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AD: The Bible Continues
Review of Episodes One and Two
By Gary F. Zeolla
I previously reviewed the The Bible Miniseries. Now, the same producers (Roma Downey and Mark Burnett) are continuing their take on the Bible with AD: The Bible Continues. This time the miniseries is being shown on NBC, and this has lots of Christians excited. “A show about the Bible on a major TV network!” I’d be excited too, if they hadn’t done such a hatchet job of the Bible in their first miniseries, as detailed in my reviews.
Before watching the first episode, I watched a “preview” show on TBS. In it, Roma and Mark said they would be basing the new series on the Bible, historical information, and Jewish and Christian traditions. If that was the case, this would be a very informative and educational miniseries. But very quickly into the first episode, it became clear to me that the series would be mostly based on the imaginations of the writers with little attention to the actual details of the Bible or history. This became even more evident in episode two.
Difference Between a Historical Drama and Historical Fiction
Before proceeding, let me try to explain why I find what Roma and Mark are doing to be so disturbing. I was born in 1961, so during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1963, I was only two years old. As such, I obviously have no direct memory of the details of that very important historical event. Most of what I know about it comes from the movie Missiles of October.
I first saw that historical drama when my sixth grade teacher showed it to our class. I have seen it a couple of times since then, and it is an excellent drama. That movie was so dramatic it left an impression on me, and I still remember much of it. And to me, what happened in it is what happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis. But if it was inaccurate on any points, then my knowledge is inaccurate.
For instance, in the movie, there was one occasion when war could have easily broken out. An US Air Force reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba. Kennedy could have easily retaliated, and that could have escalated to war. But Kennedy showed restraint and realized that one trigger happy Soviet should not be cause for a full scale nuclear war. But did that happen? I never knew for sure until just now. While writing this article I did some research and found that it did (see Cuban Missile Crisis).
But in The Bible miniseries (to take one simple example), Samson was portrayed as being the only child of a single parent. Viewers who never took the time to read the Book of Judges themselves never had that false impression corrected (see Judges 13:6-14:4; 16:31). And that is just one of many false impressions that were ingrained in the minds of viewers.
But AD goes even further. Rather than being classified as a historical drama like Missiles of October, it would be more of a historical novel. For such, what the writers do is take a historical event and then develop a whole fictional storyline set during that time period, following the basic theme of the historical event but with little regards to the actual historical details. Such was the case with Scruples, another movie I watched some time ago that was also set at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This movie followed one man and how he was dealing with the possibility of the world coming to an end. He had been a man of great integrity with many scruples. [Note a “scruple” is “a moral or ethical consideration that tends to restrain action or behavior” (Encarta Dictionary)]. But with the world coming to an end, he abandoned all of his scruples and lived a licentious lifestyle during the 13 days of the crisis, not expecting to survive it. But when the crisis ended peacefully, with no nukes being fired, he was left in a quandary as to how to pick up the pieces of the mess he had made of his life. It was an interesting story and maybe reflected how some people dealt with that crisis, but it was pure fiction. It was not based on a real person, and all of the action and dialog came from the imaginations of the writers. The only accurate historical details came by way of a TV or radio in the background, giving updates on how the crisis was progressing.
Basically, the writers took the general theme of the Cuban Missile Crisis and some salient events of it and then interwove their novel around those events. And that is exactly what the producers of AD did in the first two episodes. They took the general theme of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus and then interwove fictional action and dialog around it. The only difference is, rather than using a fictional character, they used the names of historical and Biblical figures for their characters.
Three Upsetting Inaccurate Biblical Details
With having watched that preview show, as I watched Episode One I really wasn’t expecting to see a Biblical drama but a Biblical novel, and thus I was not too upset when it was mostly made up dialog and action, with little regard for Biblical details. As such, I wasn’t taking note of when the episode contradicted the Bible, and none of the contradictions were upsetting enough to really catch my attention. But that changed with Episode Two. It was again mostly made up dialog and action with little regard for Biblical details, while getting most details it presented wrong. But this time, there were three such distortions that really caught my attention.
The first was when Jesus first appeared after His resurrection to the ten disciples. This was after Judas had committed suicide and when Thomas was not present. The later point was inaccurate given what happened next. The episode confused two different appearances of Jesus. But no matter, as what is important is Jesus asked the disciples if they had anything to eat, and they gave Him a piece of bread. Most people watching the episode probably did not notice the distortion here or the import of it.
What actually happened is as follows, “He said to them, ‘Do you* have anything edible here?’ 42So they gave to Him a piece of a broiled fish and a honeycomb from a beehive. 43And having taken, He ate before them” (Luke 24:41b-43; ALT3).
Thus it was not bread but fish and honey that the disciples gave to Him to eat. What difference does it make? It is this; there are many vegetarians and animal rights activists who try to claim that Jesus was a vegetarian. A while back, PETA even ran a campaign with “Jesus was a Vegetarian” scrawled across billboards across the country. But this simple scene proves that to be false. It is not the only such proof; there are others, as I detail in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book, but I doubt this change of food was an accident. It was feeding into the PC mindset of today, just as turning Samson into an only child of a single parent was in the first miniseries.
The second inaccuracy that caught my attention was the in next scene when Jesus appeared to the disciples with Thomas now present. The relationship of the two scenes was inaccurate in that AD portrayed these scenes as occurring minutes apart, when in fact these two appearances of Jesus to the disciples occurred a week apart (see John 20:26). But the important inaccuracy was in regards to what Thomas said to Jesus. In AD, he proclaims to Jesus, “My Lord!” But in reality, the proclamation is, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Again, what difference does it make?” Plenty.
In this declaration, Thomas is asserting that Jesus is God in the flesh. That is an incredible declaration for an orthodox Jew to make. It is in fact earth-shaking. And I have used this text with Jehovah’s Witnesses to demonstrate the deity of Jesus. Now JWs will try to evade this verse by saying it was just an exclamation by Thomas, like someone today exclaiming, “Oh my God!” But there are two things wrong with that claim. First, an orthodox Jew would never use the word “God” in such a manner, as it would be considered a breaking of the Third Commandment. Second, the text says specifically that Thomas said these words “to Him,” while an exclamation is not said to anyone.
In any case, I guess the idea of Jesus being God was just too much for Roma and Mark and NBC to present to the viewer, as it might upset too many people. It is just not PC to claim that the Founder of your religion is God in the flesh, thus making a wide distinction between Christianity and all other religions.
The third upsetting inaccuracy involves the Roman soldiers commissioned to guard Jesus’ tomb. In the Gospel of Matthew unspecified Pharisees ask Pilate for the guard (Matt 23:62), but AD turns that into Caiaphas for dramatic effect. That does not bother me, but what bothered me was what happened to the solders after the resurrection of Jesus. Matthew records it as follows:
11Now while they are going, look!, some of the guard [of soldiers] having come into the city reported to the chief priests all the [things] having happened. 12And having been gathered together with the elders, and having taken counsel [or, having plotted], they gave much money to the soldiers, 13saying, “Say, ‘His disciples having come by night stole Him while we were sleeping.’ 14And if this is heard by the governor, we will persuade him, and we will make you* free from anxiety [fig., we will keep you* out of trouble].” [cp. Acts 12:18,19; 16:27] 15So having received the money, they did as they were taught. And this account was spread widely among Jews until this day (Matthew 24:11-15; ALT3).
The cross references to the Book of Acts show that a Roman soldier who was guilty of a dereliction of duty would be executed. But here, the chief priests keep that from happening. But in AD, it was quite a different story. The soldiers are first beaten by other soldiers. Then in Pilate’s chambers and before Caiaphas, five of them are strangled to death, and then Pilate himself stabs the sixth in the back, killing him.
This scene was at the end of the episode, and it left me feeling distraught and almost tearful. These six soldiers were beaten and killed due to no dereliction of duty on their part. There was nothing they could have done to have prevented the resurrection. But more importantly, their suffering and deaths were the direct result of the resurrection. Thus Christ’s resurrection in AD was not “Good News” for them but a death sentence. That is to really distort the joy that the resurrection should bring to people.
The Bible miniseries distorted many Biblical details, but AD goes even further. So far, not only have there been many Biblical inaccuracies, but it is not even a Bible-based drama at all. It is basically a Biblical novel, with little Biblical or historical support for most of the dialog and action. If I were to watch it as I watch any other fictional TV series, then it might be an exciting and entertaining fictional drama. But given that it purports to be Bible based, it is pure frustration. The only reason I might continue to watch it is so I can write further reviews. If not for that, I would not bother as it is just too irritating to see the Book I dearly love being so severely distorted.
AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episodes One and Two. Copyright © 2015 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).
AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episode Three
Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament
The above article was posted on this website April 18, 2015.
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