Posted on Sunday, March 3, 2013
So the History Channel is starting a new 5 part series tonight called “The Bible.” Here are some thoughts:
The story of Abraham starts out with too many “extra” biblical characters and dialog that is irritating and I am only 15 minutes into the presentation. For instance, the first 10 minutes Abraham is portrayed as saying “God will take care of us” at least three times. Not that the statement is not true, it just feels contrived. The Bible is not lacking in powerful phrases, why not use them. Why not use the simple, repeated phrase: I believe God.
Lot’s wife is portrayed as a nag, the battle cry of Abraham’s armies that free Lot “Trust in God” is a mixture of Braveheart and an Islamic “God is great” cry. It is portrayed as a human drama as opposed to the history of salvation. Lot’s settling in Sodom is portrayed semi-accurately as a battle between Abraham’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds, but then Lot’s wife makes the weird statement that they should settle in Sodom because “the future is in the city.”
The tension between Abraham and Sarah over Hagar was done well. But they are going to skip over the key passages in favor of the more dramatic human interest story. The interaction between the three messengers from God was well done. Unfortunately they turned the angels leading Lot and his family out of the city into a Stephen Segal cum ninja sword fight. I don’t think the story necessitated the “extra” drama.
So we arrive at chapter 19 with only a brief mention of the covenant passages integral to the story (Genesis 12, 15, 17). No mention of the necessary language of the story: seed, covenant, promise. The presentation denuded of this primary language misses the main plot of the Bible. So in the first 20 chapters of the Bible, the story of Lot takes a primary place, this is odd to me as I am looking for the message implicit in this great book. It has maintained that test not because of the Lot story or the Sodom story but because of the greater underlying plot.
In the 21st century why are we still portraying Bible characters as “white”. Only the bad guys (Hagar, for instance) even remotely resemble middle easterners. Isn’t this critical miscue enough to make you want to turn it off? It would be like telling the story of slavery in America and not using African American actors. Betty White starring as Harriet Tubman. This kind of presentation is not helpful, and it is mind boggling. Sarah and Isaac are English?
The story of Moses is next up. Again, it is odd to me that details that don’t need to be changed are changed. For instance, when Moses kills an Egyptian for beating an Israelite, the Bible says that Moses waited for a moment where he would not be seen. In the History Channel version, Moses kills the Egyptian in full site of many, the man taking the beating offers to hide the body. Why the change? It doesn’t seem any harder to portray it accurately, it makes more sense as well.
I loved the emotion of the plagues, the shortening of the section was well done. Pharaoh’s arrogance and resistance was passionate. The Passover story is the center of the Moses story, but it doesn’t get the attention it deserves to set up the rest of the story.
Instead of giving us an accurate picture of Egyptian Pharaohs (the necessary beard that signified their kingship and the plaited hair worn by them) we get the familiar Yul Brynner look.
I give the History Channel a C for their presentation and interpretation of the first two books of the Bible. This didn’t give the viewer ANY new or pertinent information that they already have gleaned from previous dramatic versions of these incidents. This is the “History Channel” and it seems that a reworking of the watered down dramatic versions misses the mark. The drama is not as good as it could be, and the history is only used as fodder for that mediocre drama. I am being generous with my grade. The series is just OK.