The Bible sequel gets the green light — but what is it about?

Deadline reports that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey formally announced today that the sequel to The Bible will be a mini-series with the working title A.D.: Beyond the Bible. And instead of telling more stories from across the entire Bible, it sounds like the new series will focus exclusively on the period covered by the Book of Acts, with a heavy helping of secular history courtesy of historians like Josephus.

Here is how the press release describes the new mini-series:

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s epic follow up to their #1 miniseries, “The Bible,” — A.D.: BEYOND THE BIBLE — begins in the dark days after Jesus’ betrayal and death. A perfect storm brews in the Holy Land, fueled by social injustice, Roman military oppression and religious unrest. High priests and the Herod dynasty vie for power. Zealot revolutionaries turn to violence to regain what they believe is their promised land. And in the face of terrible odds and brutal persecution, the small band of Jesus’ disciples stand against the combined might of Rome and their own local authorities. In a generation of rebellion, war, famine, and carnage, who can they trust? Who should they fear? Will tomorrow bring a violent death? For many, it does … but others survive, and as the storm around them breaks, the fate of Israel, of Rome and of their faith is decided.

Unlike the first series, which played on the cable-based History Channel, the new series will air on NBC, one of the Big Three networks — and Deadline quotes NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt to the effect that “the story was far from over after Christ’s Crucifixion. In fact, what happened in the aftermath — which is essentially the beginning of Christianity — is utterly fascinating.”

This makes it sound like the new mini-series will basically cover the same ground that was already covered in the final hour of the original 10-part mini-series. That final episode began with the resurrection of Jesus, proceeded through the Book of Acts (which covers the 30 years or so after the resurrection) and concluded with a scene from Revelation (which is generally believed to have been written about 30 years after that). Will the new mini-series tell that part of the story all over again?

More interesting to me is the way the press release alludes to the secular politics of that era, which suggests the new mini-series will borrow from Josephus and other historians of the period just as the original mini-series did. In fact, the press release cannot help but remind me of a previous NBC mini-series called A.D.: Anno Domini (1985), which combined the Book of Acts, the lives of the Caesars and a fictitious storyline involving Jewish zealots and Roman soldiers and gladiators. To what degree, I wonder, will the new mini-series follow in that show’s footsteps?

Incidentally, this reminds me that last Saturday was the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, so this is as good a time as any to link back to my March 30 blog post listing all the articles I have written on movies based on the Book of Acts.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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