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AD: The Bible Continues
Review of Episode Twelve

By Gary F. Zeolla

This review is continued from AD: The Bible Continues: Review of Episode Eleven. This episode consists of three main storylines: the conversion of Cornelius, tensions between two of the married couples in the miniseries, and the drama surrounding the plan of Caligula to have a statue of himself placed in the Jewish temple.

 

Cornelius: How AD Depicted It

 

Cornelius has left Jerusalem and is now at his home in Caesarea. He is seen kneeling and praying and is in obvious distress over all that he has seen and done throughout this series, starting with him being at the foot of the cross and hearing Jesus say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a, ALT3), to Joanna saying to him, “I forgive you in the name of Christ,” as he is fastening a leather strap around her neck to strangle her to death. 

An angel appears to Cornelius and tells him to send for a man called Peter, who is Joppa. He sends three men to Joppa. Meanwhile, Peter is on a rooftop and has a vision in which he sees various animals quickly flashing before him, and a voice says to him, “These are called unclean, but do not call unclean what God has cleansed.” And he is told to meet three men waiting for him downstairs. As the vision ends, Mary Magdalene comes up on the rooftop and tells him there are three men waiting for him. Peter chuckles and goes down to meet them. He and Mary then travel to Caesarea and meet with Cornelius, who is in a room alone.

Cornelius tells Peter about his vision, but he wasn't sure what it was. Mary tells him that it was an angel that appeared to him. Cornelius then tells Peter he has done “many terrible things” and that he had a hand in crucifying Jesus. Mary asks Cornelius about Joanna, and he breaks down in tears. Cornelius and Mary then hug and cry together.

After an interlude with another storyline, Peter, Mary, Cornelius, and Cornelius’ wife and children and a couple of unspecified men are now all sitting outside, and Peter tells Cornelius, “I've been commanded to preach His message to the ends of the earth. And now I see that you also might find the salvation that Jesus offers. So if I am to do this, I must welcome you and baptize you.” Just then, Cornelius’ wife stands up and starts speaking in tongues! Cornelius then joins in and the rest of his family, as tongues of fire appear in the room. Mary then joins in with the tongues speaking. Peter is overjoyed. Peter then baptizes Cornelius, then there’s a commercial break.

After the commercial break and another interlude, they are all sitting and talking, while Mary is playing with one of the kids. Everyone is smiles, and Cornelius says he wants Peter and Mary to stay with him for a few days, to which they are agreeable.

But just then there is a knock on the door, and a Roman soldier enters. He tells Cornelius he is needed in Jerusalem, as Caligula’s statue has arrived. After the soldier leaves, Mary tells Cornelius he cannot do it, as he has been baptized in the name of Jesus. But Cornelius says he is a Roman and must do his duty. Mary asks what he is going to do. After some thought, he says he will pray that the Holy Spirit guides him. Cornelius then figures prominently in the rest of this episode, as he has in every episode throughout this miniseries. Peter tells Mary they must also return to Jerusalem.

That is the end of this scene, and it was very touching and inspirational. But did the conversion of Cornelius actually happen that way?

 

Cornelius: What Really Happened

 

The narrative about Cornelius in the Books of Acts occupies the entire tenth chapter, 48 verses. It is thus too long to quote in full, but I will quote or summarize the most relevant parts. (all quotes from Acts 10 and from my ALT3). 

        1Now [there] was a certain man in Caesarea, by name Cornelius, a centurion of a garrison [of soldiers], the one being called Italian [fig., a captain of the Italian Regiment], 2godly [or, devout] and fearing God [i.e., a worshipper of the one true God, but not a full convert to Judaism, also called “God-worshiping”] together with all his house, and doing [or, giving] many charitable gifts to the people and imploring God through all [fig. continually].

Notice how “Acts Cornelius” is described, and compare this to “AD Cornelius.” There is no hint that Acts Cornelius had any knowledge of Jesus or of the Nazarene movement before this, while AD Cornelius has been intimately involved with both in the whole miniseries. Acts Cornelius is a believer in the one true God and is a charitable and godly person, which AD Cornelius is not. AD Cornelius is instead a faithful soldier carrying out murderous orders who was having his heart softened by his contact with Jesus and His followers.

For the most part, AD accurately depicted Cornelius’ vision of an angel and him sending three men to Peter, but Acts Cornelius didn’t need Mary to explain to him what he had seen. AD also very much truncated Peter’s vision. It actually consisted of seeing the animals much more clearly and being lowered in a great sheet three times. Then the Holy Spirit tells him there are three men waiting for him, and he thus goes to meet them without Mary or anyone else repeating this.

But what is most interesting is how these three men describe Cornelius in the Book of Acts, “Then they said, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man and fearing God, and well-spoken of by [the] whole nation of the Jews’” (verse 22). AD Cornelius most certainly was not “well-spoken of by [the] whole nation of the Jews” given that he carried out some rather gruesome orders of Pilate against the Jews.

The Book of Acts next states, “Then the next day Peter went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him” (Acts 10:23b). Thus “brothers” not Mary accompany Peter. When they get there, “Now Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his relatives and close friends” and “he [Peter] went in and finds many [people] having gathered” (Acts 10:24b,27). Acts Cornelius thus was not alone like AD Cornelius was.

But AD did get it right when it depicted the following, “25Then when it happened [that] Peter entered, Cornelius having met him, having fallen at [his] feet, prostrated himself in worship [or, reverence] before [him]. 26But Peter raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up! I myself am also a person.’” But AD completely omitted Peter explaining the purpose of his vision, “28And he said to them, ‘You* know how it is unlawful for a man, a Jew, to be associating with or to be visiting one of another race [cp. John 18:28], and [yet] God showed to me to be calling no one common or unclean [or, defiled].’”

Peter then gives a two-paragraph and doctrinal filled speech that is truncated and greatly altered in AD to what is quoted above. In Acts, it is then that the Holy Spirit falls on all of those present, and they all speak in tongues. This scene was done very well in AD and even sent chills up my spine, until Mary started speaking in tongues. That reminded me how much AD was distorting Acts, as Mary Magdalene is not mentioned in this chapter nor any place else in the Book of Acts.

The chapter in Acts then ends with, “And he [Peter] commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they urgently asked him to stay several days” (verse 48). That is similar to how AD depicted it. But the scene ends there, with no knock on the door. It should also be noted that this chapter is the only place in Scripture in which Cornelius is mentioned.

Bottom line, AD did get some details correct and some of it was inspiring, but it truncated or distorted many other details, while inserting Mary into this storyline and giving both Cornelius and Mary much greater roles throughout this miniseries than they have in the Book of Acts.

 

The Wives

 

The above mentioned interludes were to tensions occurring between Caiaphas and his wife Leah, and between Pilate and his wife Claudia. In the previous episode, Leah had gone behind her husband’s back to inform Pilate about the alliance between the Ethiopians and the zealots. This enabled Pilate to confiscate the Ethiopian weapons, but the zealots still had their own weapon. In this episode, Pilate tells Caiaphas about Leah being an informant, but Caiaphas tries to cover up his emberassment by saying he knew about it. This then leads to much tension between Caiaphas and Leah, with Leah even trying to get Caiaphas defrocked.

Meanwhile, Claudia is still angry at Pilate for having Joanna executed, whom she had taken a liking to, and this leads to a heated argument between them over how Pilate is handling the Nazarenes and the statue situation.

This is all very dramatic, but is also completely made up, as none of this is mentioned in the Bible or in secular history. The only mention in Scripture of the wives of either of these men occurs at the trial of Jesus before Pilate, “But while he [Pilate] is sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, ‘Nothing to you and to that Righteous [Man] [fig., Have nothing to do with that Righteous Man], for many [things] I suffered today in a dream because of Him’” (Matt 17:19; ALT3). But Pilate ignores this plea and has Jesus first flogged then crucified.

Also, someone pointed out to me that it is unlikely in this time period that women would have stood up to their husbands or have been so bold in their interactions with men in general. That might be true, but the Bible does not tell us much in that regard. And for better or worse, the wives of prominent men from ancient times are rarely mentioned in ancient histories; let alone what the relationships were like between the men and their wives, but I guess it is fun to speculate.

 

Backing Up a Bit

 

I underestimated the size of the stature of Caligula in my previous review. Comparing it to the height of the actors, it was probably at least 15’ tall, truly a gaudy object. And backing up a bit more, I said that I was disgruntled with this storyline, as I thought this miniseries was supposed to be about the Bible, while this event is not mentioned in the Bible. But that has been the case throughout this miniseries; much more time has been spent on extra-Biblical events than on Biblical events. But at least there was some historical support for this storyline, while most of the other extra-Biblical events were pure fiction. 

However, I detailed back in my first review why I thought it is important for movie and TV show producers that when they depict historical events they do so accurately. That is because most people’s conceptions of those events will be solely dictated by how it is portrayed in the movie or TV show. How accurate or inaccurate the show is will be how accurate most people’s knowledge of the event will be.

 With that background, we will move onto the statue storyline.

 

The Statue: How AD Depicted It

 

Backing up a bit again to summarize how AD depicted this whole storyline, Empower Tiberius and his nephew Caligula make a visit to Rome. While there, tensions occur between Pilate and Caligula. After Tiberius and Caligula leave, on their way back to Rome, Tiberius dies under suspicious circumstances. Caligula returns to Jerusalem and announces to Pilate that he is now emperor. In an effort to divert his wrath, Pilate suggests to Caligula that he put up statues of himself throughout the empire. This feeds into Caligula’s arrogance, but he takes it one step further and comes up with the idea of putting one in the Jewish temple. Pilate tries to explain to him that this will lead to a Jewish revolt, but Caligula dismisses it. 

After Caligula’s return to Rome, the statue is sent with armed guards to Jerusalem. This journey was seen in Episode Ten, something I failed to mention in my review of that episode. While on its way, Caiaphas, the early Christians, and the zealots who hear of the plan all associate it with Daniel's prophecy of an “abomination that causes desolation” (Daniel 9:27, LXX; 11:31; 12:11; Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14), as many of them fear this will lead to a revolt that will be squashed by Rome, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem. 

In Episode Eleven, Caiaphas gives a stirring speech, trying to unite the various Jewish factions against the statue. The episode ends with the statue being uncrated in Jerusalem.

In this twelfth episode, James is shown talking with Caiaphas and telling him that the Nazarenes cannot help in the battle against the statue. Caiaphas is outraged and threatens to reinstitute the persecutions of the Christians he had recently agreed to stop.

James returns to the rest of the apostles, and they discuss how this statue situation could lead to the events that Jesus foretold of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, thus ushering in His return. Most of them thus want to stay out of it. But after some discussion, it is agreed they need to stand with their Jewish brethren. 

Meanwhile, the statute is being rolled on a cart towards the temple, surrounded by a garrison of Roman soldiers being led by Cornelius. It is then pulled by pulley up the long flight of steps leading to the temple and then is rolled right into the temple courtyard. Jewish crowds are gathered around screaming at the soldiers, while the zealots are shown hiding on top of the walls of the courtyard preparing to attack. Peter and the other apostles are among the crowd, standing in front watching all of this transpire. 

As the statute and garrison near the entrance to the temple itself, Caiaphas and other priests are blocking the entrance. Cornelius in a very apologetic manner asks Caiaphas to “Please” move. His saying of “Please” shows that he no longer has a stomach for murder due to his conversion. Caiaphas refuses to move. As Cornelius begins to move toward him, Peter jumps out from the crowd in-between Caiaphas and Cornelius and kneels between the two of them.  The rest of the apostles join him, with James and Simon the Zealot coming forward last of all. Caiaphas then kneels beside Peter and exposes his neck to Cornelius for him to slash it. The rest of the priests follow suit behind Caiaphas.

Cornelius appears at a lost as to what to do, and he begins to drop his sword. But just then, the zealots attack! Arrows fly down on the Roman garrison, killing several of them. The soldiers battle back, but they seem to be losing the battle as the zealots surround them. Meanwhile, Cornelius kneels down with the apostles. Then just as the show is going to commercial break, Leah is stabbed.

Coming back from commercial break, somehow the Romans have gained the upper hand and have killed all of the zealots. There are bodies littered all over the temple courtyard floor, and the head of the statue has been broken off. But none of the apostles are hurt or any of the priests, including Caiaphas, and neither was Cornelius.

 

The Aftermath

 

In the midst of all of the bodies in the temple courtyard, Peter tells the rest of the apostles about baptizing Cornelius. Another soldier asks Cornelius if he is okay, as he saw him falling in the battle. Cornelius shrugs off the question. 

Meanwhile, Pilate has retreated to his home and is in a very heated argument with his wife.  He says this just delays the inevitable, as Caligula will send another statue, and another, and another. He thus outlines a gruesome plan to crucify forty Jewish women the morning the new statue arrives. Claudia is outraged at his coldness and tells him she is leaving him. 

She storms out just as Cornelius is coming to see Pilate. He tells her about his conversion to Christ but not to tell her husband, as Pilate would have him executed. She says that the two of them should leave Jerusalem together.  But apparently, her motive is that she has a crush on him and thinks of it as the two of them running away together. But Cornelius tells her about Jesus and how great it is to be a believer and urges her to believe in Him as well, so she can have the same joy he now has. He also tells her that he is married with children. She says she has been a fool and returns to Pilate. 

Meanwhile, Caiaphas is just returning home, and he finds his wife’s body in their house, with her throat slashed, and he breaks down in tears.

The scene now goes back to the temple courtyard. Peter and the other apostles are still there in the midst of all of the bodies. One of the apostles says, “I guess this wasn’t the fulfillment of Jesus' words after all.” A soldier then blames Peter for what has happened and puts the tip of his sword to Peter's throat. The screen goes black. And thus ends Season One of AD.

It was all very dramatic, but did it happen that way?

 

The Statue: What Really Happened

 

Since this whole scenario was an attempt to depict a mostly extra-Biblical event, I had to do some research to find out what really happened. The following is summarized from the sources at the end of this review.

First, on a couple of factual points, this whole narrative played out in 40-41 AD, and Caligula’s real name was Gaius. Caligula was a nickname from his childhood meaning “little soldier’s boot,” which Caligula despised but never could shake. 

That said; there is no mention in history of Tiberius or Caligula ever visiting Jerusalem or of any interaction between Caligula and Pilate. But Caligula was outraged at the Jews for their refusal to honor him as a god. He thus comes up with the idea of placing a statue of himself in the temple. But there is no record of him planning on placing statues of himself throughout the empire other than in Jerusalem and Rome.

Caligula sends his legate, Petronius, the newly appointed President of Syria, to construct the statue. He arrives at the port city of Ptolemais (located about 75 miles NW of Jerusalem) with a large detachment of troops and orders construction of the statue to begin. But then thousands of Jews arrive and plead with him to not construct the statue. They tell him they offer daily sacrifices for the emperor in the temple and thus it should not be defiled.

One source states there were many Christians in Ptolemais and that they saw a connection between this pending event and Jesus’ prediction and that James was in Jerusalem praying in the temple concerning this event. But there is no mention of Peter having any role. 

Petronius is moved by the Jews’ pleas and orders the craftsmen to delay the construction of the statue. Petronius then sends a letter to Caligula trying to dissuade him from this plan. Caligula is outraged and sends a letter back via ship to Petronius telling him to carry out his plans and that Petronius should kill himself.

While that letter is on its way, Caligula is assassinated. I really like how PBS’s website recounts what happens next, “But it happened that those who brought Gaius’s letter were tossed by a storm and were detained on the sea for three months, while others who brought the news of Gaius's death had a good voyage.” And that was the end of the whole ordeal, with the construction of the statute never even coming close to being completed, and the statue never having come within 70 miles of Jerusalem, let alone being wheeled into the temple courtyard. Thus all of the violence depicted in AD never happened and was totally unnecessary.

When I first read this account on PBS’s website, I immediately thought of the book I recently published, The LORD Has It Under Control. In that book I detail that the LORD has human history and the weather under His control, and there is no doubt in my mind that the hand of God was at work in this turn of events. It gave a reprieve to the Jews for another 30 years before Jerusalem and the temple were actually destroyed in 70 AD. And I am sure many others, both Jews and Christians, would also have seen the hand of God at work, if this is how AD portrayed what happened.

However, the portrayal of this event in AD was not even close to what really happened. I guess having the situation being resolved peacefully through the sovereignty of God was not exciting enough for the sick minds of the producers and writers, so they concocted a bunch of violence to insert into this ordeal, as they have done throughout this miniseries. That is par for the course for TV today. Senseless violence must be inserted in every series, and people wonder why we have so much violence and so many mass killings in our society today.

 

Conclusion

 

This episode consisted of one storyline that came from the Book of Acts but which was truncated and distorted, one storyline that was completely made-up, and one storyline from secular history that was greatly distorted to the point of having virtually no relationship to the actual historical event. This pattern was indicative of this entire miniseries. Almost every event it depicted was either totally fictional or a complete distortion of an actual secular or Biblical historical event. It almost never got a single detail correct other than the most general idea of the event. The only two Biblical events that were depicted in a reasonably accurate manner were the conversions of Saul and of the Ethiopian eunuch.  

This was the final episode of AD. And I thank God this miniseries has ended as I was really getting sick of watching and reviewing this cesspool of senseless graphic violence and distortions of the Book I so dearly love. But with the cliffhanger ending, I fear there are plans for a second season. If there is one, I don’t know if I will watch and review it. There were a few inspiring scenes this season, but overall, watching this miniseries and writing these reviews has been a spiritually and emotionally depressing experience, as it really disturbs me to see the truth being so distorted.

But after all of this, I hope someone has been getting something out of my reviews. If the reader missed any, they are listed at: The Bible and AD Miniseries.

Sources:

Jewish peasants block construction of statue of Gaius Caligula in Galilee, 40 CE.

PBS: Statue of Caligula in Jerusalem Temple.

Pilate and Caligula.

Rome and the Abomination of Desolation.

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


Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament



The above article was posted on this website June 25, 2015.

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