Episode 1 "In The Beginning"
The week before this 10-hour series
premiered (3-3-13), Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and her husband Mark
Burnett (Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, Shark Tank) made guest appearances on
various television shows to promote The Bible, which together they produced. They
assured audiences that they had consulted several sources in order to be
accurate, two of them were Rick Warren (The Purpose-Driven Life and The
Purpose-Driven Church) and Joel Osteen, also a successful writer. Neither one
of them would probably know enough to compete against a group of fifth-graders
in a Bible Bowl. Still, many of us held out hope—until the first night; then we
knew the presentation was only going to be accurate in spots while at other
times it lost out to fanciful thinking and outright distortion.
The way it began was interesting—with the Flood. While the ark is being tossed about on the waves, Noah recounts the history of the world. He describes each day of creation, while depictions of what occurred on those days are shown. When Adam arose from the ground, his face was caked with clay; the special effects were quite good. And, mirabile dictu (marvelous to say), when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was not an apple. This fact alone was enough to make Bible students want to stand up and cheer! The size of the ark was considerable, and the flood was worldwide. Praise is due for getting all of these important details correct.
But, the inside of the ark was a mess, water pouring in from everywhere. Back in 1958, the Four Preps had a number 2 hit record with “26 Miles.” It went: “26 Miles across the sea, Santa Catalina, is awaitin’ for me. Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance. Another verse switches measurements, beginning with, “40 kilometers in a leaky old boat.” That is what the ark resembled. Noah at one point picks up a mallet and drives a peg back into the side of the ark. No evidence of pitch is seen anywhere.
The audience could probably overlook Noah talking in an Irish (or Scottish) accent, although it seems peculiar since there was only one language at this time in the world. But the big question was, “To whom was Noah reciting all the details of creation?” It was not an adult, but someone about the age of 13-15. Only eight souls were on the ark; so who was this girl? She certainly was not Noah’s wife or any of his sons’ wives. A Bible student has got to be wondering where this girl came from. Apparently, she was made up out of thin air. It would have worked just as well if Noah had been recounting these things to his daughters-in-law or the entire family. The rainbow after the Flood was nice.
Abraham and Lot
Few events and Bible personalities are mentioned. The Tower of Babel is entirely omitted, and we find Abraham being told by God to go to a new land. “We already have a land,” Lot’s wife says. The viewer has a bad feeling about her from the get-go. After the herdsmen struggle, it is her idea for them to separate. Abraham protests that the family must stay together. Uh, well, actually it was Abraham’s idea that they separate (Gen. 13:8-12).
When the four kings square off against the five cities of the plain (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar), and Lot’s family is captured, Abram rescues him. Before even thanking him for saving them, they tell Abraham that they are going to move to Sodom while he again insists that they should stay together. Then comes the visit from the three angels, and those watching the program begin to understand what it is like to see portrayal of Bible personalities in a multicultural age. The angel of the Lord looks Jewish, but the other two are Black and Asian. When they get to Sodom, they look like they have been beaten, and they appeal to Lot for help. No, it’s not quite the same as Lot seeing them at the gate and inviting them home.
When a few men of Sodom knock at the door, the angels then go out to face them, and the angels give them a vicious look, which makes them hurtfully blind. But others come, and the Asian angel reaches over his head to remove two swords strapped to his back. He and the Black angel slice their way through the men with ease, looking satisfied with the carnage. Nothing is said about Lot offering his two daughters, which is just as well, since they look to be about 11-13 years of age. Furthermore, as one critic put it, if the viewer did not already know what the sin of Sodom was, he would not have learned it from this miniseries.
Abraham and Sarah
The best scene between Abraham and Sarah involved her giving her handmaid Hagar to him. The viewer gets to see what a bad idea this was, without the characters ever having to say a word. The looks on their faces were sufficient. Many of the characters seem dirty all the time, and Sarah does not seem so beautiful that the king of Gerar would just have to have her, but these are minor points.
When God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He responds by saying, “Haven’t I shown my faith to you enough?” But he obeys, nevertheless. Instead of traveling away three days with his servants, he climbs a hill in his back yard instead. When Sarah realizes what is going on, she chases after them. Abraham struggles with Isaac, who is not cooperating. After the angel of the Lord calls to him, and he does not need to kill Isaac, he turns around and sees a baby sheep (instead of a ram). Sarah arrives and thinks Isaac has been sacrificed, but then he walks into view.
Episode 2 "Exodus"
Jacob and Joseph are part of one sentence in the narrative, and then the focus of attention moves to Moses. As in Cecil B. DeMille’s classic, The Ten Commandments, Moses does not know his heritage (even though he was nurtured by his own mother). He does kill a taskmaster, but a slave hides the body for him. He leaves Egypt, but no mention is made of him having a wife or children during the 40 years that follow.
He steps out of his tent to see the burning bush (neatly done) in his back yard. There is not much conversation between the two of them. God does not require him to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground, nor does Moses make five excuses not to go deliver the Israelites. He asks God, “Are you real?” The Lord answers, “I AM.” Moses readily accepts his assignment.
When Moses and Aaron first demand the release of the Israelites, there is no rod turning into a serpent; in fact, they are beaten and removed from Pharaoh’s presence. Nothing is said about making bricks without straw. Moses and Aaron view Pharaoh swimming in the Nile from afar. When the rod turns the Nile red, Pharaoh emerges all bloody—even on his head.
Pharaoh looks and sounds like a refugee from Wrestlemania. He can only shout. When the people are released from Egypt, it only looks like about 500 people on the shore instead of 2-3 million, and they only cross the sea a few at a time, which would have probably taken six years. There was no pillar of cloud or fire, moving from the front of the camp to the rear to fend off the Egyptians. The closing of the sea was the most well done part of the account. God did not speak the Ten Commandments to the people, and Moses’ receiving of them could not match the DeMille version. Nothing is said about a golden calf, either, and the quick departure of the people from God.
Gary W. Summers
*altered format from original publishing to correspond to aired episodes