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AD: The Bible Continues
Review of Episode Four

By Gary F. Zeolla

This review is continued from AD: The Bible Continues: Review of Episode Three. This fourth episode continued the pattern of mixing Biblical events with non-biblical storylines. But at least this time the Biblical material was about equal to the non-biblical material.

The latter mainly concerned Pilate and his attempt to find the Jewish zealot who tried to assassinate him. To try to force the Jews to turn him over, Pilate ordered that ten random Jews would be crucified every day until the assassin was delivered. This was a rather gruesome storyline that left me feeling distraught once again. Such complete disregard for human life is very depressing, yet it is very common in our modern-day world. It is the type of TV programming that I stopped watching a while ago. There is enough random violence and disregard for the sanctity of human life in the news and real life. I do not need my spiritual and emotional states brought down by subjecting myself to depictions of even more of it by watching fictional TV shows. 

But maybe this did happen. Maybe at some time during his time as governor of Judea there was an assassination attempt on Pilate, and he reacted in this way. And maybe the assassin’s name was Boaz, as depicted in AD. I do not have the historical knowledge to know one way or the other, but I seriously doubt the name of the man would have been recorded. But most of all, such is not mentioned in the Book of Acts. It probably was not as it did not affect the growth of the early Church, and thus Luke chose not to mention it. Moreover, Luke’s purpose in writing his treatise was to build up his readers, not have them dragged down by reminding them of the violence of their age. 

But AD had this storyline intertwined with the early Church, to the point that Boaz tried to find refuge in the camp of the early Christians. In the episode, Peter said he would be more than welcome, if he repented of his sins and trusted in Jesus for forgiveness. Boaz refused, but such is probably what would have happened if such an event happened. But I seriously doubt it did, as again, Luke does not mention what would have been a rather significant event if it had happened. 

But most of all, this miniseries is intent on keeping Pilate in the story, despite the fact that he does not appear in the Bible after the crucifixion of Jesus. I guess the producers feel he is just too good of a character to let him recede to the background and into obscurity, like he does in the Bible and in history. 

Otherwise, AD depicted the aftermath of Peter and John healing the man lame from birth. Peter and John have been imprisoned and beaten. Caiaphas has them brought to a public area and tells them to declare that God healed the man. Peter declares God did, in the name of Jesus, and gives a very truncated repeating of Acts 3:11-26. It is dramatic what he says, but more of that important speech would have been nice. 

Meanwhile, Caiaphas’ wife tries to bribe the formerly lame man into saying he was never really lame; that the whole thing was a scam. Thinking he is agreeable, he is brought before Caiaphas, Peter and John, and the crowd. But he boldly declares that he was in fact lame from birth and that Peter healed him. It was an inspiring scene. But one problem—it never happened. And those who read the Bible for the first time will be disappointed to not find that scene in the Book of Acts. In fact, the Bible indicates there was no attempt to disprove the miracle, “Then seeing the man having stood with them, the one having been healed, they had nothing to say against [them]” (Acts 4:14). 

Back to the episode, Caiaphas says he will release Peter and John, but he tells them to not speak in the name of Jesus anymore. Peter boldly declares to him, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” This is a dramatic declaration by Peter, and I am glad they included it (see Acts 5:27-32). But in the Bible it was later, after the next two scenes.

AD then depicts how the early Church held all things in common, even mentioning the donation of land by Barnabas. That is true (Acts 4:32-36), but I hope they later depict how the experiment of communal living failed (see Romans 15:26). 

AD then depicts the lie of Ananias and Sapphira. They claim to have sold their house and given all the proceeds to the Church, when in fact they kept some of it back (Acts 5:1-11). Peter pronounces judgment on them, and AD does a good job at depicting their deaths as a result. But I was disappointed that once again AD truncates what Peter said. They omit him saying, “While it [was] remaining [unsold], was it not remaining yours, and having been sold, was it not in your authority?” (Acts 5:4). 

I noticed this omission, as I quote Acts 5:1-11 in my new book The LORD Has It Under Control as an example of God’s sovereignty over life and death. But I then add the following: 

On a couple of side notes, first, the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they sold their property and kept back some of the proceeds for themselves. As Peter makes clear in verse 4, it was their property, and they could do with it as they wanted. And once they sold it, they could do with the proceeds as they wanted. God is not opposed to private property or making money off of the sale of our own property. What He is against is lying. And what Ananias and Sapphira did that so angered the LORD is they lied and said they were giving the full proceeds to the Church, when in fact they were keeping some back. It was their lie to make themselves look more generous than they really were that aroused the LORD’s anger. Giving to the work of the LORD is a very good thing, as has been discussed previously, but lying and saying we are giving more than we really are is a serious offense.

My second side note is in regard to something Peter said that was included in AD, and for that I give the producers credit, “Peter first says Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit (v.3), but then he says he lied to God (v.4). And only a Person can be lied to. Thus the Holy Spirit is a Person who is God” (from Chapter 16 of my book).

AD then depicts Peter raising a young girl from the dead. I am not sure where they got this from. Much later in Acts, Peter does raise Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-41). But she is a grown woman, not a little girl.

Back to AD; Caiaphas and others tear their clothes and cast dust on themselves as part of their of prayer to God to stop the crucifying of the ten Jews per day by Pilate. Repenting by casting dust and ashes on oneself was a Jewish practice (Job 42:6; Ezek 27:30). But this was not a case of repentance but of invocation.

When Caiaphas comes before Pilate to plead for the killings to stop, Pilate finds his being covered in dust to be especially strange. The episode ends with Pilate shoving a handful of the dust into Caiaphas’s mouth. That was a scene I really did not have to see, as it was really gross. Thus once again, AD left me feeling down, this time grossed out, not uplifted as a depiction of the growth of the early Church should.

Bottom line: This miniseries is often a downer, with its constant depictions of senseless violence, which I could watch anywhere on TV, if I cared to watch such, which I do not. However, reading the Book of Acts is an uplifting experience, with Luke relating how God is sovereignly working through the apostles to spread the Good News of forgiveness in Christ and to grow the early Church. That is the true Biblical story that should be told.

AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episode Four. Copyright 2015 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).

AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episode Five

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The above article was posted on this website May 2, 2015.

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