Is the History Channel's "The Bible" mini-series biblically accurate?

Part 1: Beginnings

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

The first episode of the History Channel's "The Bible" television mini-series aired Sunday, March 3, 2013. I initially decided to watch it because I had heard a lot about it and that it was going to be very well done. But I also wanted to watch it because I knew would be receiving a lot of questions about this series — especially if any scenes were unbiblical or if the series took too much artistic license. Overall, the first episode, Beginnings, was good. I personally did not have a huge problem with any of the artistic licenses the producers took.

There were three primary instances in which the storyline did not completely agree with the biblical account:

1. Sodom and Gomorrah

In the telling of the Sodom and Gomorrah story, the episode nowhere states why God destroyed the two cities. There may have been a vague reference to Sodom being evil, but that was it. When the two angels run into Lot, they appear as if they had already been assaulted by the men of Sodom. Nowhere does the Bible say that the men of Sodom ever actually attacked the angels. Further, the idea that angels can be physically harmed by any human being is unbiblical.

Absolutely nothing is said about the men of Sodom wanting to homosexually gang rape the two angels, which is what the Bible describes (Genesis 19:5). Also, in the TV episode, the two angels had to swordfight the men of Sodom in order to help Lot and his family get out of the city. The Bible does not mention this, and, if the angels had to actually fight the men of Sodom, they would not have needed swords. Hadn't they just struck a bunch of the men with blindness (Genesis 19:11)? And where were their swords when they were assaulted earlier? I shouldn't complain though. Seeing the angels in action was pretty cool.

2. Abraham and Isaac

In the episode, when Abraham takes Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice as God commanded, Sarah discovers the plan and runs after them. The Bible nowhere states that Sarah knew anything about what God commanded Abraham to do. In the biblical account, Abraham and Isaac traveled for three days (Genesis 22:4). In Beginnings, the near sacrifice of Isaac took place so near their camp that Sarah was able to run to the place where her husband might have killed her son. While such a timeline makes for a dramatic moment in television, it does not align with the biblical account in Genesis 22.

3. The calling of Moses

In the episode, Moses readily accepts God's call to free the Israelites from slavery and is very bold with Pharaoh. In the biblical account, Moses is extremely reluctant to accept God's call (Exodus 3:11-4:13), and Aaron is made the primary spokesman (Exodus 4:14-16). And this isn't the first time that detail has been overlooked in movie history. Have you ever seen The 10 Commandments (1956) or the Dreamworks animated film The Prince of Egypt (1998)?

Those were the only significant issues I noticed in the first episode. I applaud the producers for staying much closer to what the Bible says than most attempts at producing "biblically-based" or "biblically-inspired" movies and shows. The actors and actresses were good and most of them looked appropriately Middle Eastern. The special effects and cinematography were also well done.

I do find myself questioning some of the choices in regards to what stories were included or excluded. Why include the account of Abraham freeing Lot from the kings of Mesopotamia (Genesis 14), but not include the stories of Jacob and Joseph? If I had been advising the producers, I would have told them to remove Lot from the storyline entirely to make room for Jacob and Joseph — especially Joseph. But I never did get an email from Mark Burnett asking for my input.

Let's hope episodes 2-5 are equally reasonably close to the biblical accounts. God could certainly use the History Channel's "The Bible" television mini-series to get more people interested in what the Bible says. More biblical literacy would do our culture a world of good. And, if I am correct in guessing what the core message of the series is supposed to be, it is a good message for all of us: "Trust God!"

The Series:

Part 1: Beginnings
Part 2: Homeland
Part 3: Hope
Part 4: Mission
Part 5: Passion


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Published 3-4-13