiming such, but none of this actually happened. There is no such meeting or agreement recorded in Scripture. It is just more fiction for dramatic effect on the part of the AD producers and writers. But this agreement sets the stage for a later storyline. Since Peter now believes the Christians in Jerusalem are safe, he is emboldened to preach the Gospel elsewhere and heads off for Joppa.

 

Joanna and “Red Shirts”

 

Meanwhile, Joanna is still in prison. Claudia for some unexplained reason feels compassion on her and takes steps to have her released by Pilate. When that fails, she tries to break her out of prison, but she is caught by Cornelius, and he takes both of them to Pilate.

Pilate is outraged that his wife would betray him and takes it out on Joanna by ordering her to be immediately executed. He gives his wife the choice of having her crucified or strangled. Claudia cannot make the choice, so a much weakened Joanna steps forward and chooses to be strangled. Pilate then orders Cornelius to carry out the execution. There just happens to be a chair in the room that is apparently built just for this purpose. Then in very graphic fashion, Joanna is strangled to death. The scene was so gruesome that I had to turn my head away, and it left me feeling very distraught, as AD was back to its portrayal of graphic senseless violence.

As I mentioned before, I stopped watching just about all TV series some time ago for this very reason; I got fed up with the constant portrayal of graphic violence, and not just any violence, but the killing of people as being meaningless “red shirts.” For those who don’t know, the term “red shirts” comes from Star Trek: The Original Series. In it, security personal wore red. And whenever one showed up in a scene, you could almost always be assured that within a few minutes, if not a few seconds, they would be dead. Their appearance was solely to add some dramatic effect to the episode without killing off one of the main characters. But the security personal themselves were meaningless human beings, whose lives did not matter, except for how their deaths effected Captain Kirk, usually sending him into a frenzy.

This “red shirts” attitude has carried on today in TV's depiction of security guards. Think about how many times you have watched a TV show in which robbers enter a bank and immediately gun down the security guard. It happens so often that most people just now accept it as just the way bank robberies are done. Nobody stops to think that those security guards, if this was real life, are human beings, with wives and children and possibly grandchildren, whose lives matter for the sole reason they are human beings.

Since such deaths are no longer shocking or dramatic, it is now commonplace for other bit characters in TV shows to be killed off in a senseless fashion. For instance, a while back in the opening scene of an episode of Scorpion (a show that was originally rated “PG”), armed men rob a jewelry store. As they are leaving without any resistance and with the jewels in hand, they turn around and gun down all of the people in the store for no reason whatsoever.

That was it. I immediately stopped and deleted that recording and most all of the TV shows I had already recorded and deleted the series recording setting for that series and most others on my DVR. I just could not take the constant portrayal of human life as being meaningless on TV.

The week I am writing this is the week in which a young white man entered a black church in Charleston, SC and gunned down nine parishioners attending a prayer meeting. In all of the nonsensical comments I have heard and read on why people think he did such, from blaming it on Fox News to Donald Trump to the Confederate flag, I have not heard one person make a connection between the constant depiction of the lives of people as being meaningless on TV and such mass shootings. But I strongly believe there is a connection. When young men see thousands of times on TV as they are growing up that most people are red shirts, why does it surprise anyone when they act like it? 

Interestingly, AD unwittingly made a connection between this scene with Joanna and this mass killing. As Cornelius is fastening a leather strap around Joanna’s neck to strangle her with, she says to him, “I forgive you in the name of Christ.” During the hearing for the killer in Charleston, many family members of the victims were saying to the killer, “I forgive you.” Thus I will give kudos to AD for correctly portraying the compassion Christ can instill in people even towards those who so harm them, even if it is via a completely made up storyline.

 

Tabitha

 

Meanwhile, Tabitha is near the point of death from the wounds she received from being flogged. She pleads with Mary Magdalene to take her to her hometown of Joppa so she can see her parents before she dies. Mary does so, and Tabitha thus dies while being held by her mother. 

Meanwhile, Peter is now preaching in Joppa and has just met up with Phillip. Mary seeks out Peter and brings him to the one-story house where Tabitha’s body is lying. She tells Peter he can do something for her. He enters the house and prays over her. A loud rush of wind swirls in the room, then Tabitha opens her eyes and gets up! She then embraces Mary. It is all very dramatic. But the problem is; it didn’t happen that way. Read carefully what really happened.

 

        36Now in Joppa [there] was a certain female disciple, by name Tabitha (which, being translated, is being called Dorcas). This [woman] was full of good works and charitable giving which she was doing. 37Then it happened in those days, having been sick, she died. So having washed her [body], they laid her in an upstairs room. 38Now Lydda being close to Joppa, the disciples having heard that Peter is in it [i.e., in Lydda], sent [messengers] to him urging [him] not to delay to come over to them. 39So Peter having gotten up, went with them, whom having arrived, they brought [him] into the upstairs room. And all the widows stood by him weeping and showing tunics and cloaks, as many as Dorcas used to make while being with them.

        40But Peter having sent them all outside, having placed the knees [fig., having knelt down], prayed; and having turned to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” Then she opened her eyes, and having seen Peter, she sat up! 41Then having given her [his] hand, he lifted her up; and having called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her living. 42Now it became known throughout all of Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. 43And it happened, [that] he stayed many days in Joppa, with a certain Simon a tanner [i.e., a person who converts animal hides into leather]. (Acts 9:36-43; ALT3).

 

Note several things in this passage. First, it says Tabitha was “full of good works and charitable giving.” This was her “claim to fame” so to speak, not being a martyr as portrayed in AD. Second, she died because she was sick, not because she was flogged. Third, she is laid “in an upstairs room” not in a one-story house. Fourth, Peter was in Lydda not Joppa, and he was sent for by unnamed “disciples” not Mary.

Fifth, Tabitha is demonstrated by widows to have been a very important seamstress. Now in AD, Pilate did refer to her once as a seamstress earlier in this episode, and she was shown sewing something once in a very brief scene. But that is far from the importance Acts places on this, and there was no depiction of the actions of the widows.

Sixth, there is no mention of a rush of wind or any other “special effects.” Peter simply prays and lifts her up.

Seventh, there is no mention of Mary as being a go-between between Tabitha and Peter or of Tabitha embracing Mary after being raised. For that matter, Mary Magdalene is not even mentioned in the Book of Acts. It is nothing but pure political correctness that has Mary Magdalene being portrayed as having a prominent role in the early Church.

Finally, the aftermath of Tabitha’s resurrection is not portrayed in AD; that “many believed on the Lord” as a result of this miracle. But that is the best part!

 

The Ethiopian Eunuch

 

Meanwhile, Pilate has found out about the Ethiopian eunuch’s connection to the zealots. He could have Gabra executed for this, but Pilate doesn’t want to risk instigating a war with Ethiopia. So he just sends him away. AD makes a point of showing that Gabra still has the Scroll of Isaiah that Caiaphas gave to him. Gabra travels alone towards Ethiopia. But his cart breaks down, losing a wheel.

Backing up, while Peter and Philip are talking in Joppa before Mary comes to take Peter to Tabitha, Philip sees an angel approaching them who tells him to go towards Gaza. Peter doesn’t see or hear the angel, but when Philip tells him about it, Peter tells him to be obedient, so Philip ventures off.

The problem here is in Acts, Philip was actually still in Samara, and the following scene actually occurs right after the scene with Simon the sorcerer.  Thus AD has once again messed up the timeline. Then in AD, Philip sees Gabra’s distress and comes to help fix the wheel. That part also does not follow the Book of Acts, as it says Gabra was “sitting in his chariot.” But otherwise, for once AD does a good job of correctly portrayal what actually happened:

 

        26Now an angel of [the] Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get up and go toward [the] south on the road, the one going down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert [road]). 27And having gotten up, he went. And behold, a man, an Ethiopian, a eunuch [i.e., a man incapable of having sex], a court official of Candace the queen of [the] Ethiopians, who was over all her treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to prostrate himself in worship, 28and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and he was reading aloud the prophet Isaiah.

      29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Approach and be joined to this chariot.” 30So Philip having run up, heard him reading aloud the prophet Isaiah, and he said, “So, do you understand what you are reading?” 31Then he said, “For how could I unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip, having come up, to sit with him.

        32Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading aloud was this: 

‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and as a lamb before the one shearing it [is] silent, so He does not open His mouth. 33In His humiliation His justice was taken away, but who will describe His generation? Because His life is taken away from the earth.’ [Isaiah 53:7,8, LXX] 

      34So answering, the eunuch said to Philip, “I ask you, about whom does the prophet say this? About himself or about some other [person]?” 35Then Philip, having opened his mouth and having begun from this Scripture, proclaimed the Gospel [about] Jesus to him.

      36Now as they were traveling down the road, they came upon some water. And the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me [from being] baptized?” 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still. And they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39Now when they came up out of the water, [the] Spirit of [the] Lord caught Philip up, and the eunuch no longer saw him, for he began going his way rejoicing (Acts 8:26-39; ALT3).

 

All of this was portrayed very well in AD, and I will give it kudos for doing so. I just wish I could say the same for every other Biblical scene portrayed in AD. But there are a couple of points worth noting.

First, in AD, after Gabra and Philip come upon the water but before Philip baptizes Gabra, Philip asks Gabra if he believes Jesus is the Son of God, and Gabra says he does. You do not see this exchange in the above extended quote. But if you look carefully, you will see that verse 37 is skipped. That is because it does not appear in the Majority Greek Text that my ALT3 translation is based on. It also does not appear in the Critical Text that most other modern day versions are based on. But it does appear in the Textus Receptus that the King James Version and New King James Version are based on. It reads, “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37; KJV). A discussion of whether this verse is genuine or not is outside the scope of this review, but I found it interesting that AD included it.

Second, the actor portraying the Ethiopian eunuch is a rather large muscular man. But if you understand what is meant by a “eunuch,” then this is quite unlikely. A man without testicles would not have the testosterone needed to become so muscular. As a powerlifter, this is something I noticed.

Conclusion

The depiction of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch's conversion was just the second scene in AD that left me feeling spiritually uplifted, the first being the scene portraying Saul’s conversion. But like with that scene, AD just couldn’t end an episode on an upbeat note. After this great Biblical scene, the episode ends by showing the arrival of Caligula’s statute. The crate is opened, and the statue is at least ten feet tall and made of pure gold, a great testament to the arrogance of Caligula. But its arrival has a sense of doom about it, with everyone onscreen and watching knowing it portends a possible revolt. I am sure this was done for the cliffhanger effect TV is so fond of nowadays, but it had the effect of erasing the short-lived good feeling I had from the depiction of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. But I will take a clue from AD and end this review on that cliffhanger.

AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episode Twelve

 

AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episode Eleven. Copyright 2015 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).


Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament



The above review was posted on this website June 20, 2015.

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