Are You Watching ‘The Bible?’

If you are, you have a lot of company. The History Channel’s five-part miniseries The Bible has drawn huge ratings, beating out both network and cable competition on Sunday nights. And that was before the silly controversy over whether the actor picked to play Satan was picked because he looks like Barack Obama (oh, please) brought a wave of extra publicity. If anything, the audience should only grow, especially as the series moves into the New Testament, with a finale set for Easter Sunday.

Part of the reason for the ratings is that viewers have a degree of trust in the people behind the series. Producer Mark Burnett (Survivor) and his wife, Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel), are Christians who consulted with ministry leaders (including Focus on the Family President Jim Daly) during its development. So going in to the series, Christian viewers got strong signals of the producers’ good intentions. That’s not something they normally can expect from Hollywood.

Of course, presenting the Scriptures to a mainstream audience — in just 10 hours — is a big challenge. There’s the problem of deciding what to include and what to leave out. There’s the difficulty of presenting biblical concepts (e.g., the times when God commanded violence and the role of God’s Old Testament prophets) to viewers who lack biblical literacy. There’s the issue of whether it’s OK to take dramatic license, and if so, how much.

From what I’ve seen so far, the show gets much more right than wrong, though it has weak points as well as strong ones. But I’ll leave the reviews to you. Are you watching The Bible? What do you think of it?