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The Bible Miniseries on
The History Channel
A Review of Episode Four
By Gary F. Zeolla
This review is continued from The Bible Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Three. This review evaluates episode four of this miniseries titled “Ministry.” It is wholly about the ministry of Jesus.
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.
The Healing of the Paralytic and a Leper
This episode opens with the story of the healing of the paralytic (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:18-26). Jesus says to the paralytic, “your sins are forgiven you, my son.” The scribes and Pharisees object, saying initially only God can forgive sins. They then later accuse Jesus of blasphemy. However, the Biblical order is reversed. They first accuse Jesus of blasphemy, then later complain only God can forgive sins.
But more importantly, the Gospels make it clear that the scribes and Pharisees were only thinking these things in their minds. They did not speak them out audibly. But “Jesus, having known their thoughts, said, ‘Why are you* thinking evil in your hearts?’ So the miracle of Jesus knowing what they were thinking is omitted from the show.
But the important point of Jesus saying to the paralytic to get up and walk, and him doing so is depicted, along with Jesus claiming the authority to forgive sins.
Jesus then heals a leper. He does this often in the Gospels, so it is good it was depicted.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector and the Calling of Matthew
Jesus then tells the parable of Pharisee and the tax-collector. This is recorded in Luke 18:9-14. However, Luke specifically says it was a parable (or, allegory), but the show made it into a real event, with a real Pharisee standing by and a real tax-collector sitting by. The tax-collector is Matthew (or, Levi). And after telling the parable, Matthew gets up and follows Jesus. However, the calling of Matthew is recorded in Luke 5:27-28. So the two events are jumbled together.
Afterwards, some of the disciples are depicted as objecting to Matthew having been called. But one of them says to another that Jesus did not come for good people but for sinners. But those words were spoken by Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees when they objected to Jesus eating with Matthew after his calling (Luke 5:43).
The Lord’s Prayer and the Woman Taken in Adultery
Next, the people ask Jesus to teach them to pray, and He teaches them the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). That much is very good. But Jesus omitted the final sentence as record in the Gospel of Matthew, “Because Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory into the ages! [fig., forever!] So be it!” This is actually a textual variant. It is omitted in some Greek texts and in most modern-day Bible versions, so I cannot fault the miniseries for not mentioning it. But as one who strongly believes these words are original, it is something that I noticed.
Also a textual variant is the entire story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11). But that did not keep the show from depicting it. That is good. However, the show never actually said, “this woman was caught in the very act—committing adultery!” It simply had the Pharisees saying she was worthy of being stoned. But the viewer is left wondering as to why.
The show then has Jesus picking up a stone, and saying He will give it to the person who has never sinned. This is far from what Jesus actually said and did in the Gospel of John. And Jesus’ famous words are omitted, “The sinless [man] of you*, let him first cast the stone at her.” But it at least the main point gets across. And they did accurately have Jesus telling the woman, to “Go, and sin no more.”
The Feeding of the Five Thousand and Peter’s Confession
The show next depicts the feeding of the five thousand. But none of the dialog or details are very close to how this important miracle is depicted in the Gospels. But at least the main point of Jesus miraculously feeding so many is depicted.
Next Jesus is alone with his disciples. He asks them who they think He is, and Peter says, “You are the Son of God.” Jesus replies that God has revealed this to him, and “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.” That is somewhat accurate, but very truncated from the full dialog as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 16:13-20).
Walking on the Water
The story of Jesus walking on the water is depicted next (Matt 13:22-33). The disciples are shown sailing in a ship on the sea in the middle of a storm. Jesus comes walking on the water out to them. The disciples are saying that Jesus really is the Messiah. Jesus calls and reaches out to Peter, and Peter very hesitantly steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the water. But then he gets frightened and sinks all the way into the water. Jesus says, “O you of little faith.” And the scene jumps to Peter lying on the seashore, gasping for breath.
The main idea of this scene is depicted, but most all of the details are wrong. It is Peter who calls out to Jesus to tell him to come out on the water. When he does, and begins sinking, Peter cries out to Jesus to save him. Jesus lifts him up, they get into the boat, and then “immediately” the boat is on the other side. Afterwards, the disciples say to Jesus, “Truly You are God’s Son!”
Reading of the Scriptures and Mourning John the Baptist’s Death
Jesus is now depicted as reading from the Scroll of Isaiah in a synagogue. He then declares, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your* ears” (Luke 4:14-22). This is all accurate, except it happened right after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, not much later in His ministry as the show makes it appear. And the doubts of the ones hearing are not depicted.
Jesus and the disciples are now alone, and are mourning someone’s death. It’s not clear whose death it is at first, though I knew it must be John the Baptist. But then Jesus says, “John was the greatest teacher I knew.” However, Jesus’ comments about John actually occurred before his death and in front of a crowd. And Jesus had much more to say about John the Baptist, and He called him a “prophet” not a “teacher” (Matt 11:7-19). There is no record in the Gospels of the disciples mourning John’s death.
Next, the Jews are depicted as being outraged at Pilate for using money that was supposed to be spent on the temple on an aqueduct instead. The scene turns into a riot, which is quenched in rather graphic fashion by the Roman soldiers. There is no equivalent to this in the Gospels, but I guess the scene is included to show the unrest that was occurring in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.
Raising of Lazarus
The raising of Lazarus is next depicted (John 11). But many details are omitted or simply wrong. Omitted is Jesus being told about Lazarus’ sickness before He was in Bethany where Lazarus was, Jesus then waiting two days to go to him, and most of all, Jesus telling His disciples that Lazarus has died. The point being, Jesus did not need to be told this, He just knew it. Also omitted is when He does arrive at Bethany, is His first talking to Martha then Mary before going to Lazarus’ tomb.
In the show, Jesus goes directly to the tomb. Men remove a pile of stones from the entrance of the tomb. Jesus enters the tomb, along with Mary. While in there, He says to Lazarus, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. If anyone believes in me, he still has life.” Lazarus then opens his eyes, and Mary gasps. Lazarus then walks out of the tomb, and all the people are astonished and rejoice.
But in the Gospel of John, Jesus says “I am the Resurrection and the Life” to Martha before going to the tomb. And the rest of what He says is much different and expanded from what is given in the episode. Jesus does go to the tomb, but He never actually enters it. He tells others to remove the one stone (not a pile of stones) from the entrance. He then very dramatically cries out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” It is then that Lazarus comes out. John then tells us that many believe in Jesus because of this miracle.
Afterwards in the show, the Pharisees are depicted as being upset about the miracle and the following Jesus has acquired. But they are mainly concerned that Jesus will upset Pilate and disrupt the upcoming Passover. But in the Gospels, the Pharisees are mainly concerned, “the Romans will come and will take away both our place and nation.” As a result, they begin to plot to kill Jesus. This very important point is not mentioned in the show.
The Triumphal Entry and Cleansing of the Temple
The show next depicts Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, the Sunday before Passover. And the narrator rightly says that Passover is the biggest celebration of the Jews. Jesus is shown riding on a donkey, and the narrator says this is a fulfillment of prophecy. One of the Pharisees also notices the connection. The people are waving palms and praising Jesus. This is all basically accurate (Matt 21:1-9).
However, among the people praising Jesus, one person calls out angrily to Jesus to “set us all free.” Jesus calls him Barabbas and calms him just by looking at him. Barabbas figures in later in the Gospels, but he’s not mentioned here.
The narrator then says that the selling of sacrificial animals and the exchanging of money is big business at Passover time. Jesus enters the temple and begins overturning the money changer’s tables. He then quotes Scripture about why it is wrong. This is all accurate, but it doesn’t go far enough. Jesus also “threw out all the ones selling and buying in the temple” (Matt 21:12-13). And John tells us He made a whip to aid in doing so (John 2:15).
Afterwards, the Pharisees are depicted as chiding Jesus for what He did. Jesus tells them that you cannot serve God and money, and calls them “hypocrites.” But there is no such confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees at this time in Gospels. These words are said to the Pharisees at different times, the former much earlier, and the latter later (Matt 6:24; 23:13-33).
Jesus’ Preaching and Confrontation with the Pharisees
Jesus next is shown giving His famous line, “You will love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39, quoting Lev 19:18). But the show omits Jesus saying this is the “second” great commandment, just as it omits Jesus giving the first, “You will love [the] LORD your God with your whole heart [fig., your entire inner self] and with your whole soul and with your whole understanding” (Matt 22:38, quoting Deut 6:5].
The Pharisees next confront Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar. One of the disciples is depicted as telling Jesus it is a trap. But in the Gospels Jesus didn’t need anyone to tell Him that as He already “knew their wickedness” (Matt 22:18). Jesus gets out of it by saying, “render the [things] of Caesar to Caesar, and the [things] of God to God” (Matt 22:21).
The show then has Jesus presenting pieces of various teachings of His. What’s said is mostly accurate, but they’re taken from different parts of different Gospels and jumbled together. And it is just pieces. The show never has Jesus giving any of His full teachings.
One important mistake in the show is that it has Jesus telling a little girl in the midst of the crowd about the temple that not one stone will be left on another. The Pharisees hear this and interpret it as Jesus threatening He will destroy the temple. This fear then becomes a focus of the Pharisee’s outrage against Jesus. But these words were actually spoken by Jesus in private to His disciples (Matt 24:1,2). The Pharisees never heard them.
Next, Nicodemus comes to Jesus while He is with His disciples. But Nicodemus actually comes to Jesus by night, when He is alone. And this scene actually occurred much earlier in Jesus’ ministry (John 3). But the show does depict Jesus’ main conversation with Nicodemus as occurring at night with the two of them alone.
The main points of the conversation are presented. But none of the dialog is exactly accurate as to what Jesus actually said. But still, it is good to hear on secular TV Jesus saying that a person must be born again and born of the Spirit, and the famous verse of John 3:16 is quoted, though somewhat skewed.
Judas and Pilate
The Pharisees focus on Judas as one of the disciples of Jesus that they can bribe, and send for him to come to them. But in fact, it is Judas who comes to the Pharisees of his own accord (Matt 26:14). Meanwhile, Pilate is upset about rioting that occurs shortly before Passover. But no such rioting is recorded in the Gospels.
The Last Supper and Gethsemane
Next, Jesus celebrating Passover with the disciples is depicted (Matt 26:17-35). Jesus breaks the bread and says, “This is My body.” And He shares the wine, and says, “This is My blood.” But omitted is Jesus’ very important words about the wine, “for this is My blood, the [blood] of the New Covenant, the [blood] poured out on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus tells the disciples one of them will betray Him and that He will die. Jesus tells Peter he will deny Him, but Peter denies it. Judas leaves to betray Jesus. This scene is now known as the Last Supper, and it was mostly depicted accurately (Matt 26:20-35). But omitted is Jesus saying to Peter, “Positively, I say to you, on this night, before a rooster crows, three times you will deny [or, disown] Me.”
Jesus then goes to Gethsemane to pray (Matt 26:36-46). Jesus is shown praying, but the whole scene is very truncated. Omitted is the disciples sleeping, and much of Jesus’ prayer. But at least the episode does depict Him as asking for God’s will to be done.
Judas comes with a band of temple solders and kisses Jesus. Jesus is arrested. Peter starts to fight back with a sword, and cuts off the ear of one of the soldiers. Jesus heals it. (Luke 22:39-40). But He is still taken away. This scene was done rather well and accurately.
Caiaphas wants Jesus tried immediately. But there seems to be some problem about a trial not being allowed by Jewish law to occur at night. But there is no such mention in the Gospels of this. The show depicts Jesus as being accused of using demons to heal people. This is a charge the Pharisees made much earlier in Jesus’ ministry (Matt 9:34), but the Gospels don’t mention it as being brought up at Jesus’ trial.
The Pharisees accuse Jesus of threatening to destroy the temple. This was a charge that was made. But the show made it appear it was due to Jesus’ statement about a stone of the temple not remaining on a stone. But in fact, it came from His much misunderstood statement in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up!”
But the most important charge was depicted. Caiaphas asks Jesus if He is the Son of God. And Jesus replies, “I am. And You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt 26:64). Caiaphas tears his clothes and declares Jesus has blasphemed and is worthy of death (Matt 26:65). This scene and the dialog is mostly accurate, but as usual, truncated.
And that is where this episode ends.
Jumbled. That is the best way I can describe this fourth episode of this miniseries. It takes scenes and dialog from different places in the Gospels and jumbles them together into one scene. Or it presents important scenes or dialog but does not quite accurately present them. It also presents scenes out of Biblical order. And it jumps around from scene to scene, with little logical order, making it hard to follow. And many important scenes from the Gospels are omitted, including most of Jesus’ miracles and parables, and much of His preaching.
But the episode does get across the general tenure of the ministry of Jesus and the reaction to it. And some scenes are depicted rather accurately. So I would say it was somewhat more Biblically accurate than the first three episodes, so that is something. But to really learn about Jesus' ministry, you need to read the Gospels in the Bible, not depend on a TV show.
These reviews conclude at: The Bible Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Five.
Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament
The above article was posted on this Web site March 29, 2013.
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