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

Part 4: Mission

By S. Michael Houdmann,

Got Questions Ministries

The fourth episode of the History Channel's "The Bible" television mini-series first aired Sunday, March 24, 2013. It covered the time period of Jesus' calling of Peter to be a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-18) to Jesus' trial before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:66).

I was pleasantly surprised that episode 4 stayed so close to the biblical account of Jesus' ministry in the Gospels. As I viewed on Sunday, I found very little to be unbiblical. The vast majority of Jesus' dialogue is quoted directly from the Gospels. While it was refreshing to see this, I noticed that several of these quotes were said in coordination with the wrong events.

Here are a few more items I did not particularly care for:

Mary of Bethany

In many of the disciples' scenes, Mary of Bethany was shown to be among them. The episode seemingly portrays her as one of the disciples. Now, it is entirely possible that Mary of Bethany was indeed present during some of those scenes. However, the Bible definitely does not present her as having any sort of leadership role equal to that of the disciples. Also, in a couple of scenes, while the disciples were complaining or doubting, Mary stands firm, telling them to obey and trust Jesus. Granted, the disciples often misunderstood or doubted Jesus. However, the Gospels do not portray Mary of Bethany having such a prominent role.

Jesus Walks on Water

This scene from Matthew 14:22-33 was well done except for the fact that it closes with Peter coughing up water instead of with Jesus calming the storm.


The scene portraying Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead had Jesus going into the tomb, while John 11 records Jesus, from outside the tomb, calling Lazarus to come out. Also, in the episode, once Lazarus comes back to life, Jesus has a surprised look on His face. Because He was intentional about His every action, Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen; He would not have been surprised (John 11:15).


Barabbas, a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16), appears in several scenes. In one them, he encourages Jesus to prove that He is the Messiah by conquering the Romans. In the Gospels, Barabbas only appears when Pontius Pilate offers to release Barabbas or Jesus (John 18:39-40).


The episode portrays Nicodemus as being a close confidant to the high priest Caiaphas. John 3 says Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He is never presented as being especially close to Caiaphas. The episode also uses Nicodemus to question Jesus, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?" Matthew 22:15-17 has the question being asked by a nameless Pharisee. It could have been Nicodemus, but the Gospels definitely do not identify that particular Pharisee as Nicodemus.


In the episode, Judas needs some convincing before he is willing to betray Jesus. In Matthew 26:16, Judas deliberately seeks an opportunity to betray Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss, one of the disciples assaults Judas. While I actually enjoyed the scene, the idea does not come from the Gospel accounts.


It was interesting how the episode portrayed the political issues between Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas. Pilate is depicted as a brutal character, crushing any rebellion against his authority. In the episode, Caiaphas' issue with Jesus is primarily a matter of preventing a riot that would cause Pilate to close the Temple during Passover. While this was very likely part of Caiaphas' concern regarding Jesus, in the Gospels, Caiaphas is more concerned with Jesus due to His popularity and His claims to be the Messiah. Caiaphas did not want to lose power as a religious leader. That is the primary reason he wanted Jesus executed.


While not without its problems, "Mission" is my favorite episode of The Bible mini-series so far. It stays very close to the biblical Gospels in most instances. The vast majority of Jesus' dialogue comes from exact quotes of Scripture.

I am hopeful the final episode on Easter will give an explanation of the true meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection — not just report the events from a historical perspective. My final conclusion on the series will be based primarily on what it ultimately says about the death and resurrection of Jesus, as those are the core issues of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15).

The Series:

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


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Published 3-25-13