BY ADAM SLEMP
The History Channel’s new series “The Bible” is receiving both positive and negative attention from almost all directions.
“The faithful will see the stories of their faith,” said producer Mark Burnett in a report by the Huffington Post. “People who are not faithful will still totally enjoy it because it is the greatest story ever told.”
Led by Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, “The Bible” is a 10-part miniseries dramatizing biblical history all the way from the original sin of Adam and Eve to the crucifixion of Christ and the baptism of St. Paul. The first character to receive major attention is Abraham, who dominates the series’ starting episode.
This episode was watched by more than 13 million viewers, making “the Bible” one of the biggest hits currently in American television. The series has also received wide sponsorship from some of the nation’s largest churches, including South California’s Saddleback Church. Pastor Rick Warren, as reported by Huffington Post, called it “by far the best” film on the Bible made in the past 50 years.
Support from prominent pastors is not all that the producers claim to possess. The UK’s Daily News online featured an article about the miracles that have allegedly taken place on set. Burnett says that he has felt “the hand of God” multiple times throughout filming, in the mundane ways of how smoothly the shooting has gone and in specific and unusual events as well.
Among these alleged miracles are reports of an unprecedented 48 snakes pooling around the foot of the cross during filming of Jesus’ crucifixion. There were also claims of a powerful wind – sustained for 20 seconds and bearing the force of what Burnett described as a Boeing 747 taking off – picking up at the moment the on-set Jesus told Nicodemus that “the Holy Spirit is like the wind.”
However, not all responses to “The Bible” have been quite as positive. Six Franciscan University professors – all from the theology and history departments – said they were unfamiliar with the series, had not watched it, or had low expectations regarding its quality.
Indeed, past television series show that biblical history has undergone some dramatization to prime it for general American audiences. The destruction of Gomorrah in “The Bible” series was depicted theatrically to show angels – stocked with swords and body armor – running through the streets of the city and executing fleeing citizens.
Lisa Suhay, a guest reviewer for the Christian Science Monitor, wrote: “If you’re looking for lessons and emotional content this is a wash. It’s more of a highlights reel of the Bible. It covers the same shopworn scenes traditionally seen on television, adding nothing to the mix but more blood on the sands of time.”
With conflicting reviews from powerful pastors and Catholic reviewers, the question of whether or not these theatric depictions will affect the religious value of the series as a whole is a question currently open for Christian debate.