Reviewer: Charity Bishop
This miniseries doesn't cover the entire Bible, but instead features the theme of Israel: its imprisonment, its saviors, and its messiah. The stories chosen lead up to the greatest and most important story -- Christ.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..." A violent storm rages outside the ark as Noah recounts the creation story to the few remaining people alive. From there we follow God's exchanges with Abraham, His leading of the nation of Israel out of Egypt through Moses, the taking of the walls of Jericho with Joshua, Him using Solomon to defeat the Philistines, discover the lineage of kings starting with Saul and David, and witness the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. Through war, hardship, persecution, and imprisonment, through the building and destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, God remains faithful... and at last, sends a child to earth who will forever change the course of history...
There are two religious opinions of this miniseries: the first is it's an excellent way to introduce new believers to the stories in scripture and give them a foundation on which to build a knowledge of Christ. The second is that it is riddled with inaccuracies, both historical and scriptural, is badly acted, and refers back to dangerous theological input from popular (but not always respected) theologians. My opinion is it's dangerous to criticize other believers for doing something God has called them to do, and it's obvious that He is working through this miniseries, both among believers and nonbelievers. One shouldn't enter into it without being aware of where it has excluded scriptural material or invented motivations to drive the plot forward, but it is what it is: a Biblical adaptation written in a story format (or in this case, a series of vignettes with an over-reaching message of God's love and salvation).
One can approach this miniseries from a number of perspectives, so I'll tackle the top three most important ones: theology, historical accuracy, and production values. It's baffling to me to think that this was made on what the business calls a "low budget" for a ten hour series, because the special effects and acting are wonderful. There's a multi-racial cast of actors from all over the world, a strong narrative, and a gorgeous score by award-winning Hans Zimmer. Some of the cast are better than others, but New Testament half of the series has the best ensemble.
As a student of history from the period who knows everything there is to know about Pontius Pilate, the inclusion of events in history but not written in scripture delighted me. Finally, a production gets his presence in Judea right -- his ongoing rivalry with the high priests, his contempt for the Jewish people, and his determination to bring Jerusalem into total submission to Roman authority provide a rich backdrop for the behind-closed-doors plots that bring about Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.
Theologically, there's a lot missing. It ranges from the understandable (as a family program, you can't exactly show what Sodom was famous for) to the baffling (why immediate events after the crucifixion are staged differently is a mystery to me). It has some truly wonderful moments, such as between Peter and Jesus, but also left me wanting a lot more... to see more of the miracles, to meet more of the disciples. It made me hunger to read the Bible again and remind myself of the rest of the story. Since that's really the purpose of any adaptation, to send us running back to the original book, I think The Bible succeeds in being not only quality entertainment, but in reminding us of our history with God and His faithfulness to His people.
Portions of women's bare backs are shown on several occasions (the slave after being with Abram, Bathsheba bathing on her roof). Some mild sexual references.
One or two uses of "whore."
Frequent battle scenes in which Jews are clubbed, stabbed, and hit with flaming arrows. Two occasions have men's eyes being put out (off-screen). Heads are cut off (off-screen, sometimes we see the shadow of the severed head). Men's throats are cut (some blood). Blood spatters sometimes. Angels mow down evil men in the street. Jesus is flogged, beaten, and crucified; Stephen is shown being stoned; Peter is badly beaten. We see Judas hang himself (his feet fall into frame and twitch).
We see/hear Saul urinating in the cave.