Lessons from History Channel’s “The Bible”

By Vince Williams

Image from History Channel's The Bible

Opening on March 3rd, History Channel’s The Bible received ratings unexpected by Hollywood elites. By its final episode on Easter weekend it had been seen by over 13 million viewers. Through various blogs and news articles I have seen Christians take a stance both for and against the various episodes and their accuracy to the written word. My goal is not to condone the choices of the producers, but to evaluate how those choices affected their results. Has The Bible shown us a new way to reach out to our neighbors? As a person who is passionate about church communication in the world today, here is what I took away from this highly viewed and somewhat controversial series.

Keep it simple. The message of the Bible is both simple and complex. It’s an epic that offers amazing details that can be studied for a lifetime; however, the completion of our faith can be summarized in one verse, Luke 10:27:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The Bible mini-series left out details that, although important, did not always translate to the crux of the storyline or to the screen. Did the lack of these details hurt the story? I don’t think it did, at least not for the film’s intended purpose.

It is important that we find ways to communicate God’s love without too many details that can take away from the crispness of that message. People need to develop in maturity and knowledge, but keeping our outreach simple allows people to engage with God and start down the road of that process.

Keep it Purposeful. The Bible can be so many things at so many times—a book of wisdom, love, peace in tragedy—however our communication should be more focused. The mini-series focused in on the specific “big” stories it wanted to cover in order to paint a picture of God’s love and mercy. Its mission was not to relay every theme and story throughout the Word.

We should make sure we know the purpose of our communication. What is the purpose of this form of communication? What needs to be conveyed for people to take the next step? Anything more than that can be overwhelming to the viewer.

Keep it Sensational. This one is always a hot topic for debate. The story of the Bible is filled with sensational, bigger than life tales that paint the picture of God’s omnipotence. It is imperative that we do not understate that grand scale.

After working in church marketing for over a decade I have seen that provocative language and strong visuals get attention. The pastel colors and floral designs that are too often synonymous with Christian culture do little to attract the attention of part-time church attendees and non-Christians.

One scene from The Bible movie that stood out for me was Moses and the burning bush. I have seen this represented with a little fire on a sage brush or even a lot of fire on a tree, but this movie made it a big living and breathing spectacle. I was moved at how they represented the power and strength of God with the scale and beauty of those flames. In that moment it called me into a conversation with God about his majesty.

God’s glory is seen in the scale and beauty of the Earth he has given us, in our creative hand, and our artistic minds. It is ok to go a little “Hollywood” with our special effects as long as we are true to the story and representing God as He is: glorious and magnificent.

Keep it Coming. Maybe the best part of this mini-series is the fact that 13 million people viewed it, the fact that people are talking about it, and that they are wrestling with its accuracy. We need to not be paralyzed by our inability to convey all of God’s word quickly, and push forward with the message. Compromises were made on this film’s storyline, both to fit it into the limited number of hours it had and its budget restrictions. But, did it do good? Did it convey the basis of God’s truth enough for people to seek more? I think so. And I think we need to keep showing the world the big, bold and beautiful stories found within the Bible, so that people can wrestle with the idea that there is a God who loves them and who wants to know them.

After all, God’s Word is the greatest epic ever written.

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Written by Vince Williams
April 9th, 2013 at 11:17 am

5 Responses to 'Lessons from History Channel’s “The Bible”'

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  1. Thanks for sharing your great insights. From my perspective I’m glad so many people are thinking and talking about the Bible and I hope it translates into studying and applying the Bible to their lives. I only saw one hour, including the portion about my namesake Daniel, and was disappointed by several parts that were contrary to the Biblical record (Daniel 3 & 5) and with the producers seeming fixation on violence (giving fairly long air time to violent scenes that comprise one or two verses). But still hoping the movie leads people into the Word of God…

    Blessings to you at SermonView,

    Dan Serns

    Dan Serns

    Apr 9, 2013

  2. The Bible series on History Channel challenged me in ways not expected. Yes, some scenes are not perfect in biblical detail. Certainly, compressing Genesis to Revelation into a few hours required choices of what to tell about God’s amazing love for us. But let us say “thank you” to the men and women responsible for creating The Bible series, demonstrating their love for the Lord and a huge commitment in telling His love story for each of us. They have us talking.

    Regarding being challenged in ways not expected, I think of The Bible scene where Moses and God’s people stood between the Red Sea in front and Egyptian army behind. What to do? I identify with Moses very human response where he seemed to not know what to do, but stepped out to be alone with God and wait for His direction. When Moses sensed what God wanted Him to do, he did it.

    Watching The Bible inspired me to reflect deeply on that tense, life changing moment when Moses waited on God. When I don’t know what to do in difficult situations, I am encouraged to wait on God.

    Another challenging scene was Jesus calling Peter. The Bible showed Jesus getting into the boat with Peter who had been fishing with no success. Jesus moved His hand in the water and Peter’s nets were filled. Peter was astounded. Peter was moved when Jesus said he would be a “fisher of men” and they would change the world. Now that’s not perfect in detail to the way I remember the biblical story, . . . but I’m challenged to reflect on what astounds me about God and moves me in His direction.

    What will my Lord stir in my life to make me want to join Him in changing the world through His power and His presence for His glory? The Bible has us talking.

    Roger Olson

    Apr 10, 2013

  3. I just want to praise God for this film. It really touched my heart and gave me a new glimpse of this magnificent and almighty God that’s always reaching out for the lost(all of us). The fact that some are complaining and others are thankful shows that nobody’s perfect. Who has all the truth? Who practices the whole truth? Who understands all the truth? It’s ok to disagree. The biggest mistake and the biggest harm that we as christians do to the world is that we are divided in almost every way. We are not fulfilling Jesus’ prayer in John 17. (we are not one with Him and we are not one with one another).May the Lord forgives us. May we come to love him the way He loved us.

    Oscar A. Alba

    Apr 10, 2013

  4. I believe that we need to be careful when it comes to appealing to the masses. Over and over again in Scripture we have stories where God’s people intertwined the local cultures with their worship and paid a very high price spiritually. We need to realize that when many of God’s people worshiped Baal that in their minds they thought that they were worshipping the Lord. The term Baal means Lord. Even Aaron tried to make the golden calf as a representation of the true God. I’m concerned that by changing the Bible stories for crowd appeal that we have done the same. I’m less concerned about leaving out details than I am about inventing new ones. We often tell the details of Bible stories in age-appropriate ways to the children. But the non-Biblical additions to the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah and to Abraham’s aborted sacrifice of his son are just two examples of my concern. Perhaps Revelation closes with a warning for an extremely important reason for our times: “If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.” Revelation 22:18 NLT

    Pastor CSL

    Apr 10, 2013

  5. God saw to it that the written word was preserved and translated into common tounge. He could have come in the digital age the age when all his miracles could be recorded and broadcast real time. But he chose the simplicity of the written word and that’s as sensational as it gets. That is, until one knows the “Living” word in a real, dynamic, and internal way. This and this only is the way the word comes to life! We too often forget that a subtle lie, a slight twist, a sensationalizing of God’s intent, was all it took in the garden to get us where we are today. Finally the word tells us that the world will at last be deceived by the seemingly miraculous and sensational wonders of that great deceiver in his last great act. So as for me, the promos were enough to let me know that though “all the world may marvel”, I’ll stick to the simplicity of the living word!

    Pr. Doe

    Apr 11, 2013

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