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The Bible according to the History Channel

March 3, 2013

This looks interesting, but I’m not going to get my hopes up. I’m simply not convinced that the creators of the series were justified in attempting such a huge project.

I went to a lecture once by a Harvard literature professor who was speaking about Homer (I forget the exact topic). During the Q&A afterward, he was asked whether he views the Bible as literature in the way he views the Iliad or Odyssey as literature. He said no, that would be a mistake. Not because the Bible isn’t inherently literary — we would be foolish not to attend to genre and form. He said “no” because he believes the Bible has a greater purpose than other literature. The Bible has a spirit-transforming intent and affect, therefore it shouldn’t be critiqued in the same way that we criticize other literature. If read properly the Bible commands us to critique ourselves, not the book.

There’s no way The Bible – The Movie would be able to do what The Bible as a book does (though I’m guessing the orality people would disagree). But if it were to be done well, I would take the model of the best movie-series-from-book that I know — the Lord of the Rings — and hope that it looks something like that. That means they have to acknowledge that there’s no way to do justice to the book, and use artistic license and mastery of film-making to make a phenomenal piece of art.

Unfortunately, a miniseries on the history channel by the folks who made Survivor and Touched By an Angel don’t quite have what it takes. In their own words, their aim was not to make the best screen-adapted Bible story:

Our greatest hope is that this series will affect a new generation of viewers and draw them back to the Bible.

To extend the analogy, if Peter Jackson’s goal was to get people really excited about Tolkein’s books, do you think it would have renwed interest in the books as much as it did when his goal was to make the best LOTR films imaginable? I doubt it.

It should, nevertheless, be interesting.

What do you think? Would it have been better to not even try? Or is some publicity for the Bible better than none?

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From → Culture, media

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