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The Bible Miniseries on The History Channel
A Review of Episode Three
By Gary F. Zeolla

This review is continued from The Bible Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Two – Part Two. This review evaluates episode three of this miniseries titled “Hope.”

Skipping Hundreds of Years

Episode three opens with the narrator mentioning about “the twenty-first king of Jerusalem, Zedekiah.” Wait a minute! What happened to the reign of King Solomon and the building of the temple that I thought this episode would begin with? What happened to the very important splitting of Israel into two kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south? What about the reigns of all of the kings of Israel and Judah that followed King Solomon, and all of the events that happened during their reigns? What about the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and all of the miracles they performed?

The entire Book of 1Kings is omitted. Zedekiah is not mentioned until 2Kings 23:17. There are only 24 chapters in the book, so most of the Book of 2Kings is omitted. Or to put it another way, the reign of Solomon began in 930 B.C.; the reign of Zedekiah began in 597 B.C. So over 330 years of Biblical history is omitted. And this is history for which the Bible provides many details, both in the Books of Kings and in the Books of Chronicles. But all of that important history is omitted.

Moreover, Zedekiah was not the twenty-first king of Judah. Saul, David, and Solomon reigned over all of Israel. Then starting with Rehoboam, there were 20 rulers of Judah, including Zedekiah. So I don’t know where the show got 21 from. For point of information, there were 19 kings of Israel, until the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. But again, all of that is omitted. For a miniseries that claims to be “The Bible,” omitting so much Biblical history defies imagination.

Zedekiah and the Babylonian Captivity

In any case, picking up with where the episode does, it begins with Jerusalem being besieged by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his army (2Kings 24:10-11). The show says the city is in a famine and that the people resorted to cannibalism. It is true there was a famine (2Kings 25:3), but there is no mention of cannibalism in the Bible.

The show then says Zedekiah escaped out of the city through a “secret passage.” But the Bible mentions no such passage. But Zedekiah does escape with his two sons. And the show depicts them being caught, his sons being killed before him, and Zedekiah’s eyes being gouged out. That is all rather graphic, but it is Biblical (2Kings 25:5-7).

The city of Jerusalem and the temple are then shown as being burned, the treasures of the temple being taken, and the people being taken captive to Babylon. That is all Biblical (2Kings 24:13,14; 25:9). So for the most part, the episode starts out accurately.

But by omitting the entirety of the reigns of the Kings of Judah that preceded King Zedekiah, the reason for the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity of the people is not really given. There is a quick scene of Jeremiah crying out that it is due to the sins of Judah. But not much detail is given at all.

The reason for the calamity was the sins of the kings and people of Judah. 1,2Kings says repeatedly that the king “did the evil in the sight of the LORD” and that he led the people to do also (e.g., 2Kings 3:2; 8:18,27, etc). By “the evil” is meant not worshiping the one true God, the LORD God of Israel, but instead worshiping the false gods of the surrounding nations.

The Book of Daniel

The episode now moves to the Jews being in Babylon, and the focus is on events taken from the Book of Daniel. I have not yet translated the Book of Daniel, and it has been a while since I read it. But I still noticed many inaccuracies being depicted.

Daniel and three other young men are shown being captured in Jerusalem when it was being besieged. But the Book of Daniel doesn’t actually mention about such a capture. But maybe it happened. They got to Babylon somehow. And they are correctly depicted as being rather young, probably teenagers when they are taken.

The three men with Daniel are Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But they are better known by the names King Nebuchadnezzar gave them: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. However, in the show only Azariah is actually mentioned by name, and that less familiar name is used. He is depicted as being a rebel looking for ways to revolt against the Babylonians. But such is not mentioned in the Book of Daniel.

Next, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and expects his wise men to tell him what the dream was and its interpretation. Daniel is shown as being in the room at the time. But in fact, this all happened without Daniel present. He comes in later and tells Nebuchadnezzar that God will interpret the dream. In the show, Daniel then gives a very abbreviated version of the interpretation given in the Bible for the dream (Daniel 2).

Next, Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant golden image and expects everyone to bow down to it. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to do so. As a result, they are cast into a fiery furnace. When they are, a fourth figure appears, and crowd looking on and Nebuchadnezzar are shocked. The three are then taken out unharmed.

That much is biblical (Daniel 3). But while they are in the furnace, Daniel is shown as praying for them. But there is no mention in the Bible of Daniel being present at this time. In fact, if he was present at the time, he most likely would not have bowed to the image and been thrown into the furnace himself.

Next, the episode says that the one man who could have let the Jews return to their homeland had gone insane, that man being Nebuchadnezzar. He is depicted as being chained up in a basement, acting like a mad man. And that is the last time he is shown.

But what is not mentioned is how he got that way, and what happened afterwards. The Bible says Nebuchadnezzar was exalting himself and being prideful over all that he had accomplished. The LORD pronounces judgment upon him for this by making him insane. But after seven years, his senses are returned to him, and he praises the LORD of heaven (Dan 4:29-37).

Omitted from the show is the next chapter of the Book of Daniel where Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar brings out the vessels of the temple of the LORD and uses them as drinking cups for a drunken banquet. Daniel pronounces God’s judgment on him for this.

But what the show does mention is that the Assyrians came to besiege Babylon. It says the Babylonians gave up without a fight, simply opening the city’s gates for the approaching army. Now maybe that happened, but it’s not mentioned in the Bible. It is information that must have been taken from secular sources.

But next depicted is the very famous story of Daniel and the lion’s den, that is recorded in Daniel 6. Men are shown as persuading King Darius to pass a decree outlawing prayer to anyone other than the king. They do so in order to have occasion to accuse Daniel, who for some reason they don’t like. The Bible tells us it’s because Darius was thinking of making Daniel second in the kingdom (Dan 6:3). The decree is passed, and Daniel is shown struggling with what he will do. But eventually, he goes ahead and prays to the LORD as he always does.

He is caught doing so, and dragged to a dungeon and thrown in a cell. It is not until he is in there that he sees the two lions. He is shown as being very frightened, pressing up against the cell wall away from the lions. But as they come to him, he kneels to pray.

The camera goes outside, and shows the king running down the halls of the dungeon towards the cell and orders the doors be opened. Daniel is brought out unharmed. Darius then orders the man who instigated the whole thing to be thrown into the cell, and the sound is heard of the lions attacking him.

The general storyline as depicted is Biblical. But lots of details are wrong. Before being thrown in the lion’s den, King Darius expresses hope that Daniel’s God will protect him. Daniel then spends the entire night in the den, not just a few minutes’ as the show made it appear. The king is said to be anxious this entire time.

When Daniel is brought out unharmed, not just one man but all of the men who accused Daniel, along with their wives and children, are thrown into the lion’s den and mauled. The Book of Daniel doesn’t mention how many lions there were, but the expression “lion’s den” and this final scene makes it sound like it was more than just two.

And that’s it as far as the Book of Daniel goes. The events of the second half of the book are not mentioned. But what does happen is the show makes it appear like it was King Darius’ amazement over Daniel being rescued from the lion’s den that led him to issue a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland.

Now that does happen. But it’s not mentioned in the Book of Daniel. The decree is recorded in the last chapter of 2Chronicles and the first chapter of the Book of Ezra. But no connection is made between it and Daniel.

One last point, when Daniel is last shown, he appears middle aged at best. But if he was thrown into the lions’ den right before the return of the Jews from captivity, that would have been 70 years after their initial capture, making Daniel well into his 80s.

Conclusion on the Old Testament

The miniseries’ coverage of the Old Testament ends with a depiction of a large group of Jews traveling the road back to Jerusalem. Omitted from the miniseries are the entire Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.

The miniseries’ coverage of the Old Testament ended exactly halfway through episode three. That means a total five hours were spent on the Old Testament. That is not very much given how long the Old Testament actually is. That is why so much of it was omitted. And with so many omissions, the viewer is left confused as to what was being depicted. The miniseries simply tried covering too much in too short of time.

But that said, the narrator mentions about the Romans taking over Jerusalem. And the story of Jesus is picked up.

Note: The following New Testament 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 Birth of Jesus

Mary and Joseph are first shown worshiping in a synagogue, and it is mentioned that they are engaged. They are not sitting together but on opposite sides of the synagogue. That is probably historically accurate, men and women sat apart in synagogues. But there is no mention in the Bible of this scene. And there definitely is no mention in the Bible of what happens next. Romans barge into the synagogue and begin demanding taxes from the people. The people fight back, and some are killed by the sword, while others run out, including Mary and Joseph.

It is in the midst of this mayhem that the angel Gabriel appears to Mary. But he is not named, and nothing really indicates that he is an angel. I only know these things from reading the Bible. In any case, Gabriel tells Mary she is blessed by God and will bear a Son, and that He will be exalted. Mary responds, “May it be to me according to your word.”

That much is Biblical. But much of Gabriel’s words to Mary are omitted, and her responses. Most importantly left out is the following exchange: “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be since I do not know a man?’ [fig., since I am a virgin?’] And answering, the angel said to her, ‘[The] Holy Spirit will come upon you, and [the] power of the Most High will overshadow you, and so the Holy One being born will be called God’s Son’ (Luke 1:34-35). So it is not made clear in the show that Mary was a virgin at the time.

But later, Mary tells Joseph she is pregnant. And He rightly gets upset about it, and doesn’t believe her when he tells her that God made her pregnant. Now this scene is not depicted in the Bible, but something like it probably happened.

But in the show, Joseph is depicted as running out in the street. He then prays, asking God if what Mary said was really possible. But the Bible does not depict Joseph as ever seriously considering Mary’s assertion. In fact, it says he was planning on divorcing her (Matt 1:19).

The show then depicts a young boy grabbing Joseph’s hand in the street, but then the boy changes into an angel. And the angel tells him that what Mary told him was true and to not be afraid to marry her. Now it is true that is told to Joseph. But it was in a dream, not while he was in the street (Matt 1:20).

The narrator then mentions about the census being decreed, and that all residents had to return to the place of their birth for it. So Joseph and the then pregnant Mary head to Bethlehem. They arrive there in the middle of a rainstorm, but no such storm is mentioned in the Bible. It’s probably added just for dramatic effect.

Joseph and Mary and shown finding shelter in a cave, amongst several livestock. Depicting Jesus’ birthplace as a cave rather than the traditional wooden stable is probably more historically accurate. But omitted from the show is why they ended up there. No mention is made of there being no place for them at the inn (Luke 2:7).

After Jesus is born, the shepherds come to the cave, but so do quite a few other townsfolk’s, men, women, and children. There is no mention in the Bible of such a large crowd being at Jesus’s birth.

Meanwhile, one wise man is shown looking at the sky. He sees a star and interprets it as being the fulfillment of “ancient prophecy,” and he quotes what sounds like Genesis 49:10. But that verse doesn’t actually mention a star, and besides, a wise man from the east probably would not be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. So the whole scene is rather strange.

But he and two other wise men travel to Jerusalem, to King Herod. The first wise man comes to Herod. His name is given as being Balthazar, but the Bible does not name any of the wise men. But he tells Herod he has come to see “The King of the Jews.” Herod tells him that he is the king of the Jews. But the wise man says that the King he is referring to has just been born.

The wise man leaves, and he and the other two wise men come to Jesus in the cave. It is here that the show makes the same mistakes that most all nativity scenes make. They depict there as being three wise men and as them coming to the birthplace of Jesus’ But in the Bible, the number three is not mentioned. And by the time the wise men arrive, the holy family has moved into a house (Matt 2:11).

Meanwhile, Herod is asking his scribes about the prophecies about a king. They first quote Isaiah 7:14, then Micah 5:2. But only the latter is mentioned in the Bible as being quoted to Herod. It mentions the birthplace of the Messiah as being Bethlehem. Herod is outraged and orders the slaughterer of all infants in Bethlehem. But Joseph is warned by an angel in a dream and escapes with Mary and the baby Jesus. That is all Biblical (Matt 2:13-18).

The holy family is shown fleeing along a road, but it is never mentioned where they are going. But the angel very specifically mentions they are to flee to Egypt. This is important, as later when they return, it is said to be the fulfillment of prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called My Son” (Matt 2:15, quoting Hosea 11:1).

The narrator says that Herod has died, and that at his death, the Jews revolt. Much fighting is shown between the Jews and Roman soldiers, with the Jews mostly being slaughtered. Then many Jews are shown being crucified in somewhat graphic fashion, and the narrator says that 2,000 of them were. But none of that comes from the Bible. Now maybe it is known from secular history sources, but since this miniseries is called “The Bible” I think it would be best to stick with events actually recorded in the Bible.

The holy family is then shown traveling along a path, with Jesus now being a young boy, about eight years old. They pass by a hillside that is littered with men being crucified. Mary shields the boy Jesus from seeing the horrid sight. No such scene is mentioned in the Bible, but assumedly, this is when the holy family returns to Nazareth. But again, the episode does not mention this is where they are going (Matt 2:23).

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

The show then skips the story of Jesus being lost in the temple when He was twelve (Luke 2:41-50). It instead jumps forward to John the Baptist baptizing in the Jordan. Part of his preaching to the people is heard. But he stops speaking when Jesus arrives. He then rightly says to Jesus, “I have need to be baptized by You, and You come to me?” (Matt 3:13). But Jesus doesn’t respond as He does in the Bible. He is just baptized. And what happens after Jesus is baptized is not depicted, “Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, heaven [or, the sky] was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came out of heaven saying, ‘You are My Son—the Beloved—in You I am well-pleased!’” (Luke 3:21,22).

The narrator then says Jesus is led into the wilderness for 40 days of temptation. This scene is one that was mentioned on secular TV and radio stations, the reason being that many believe the actor portraying Satan looked like President Obama. Needless to say, Obama supporters were very upset about this. But I saw the producers on Fox News denying that this was the case, and that it certainly was not intentional. Personally, I did not see the resemblance. But what did strike me was simply having a black actor depict Satan. That smacks of racism to me.

But in any case, what the show depicted as transpiring in the wilderness was mostly Biblical. They had the three temptations correct, along with Jesus’ responses, except for a few details. First, Jesus prefaced each of His responses with “It has been written” which He didn’t in the show (Luke 4:4,8,12). But this statement shows that Jesus knew the Scriptures well and how important it is for us to know them, as quoting Scripture is the only way to defeat the Devil.

Second, when Satan tempts Jesus to cast Himself down from a height, saying the angels will catch Him, it is from the edge of a cliff, not the pinnacle of the temple as the Bible says (Luke 4:9).

Third, when Satan tempts Jesus to bow down and worship him and he will give to Him all the kingdoms of the earth, in the episode, Jesus responds by saying, “I will worship the LORD and server Him only.” But what Jesus really said was, “Get behind Me, Satan! It has been written, ‘You will prostrate yourself in worship before [the] LORD your God, and Him only you will sacredly serve.’” [Luke 4:8; quoting Deut 6:13). The difference in pronoun from “I” to “You” is important. Jesus did not worship God as He was God. But He is quoting the Scriptures' command for us in this regard.

The Calling of Peter and Death of John the Baptist

Jesus is then shown coming to a lakeside with no one around, except Peter in a boat, having caught no fish. Jesus first calls out to him from the shore, but then wades into the water chest high. Peter helps Jesus into the boat, and Jesus convinces him to cast off. Peter obeys and catches three nets full of fish.

This scene is only quasi-biblical. It actually occurred after Jesus had been teaching a crowd of people. He was standing in the boat while teaching; He did not wade out to it. After He finished teaching, He told Peter, along with James and John, to go into the deep and cast out their nets. With some protest, they do so, and catch so much fish that their nets begin breaking, so they call for another boat to help them (Luke 5:1-7). But most importantly, omitted is Peter’s response, “But Simon Peter having seen, fell down at the knees of Jesus, saying, ‘Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” (Luke 5:8).

Meanwhile, John the Baptist is shown as being arrested and then beheaded. But the reason for his arrest and the whole background to his beheading are not depicted. But the Bible explains all of this in detail (Matt 14:3-12).

Conclusion

This third episode of this miniseries was hard to follow. It starts by having skipped over 330 years of Biblical history. This leaves the reader with no background to what is presented. It then picks out just a few scenes from the Old Testament to depict before ending its coverage of the Old Testament, with mistakes sprinkled throughout what is depicted.

It then moves to the New Testament and makes additional mistakes, while mentioning things that are not mentioned in the Bible. And the jumping around and not giving background information continues. If I wasn’t already familiar with the Bible, I think I would have gotten lost.

This review of this miniseries is continued at: The Bible Miniseries on The History Channel: A Review of Episode Four.


Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament



 

The above article was posted on this Web site March 27, 2013.

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