No one can come to the Father except through me. – John 14: 6b (NLT) I have watched the first five episodes of the acclaimed History Channel miniseries, The Bible, with eager anticipation. I have watched the reactions on both sides. I would say the vast majority of Christians have welcomed this series with open arms, desperately hoping that something of God can penetrate the worldly system we live in. I have also heard the outcry from the minority who find flaws with the series. I have come to the not so exciting conclusion that they are both correct. There is no doubting that the History Channel has a hit on their hands. According to a survey by Barna Research for the American Bible Society, about 4 in 10 Americans have watched at least one episode of the show. Encouragingly, more than a quarter of the show’s viewers—13.1 million for the premiere and around 10.8 million in the weeks since—are self-professed non-Christians. There is no doubt that this miniseries has sparked an interest in Americans, which in and of itself should provide great hope for those of us who already believe. It shows what I have written about before, that this world is desperately seeking a reason to believe. It is fighting within a world however, that gives them daily reasons to not believe. Within that very focused parameter, The Bible is undoubtedly a success thus far. In and of itself beloved, if this show can generate an interest in the actual Bible then it has served a great purpose. If in and of itself if it has generated a conversation about who God is – and who Jesus is – then it has served a great purpose. It reminds me of a brief exchange between Jesus and His followers: John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”“Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. – Mark 9: 38-41 (NLT) Sometimes we can get so cut off into our little religious groups. We can insist that everything must be done our way or else. No one can argue that 10 million non-believers tuning in each week to watch a dramatization of the Bible is in fact miraculous. In that context I think we need to be careful with the overly-critical spirit when it comes to the preciseness of the execution of this miniseries. That being said, as believers it is important to look at this also through the lens of Biblical accuracy so we can respond appropriately to the lost who may have questions. Through that lens it is clear that this portrayal falls far short. I knew from the moment I saw the ninja angels slicing and dicing the inhabitants of Sodom that we were not in for an accurate ride. This was in fact a Hollywood production let’s keep in mind. As such they have taken many liberties with the actual Bible in trying to make a representation of the Bible. To be honest, some of the criticisms I have heard are very nitpicky. Yes they did not get the dispute between Lot and Abraham correct. Yes they did not correctly show Isaac as an archetype of Christ, willingly laying down as a sacrifice to his father. But once again, did you really expect that kind of Biblical precision from this series? It seems that the creators of this drama went for a recreation of the individual stories as opposed to the story of redemption that runs throughout the Bible. Is that forgivable? From a worldly television channel? I would have to venture yes as the answer. Now, I think there are minor discrepancies, like how on earth Mary Magdalene became an Apostle? I assume that Hollywood decided that it played better for the women watching to see that a woman was part of the gang. I say minor because while it is certainly confusing if you do not know better, it is easily explained. Another such example would be the dramatic portrayal of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. In the miniseries Jesus calls for Peter to walk to him on water but they left out the fact that Peter first asks the Lord if it truly is Him to bid him to come. From a theological teaching standpoint this is huge but for the purposes of the miniseries it is inconsequential. The series also goes out of its way to change the roles of a few key players. Pontius Pilate is made out to be a tyrannical and unstable leader; not supported Scripturally. Judas is presented in a somewhat more favorable light in having Caiaphas lie to him to convince him to betray Jesus. It was almost as if the writers wanted us to feel that Judas was duped. Once again, having no basis within Scripture. While these changes may have been made for dramatic effect in the movie they represent false representations of people from the Gospel accounts. Big deal? I am willing to say no in the grand scheme of things. That is because there are the major problems with this miniseries which cannot be over looked. The first is the elimination of the entire account of creation. The miniseries does not start with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden but rather with Noah, already in the ark. Thus the entire sticky matter of sin is avoided. Sure there is some lip service paid to it but for the most part, this miniseries avoids what the world does not want to face – our sin nature. The most obvious reason here, which is a consistent thematic problem, is that this miniseries refuses to contradict any of the currently held scientific beliefs which are in contrast to Biblical teaching. By avoiding Adam and Eve, the writers avoided the entire creationism versus evolution debate. Secondly, along similar lines, there is no mention in the portrayal of the destruction of Sodom as to why God was destroying them. But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” – Genesis 19: 4-5 (NLT) It is no wonder that as the Supreme Court weighs today the cases regarding same sex marriage that we would not see this topic broached in this miniseries. Now, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for many reasons, but sexual deviancies, such as homosexuality were at the top of the list. In this age of political correctness however, it was not surprising that the writers left this alone. And as this thematic problem grows throughout the series the entire topic of sin in general is downplayed. Even as we come to Jesus, we see Him portrayed more as the rock star, healer, anti-Pharisee than the man whose Gospel message was repent for the Kingdom of God draws near (although He did say to the woman caught in adultery go and sin no more). This brings me to the last major issue and our key half-verse for today. I rarely use half verses because I believe that all Biblical interpretation must be in context. I separated this one out however because apparently the writers took it out of their script even though they included the first portion. The first portion of course is when Jesus declares that He is the way the truth and the life. While the miniseries portrays this crucial portion of Scripture they then proceed to omit the very divisive remainder of the verse, which further explains that no one can come to God except through Him. Considering that one of the “key spiritual advisors” for this miniseries was Joel Osteen, I am not surprised because he has had difficulty with this verse every time he has been asked about it on national television. Without it of course you only have half a verse which provides no controversy. The world wants to believe that everyone goes to heaven. That there are multiple paths to eternal life. That we all worship the same God. Unfortunately for the world however, they are mistaken. Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace to the earth but a sword that would divide families against each other. The Bible miniseries seems to have sought to bring the messenger without the message. Now, when taken as a whole we must conclude however that this was not an exercise in Biblical exegesis. If that was what was intended it would have fallen ridiculously short of the mark. It has little mistakes, including a propensity to mangle the order of events or not providing the reasons for events. It has larger mistakes that seem to run along the theme of not wanting to argue with conventional worldly wisdom or thinking and avoid any serious discussion of sin. In the end however, I am not sure that we were not expecting too much if all we can see is the criticisms when what we should see is an opportunity. Because in the end, this has been fairly well produced and fairly well acted. There are completely touching moments which are accurately displayed for all to see. Even the things which are not presented well should provide all believers with an opportunity to discuss Jesus. Our co-workers are probably watching it and this provides us with a reason to talk to them about God without the usually defensive posture we might receive. If something was not portrayed correctly it provides us with an opportunity to set the record straight in love. Maybe with our unsaved neighbors – or even our unsaved family members. Ten million people per week are watching this and if we leave them alone with the miniseries they will be left with a confusing, cobbled together, series of short stories that falls short of the Gospel message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. If we take this however as an opportunity to share Christ with them, then all glory to God, The Bible Miniseries will have served a great purpose indeed. Rev. Anthony.