- Episode 9 "Passion"
- Episode 10 "Courage"
In this last two hours of The Bible, the viewer finds once again a mixture of accuracy with flagrant disregard for the sacred text that they are supposed to be showing. In fact, the presentation seems to vacillate between the two. What actually happened was that Judas told the chief priests and the elders to take back their money. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it.” Then he threw down the money in the temple. In the miniseries, however, he throws it at Malchus, who has just brought Jesus down the steps and made a quick announcement to the crowd that Jesus has been found guilty and is worthy of death. Judas says, “Take back your money.” Then he goes out and hangs himself. None of the gospel writers hint that Malchus made such an announcement or that Judas threw money at him. Pilate’s wife warns him three times against condemning Jesus. Mary watches Jesus being scourged while the priests are busy stacking the crowd to be sure that Barabbas is released instead of Jesus. Jesus before Pilate was accurate—even to the governor saying, “What is truth?” Pilate washed his hands as he reluctantly turns Jesus over to be crucified, and Jesus begins His journey to Golgotha. At one point where He stumbles, His mother Mary reaches Him, and He tells her not to be afraid—that all things are possible with God. After this error, they accurately portrayed Pilate refusing to change the title that would be placed above Jesus ‘ head. It said, “King of the Jews,” and would not be changed to: “He said He was the King of the Jews.”
As Jesus is climbing the hill of Golgotha, a lamb and two turtledoves are being offered by the high priest. Meanwhile Pilate comments to his wife, “He’ll be forgotten in a week.” Mary reaches up and touches His foot while Jesus is on the cross, an action which arose from someone’s imagination. The most accurate part of the crucifixion is that Jesus says the seven things He is recorded as saying in the Scriptures (although two of them were out of order). After this portrayal, the consideration of truth deteriorated quickly. From this point on, the miniseries becomes more and more disappointing. Although there are dark clouds that roll by at the time of Jesus’ death, no darkness covers the land for the last three hours of His time on the cross. The lampstand in the temple overturns, and an earthquake causes the veil of the temple to come crashing down, but it is supposed to tear from the bottom to the top. The centurion presses the spear into Jesus’ right side, but no water and blood comes forth. The spear, when removed does have red upon it.
The stage is set; the centurion looks up at the cross, and the viewer is waiting for those wonderful words that the actual centurion spoke: “Truly this was the Son of God.” But only silence greets one’s ears. What would it have taken—three seconds—for him to have uttered those powerful words? Why were they omitted when they just as easily could have been included?
Nicodemus and someone unidentified (presumably Joseph of Arimathea) take Jesus out to the tomb, but they have no hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes with them. Meanwhile Mary is sent back to Galilee—even though John just promised to be her son a day or two earlier. She is not among those in the upper room. None of the other women are with Mary Magdalene, and when she gets to the tomb, no Roman soldiers are in sight. She sees the rock split (as opposed to angels rolling it away) and enters the tomb (John 20:1; Matt. 28:2). She goes in and sees His clothes, but no angel is inside the tomb. Then Jesus speaks to her and tells her to go tell the other disciples, which she does. They tell her that it is not possible and that she saw someone else. Peter and John go with her and see the empty tomb. Peter returns and recalls the Last Supper. Thomas laments, “No, this isn’t real.”
The miniseries does have Jesus inviting Thomas to touch His wounds, and the hole in one of His hands is interesting. When Jesus ascends into heaven, He first tells them that the Holy Spirit will come upon them. Then He commissions them: “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to all creation….” Then, silence—again. They left off the part about, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” Jesus concludes by saying, “Peace be with you”; then He ascends. Pentecost The disciples become excited to see Stephen arriving in Jerusalem, but nothing of his background is stated. He is present, as is Mary Magdalene, on this crucial day as the mighty rushing wind begins as they are reciting the Lord’s prayer (which is doubtful); however, no cloven tongues as of fire sit upon them. They all praise God in different languages (which is better than some lame attempt to make them ecstatic utterances). But no accusation of drunkenness follows, and Peter does not preach the first gospel sermon. The Bible has been leading up to this day for centuries, and the proclamation of the gospel is critical, but the producers just ignored it. No gospel message is included. Not one of the 3,000 souls is baptized (Acts 2:41).
Peter heals the lame man from Acts 3 on the same day, and Stephen is also stoned. Those responsible for The Bible were more unkind than the Jews. They, at least, let Stephen preach before they stoned him. He presented no message here. Although he does see the heaven open and the Lord on the right hand of God, he is not portrayed saying, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
Paul of Tarsus
No, you read it correctly. Although the Bible never calls the persecutor of the church Paul of Tarsus, the miniseries introduces him this way. If anyone is looking for a designation of this 10-hour miniseries, the Paul of Tarsus version of the Bible would encapsulate its errors. No one ever referred to Paul that way; furthermore, he was not called Paul, period, until after his conversion and the beginning of his first missionary journey (Acts 13:9). He certainly did not go by Paul at the stoning of Stephen. One wonders who the producers could have possibly consulted with on these matters—surely, no one who knows the Bible well.
Paul of Tarsus gets Malchus to join him in persecuting Christians, and they invade a place where Christians are meeting. They torture a disciple who tells them that Christians have fled to Damascus. So Paul gets on his phantom horse that he has been riding ever since Good News for Modern Man was published, showing Saul falling off a stick figure pony. He saw Jesus and then became blinded. The men with him do not see anyone.
In Damascus, Jesus commissions Ananias to go to “Paul of Tarsus,” who is blind and very nervous. When Ananias approaches, he wants to know who is there. Ananias restores his sight and says, “I, Ananias, baptize you, Paul, in the name of Christ” and he pours a pitcher of water over his head. Exactly what Biblical or historical fact is this nonsense based on? Was there no one working on this project that read Acts 8, where Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and came up out of it again? It’s hard to get a pitcher of water out of that! “Paul’s” conversion is only the next chapter!
They had done such a wonderful work of showing John in the Jordan River baptizing Jesus by immersion. What happened? Did someone tell them, “You will alienate many in Protestant denominations if you leave it at that”? Did someone advise them to show some other method of baptism so as to be more inclusive? They had baptism right initially; this switch from the accurate portrayal of the act was obviously a sell-out aimed at pleasing those who refuse to do it properly; it was a clear compromise of what the Bible teaches. Later at the house of Cornelius, they dip everyone’s head into a well. The only surprising thing at this point is that no one sprinkled water on the penitent. James, Paul, and John Someone must have rolled the dice and said it was time to change the order of historical events. James the brother of John is put to death (which occurs in Acts 12). The apostles realize they have to finally leave Jerusalem. Someone asks John where he thinks he will go, and he answers: “North, to Ephesus.” Does any Bible student think that if John was asked this question that he actually answered these words? Didn’t think so. Besides, Ephesus is north and considerably west of Jerusalem. Furthermore, Paul was the first apostle to actually travel there (Acts 19).
At this point Paul came to Jerusalem and tried to join with the disciples. One of Paul’s detractors said, “I have friends in Damascus; you paid them a visit,” which is untrue. Saul the persecutor never visited Christians in Damascus because he was struck blind first. Rejected by brethren, he began quoting 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, a great text, which he wrote several years later. The previous critic changed his mind and embraced Paul. Anyone guessing that Paul’s benefactor was Barnabas knows the Bible better than The Bible’s producers. They have Luke responding positively to Paul.
Shortly thereafter, Peter is arrested and taken to Cornelius, who, rather than do him harm, wanted to hear the gospel. Everyone bowed to him, and Peter did say he is a man like they are. Of course, Peter was not brought to Cornelius by Romans, and this event (recorded in Acts 10) happened before James was slain (Acts 12). Peter did not dip Cornelius’ head in water to baptize him. The Holy Spirit coming upon Cornelius and his household to prove that the Gentiles were acceptable to God did not occur—especially since there were no Jews with Peter anyway in this version.
The ten hours comes to a close by moving down the road twenty years and mentioning that, according to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. Paul is arrested for preaching to prisoners. Actually, that is inverted, also. Paul preached to prisoners after he was jailed (Acts 16, et al.). Paul is not shown being arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Rome. Nothing is said about that at all. The narrator informs the audience that John was poisoned in Rome. What? But then he adds that the Romans were unsuccessful in their attempt and banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation. Nothing is ever said about him being in Ephesus, as predicted earlier. He sees Jesus, but it is not the vision from Revelation 1. He talks about there being no more pain and death, affirms that He will make all things new, and promises that He is coming soon. His final words are, “May the grace of the Lord be with all God’s people,” to which John adds, “Amen.” Our conclusion is that this “Paul of Tarsus” version, except for about 30 minutes out of ten hours, is not worth seeing and will only confuse the viewer. It is riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation. The Nativity and The Passion of the Christ are far better and more inspirational. As far as the Old Testament, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments remains the best, though it contains several errors as well.
Gary W. Summers
*altered format from original publishing to correspond to aired episodes