A man is called selfish, not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting the neighbor's.
- Richard Whately, English Prelate and Writer (1787-1863)
Whenever it comes to works of faith, I always try to read with an open mind, but there’s always a logical part of my brain that I can never silence that has this “believability meter” running. It’s interesting how that logical part of my brain responds differently between reading The Bible on the printed page and watching the story told through this outstanding television production.
Watching the very first episode of the ten-part miniseries, “The Bible” last night, the program begins with some awe-inspiring imagery of Noah’s Ark careening through the massive waves of the global flood, and then we’re taken inside the Ark, as Noah recounts the story of creation to his children, so the show starts out with a visual bang and it also manages to tightly condense the story of creation along with the story of the ark into a single scene.
As the seas begin to calm, a single shot shows Noah walking out onto the top deck of the ark and then we’re ascending high and higher and higher above to show just how dwarfed this human figure is by the massive size of the ark. If seeing is believing, seeing the incredible imagery of the ark on this production makes the whole concept of the ark rate just a bit higher on my believability meter than it ever did when I’ve read the story and tried to imagine the gathering of two of all living creatures onto a single vessel.
Somehow though, on the believability meter, when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, I found in this case, reading the story in The Bible was a little easier for me to swallow than it was watching Abraham in this production. To read it, well, it sounds pretty official when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. To see it, however, with Abraham listening to a voice only he hears, it’s less of an abstract concept and I found myself thinking how demented any father would look to see him taking his child up to the top of a mountain to offer his own son as a sacrifice, because God commanded him to do it. Watching it, from my modern perspective, sacrificing children is something only lunatics do. Of course, that’s where faith comes in, but in this case, for me it was a little easier to believe Abraham’s faith when I read it as opposed to seeing it.
There’s no shying away from blood spatter and gore in this production (Alex of A Clockwork Orange would approve of the ultraviolence) but as often happens with American television, there’s a double standard here where violence and killing is seemingly okay for all audiences, but matters of a sexual nature are often avoided at great cost. When it came to the story of Lot and the angels in Sodom, the real reason the mob wants to get their hands on the angels Lot’s protecting in his home is not even hinted at.
In a show targeted for a conservative and family-orientated audience, it might be understandable that producers wanted to help parents avoid answering some uncomfortable questions like, “Dad, why are they trying to get to the angels?” or “What do those people mean when they say, ‘Bring them out to us, that we may know them . . . ‘” but it was still a bit disappointing to me when one of the most perplexing parts of the entire Bible was skipped over as well, with no mention of Lot offering up his virgin daughters to the mob in exchange for the safety of the strangers.
By the time both of those parts of Lot’s story were skipped over, it was no real surprise when there was also no mention of how Lot’s daughters succeeded in getting him drunk and managed to get impregnated by him without his ever knowing it on two successive nights.
The casting is well done, where most previous Biblical adaptations contained too many Caucasian actors in makeup and Middle Eastern garb, here, the ethnicity of the characters of The Bible is much more on the mark.
The visuals and special effects were top notch, the scene with Moses and the burning bush is the best visual interpretation I’ve seen, the parting of the Red Sea would have made Charlton Heston proud and the presenting of the Fifteen – er . . . I mean, Ten Commandments was also powerful in this production.
(Just in slight chance you’ve seen neither one, no that last link was not to the History Channel production, it’s Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I.)
The Bible on History Channel is definitely worth the watch and do not worry if you missed the first episode last night, because it is in heavy rotation right now.
Here are additional showtimes and synopses of the first two of the 10-part series.
*** Episode 1: Beginnings ***
Premiere Date: March 03, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
Noah endures God’s wrath; Abraham reaches the Promised Land but still must prove his faith in God; Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, and his faith in God is rewarded when the Red Sea parts to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh’s chariots; Moses delivers his final message from God – the Ten Commandments.
March 04, 2013 – 12:01-02:01AM
March 06, 2013 – 09:00-11:02PM
March 07, 2013 – 01:01-03:03AM
March 10, 2013 – 06:00-08:00PM
*** Episode 2: Homeland ***
Premiere Date: March 10, 2013 – 08:00-10:00PM
Joshua conquers Jericho; Delilah betrays Samson as the Israelites battle the Philistines; Samuel anoints David king, a move that could throw the nation into civil war; Saul is consumed with jealousy when David defeats Goliath; King David ushers in a golden age for Israel, but is soon seduced by power and lust for Bathsheba; God forgives David, and his son, Solomon, builds God’s temple in Jerusalem.
March 11, 2013 – 12:01-02:01AM
March 13, 2013 – 09:00-11:02PM
March 14, 2013 – 01:01-03:03AM
March 17, 2013 – 06:00-08:00PM
Visit The Bible on History Channel for more info about the series including video, pictures and an episode guide.