By Rusty Wright
Think of it as Survivor: Earth
As reality TV host Jeff Probst might say (cue theme music; roll panoramic video), “This … is the planet Earth. A spectacular paradise that can become a perilous jungle. Two people – a man and a woman – are about to begin the adventure of the ages.”
“Their progeny will encompass vastly different walks of life, from kings to fishermen, saints to scoundrels. They’ll display nobility and treachery, altruism and secret alliances. But they’ll have one thing in common. They’ll all participate in an epic struggle between good and evil.”
“What will happen when explosive personalities collide? And in the end, who will find redemption and survive the ultimate tribal council?”
That’s the drama the upcoming ten-hour miniseries, The Bible, seeks to portray when it airs on History Channel every Sunday evening this March.
Prolific television producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Celebrity Apprentice,” “Shark Tank”) and his wife, actress/producer Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”), spent two years creating what they hope will become a legacy. They consider this “by far the most important project we’ve ever undertaken” and sought to paint “the grand narrative of God’s love for all of us,” from Genesis to Revelation.
Curiosity and Inspiration
“The Bible is a sacred text that continues to challenge and inspire,” notes Burnett. “We … are deeply humbled to be given this once in a generation opportunity to breathe new visual life into the Bible’s profound stories. The Bible gives meaning and purpose to billions of people around the world, and sparks the curiosity of millions more.”
Spoiler alert: Eve eats the fruit (as does Adam); Noah, family, and animals endure the Ark; God parts the Red Sea for Moses and company; Delilah cuts Samson’s hair; David slays Goliath; Daniel survives the lions’ den; Jesus does good, is executed, but rises from the dead.
“Don‘t make it lame”
But perhaps you already knew those stories. Either way, there’s plenty of adventure and drama in this series. At a recent Washington, DC, dinner, Burnett described his kids’ advice about the impending production: “Don’t make it lame.” He didn’t.
This quality portrayal has loads of action and state-of-the-art special effects to grab channel surfers’ attention. I’m no action-flick aficionado, but scenes like Ninja angels slicing their way through Sodom, the Red Sea crossing, and Goliath’s slaying made my spine tingle. Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, Isaac, had me right there, wanting divine intervention to stop that knife from hitting its target.
Faith and Trust
The depictions were exciting, gripping, genuine. I could identify with the characters’ human struggles, emotions and faith lessons, especially the oft-repeated “Trust in God.” Fallible people like Abraham, Moses, and Peter seek to discover what God wants of them, and then trust him to provide and protect.
It’s chock full of timeless truths, and true to Jesus’ teachings. As he said, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Producers sought to be faithful to the spirit of the book in adapting selected Bible stories for the screen. They take typical movie-making liberties – combining events and condensing timelines – to represent the gist of the book in limited hours. Compressed narrative and dialogue skip some details and occasionally blur nuances. But, sit back, relax, and take in the big picture: God loves us; he is faithful; he is merciful.
The overall presentation (of the six hours available for advance press screening) gets an “A” from me. By all means, see the miniseries. Read the original, too. It is, after all, a very Good Book.
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
Copyright © 2013 Rusty Wright
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Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (as Jesus’ mother, Mary)