When commenting on a post about the recent History Channel miniseries “The Bible” on Facebook a friend commented, “The book is better.” It made me smile not only because that is exactly what we often feel about any movie that comes from a book we have read, but that it also will always be especially true in visually recreating the stories related to us in the Bible.
The Bible is far from a text that is easily reproducible into a movie script. Not only was a visual re-presentation not a concern of the original writers but there are abundant gaps in so many Bible stories that it calls on everyone who reads them to fill in parts of the story for themselves. Perhaps this is, in part, one of the reasons the Bible is so powerful. It calls on everyone who reads it to help paint the picture (and is likely a part of why we come up with so many interpretations of the same texts). We also have to prioritize what is more important in any story and which stories themselves are more important in the larger story. And when engaging in these and more exercises, script writers for Biblical movies often can up lacking in their final product when it is critiqued by those of us who are very familiar with the Bible stories by reading and re-reading them.
Nevertheless, I am not a stick in the mud when it comes to Bible movies. I love many of them. It is fascinating to see how the writers/directors interpret the story because that is what a minister must do every Sunday she or he is in the pulpit. It also helps our culture especially in this day and age where we visually take so much in. There are also more than a few people, no matter how important a book is, who will wait to read it until after they have seen the story.
I have not had the time yet to watch the History channel production. I have it DVRd on a list of many other programs DVRd (last night we watched one DVRd show that had Christmas commercials attached to it!). But I do look forward to watching it and hope to be able to include clips even in worship settings in the months to come. If we truly believe it is the greatest story ever told, let’s use every means at our disposal to get that story out. We can always point to the places where we feel the movie/miniseries didn’t quite capture a scene, story, or figure. But that’s no reason to dismiss the medium altogether. In the end, we all need to have a moving image in our minds of what actually happened in these stories and take the message of those stories into our very real lives.
What do you think?
Until next time,