Monday, 2 December 2013

The Bible UK

So on Saturday night Channel 5 premiered 'The Bible', a dramatised retelling of some of the more 'famous' stories from Scripture.

'Aiming to stay true the spirit of the original stories' the series will take us from Genesis to Revelation.

So I watched it.

With every film or production based on Scripture we are dealing with
an interpretation, and it will do us good to remember this. It is an interpretation.

The people who made this TV series are not coming to the biblical Story as a blank canvas making the series without any preconceived ideas or understandings. When they read the Bible they read it according to their own prejudices and ideas, their own theology and understanding, shaped by whatever tradition they have been involved with, consciously or not. It is an interpretation, an imaginative (or unimaginative) retelling of stories from Scripture, not a documentary of old recovered video footage. But even with a documentary there is usually a biased agenda, an interpretation of history that does not tell the story from all involved or represent both oppressor and oppressed, victim and persecutor.

Some people no doubt believe that this series is an accurate portrayal of the Biblical Story, but such a thing is really very difficult.

Take for instance the moments when God appears to someone.

The makers of the series have had to interpret what they think God is like, his character, nature and action in the world to then portray his appearance. So, rather than being wrapped in mystery and 'otherness' as the Eastern Orthodox tradition would pursue, God came across quite American and MAN like, someone who seemed to be quite a lot like us yet with serious superpowers. This is because the theology of God that the series creators have has shaped the way God is portrayed in the story.

Then there were the angels in the Sodom and Gomorrah story. These guys were skilled fighters and warriors who, for the LORD, slayed the inhabitants of the city with the sword. Nowhere in the Biblical story do the angel visitors do this. So the creators of the TV series have laid onto the Bible an understanding and theology of God that is represented by these warrior avenging angels. 

"Wrong choices. Wrong decisions." This was the framework of the programme. So every story was told through this lens. And when the wrong choice or decision is made violence ensues. Yet this is simply one lens to tell the Biblical Story through, there are other lenses, other ways.

Are you beginning to see the challenge?

Now please do not hear this as total negativity towards the programme as I certainly think that it is creating discussion. On my Twitter feed I was engaged in some such conversation:

'I don't subscribe to a religion but the bible convinced me of a God.'

'Total rubbish. What ridiculous nonsense.'

I think that all who are watching the series need to simply be aware that it is a certain type of cultural interpretation being played out before our eyes and it is not a simple retelling of the Biblical story; the series is staying true to a certain type of hermeneutical spirit of interpretation. Church history has shown us that Scripture can be read and heard in many different ways, and some traditions have more robust, faithful and awe-inspiring ways of reading Scripture than others.

My other concern is that we will simply ask people to watch this series and expect that somehow through the watching of this series people will suddenly want to become followers of Jesus. This is a cop out on our part.

The Bible is best read through the interpretative lens of relationship. Through God first loving us, our love of God and love of one another, through the joy and brutality of relationship the Bible is read and heard. So please do not think that you can somehow bypass depth of relationship and simply show someone a TV series and then expect them to want to know who God is. You are a living story of the Gospel and if you live in detached relationship with others you are declaring a detached god who cares very little about us. When Scripture is read and heard through from a Trinitarian theology then we begin to encounter right relating as key to all areas of life and faith.

I will keep watching it and see how it plays out. 

Be interested to know who watched it and what your thoughts were about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Slightly disappointed having watched all episodes to date as it is evident that the producers are either writing the script from memory or deliberately missing out KEY biblical moments which have been reworded!