A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Bible on The History Channel-- Some Thoughts-- Part 2

I am having a difficult time being positive about part two of the History Channel's presentation of "The Bible." The snippet character of this series was revealed in part two more clearly than in part one. The conquest of Canaan was limited to the fall of Jericho and the only Judge that was portrayed was Samson. The portrayal of Saul was probably the highest point of the movie, while I found David quite uninteresting. The danger in all of this is the failure to understand the complexities of these narratives and interweaving of these stories as they have come to us in their final form.

The portrayal of Samson left me scratching my head. He was portrayed as a character to be taken seriously when it seems to me the biblical narrative in Judges suggests quite the opposite-- a man who likes to nyuk it up too much with riddles and partying and who toys with Delilah as she tries to discover the secret of his great strength. The failure to portray Samson as an idiot who believes he is invincible results in one big FAIL as far as I am concerned. Judges portrays Samson as a judge not to emulate, something that was completely lost on the TV screen.

I made reference in part one of my review that the all-too Caucasian character of the cast was unfortunate, which seemed even more pronounced in having Samson portrayed by a black man. It's not that Samson's complexion would not have been dark, but it seems to stand out obviously to this white guy that Samson was presented as the token black character in the story. Instead of spending so much time on Samson, why not depict the female judge, Deborah?

Violence was front and center in the movie. That's understandable since these narratives are brutal. This raises the very difficult matter of the divine justification of violence in the Old Testament. But to go into that now would be beyond the scope of this review. I will address this in a future post.

Two things I will say on a more positive note. The portrayal of Saul as a tormented figure was well done. I also think it came out clearly from the depictions of Samson's wife, Delilah, and Bathsheba that in the ancient Near Eastern world women were without recourse when it came to the treachery and selfish desires of men. That unfortunate truth must be told.

I'm hoping part three will be better, but I am not holding my breath.


Kevin said...

I agree with your take on this episode. I sympathize with the producers who needed to choose which characters to include and how much detail to fit their ten hour window. My OT picks would have been Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Saul, David, Daniel.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Indeed you are correct. The scope of the panorama is frankly too large for ten hours.

In retrospect, it might have been better to do a slice of biblical history and then continue the project at a future date if the ratings warranted it.

thomas said...

Often one hears it said, "The book is better than the movie." In this case, that worn phrase applies.

This is not to dismiss the movie as a miss. Far from it. We no longer live in an era informed by the printed page. The era in which we now find ourselves is one dominated by the visual. And so it goes that to engage people with the Biblical narrative, one must use the tools best suited for that purpose. Doubtless there were those who objected when hand written and illustrated latin Bibles were surplanted by common English Bibles printed on presses and sold for pennies.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for the good thoughts. You are right about the visual domination of our culture. So what this likely means is that when we portray all things Christian in video, we need to apply all the rigors of scholarship that we do with the written text.

thomas said...

Your concern that Christian presentations including portions or even the entirety of the Bible not be divorced from reputable scholarship is well taken. But, reality is that The Bible and similar efforts are not brought to the screen by scholars but by individuals not connected with the scholastic community whose motivations may be profit, faith, etc. This is not to discount scholarship but to face reality.

A happier reality is that the Bible will be more broadly accessible. Some presentations will be more popularly received, some more critically acclaimed as with the NIV, the NRSV and The Message.