Did The Bible finale stick to the story?

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The crucifixion scene from "The Bible" miniseries. Courtesy of History Channel.

The crucifixion scene from "The Bible" miniseries. Courtesy of History Channel.

The crucifixion scene from "The Bible" miniseries. Courtesy of History Channel.

The crucifixion scene from “The Bible” miniseries. Courtesy of History Channel.

The response was divided to my column last week on 10 inaccuracies in “The Bible” miniseries. Some felt I was attacking a noble effort to spread the Christian message; others were angry that the series creators took so much artistic license. Others still pointed out other inaccuracies I missed. (For example, there is no record in the scriptures of Jesus entering the tomb of Lazarus, but rather it says Jesus called to him from outside.)

I’ve stated that I was not upset by the show’s inaccuracies since they did not compromise the meta-story of the Scriptures themselves. We should expect some deviations whenever a story is moved from one medium to another, and most of the changes were implemented in order to cover as much narrative as possible in a limited amount of time.

My piece was written after the fourth episode, however, and the finale has since aired. The two-hour conclusion left many of the more than 10 million viewers in tears and shock. Yet, in the spirit of my previous article, some may be wondering how accurate the finale of “The Bible” was. Did it stick to the story or take significant artistic licenses?

As it turns out, the fifth installment of the epic miniseries fell in line with the other four. It stayed mostly true to the spirit of the original narrative, and did not damage the overall story captured by the Bible’s authors. Here are seven I noticed, listed in chronological order:

1. A different denial. In the scripture, Peter first denies Jesus when questioned by a servant girl in the courtyard of the high priest’s residence. It seems to be both cold and sometime in the evening or at night because she saw his face by the light of a fire they had kindled. (Luke 22:55-57) In the series, however, he is questioned by a temple guard in broad daylight while Jesus stands before the crowd.

2. Where’s Herod? The series depicts Pilate making a unilateral decision to execute Jesus and Herod is nowhere to be found, but the Bible tells a different story. In the scriptures, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod because He actually fell under Herod’s jurisdiction. Herod decides not to condemn him, but rather returns him to Pilate, giving the prefect authority to make the decision. (Luke 23:7)

3. Mary rides solo. In the series, Mary is alone when she discovers the empty tomb. The resurrection narratives in the Biblical gospels are admittedly filled with seeming contradictions and are the most difficult to harmonize, but when taken together one can conclude that several women witnessed the empty tomb on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew says that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to the tomb together. (Matthew 28:1) Luke says that the two Marys were joined by “Joanna…and the others with them.” (Luke 24:9-10) Mark mentions the two Marys and “Salome.” (Mark 16:1-2) John only mentions Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-2), but he doesn’t say that she came alone.

4. Where have the guards gone? The scriptures say that Roman soldiers were posted at Jesus’ tomb to ensure no one could the body. In the series, however, no guards are present. Matthew’s telling of the resurrection asserts that the guards were present and afraid—“they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4) The guards then return to the priests to report what has happened (vv. 11-15), though in the miniseries, the priests hear reports much later.

5. Peter is convinced…or is he? In the series, when Peter goes to the tomb to verify Mary’s testimony, he realizes immediately that Jesus has returned from the dead. “Gone?” says Peter with the score dramatically rising, “No. He’s back.” But this is not what the Bible asserts. Luke says, Peter left the tomb “wondering to himself what has happened.” And John mentions that though they now believe Mary that the tomb is empty, they haven’t concluded what has really occurred. John 20:9: “For as yet, they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”

6. The Sanhedrin-less stoning of Stephen. Stephen is stoned by an angry mob in an open space after Paul incites them to kill him. At least that’s how it happens in the series. The Biblical text, however, records that Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin who gave him over to be stoned outside of the city after he angers them with a sermon (Acts 7).

7. Paul’s “baptism.” The series inserts a theatrical scene where Paul is “baptized” by Ananias after his sight is restored. Ananias takes a jug of water and pours it over his head saying, “I, Ananias, baptize you, Paul, in the name of Jesus Christ.” This event never appears in the Bible itself, at least not like this. The scripture says that Paul was baptized after his sight is restored but the details are left to readers imaginations. Many Christians—particularly Baptists—will take exception with the form of baptism shown in the series. The Greek word for “baptism” in the Bible means “to dip or immerse,” so some will argue that even if Ananias baptized Paul, it would not have happened like the series claims.

Courtesy of Faithwords.

Courtesy of Faithwords.

“The Bible” producers, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, have released a novel based on the series titled, The Story of God and All of Us. It is available now and has already become a New York Times bestseller.

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  • Esther

    I watched the first two series getting more & more upset over the inaccuracies & the music was so loud I had to turn the column up to hear what they were saying & I still had difficulty hearing. There have been many films made of different stories of the Bible that were far better. Seems they were more interested in showing violence than any spiritual aspect. Oh…and a BOOK? Of course & the public is being duped by what the authors write that’s not true plus the already filthy rich authors are getting richer on half truths.

  • Ralph

    Since “The Passion of the Christ” anything that is faithful to the gospel or even suggests that some Jews may have had something to do with Chirst’s crucifixion will be labeled anti-semitic. Regrettably, anything faithful to the gospel and acts of the apostles would not have been produced.

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  • Yobby

    No recreation of Scripture will ever be accurate – e.g Jesus always seems to be Anglo-american type with long beautiful straight hair – yet He was identifiable as a Galilean & a Jew 2000 years ago would probably look totally opposite – Isaiah also says there was nothing about him physically that would attract us to him yet Jesus is always good-looking in movies. Satan is always depicted as ugly – yet Ezekiel says he was the most beautiful of Gods creations.
    Jesus was probably naked on the cross, & with horrific exposed injuries (from hours of beatings & being whipped with chunks of bone & metal). Also, there are no bathroom breaks on that cross – all dignity is taken away from you.
    So the actual crucifixion scene would have to be R rated to even come close to being accurate – a bloated, bruised, torn body before He was even nailed – no wonder it was difficult to recognise Him after He arose.

  • nancy jane

    What left me wondering and what I also felt was a gross inaccuracy is Mary Magdalene hanging out everywhere with the apostles ..they also gave the impression she was one of the apostles when she was not! I also got the sense that this film was a bit “politically correct”. I doubt very much that at this time in history there would be some Africans with “dreadlocks” and what is with the cross carrying scene at the end? Maybe I am wrong, but I did not know that Jerusulem and this area was also filled with jewish african blacks?

    By the way, it did not seem right to also hear nice Irish accented people with red hair and blue eyes speaking, while I am at it…how about all these clean shaven heads and faces everyday?? Sheeeeshhhhh, did not know they bathed and groomed daily! Sometimes I felt insulted by the movie series. There were much more than 10 inacccuracies.

  • josmart

    It seems like a minor detail, but it is rather an important element in the depiction of Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus should have been given the sponge of vinegar affixed to a hyssop branch, not a mere spear. It is one of many details that connects the Passover to this prophesied sacrifice.

  • Mike Flores

    Paul’s name before his Christian turnaround was Saul.

  • Haley

    Actually Africa and Isreal are not too far apart and Moses married and ethiopian woman others may have as well. As far as dred locks. That dates back far into Africa tribes so no surprise that they wore them in the film. so it would be safe to say they did children and so forth. the only political correct things i noticed were they didn’t directly call the ones wanting Jesus crucified Jews and they did not finish Jesus’ quote “i am the way the true and thelife no man comes unto the father but by me” that would offend Muslim

  • Jake

    The only movie about the Bible I found to be exact is “The Gospel of John” starring Ian Henry Cusack…. It is word for word from the Bible…. The parts of this series that I watched were not in line with scripture.

  • Jake

    I noticed that also about the dirty faces….

  • Jake

    Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul… The gentiles called him Paul… His name was not changed… The Bible says Saul also known by Paul. Acts 13:9.

  • Tim

    I haven’t seen the entire series yet but did catch the episode 5.

    The Acts 2 Pentecost scene bugged me. The scene has so much potential – the wind was perfect, no weird special effects with fire, I kept waiting for them to leave the room and preach from the rooftop but they were only overheard on the street – that was weak and I’m couldn’t reconcile why.

    Still, I don’t want to hate on the series. Not a big fan of it but don’t want to hate on it.

  • The cake was baked.
    Man must be cleansed of the original sin.
    The roles of actors were cast as follows:
    A vessel untainted by the sin was Mary.
    A guard to secure the vessel was Joseph.
    Judas Iscariot was the agent provocateur
    to trigger the flow of the cleansing blood
    Thus: Saint Joseph; Saint Mary and Saint . . .
    Let’s canonize and not demonize.

  • Danmcdo69861@aol.com

    Simon the Cyrene came from North Africa and was quite possibly black. Ethiopia, definitely an area where most people were black was almost surely represented at the Jewish Passover since many Ethiopians had converted to Judaism centuries earlier, tradition takes it back to the time of Solomon. If you recall in the Book of Acts Philip proclaimed the Gospel to a treasurer to Queen Candace of Ethiopia. Ethiopia even had a temple based on the one built in Jerusalem and numerous Ethiopian Jews emigrated to Israel as returning Jews in recent years. There would be an influx of Jews coming from varied nations of the world to Jerusalem for such major feasts as Passover and Pentecost. So the presence of African Jews would not be a stretch. I am not sure about the dreadlocks though.

  • Laurie

    I was bothered by the changes. And what about Stephen’s line, something like: they thought they killed him but they were wrong!

  • James Shelton

    no wonder it was difficult to recognize Him after He arose…..While Christ still bore the marks of the nails in his hands and feet and his side but nowhere do we have that his risen body was still disfigured from the beatings….but that Jesus as in His glorified body which is promised to us on the day of our resurrection…

  • James Shelton

    *But Jesus is now in His gloried body……

  • Cindy

    I, too was disturbed at first by the inaccuracies, however, If this leads just one person to Christ, then it is a success. None of these issues is a salvation issue. It is by faith we are saved, not by our works.

  • It was interesting that they portrayed each type of Baptism practiced by Christians over the course of the series (immersion, sprinkling, pouring). But I believe the biggest and most serious error was in regard to culture and race.

    Here’s why I say that: http://jmsmith.org/blog/watching-the-bible/

  • Joe

    Paul was both a Jew and a Roman citizen by birth. It would not have been unheard for someone in Paul’s circumstances to have both a Hebrew name and a Roman name.

  • I have to say to me, the most glaring miscue in this whole thing was Jesus’ baptism. No Father speaking, no implication or theatric depiction of the Holy Spirit descending, just a baptism. This is a key scripture as it relates to the trinity. That one really got me!

  • DP

    So as the 1979 film, Jesus according to Luke, with Bryan Deacon as Jesus.

  • Alan Heron

    I think the most glaring failure, is the failure to mention that SIN was the reason for the expulsion from Eden and that God promised a Redeemer at that time, who would destroy the works of the Devil. As this is THE reason for Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross, I find it unbelievable that the writers completely avoided mentioning the word sin for the first two programs.
    Also, in the BIble, there is not the slightest hint that Abraham argued with, or complained to God about His command to sacrifice Isaac. In fact, Abraham’s faith that Isaac would survive this one way or another, is shown in the scripture by his confident assurance to his servants that both of them would return down the mountain.

    It’s just not good enough to say; “Oh, as long as it’s not too far from the basic story of the Bible…” It’s so far from the Bible’s true reading, as to be almost a parody.

    Noah’s sons were grown MARRIED men, whose wives went on the ark with them and Noah and his wife, yet the series has them as boys. The angels that rescued Lot and his family, were not attacked by the men of Sodom, and the idea that they were afraid and begging Lot for help is ludicrous. There’s more, but I think that the first point I made shows that this series has TOTALLY missed the point of the Bible by missing out the reason for the fall and the first mention by God of His remedy for it.

    Any preacher or Pastor who doesn’t see this, is in need of some serious Bible study.

  • Toniko

    Wonderful commentary. I think it is very important that you have taken the time to analyze these movies. When I saw the scene of Paul’s Baptism I thought ‘what? I wounder what the Bible verses actually say about this’ and went on to look them up directly. In doing so I also found these articles/posts. I really enjoyed reading through your comments, I hope others that are interested in the real Bible will look to find all of the facts behind the series. Keep up the great work, God Bless!

  • Toniko

    I would agree. I noticed that and thought it was disappointing too.

  • David Condie Lawson

    Was looking forward to seeing the Bible mini series but now I regret it
    The inaccuracies and missing parts beggar belief
    It makes me wonder which bible was used to make the series
    Have got as far so far as Jericho and the missing parts are very noticeably missing
    The story of the Creation and Adam and Eve – skimped over
    The Story of Noah Skimped over
    Cain and Abel Skimped over
    Tower of Babel
    Story of Abraham
    full of inaccuracies right from the word go
    Story of Lot and His Family – The Ninja Angels reduce the story to a joke
    Abraham tying down his son
    Son Frantic
    Isaac was bigger and stronger than Abraham
    It was he that told his father to Tie him down securely
    He could have stopped his Father as he was much stronger than him but he allowed himself to be Tied willingly not as shown in the mini series as Frightened little half sized boy
    Sarah never saw Isaac again
    she died before they returned on hearing that Isaac was going to be sacrificed
    Ishmael was present when Abraham and Isaac left to go do the sacrifice
    What happened to the whole story of Joseph and his rise to power
    The story of Moses and the exodus is missing many important facts
    When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea they did not go like a raging mob as depicted in the mini series
    They marched in an orderly fashion from one side to the other with each tribe going through a separate archway
    Moses screaming like a lunatic was a no no
    The Incident of the Golden Calf was totally ignored and the destruction of the first set of tablets was not shown
    Just a Jump through to Joshua
    What happed to the Israelites reaching Canaan – sending Spies to scout the land and been forced back to wander in the desert for 40 more years
    In Jericho the spies did not attack the woman who helped them
    Rather she came to help them straight away
    While the show admittedly is realistic in many aspects its creates a false impression of what went on and unfortunately it diverts people from the true story of the bible
    People will think that the story is true and those are the facts but all the series is doing is misleading people
    Its like the priests in the early days objecting to the printing press because now with the printed word people could actually what the bible story was and were not influenced by false priests who used the bible to achieve their own selfish desires
    If you keep people ignorant you can get them to do what you want and manipulate them
    The series is good and informative but the true facts should have been shown not some mumbo jumbo pulled out of a kiddies book as is demonstrated very much in this series
    OK I do understand that they producers were limited to 10 hours but they could have done much better
    Why only ten hours
    a series like this merits at least an hour per event starting from the beginning
    all the way through to the rise of Christianity and our modern day
    Even the Reader’s Digest with their summary form would have explained the Bible better
    I shudder to think how the rest of the Bible has been mangled judging from other comments given on the internet about the show
    The preface to the show says the series accurate but I am sorry to say as soon as I saw the first errors the rest of the series became very suspect and instead of appreciating the show it became a viewing of looking for all the cracks in the show exposing it to weakening the whole series
    its like a dam wall full of holes and threatening to burst and flood people with false ideas f what went on in the days our ancestors
    Even the Ten Commandments with all its glaring errors runs rings around this series
    I looked forward to seeing the show
    now I’m in two minds whether to continue watching it or throw it in the dustbin

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  • Ty

    I am confused about these inaccuracies you list on the story of Abraham, David. You state that Isaac was bigger and stronger than Abraham, that he was a willing participant and he told Abraham to tie him down. Where does Scripture state that? Gen. 22:9 says When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. I guess I’m missing the part where Isaac is described as being stronger, willing, and telling his father to tie him down. One could always argue that Abraham was so old that there was no way he could have overpowered Isaac. However, we have no direct statement as to Isaac’s age. All we know is in Gen. 22:1 ‘some time later’, and that Isaac was old enough to speak and notice the sacrifice was missing. Also, after Sarah dies, Abraham takes a new wife and has another 6 children, so he definitely was not so old that he couldn’t move. Also you stated that Sarah never sees Isaac again. Can you show where that account is found in the Bible? The account of her death is pretty short and takes place the chapter after the sacrifice. I’m just saying for someone who is trying to point out errors and inaccuracies, you seem to have plenty of your own inaccuracies with Scriptures.

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  • Alison M.

    My question is why would Roma Downy and her husband Mark (who are Christians who also produced the series) write in inaccuracies into the storyline of the Bible mini-series. I would think that they would want it to be as accurate as possible. It’s making me re-think or whether or not I want to get the dvd and put it in my collection. Same thing with the Son of God(which is in theaters now). If there are inaccuracies in the Bible series, then they are also in the movie, Son of God. But on the flip side, if it leads someone to Jesus Christ maybe that person will be drawn to read the Bible and see the real accuracies of the Scriptures. What do you think?

  • Thane

    Saint Judas? See, I’ve struggled with this a lot. If Judas had to betray Jesus in order for the whole thing to come to pass, why is there no redemption for him? The answer is that Judas never asked for that redemption. He gave into the despair of what he had done and hung himself. his suicide was NOT required, that was him giving in to the despair of his sins and taking away from God the opportunity of forgiveness of those sins. Had Judas came before the risen Lord, thrown himself at his feet and begged his mercy, would he not have been redeemed? Of course he would have, but he let Satan win by giving into despair. He believed himself unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness, and therefore he took it upon himself to pronounce his own judgement and took his own life. There was nothing that Jesus could do to redeem him at that point. It is something that many of us do on a daily basis, myself included. We must always be wary and never give into our despair of our sins. We must trust in Christ’s Divine Mercy.