My wife and I dvr’d The History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries & we were pretty excited. I had seen the publicity – folks like Rick Warren touting it as “the best I’ve ever seen” – so I went into this thing hoping it would be great. It is not great.
On the positive side, the production is pretty good, and there are moments where the cinematography is nothing short of stunning. Visually, there are some really high moments from what I saw, and I didn’t watch all of it. As a pastor, I know that there will be many times that the visuals they created depicting certain scenes will be fun to use mixed with other kinds of media and music. So for that part, I’m glad the miniseries was made.
But overall I think that “The Bible” as a miniseries doesn’t work. Not because the producers are unqualified to undertake this kind of project, which they are. Not because the acting is sometimes plainly awful, which it is. Not because of there are scores and scores of theological errors, which there are. It doesn’t work because it can’t work. You can’t convert the bible to video. It’s a text. That’s what it is, and you can’t try to make it something else.
Overall, I think that “The Bible” makes the story of God into a thin, sentimentalized infomercial for saccharine Christianity. It views much like most Americans read the scripture: like disconnected snippets of sacred literature, timeless truths, vignettes and stories that have to be pieced together to make any sense instead of taken on their own terms.
As a result “The Bible” misrepresents the overall narrative. I was constantly fighting the fact that the director, actors, cinematographer, and editor made all of the interpretive choices for me, whereas the actual text leaves a lot of those interpretations for the reader to make.
This can be fine in a film like The Passion of the Christ or The Last Temptation of Christ, which deals with one week in Jesus’s life over the course of a full length (longish) movie. In those movies you knew that you were getting a director’s take (Mel Gibson or Martin Scorsese). But to deal with the entire scope of the scripture requires such a reduction that it is literally nonsense. Because of the scope and the way the miniseries being hyped and publicized, it attempts to claim a kind of authoritative weight. To give The History Channel’s “The Bible” any weight is like trusting your gym teacher’s interpretation of Shakespeare.
Enter Stephen Colbert. Fair warning: the video is a little crass at one point when he talks about how hunky the actor playing Jesus is, but Colbert does his usual masterful satirical-depantsing of the idea of the show.
Here’s a little Friday Funny: