Q: What Do Roma Downey and Writers of the Bible Have In Common? A: Neither Sticks to the Script.

There’s been a lot of slamming of “The Bible” TV series on the History Channel the past couple of weeks–some of it by me (and here)–but let’s come at this from another angle, shall we?

First, Roma Downey and company give a clear disclaimer at the beginning of each episode that they have adapted the Bible, with an effort made to stay close to the spirit of the Bible. So, they are honest with the viewers.

Second, is there any adaptation of the Bible to film that doesn’t…well…adapt the Bible, i.e., make all sorts of editorial and artistic decisions? No, so maybe we should cut these poor people a break for not representing the Bible “accurately.”

And third, failure to stick with the biblical script is something we see a lot of in the Bible itself.

In the Old Testament, all you have to lay two Bibles side-by-side, with one open to the two versions of Israel’s monarchy, 1 and 2 Samuel/1 and 2 Kings and the alternate telling of that same story.

To pick just one example, compare life of David in both you’ll get the point within a few paragraph. The two “Davids” are not the same. The differences are there because 1 Chronicles 11-29  seriously and thoroughly “adapts” the version of David in 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2.

Later biblical writers creatively adapting earlier writers to express their one thinking is soooooooooooo common in the Bible it’s not funny.

You see this in the New Testament, too. All.over.the.place.

When you’re reading in, say, the Gospels or in Paul’s letters, and they quote the Old Testament to prove a point, go back and compare what the Old Testament meant and how the New Testament writer “adapts” the Old Testament to mean something else. (If you want an example, compare Matthew 2:15 to Hosea 11:1.)

Now, before you send those angry cards and letters, yes, I know the difference between Roma Downey adapting the Bible and later biblical writers adapting earlier ones. I realize Downey et al. are not chosen vessels of God to write Scripture.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot–I mean A LOT–of adapting going on in the Bible. That’s my only point. Don’t get mad at Downey and company for adapting. Get mad at them for something else if you want, but not the mere fact that they are not sticking to the script.


  • http://anselm-ministries.us Chuck Sigler

    Peter, I haven’t yet watched any of “The Bible” yet; maybe tomorrow night. But I am reading your book: “Inspiration and Incarnation” and really like much of what you have to say. I’m just getting to your discussion of the New Testament on page 132. This is one of the excerpts I have in my notes:

    Is the fact of diversity fundamentally contrary to the Bible being the word of God? My answer is no. And the way in which we can begin to address this issue is to confess at the outset, along with the historic Christian church, that the Bible is the word of God. That is our starting point, a confession of faith, not creating a standard of what the Bible should look like and then assessing the Bible on the basis of that standard. . . . [O]nce we confess that the Bible is God’s word, we can look at how it is God’s word. That investigation will not come to an end in this life. There will always be a freshness and inscrutability about the Bible. This goes hand in hand with believing that the Bible is God’s word; it will always be bigger than what we can comprehend. (108)

    I guess what you refer to in this blog post as adaptation is what you refer to there as diversity. And it seems the difference between Roma Downy’s adaptation in “The Bible” and the diversity in the Bible would be the difference in our starting points: the latter is the word of God.

    • Pat

      One thing we must and foremost remember from Revelation 18-19 says, (18) for I testify unto every man that hearth the Words of this prophecy of this book. If any man add unto these things, God shall (notice shall not might or maybe) add unto him the plaques that are written in this book. (19) and if any man shall take away from the Words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (These are WARNINGS from GOD). Think about this, you supposedly have three scholars who are FALSE TEACHERS by the way, T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, and Joel O’steen so what should be the problem? Right. These three antichrists are demons portraying as pillars of light. Why doesn’t Roma Downey know the truth? She is ignorant of the Bible. She does not know the Word. How about the three teachers of the law T,R,W (T.D.! Rick and Joel) who call themselves men of God. They aren’t men of God they are enemies of the cross. They are in it for filthy lucre! They are false teachers. Beware of false prophets, Jesus said. As real children of God, the Word says, study to show yourself approved.

      • Mary

        “One thing we must and foremost remember from Revelation 18-19 says, (18) for I testify unto every man that hearth the Words of this prophecy of this book. If any man add unto these things, God shall (notice shall not might or maybe) add unto him the plaques that are written in this book. (19) and if any man shall take away from the Words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. ”

        One thing that you should realize is that this oft-quoted passage does not refer to the bible, which had not been written yet. The books we have in the bible were not collected together until the fourth century. Rather this is a warning to scribes who copied the text to be careful and not change the text of Revelation.

    • http://WhatMormonsDontTell.com MESSENGER

      Sorry, but the main problem, with these Bible series? Mrs Roma is a MORMON! She as a mormon, is going to portray the mormon “jesus” not as God the Son…mormons don’t really believe the Bible, so the mormon propaganda/bias is going to be everywhere, she is adapting the mormon mantra, plain and simple
      Heraldo Rivera when interviewing Roma , asked Roma about her brother who is a priest (I am pretty sure he meant a priest, a Roman Catholic Priest…perhaps Rivera does not know Roma is a mormon…and the brother of Roma is a priest, a mormon priest!)

      • dianna

        Um, Roma is NOT a Mormon, but she is a devout Catholic.

      • Pam

        I a sorry Dianna but you do not have your facts correct. The proper name of the MORMON church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They are most definately Christian. I do not know if Roma is of the Mormon faith or not but again you have things incorrect if she is a member of this church she is not a priest because only the men may hold the priesthood.

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  • http://www.servicemusic.org.uk/ David Lee

    We evangelicals have a deeply ingrained habit and culture of classifying things as “biblical” (good) or “unbiblical” (bad).

    But I am becoming increasingly convinced that this very concept of being “biblical” may itself be deeply (dare I say) “unbiblical”. I lack the theological skills to unpack that further, but I think a headline “Being biblical is deeply unbiblical” might make an interesting exposition and exploration of faith.

    Just a thought…

    • mike h

      David, check out the Progressive Christian channel of Patheos. Esp. Tony Jones and the Slacktivist, Fred Clark.

  • http://GoodReportMinistries.com Ivan A. Rogers

    Peter: Talk about “adapting” scriptures to push a doctrinal agenda, consider the following:

    The KJV Old Testament uses the word “hell” 31 times, whereas, the NIV, NAS, and ESV Old Testaments have completely eliminated the word “hell.” Why? Because the newer versions take into consideration better language scholarship which automatically leads to better translations.

    In the New Testament wherever the word “hell” is mentioned it’s a glaring mistranslation of the Greek word “gehenna” (i.e., Valley of Hinnom, i.e., Jerusalem city dump. Oy vey!

    • Mary

      Yes the people who claim that the KJV is “God’s Perfect Translation Without Error” have it all mixed up. The Jews don’t believe in hell and for a good reason, because it is never mentioned in the Torah.

  • http://facebook.com/priceofdiscernment David M

    “Ownly” point? Sorry, that stuck out. That being said, I enjoyed the article. Reading through Coogan’s Brief Introduction to the OT, and I’m noticing a bit of what you’re talking about, as it’s clear as day.

  • http://lisesletters.wordpress.com Lise

    Wow. Finally have access to the History Channel. Bouncing between “Twilight” and “The Bible” trying to decide which is more absurd. I applaud the producers for their heart felt effort but… Voice over is almost always a cop out in film. Show – don’t tell. I would have liked creative license that might have actually served the text. For instance, it might have been nice to have had Aaron Sorkin write the script and Ang Lee direct. (And yes the Christian Mingle commercials are dreadful….)

  • http://activefaith.wordpress.com Stephen Enjaian

    Dr. Enns,

    I have not seen the TV series, and your larger point here is of greater interest anyway. If it’s true as you say that the Bible does not stick to its own script, then do you believe that there is there such a thing as “the Biblical script”?

  • Phaphamile

    Do you really think the script of bible is real?

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  • Tom Wiley

    Like most television and movies, The Books is much, much better.

  • mitchnva63

    I think two things here are relevant…first, The Bible on a secular channel is actually doing great in the ratings. Second, more people are beginning to ask questions as they become curious about God.
    I work with a lot of people in a hospital who turn their nose up to the mention of Christianity and/or the Bible, but lately, people are asking questions. What a great time for evangelism!!!!

  • George Koll

    Clearly there were the best intentions in producing this miniseries, “The Bible,” but from the first extended clips it was clear that perhaps the producers were too ignorant to even know how much they were messing with the actual biblical text or didn’t consider accuracy very important. This seems regrettable though clearly God may use the miniseries for His purposes anyway. He is Sovereign! However, we will have people disappointed, if they enjoyed the “info-merical” pitch of the Lord to Peter, “Give me an hour and I will give you a whole new life!” That scene seems to have the Lord almost groveling at the feet of Peter and clearly seems to suggest this as their first meeting which was nothing like that, but rather is presented in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. They won’t find any Kung-Fu angels leding Lot’s family out of Sodom. They won’t find any African-American Samson either though there are apparently documented black-skineed descendants of Israel discovered now, such as the Lemba tribe of Africa. However, if they are moved to search the Bible, there is much to be said for this. By the way, why is it that every depiction of Abraham taking Isaac to be sacrificed have him entirely racked with utter terror? Clearly, this was a trial, bt Hebrews 11 clearly indicates that Abraham in his faith reasoned that if Isaac was to be slain God would raise him from the dead since He had said to Abraham that it would be through Isaac that he would have his descendants?

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