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

Part 3: Hope

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

The third episode of the History Channel's "The Bible" television mini-series first aired Sunday, March 17, 2013. It covered the time period of the kings of Israel and Judah until Jesus' calling of Peter to be a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-18).

While there are no crucially important deviations from God's Word, there are many accounts in episode 3 that do not exactly match the biblical accounts. Here are a few I noticed:

Wrapping Up the Old Testament

The episode says the Prophet Jeremiah escaped Jerusalem when the Babylonians destroyed the city. The Bible says the Babylonians released Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:1).

Later in the episode, Daniel and his three friends are taken captive when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Bible records them being deported approximately 11 years earlier (2 Kings 24:10-16; Daniel 1).

The Book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar possibly becoming a believer in the one true God (Daniel 2:47; 3:28-29; 4:34-37). However, episode 3 portrays Nebuchadnezzar merely paying lip service to the God of the Israelites.

In the Book of Daniel, the account of Daniel being thrown into the lions' den occurs during the reign of Darius. In the episode, it occurs during the reign of Cyrus. After witnessing Daniel survive the lions' den, Cyrus allows the Israelites to return to the Promised Land. In the Bible, the decree is completely unrelated to Daniel surviving a night with the lions.

I found it strange that "The Bible" mini-series essentially skipped the entire time period of the kings of Israel and Judah. Solomon's reign is not mentioned at all. The construction of the Temple is not covered. The split into the nations of Israel and Judah is not reported. These were crucially important aspects of Israel's history.

The reason for the exile into Babylon is absent from the episode's storyline. The Bible is clear that Judah was being punished for the same reason as Israel had been approximately 136 years earlier: serial idolatry and a refusal to obey God's laws.

Beginning the New Testament

During the story of Jesus' birth, a common mistake is made by having the Magi visit at the same time as the shepherds. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi arrived much later, possibly a matter of years later (Matthew 2:1-12).

The episode describes Herod the Great placing a Roman eagle at the entrance to the Temple, which would have been sacrilege to the Jews. After his death, the people are shown rising up in a revolt against the Romans. Neither of these events are recorded in the Bible, however both appear to be historically accurate.

In Satan's tempting of Jesus in the desert, the episode portrays Satan taking Jesus to a mountaintop and telling him to jump off. In the Bible, Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple (Matthew 4:5-7).

The episode has John the Baptist being arrested and beheaded due to his preaching about the coming Messiah. The Bible records John the Baptist being arrested for preaching against Herod Antipas who had stolen his brother's wife. He was then beheaded due to a vengeful request from Herod Antipas's wife and step-daughter.


There were several other biblical inaccuracies, but those are the ones that stood out to me during my initial viewing. None of them are major deviations from the biblical accounts, but none of them really seemed to be necessary to tell the stories well either.

I am also surprised at how the majority of "The Bible" mini-series roles are portrayed by Caucasian actors and actresses, which is especially true in episode 3. Joseph and Mary were as white as can be. Adolescent Jesus was somewhat Middle Eastern looking, but the actor portraying Jesus as an adult does not look Semitic at all. Ultimately, I do not have a problem with this, just as I did not have a huge problem with Samson being portrayed by an actor of African descent. But it is important to remember that Jesus was not a blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian.

As with episodes 1 and 2, my hope for episode 3 is that it will encourage people to actually pick up and study God's Word to learn what it truly says about the events covered in the TV mini-series. No movie reenactment is ever going to be completely accurate. These are manmade, and mankind is always fallible.

So far, I would say the History Channel's "The Bible" television mini-series has been reasonably accurate, inasmuch as they can be in the short amount of time they have and considering their target audience. But it could have easily been much more faithful to what the Bible says in many instances without losing cinematic appeal. I see little to no value in most of the "artistic license" the producers took in this episode. After all, biblical history has plenty of excitement all on its own.

The Series:

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


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Published 3-18-13