The first episode of A.D. starts off with a bang, with the trial of Jesus. Having seen several episodes in advance, I can tell you there are some strong portrayals in this series by the actors playing Pilate, Caiaphas, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother, Saul, and others. Because the first series is actually only covering a couple of the last chapters in the Gospels, and then a bit more than a quarter of Acts, we are in for some depth portrayals in this series in a way that was not possible with ‘The Bible’ show from Downey and Burnett. In these blog posts we will be reviewing the films thinking through what is Biblical, Historical, Possible
One caveat is necessary. To do a drama like this one has to fill in the gaps hopefully in ways that illuminate the Biblical stories. These are not verbatim depictions of the stories in Acts, but attempts to faithful provide both the Biblical text, which makes up about 50% of the content, and the broader context to help us make sense of the Biblical stories. As I like to say, a text without a context is just a pretext for what you want it to say.
Under the heading of Biblical is most of the content of the first episode. There is some poetic license taken in the adding of Caiaphas’ wife to the story, but the basis for the depiction of Pilate’s wife is indeed the Gospels, in particular Mt. 27.19. I found the portrayal of Nicodemus interesting and plausible, though it might have been better to have Joseph of Arimathea as the one who confronts the authorities, since Jesus is buried in his tomb. The depiction of the crucifixion itself has one small error in it, namely Jesus was not nailed in the palms of his hands. Crucifixion was done by hammering a nail through the hole at the juncture between the hand and the upper arm, just below the palm. Pilate come across in this portrayal as exasperated and he has some good lines about the heat of the climate and the land’s overheated people. The script writers have done a good job. It is always tricky, and difficult to know what to do in regard to the portraying of the supernatural, in this case the angel or angels who stunned the guards at the tomb, and rolled the massive stone back from the tomb. Zeffirelli preferred a less dramatic approach than we find in A.D. which is in fact more like the way the events are portrayed in ‘The Greatest Story ever Told’.