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The Bible Miniseries on
The History Channel
A Review of Episode Five
By Gary F. Zeolla
This review is continued from The Bible Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Four. This review evaluates the fifth and final episode of this miniseries, titled “Passion.”
Note: All Scripture quotations are taken from my Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament: Third Edition. Copyright © 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org). Previously copyrighted © 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007 by Gary F. Zeolla.
Condemnation to Crucifixion
This final episode begins after Jesus’ trial before the high priest Caiaphas and the other priests. After being convicted, He is brought outside before a crowd of people in the street. The high priest declares Jesus has been found guilty of “blasphemy and threatening to destroy the temple.”
Judas is among the crowd. Hearing the conviction, Judas is remorseful and throws the money he was bribed with at the priests. Judas then runs off and hangs himself.
Meanwhile, Peter is also among this same crowd. A soldier confronts him and says to him that he was with Jesus. Peter denies it. This happens a couple of times. Then Jesus is thrown to the ground by the priests. He looks up at Peter. Peter remembers Jesus prediction that he would deny Him, and runs off. He is later shown weeping.
A rather dramatic scene, but the problem is, none of it happened this way. In fact, after being tried by the priests, Jesus is taken directly to Pilate (Matt 27:1,2). He was not brought before a crowd at that time.
It is after Jesus is taken to Pilate that Judas returns to the priests in the temple. He declares “I sinned, having betrayed innocent blood!” He then throws down the money into the temple and then goes off and hangs himself (Matt 26:3-5).
As for Peter, his denials of Jesus happened while the trial was still going on. And it was first two slave-girls, not soldiers, who said to him that he was with Jesus, and Peter denies it. Then people standing by confront Peter. He denies knowing Jesus. It is then a rooster crows, and Peters remembers Jesus’ prediction and goes out and weeps bitterly (Matt 26:69-75).
In any case, in the show, Jesus is brought before Pilate by the priests. They enter into the building where Pilate is. They tell Pilate Jesus is a blasphemer and claimed to be King of the Jews, and demand that Pilate have Him crucified. Pilate tells them to execute Him themselves. But they say they cannot do that during the Passover.
But there are several problems with this scene. First, John tells us about the priests, “they themselves did not enter into the Fortified Palace, so that they should not be defiled, but so that they could eat the Passover.” So Pilate goes outside to them. It is then that the priests make their accusations against Jesus. Pilate simply tells them to, “take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your* law.” But the priests reply, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death” (John 18:28-31). That inability had nothing to do with the Passover; it was due to the Roman occupation.
Pilate is shown questioning Jesus. Pilate asks Jesus if He is King of the Jews. Jesus replies that He is, and that it was for this reason He came into the world and to testify of the truth. Pilate ends the conversation by asking, “What is truth?” This scene is basically Scriptural, taken from John 18:33-38.
Pilate’s wife now warns him that she has dreamed about Jesus and tells him that he should not have anything to do with that righteous Man. As a result, Pilate tries to find a way out of executing Jesus. Now Pilate’s wife does warn him, but it happens later (Matt 27:19).
But whatever the reason, the show depict Pilate as being apprehensive about executing Jesus. So instead, he has Jesus flogged. After the flogging, the soldiers place the crown of thorns on Jesus’s head. The flogging and the crown of thorns being placed on Jesus’ head is rather gruesome, but not as much as it could have been.
But that flogging and crowning does not satisfy the priests. They still demand Jesus’ execution, and say the people will revolt if Pilate allows Jesus to live. Upon hearing “the people” Pilate comes up with the idea of allowing the people to decide who will be crucified, Jesus or another prisoner, Barabbas. The two are brought out before the crowd. The priests instigate the people to cry out for Barabbas. So he is released. Pilate then asks what should be done to Jesus, and the people cry out, “Crucify Him!”
This scene is basically Biblical, except for being out of order. The choice between Jesus and Barabbas is given to the people before Jesus is flogged and crowned. And it is after He is so tortured, that the cries are made for Him to be crucified (John 18:39-19:1-16).
One other small point, Pilate is depicted as washing his hands. But no explanation for this action is given in the show. But Matthew tells us, “So Pilate having seen that he is accomplishing nothing, but rather a commotion is being made, having taken water, he washed his hands in full view of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this Righteous [Man]! You* will see [to it yourselves]’” (27:24).
After Jesus is condemned to be crucified, the priests are shown again in Pilate’s palace asking him what will be written as a charge to be placed over His head. Pilate says, “This is Jesus; the King of the Jews.” The priest object saying it should say, “This Man claimed to be King of the Jews.” But Pilate sticks with his wording. Now this conversation did happen, but not until after Jesus had been crucified and the charge had already been nailed above Jesus’ head (John 19:20-22).
Jesus is then lead way to be crucified. But somewhat strangely, Jesus is depicted as carrying the entire cross, upright and crossbeam, but the two thieves to be crucified with Him are only carrying the crossbeam. But the Gospels do not say exactly which was carried, so either could have been accurate.
Along the way, Jesus is depicted as falling three times with the cross. This is a tradition. It is featured in the Catholic Good Friday ceremony of the “Stations of the Cross.” However, the Gospels report about no such falls.
But the Gospels do report and the show depicts a person in the crowd as being forced to help Jesus carry His cross. Matthew but not the show says he is “a Cyrenian, by name Simon.”
Jesus is then rather graphically depicted as being nailed to the cross, and the cross being raised into place, between two other men being crucified.
We now come to the most graphically depicted scene of this miniseries. Hanging from the cross in very well-depicted agony, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus’ mother Mary and John are at the foot of the cross. Jesus “says to His mother, ‘Woman, look!, your son.’ Next He says to the disciple, ‘Look! Your mother.’” This is a touching scene, but the show fails to explain the point of it, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his own [home]” (John 19:27).
The thief on Jesus’ left then begins to deride Him. But the thief on His right defends Him, saying they are being rightly crucified for their crimes, but that Jesus has done nothing wrong. Jesus says to the one on His right, “Positively, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Jesus then says, “I am thirsty.” And wine vinegar is given to Him in a sponge on the end of a pole (John 19:28).
While all of this is going one, the sky begins to cloud over and it gets very dark. The show is correct in depicting that it was dark only part of the time that Jesus was on the cross. He was first crucified at 9:00 am. Darkness did not come over the land until noon. Jesus was on the cross for three hours after that (Mark 15:25; Luke 23:44,45).
Jesus then cries out, “It is finished! Father into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (from Luke 23:46; John 19:30). Jesus then bows His head and dies. A soldier pierces His side with a sword to be sure He is dead.
An earthquake erupts at the crucifixion site, in the city, and at the temple (Matt 27:50). The veil of the temple is shown being shaken, but it not shown as being torn from top to bottom as Matthew describes. There’s much symbolism in that tear that is missed by not showing it.
However, that one point aside, I would say the crucifixion scene was the best done part of this entire miniseries. The entire scene follows the Bible very accurately, with Jesus’ words from the cross being taken straight out of the Gospels. If only the miniseries had so closely followed the Bible otherwise.
Burial, Resurrection Appearances, and Ascension
After His death, two priests come to the guards by the crosses with a scroll, saying it is orders from Pilate to release Jesus’ body to them. However, it was only one priest, Joseph of Arimathea, who asks for Jesus’ body from Pilate (John 19:38). But Nicodemus later helps him, so maybe it was the two of them being depicted.
Mary is then shown washing the body of Jesus, but that is all of the burial preparations that is shown. Not shown is Joseph and Nicodemus wrapping Jesus body with linen clothes and spices (John 19:40).
Most importantly, not shown is the tomb being secured by a Roman guards. This is important as it eliminates the possibility that the disciples stole the body of Jesus (Matt 27:62-66).
In any case, the episode now jumps to “three days later.” Mary is alone at the tomb and is surprised to see the stone rolled away from the entrance. She goes inside and sees and empty grave clothes. Jesus appears in the entrance of the tomb, glowing white. Mary does not recognize Him at first, but asks Him where the body of Jesus is. Jesus then calls to her, “Mary!” And she recognizes Him and is astonished.
Mary is then shown telling the disciples that she has seen the risen Lord. They do not believe her. But Peter and John are then shown at the empty tomb. Peter goes in and comes out carrying the empty grave clothes. He and John then believe.
They return to the other disciples. As they are telling them what they saw, Jesus appears in the open door of the room, glowing white. The disciples are astonished but overjoyed to see Him. Jesus goes up to Thomas and says to him, “Why do you doubt?” And Jesus shows him His hands with the nail holes in them. Jesus then says, “Because you saw Me you believed; blessed are those who do not see but still believe.”
All of this happened, but not quite the way the show depicted it. A lot is left out that leaves what is depicted to not make much sense.
Mary actually goes to get Peter and John before the Lord appears to her. And when He does, the text specifically says she is weeping and stooping down. She does not recognize Jesus because she is not looking straight at Him and has tear-filled eyes. It is when He calls her name that she turns around and looks at and recognizes Him. When she does, she grasps Him by the feet and cries out “‘Rabbouni!’ (which is saying, ‘Teacher’)” (John 20:11-16).
Afterwards, Jesus appears to the disciples twice; the first time without Thomas present. Thomas did not believe the disciples’ report about Jesus being alive. So Jesus appears the second time and talks directly to Thomas. And His conversation with Thomas is much longer than what the show depicted. Most importantly, afterwards, Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:19-29).
One last point, John makes a point of saying the doors were locked to the room where they were at. But still, “Jesus came and stood in the middle [of them]” (John 20:19).
There are other appearances of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, but the episode only depicted these two.
Before His ascension, Jesus and the disciples are correctly depicted as being on a hillside. Jesus tells the disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. And He tells them they will be filled with the Holy Spirit. But His important words are omitted of saying, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to be observing all [things], as many as I commanded you*. And listen! I am with you* all the days, until the conclusion of the age! So be it!” (Matt 29:19-20).
The Book of Acts
After Jesus’ ascension, the story jumps to fifty days later, the Day of Pentecost, thus skipping the first chapter of the Book of Acts. The eleven disciples are shown gathered in a room with Mary Magdalene. But the Book of Acts says there were 120 people in the upper room (Acts 1:15). Steven shows up and is welcomed in. Steven is depicted as being rather young, probably late teens.
The disciples are praying for the Holy Spirit to come, saying the Lord’s Prayer. A wind rushes through not just the room but out into the streets and the temple. And when it does, the disciples and Mary begin speaking in other languages while still in the room. They are saying things like “Jesus is the Messiah!” and “He is risen!” However, they stop speaking in tongues before leaving the room.
But the Books of Acts describes it much different:
1And when the Day of Pentecost [had] come [ca. 30 A.D.], they were all with one mind at the same [place]. 2And suddenly [there] came from heaven a sound like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting! 3And [there] appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and [one] sat on each one of them. 4And they were all filled of [or, with] [the] Holy Spirit, and they began to be speaking with different tongues [fig., foreign languages], just as the Spirit was giving them to be declaring boldly!
5Now [there] were Jews dwelling in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation of the [ones] under heaven. 6Now this sound having occurred, the crowd came together and was bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speaking in his own language.
So the disciples did not stay in the room but went outside and used their ability to speak in other languages for a purpose, to convert those in Jerusalem for Pentecost. And Peter gets up and gives a lengthy sermon, which is omitted in the episode (Acts 2:14-39). As a result, “the ones having gladly received his word were baptized, and about three thousand souls were added on that day!” (Acts 2:41).
Next the show depicts Peter healing a lame man. This did happen. But accompanying Peter was John, and Peter gives another lengthy sermon that is summarized in the episode as Peter just telling the crowd, “Jesus healed him!” (Acts 3:1-26).
In the show, Peter and the formerly lame man are brought before the priests. They are strongly warned to stop speaking about the dead man Jesus. Peter says that Jesus is not dead but is alive. But in the Bible, John is brought with Peter before the priests. And again, they give a much lengthier sermon than is given in the show (Acts 4: 1-14).
The show skips the next couple of chapters of Acts, and jumps to the story of the story of Stephen. Omitted is the text telling us, “Stephen, full of faith and of power, was performing wonders and great signs among the people (Acts 6:8). Also omitted is that false charges were made against him in order to condemn him, and the high priest questioning him (Acts 6:15; 7:1). But most of all, omitted is his lengthy sermon summarizing the early history of Israel. Included in in this sermon is how the Jews were always rebelling against the LORD. Stephen then confronts those coming against him with the same charge. It is this charge that outrages the Jews against him (Acts 7:2-57). It is this knowledge and boldness that makes depicting Stephen as being a teenager in the show a little questionable.
In any case, instead of all of this, the show just depicts the Jews being outrage because Stephen was declaring that Jesus was alive. And the show had Saul (a.k.a., Paul) instigating the stoning of Stephen. But in Acts, it is just said “the witnesses laid their cloaks down at the feet of a young man being called Saul” (Acts 7:58) and that “Saul was giving approval to his murder” (Acts 8:1). Note also that Saul is called a “young man.” In the show he was depicted as being more middle age.
But the show does correctly depict that this event sparks a persecution by the Jews against the Christians led by Saul. It then depicts Saul traveling to Damascus to arrest the Christians there. Along the way, Jesus appears to him. When Saul asks who He is, He responds, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Saul is blinded. Meanwhile, those traveling with him do not see or hear Jesus. This is all basically accuarate, except for not showing the bright light preceding the appearance of Jesus (Acts 9:1-9).
Meanwhile, the show depicts Jesus as appearing to Ananias and telling him that Saul is coming. Ananias objects saying Saul is a persecutor. But Jesus assures him that Saul will be His servant. Ananias then finds Saul, sitting against a post, still blind. Ananias heals him and then baptizes him. This is all basically accurate (Acts 9:13-19).
The show then depicts Saul as trying to join with the disciples, but most of them do not trust him. This happened (Acts 9:26). But omitted is Barnabas coming to his defense (Acts 9:27). Instead, the show has Paul trying to calm the disciples himself by quoting what he would later write about love in 1Corinthians 13.
The show then goes back to Peter. But omitted is his rising Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). Instead, the show jumps to Jesus appearing to him and telling him that the Gospel is for all peoples. This is a very truncating of the vision that is given to Peter to teach him that the Gospel is for Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) as well as for Jews (Acts 10:9-20). After the appearance of Jesus, the show depicts men coming to Peter telling him that Cornelius the centurion wants to see him. Peter goes with them.
Peter tells Cornelius that Jesus has shown him that the Gospel is for all peoples and baptizes Cornelius and others of his household. This again is a very truncated telling of the story of the first conversion of a non-Jew (Acts 10:1-8,21-47).
And that basically ends the depicting of events from the Book of Acts. As such, most of the ministry, travels, and preaching of Paul are not depicted.
The narrator does, however, say that the apostles are scattered around the globe, preaching the Gospel. And he mentions that Paul travels more than anyone establishing churches in many major cities, and that he wrote many letters, which comprise almost half of the books of the New Testament.
Extra-Biblical Material and The Revelation
The narrator then relates where many of the apostles by tradition traveled to in preaching the Gospel. He also says that they were all eventually executed for their preaching, such as Peter being crucified and Paul being beheaded. He says that they tried to kill John, but were unable to do so. All of this is by tradition. It is not found in the Bible.
But what is found in the Bible is what closes the miniseries, the narrator saying John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos Rev 1:9). While there, the narrator says John receives visions of the end times, but none of these are depicted. But the the narrator does say these visions comprise the last book of the Bible. But the narrator wrongly calls that book “Revelations” (plural). It is actually “The Revelation” (singular; see Rev 1:1).
The miniseries ends with Jesus appearing to John and telling him, “I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and End! … I am making all things new! … I am coming quickly!” (Rev 22:5,12,13).
This final episode was probably the best of the miniseries. As noted, the depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus was very well done. It graphically depicted the suffering that Jesus underwent for us. But unfortunately, that is followed by a very disappointing truncated and misleading depiction of the resurrection appearances of Jesus.
It was good that at least some of the Book of Acts was covered. But more was left uncovered than was covered, and what was covered wasn’t that Biblically accurate. And by omitting most of the sermons of Acts, the purpose behind Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is not explained well. And that might be the saddest part of all of this miniseries.
Conclusion to the Miniseries
The title of this miniseries was “The Bible” and it aired on the History Channel. Given these two facts, I would have expected the miniseries to cover at least the majority of the historical portions of the Bible, and to accurately follow what the Bible reports as having happened. But, unfortunately, this was not even close to being the case.
The miniseries would probably have been better titled, “A Few Select Stories Loosely Based on the Bible,” because that is what it was. The majority of Biblical history was left uncovered, and what was depicted, more often than not, did not accurately follow what the Bible records as having happened.
Overall, it was a very disappointing miniseries. It originally aired in March 2013, and millions watched it, all of whom were given a false impression as to what the Bible teaches. The series is now available on DVD, so it has the potential to mislead many more. But hopefully these reviews will open the eyes of viewers as to the distortions of this miniseries, and most off all, inspire people to read the Bible for themselves to learn what this most important Book in the world really teaches.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament
The above article was posted on this Web site April 2, 2013.
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