My Review of The Bible: Episode I

the-bible-history-channelLet me start out by saying that I approve of the idea behind making this mini-series. It has been getting very good ratings (last week it was the highest rated show of any time slot.  That means that The Bible: Episode 3 had more people watching it than any other single show that week).  On the whole, I am glad that they decided to bring the contents of the Bible to the screen.  Obviously I have not seen the entire series, because at this point only three episodes have aired.  I have watched the first two (with the third recorded and waiting for me).

This show has been very good on some things.  For instance:

  • They very clearly showed the literal six days of creation.
  • They depicted Noah’s flood as a worldwide flood.
  • They showed Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, when many liberal theologians have claimed that the Israelites crossed much farther north through a shallow marsh called the “reed sea.”

But they have made some questionable decisions about some parts of the Bible, and have been flat-out wrong on others. While I am glad they are exposing people to the Bible’s contents, it saddens me that they have gotten some things wrong. And so, for those of you, my readers who have not read the Bible, I will outline here the things that they have gotten wrong, according to the Bible itself.

The first episode started with Noah in the ark relating the facts of creation to a young girl.  First of all, we have to assume that this girl, who looked like she was about 12 years old, was Noah’s daughter-in-law.  Seemed a little young to me, but there were only eight people on the ark: Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ three wives. Another thing about the Noah story that they got wrong:  there was no top deck on the ark that was open to air as they showed Noah walking out on.  The ark wasn’t even a “boat.”  It was a big wooden box, meant to float.  There was probably no keel (as the program shows), and no rudder.  The ark wasn’t a ship meant to go anywhere, it was built for one reason: to protect the creatures inside from death by water.   And I’m sure it didn’t leak either (as the program showed).

The show moved next to the story of Abraham.

  • When God first called him to leave Ur, his name was Abram, and his wife was Sarai, not Abraham and Sarah.  A small detail, but there it is.
  • They made it seem like Abram left Ur with his wife, his nephew Lot and Lot’s family, and his servants. Nobody else came, at least not that we were told about.  They left Ur and arrived in the Promised Land shortly thereafter.  The reality as told in Genesis 11:31 is that Abram’s father Terah took his whole family. They left Ur and settled in Haran (in present day Turkey).  Then in Genesis 12 God called Abram and told him to leave Haran and go to the Promised Land.
  • The program does a good job overall with the Theophanic meeting at Mamre (as told in Genesis 18), but  when the Bible says that God “…appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre…,” maybe the program’s producers could have produced some trees? And I don’t like the way they made God seem creepy when He was telling Sarah about the birth of Isaac.
  • The story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom was not done to my taste. This doesn’t mean they got it wrong, but they made it seem like the two angels were some kind of kung-fu sword masters.  And the program depicted the people of Sodom with ambiguous motives regarding the “two visitors.”  The Bible is clear that the people of Sodom wanted to have sexual relations with them when it says, “…bring them out that we may have intercourse with them…” (Genesis 19:5).  In my opinion this was cowardice on the part of the people behind this program, because it would have produced an outcry from people who believe that homosexuality is not a sin.
  • Abraham and Isaac.  The program’s story of sacrifice had several things wrong.  First of all, Abraham took Isaac, a donkey, and two servants. The program showed just Abraham and Isaac.  They went on a  three day trip but the program seems to indicate they just walked over the hill a ways.  When God told Abraham to not go through with it, he pointed out a RAM caught in a bush.  Abraham then sacrificed the ram.  In the program, it was a lamb, not a ram.  I understand that a lamb is probably easier to deal with in film production than a fully grown ram, but it’s a detail.

Then, without explanation, they moved directly from that story to the story of Moses.  Here is a list of good stories they could have told:

  • Isaac and Rebekah’s story
  • Jacob and Esau
  • Jacob deceiving Isaac.
  • Jacob traveling to Haran, seeing the stairway to heaven, falling in love with Rachel, tricked into marrying Leah, working for his uncle Laban for 20 years, his return to the Promised land
  • Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord.
  • Joseph and his dreams
  • Joseph sold into slavery, arriving in Egypt, being Potiphar’s slave, falsely accused of impropriety with Potiphar’s wife.
  • Joseph’s time in prison and the dreams of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s butler, and Pharaoh’s baker.
  • Joseph’s elevation to “second in command of Egypt” and his food program
  • Joseph’s reunion with his family.

Moses comes next.  They messed up a few things here:

  • They got the wrong Pharaoh, but then, almost everybody does. Given the fact that the Exodus happened in 1445 BC, the reigning Pharaoh at the time of Moses birth in 1525 BC was probably Amenhotep I (reigned 1526-1506). The pharaoh reigning when Moses fled Egypt in 1480 would have been Thutmose II. The pharaoh of the Exodus would have been Thutmose III, who was born in 1481. The program shows Moses growing up with (and swordfighting with) the pharaoh of the Exodus, when in fact this pharaoh had most likely never met Moses, since Moses left Egypt when Thutmose III was 1 year old.
  • As the Israelites leave Egypt, there is no smoke by day and fire by night as the book of Exodus states.
  • In the Bible, Moses doesn’t smack his staff down on the ground to start the parting of the Red Sea, he raises his rod and stretches out his hand (Exodus 14:16-27).

Interesting sidenote unrelated to the aims of my post:  Historical records show that the son of Thutmose III who was pharaoh after him (Amenhotep II) was NOT his firstborn son.  Ancient Egyptian records indicate that Thutmose III’s firstborn son Amenemhat died sometime between 1455 and 1444. The tenth plague, the death of pharaoh’s firstborn, took place with the rest of the plagues in 1445. Interesting, no?

I believe that just about covers it for episode one.  Tune in soon for my review of Episode 2.

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About Steve Picray

I have been many things, but right now I am a registered nurse attempting to pay off my debt so that, God willing, I can be a pastor again someday. I have a wife and three kids. I am a conservative Christian (of the Baptist variety). This blog is about me: the things that happen to me, the things that interest me, and the things that bother me. If you have a question, just e-mail me at spicray AT gmail DOT com. God Bless!
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