“The Bible Series”

Still on the topic of television, I have received a couple of tweets notifying me about the fact that Channel Nine (does anyone still watch that channel?) is airing the first program of “The Bible” series tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 9pm.

You can actually find most of these episodes already on YouTube.

I am always a bit edgy about dramatisations of the Bible, especially since “The Passion of the Christ”. Having recently had discussion with some Jewish friends on St Paul, I decided to have a look at the “St Paul” episode. It felt like a deja vu of watching the new Fr Brown series. I could recognise the characters, but the story didn’t feel genuine. The Italians have a saying (which works in Italian better than in English): “The translator is the betrayer”. That goes a double dose when the translation is into a screenplay.

Having spent a bit of time with St Paul (well, with his letters, in any case, and with St Luke’s version of him in Acts – which makes a nice counterpoint), I didn’t feel that I recognised the character portrayed in this program. And, as always, the Jewish priests come off looking bad. Why is it that only the priests opposed to Jesus look “Jewish”, ie. prayer shawl etc., while all the others are just dressed in standard “bible epic” wear? And Saul himself, although obviously skeptical of the new sect of Christians, is portrayed as an all round nice bloke that you would like to sit down with to share a gourd of wine. In reality, from what I know of Saul/Paul, he and St Jerome would had much in common. Prickly, if you know what I mean.

Tomorrow, I will be spending the first of two days with N.T. Wright while he is in town. I am really looking forward to this. I know that many people question his take on Paul, but it seems a whole lot closer to historical reality than the fellow portrayed in The Bible series.

I am sure that there will be many who will enjoy The Bible series. It has been a long time since this sort of thing has appeared on Australian television (I remember a series when I was a kid). Hopefully it will do some good. I hope my “niggles” are just that, and that it doesn’t antagonise any serious ill feeling with the Jewish community.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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