Archive for April 30th, 2019

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Recently, I watched again a segment of a TV series entitled “A.D: The Bible Continues”, produced by NBC and I remembered the reasons I did not continue to watch it the first go around. “A. D: The Bible Continues” begins with the events recorded by St. Luke in The Acts of the Apostles, chapters 1 and 2 and following. Acts is the history of the beginnings of the Church and her mission into the world. Watching A.D. again provided me an opportunity to reflect on the actual Biblical narrative and what transpires when the Biblical narrative is changed in a dramatic presentation, and the effect such a presentation may have on viewers.

First, a short recounting of Acts 1 and the beginning of Acts 2:

50 days after Easter Sunday, The Day of Resurrection, the Church remembers and celebrates Pentecost, when as the Lord promised, the Holy Spirit would be sent.

In Acts, in chapter 1, Jesus ascends into heaven. He promises them that the Apostles will receive power when the Lord gives the Holy Spirit as they wait in Jerusalem. St. Luke tells us that in Jerusalem that 120 are gathered:

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120)”

Note and mark well that the 120 were, “devoting themselves to prayer”.
They were joined for the 9 days between the Ascension and Pentecost for daily prayer (These 9 days of prayer are a special devotion in the Roman Catholic Church called a “Novena”, 9 days). They also selected a new apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1: 15-26) in the reading of apt Scripture by the Apostle Peter (vs. 20) and in solemn prayer (vs. 24-25).

Then the 120 were gathered together in one place (Acts 2:1) and that place may have been the Temple when the Holy Spirit is given.

The video clip below is from the television series, “A.D. The Bible Continues: Pentecost” and it depicts Pentecost and part of the lead up to it. After this clip, I compare and contrast this clip with the Biblical narrative and this portrayal of Pentecost:

There are two differences between the nonfictional account of Acts and the fictional account from the TV series:

  1. In the movie, it is the Apostles alone but in Acts, it is 120 persons of note in the Church.
  2. In Acts, they devote themselves to prayer for the 9 days. In the movie, AD, it is one day and then it is the Lord’s Prayer repeated as part mantra and part tent revival recitation that seems to trigger the gift of Pentecost. Before this scene, it is in conversation between Peter and his daughter that the Apostle decides, Oh gee, we should be praying! The Apostles, in Acts, just begin to pray, well, as Jesus did and any Jew would have done. We do not know what the 120 were praying but we can take an educated, Biblical guess. They were Jews and they would have prayed the Psalms. In fact, the Psalter became the first prayer book of the Church. In the Lutheran Service Book, the Psalms are at the beginning of our hymn book. Further, a good Jew would pray 3 times a day. They may have been fasting. They may have confessed three times a day, the Shema in Deuteronomy 4: 4. Indeed, they may have prayed the Lord’s Prayer and probably did because the Lord said to do so. Further, as Peter cited Scripture before the selection of Matthias, they may have read daily Scripture passages and recited sayings and deeds of the Lord Jesus, from their three years of being with the Lord, which would in a few years form the New Testament. In the movie, the 12 are in the upper room kind of hanging out, somewhat in fear,waiting for the signal of this giving of the Spirit, while the portrayal of non-Biblical political intrigue is occurring between the Temple and Roman authorities. Further,the 120, as Jews, would probably have their heads covered as was the Jewish prayer custom. In the movie, generally speaking they do not act as devout Jews.
  3. In the TV show, Pentecost looks like a meteor coming down from the skies, or a divine UFO, zapping them, as if the Lord is a cosmic divine blast from a badly done Avengers-type scene. It is not depicted as in the Bible as tongues of fire resting on each. Notice that the fire encircles them as they continue their ‘chanting’ of the Lord’s Prayer in enthusiastic, pentecostalist fervor. Prior to the Pentecost scene in A.D., the Ascension shows ‘heaven’ as a bunch of clouds and standing on several of them are men: patriarchs? saints? prophets? It sounds trite but it is true: This is not in the Bible. This picture of heaven reminded me more of something from the Mormons, than the Scriptures.

I do not write this article just to criticize a badly done semi-Biblical TV drama to be avoided and yes, it should be avoided. In my opinion, this TV series dramatizes the 12 as a group of hippy, Jesus people, about to start a ’60s style Jesus movement in the 1st century not knowing what they are doing. This is not St. Luke’s sober and solemn account of the actual beginning of the Church and the Lord’s apostolic mission to bring the Gospel into the world, even to the end of the world.. I think that these false portrayals can have detrimental effect on the mind and intellect.

This is a warning and the prime reason for this posting. The devil wants us to doubt the Bible. Sometimes a creepy or dark TV show or movie can leave me afterwards having a hard time to shake it off. Even well-meaning portrayals which are still unsound ones of the Biblical accounts have enough of a patina of truth to fool the viewer that is hard to shake-off. These shows can give the mind false information and doctrine that can color our reading of the Bible. We have had many even more popular renditions of the Lord and His Church than A.D. over the years: Jesus as a clown in the musical Godspell; Jesus as a superstar in the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice musical, Jesus Christ Superstar; the false narrative of the end time series, Left Behind, that the Lord will whisk Christians away as Jesus is some sort of fearful deity. A.D. shows the disciples as that almost current and proverbial, “rag-tag” group of men who will themselves (!) change the world. In fact, the movie is based on a book, “A.D.: The Bible Continues: the Revolution that Changed the World“, by Dr. David Jeremiah (emphasis added). St. Luke carefully names the 12 again in Acts 1 but the T.V. series makes out to be per the book title: rag-tag revolutionaries.There is nothing rag tag about the Apostles! If the false portrayals are felt as real, then the actual Biblical narrative will seem unreal, when it is just the opposite! If so, the devil has done his clever work. I prefer to stick with the sacred Text without the re-interpreters who change the Bible to look like what they think or are.

Modifying a quote from C. S. Lewis:

Any movie or T.V. show which bases itself on a supposed “historical Jesus” to be dug out of the Gospels and then set up in opposition to Biblical and Christian teaching is suspect. There have been too many of these Jesuses—a liberal Jesus, a spiritual Jesus, a hippy Jesus, a Marxist Jesus and accordingly ‘his’ followers. They are the cheap crop of each year of what’s new from Hollywood, like the new Lincolns and new Washingtons. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation. (The original quote can be found in this article.)

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