The highly publicized mini-series on the Bible has been airing on the History Channel for the past three weeks. Roma Downy, the former star of “Touched by an Angel” and her husband, Mark Burnett, a renowned Hollywood producer are responsible for this mini-series.
Whenever Hollywood attempts to retell stories from the Bible, I must admit, I always get a little uneasy. Biblical accuracy has apparently never been high on their priority list.
Now I understand “poetic license,” and grant the right to retell a story without using the exact same words as the text in so doing. If I were tasked to preach a sermon on Genesis 1, I’m sure that I would abbreviate some matters and expound more upon other matters. Picking and choosing what to include and exclude in a limited time is up to the one telling the story. However, “poetic license” does not give one the right to substantively change the parts of the story that one chooses to include.
As Christians, we know the Bible to be the inspired word of God. To Hollywood, at the very least, the Bible is a recognized and respected literary work. That being said, imagine Hollywood creating a mini-series on the works of Shakespeare, and prior to each episode they state that this version “endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the [work] book.” Do you think they would then end “Romeo and Juliet” by having Romeo run off with another woman, and Juliet committing suicide in despair? Do you think they would have Brutus coming to Julius Caesar’s defense and dying along side him as “friends to the death” in “Julius Caesar?” Can you imagine them having MacBeth push King Duncan to his death rather than using a dagger? Of course not! It would be unthinkable! Who would be so presumptuous as to trifle with Shakespeare while trying to “endeavor to stay true to the spirit of the work?
So why then does Hollywood feel free to trifle with the Bible? Regardless of whether they view the Bible as inspired or not, it is at least a literary work of historical significance. Yet, there seems to be no hesitancy in taking such liberties with the Bible. Why change Noah’s grown, married sons, into young boys while on the ark? Why portray an ark with many windows when the Bible says it had just one? Why have the Persian King Cyrus throw Daniel into the lion’s den rather than Darius the Mede as the Bible states? Why have Satan taking Jesus to the top of a mountain and tempting him to throw himself off when the Bible says it was the pinnacle of the temple? And the list could go on and on.
While being interviewed about the accuracy of their mini-series, Roma Downy stated that they “had a great team of scholars and theologians helping us, making sure that we told these stories accurately and truthfully.” If that’s the case, I would suggest that next time, they should skip the “scholars” and “theologians” and interview our little children in Sunday Bible School for a more accurate telling of the story.