So The History Channel, or History, or whatever wholly non-descriptive and completely ironic name they want to be called now, is running a mini-series by reality TV sleazoid Mark Burnett about the Bible, cleverly called “The Bible.” Last night they got to Jesus, which means they’ve chosen to spend almost half the series on the last quarter of the Bible, but I digress. Satan made his appearance during the Temptation of Christ in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11 or Luke 4:1-13, pick your poison), and some people have decided that the actor playing Satan looks a lot like President Obama. Everyone denies any intentional resemblance, and there’s reason to question whether there’s that much resemblance at all beyond “neither of them is white.” What’s really at issue as far as I’m concerned is that we’re casting swarthy Arab-types as Satan and white Europeans as Jesus in our little show, but I’m no reality TV kingpin so what do I know? Well, this is also an issue:
@hemlockmartinis Buried lede: Satan is a character on a TV show on *the history channel*
— James Hare (@harej) March 18, 2013
What bugs me about this whole “The Bible” series is that it bills itself as some massive undertaking to tell the whole Bible narrative in mini-series form, but in order to spend ~half the series on Jesus they had to cram the entire Old Testament into about 5 hours, and so huge pieces of the Old Testament are just discarded. Gone is the Joseph story, which is not only one of the better tales of the Old Testament from a narrative perspective (read the Quranic version sometime, it’s also good and adds a lot of extra bits to the story), but is also pretty important to the later Exodus story in that it explains how the Israelites got from Canaan into Egypt in the first place. Many other bits are missing as well, and I thought I’d list some of them to see if there’s a pattern that emerges in terms of what didn’t make the cut. Full disclosure: I could only get through the first episode before the hackneyed dialogue and wretched acting drove me away.
- We start with a brief look at Noah and skip quickly to Abraham, so any questions as to how Adam and Eve’s kids could have populated the planet without committing incest are glossed over
- Also ignored is the episode in which Noah’s son Ham “uncovers” his father’s “nakedness,” variously interpreted to mean that he raped Noah or slept with one of Noah’s wives (Genesis 9:20-27)
- Abraham, in his travels, twice identifies his wife Sarah as his sister and she winds up nearly marrying two different kings; God punishes the kings for their adultery, not Abraham or Sarah for their lies and general creepiness (Genesis 12:10-20 and 20:1-16, 21:22-34)
- Isaac does the same thing with his wife, Rebekah (Genesis 26:1-33)
- In Sodom, when the angels come to stay with Lot and are pursued by the crowd who demand to “know” them, Lot offers his virgin daughters to the crowd instead but is refused (Genesis 19:8)
- After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, thinking they were the only people left alive on the planet, those same daughters get Lot drunk and have sex with him (Genesis 19:30-38)
- Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, and his mother, Rebekah, conspire to cheat Jacob’s elder brother Esau out of his rightful inheritance (Genesis 27:1–40)
- Moses apparently dies right after coming down off of Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments; this allows us to skip over the Israelites worshiping the golden calf and Moses ordering the Levites to slaughter them for it, not to mention the bloody slaughters Moses orders of the tribes around Canaan or God’s decision to kill Moses before the Israelites entered Canaan over the seemingly trivial offense that Moses drew water from a rock by hitting it rather than by speaking to it
You know, for a series on The Bible, it sure does seem to just ignore a lot of Bible stories that might make modern TV audiences uncomfortable. I wonder why that is?