Monday, March 11, 2013

The Bible Series on the History Channel

Question:
There is a series on the History Channel called The Bible, and I am wondering if that is according to the Word in the Bible and if it is following Catholic Church teaching. Parts of it were not following what is said in the Bible. A lot of people watched it the first Sunday it was on and will not watch any more, because it seems to be very much exaggerated. Also pieces are chopped together. Thank you for your time and helping with this issue. (Posted by Karen S.)

Answer from Terry Modica, Director of Good News Ministries:

Any program or series produced as entertainment and not as a factual documentary is going to fail in accuracy to some degree.

This Bible series was produced with good intentions, by Mark Burnett and his wife, Touched by an Angel's Roma Downey, who love Christ and prayed for guidance. They came up with the idea for the series because of their love of Scripture and from watching biblical epics such as The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston.

It’s got its good points and its bad points. The good it will do will be to inspire more people to be interested in reading the Bible and it serves as a good, wholesome alternative to the very unChristian and immoral shows that are on television. Atheists are watching it, and it’s keeping them interested in watching more. We should pray that this is the start of real faith for a lot of people!

Roma Downey explained it this way: "We started with the premise that the Bible is the truth. These are true stories, and it was our job to bring them to life on the screen. We're not saying, 'Maybe this happened,' or 'According to the Bible,' we're just telling the story as written." Although I disagree that they tell it "as written", because they certainly added words and scenes that are not in scripture, they do indeed tell a story without intending it to be a documentary.

"So," added Mark Burnett, "someone who believes will recognize it and love it for that. Someone who doesn't, and isn't going to, will still feel the emotional pull of the story and will be informed in a different way, without being talked at."

And Roma Downey said, "From a point of view of people being able to learn from it, it's exciting, it's compelling, and it's dynamic -- because nobody wants to be taught." She is revealing her purpose as an entertainer. She is, in my opinion, wrong about it being a good tool for learning.

The bad effect of this series happens when anyone takes it as a course in scripture, which is was never intended to be. It is the fictionalization of bible stories to make it more entertaining while drawing attention to the Bible. It is designed for television, not for educational programs that can be used in churches.

The best way to consider this series is to see it as an opportunity to host programs in our churches that explain what the Bible really teaches.

The famous author Pearl S. Buck did the same thing in her day, writing a book entitled The Story Bible (available at amazon.com/The-Story-Bible-Pearl-Buck/dp/0517149818). It is very entertaining and helps make the Bible more interesting, but it was not intended as a course in scripture.

For a good, Catholic course on the the Bible, which makes a good supplement to this television series, see my online, self-paced course, “The Story in the Bible”, which is an easy, inexpensive (only $10 USD) yet thorough over-view of the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation: catholicdr.com/e-Classroom/Bible/. This can also be adapted for church groups.
  

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