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There’s been a lot of slamming of “The Bible” TV series on the History Channel the past couple of weeks–some of it by me (and here)–but let’s come at this from another angle, shall we?

First, Roma Downey and company give a clear disclaimer at the beginning of each episode that they have adapted the Bible, with an effort made to stay close to the spirit of the Bible. So, they are honest with the viewers.

Second, is there any adaptation of the Bible to film that doesn’t…well…adapt the Bible, i.e., make all sorts of editorial and artistic decisions? No, so maybe we should cut these poor people a break for not representing the Bible “accurately.”

And third, failure to stick with the biblical script is something we see a lot of in the Bible itself.

In the Old Testament, all you have to lay two Bibles side-by-side, with one open to the two versions of Israel’s monarchy, 1 and 2 Samuel/1 and 2 Kings and the alternate telling of that same story.

To pick just one example, compare life of David in both you’ll get the point within a few paragraph. The two “Davids” are not the same. The differences are there because 1 Chronicles 11-29  seriously and thoroughly “adapts” the version of David in 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2.

Later biblical writers creatively adapting earlier writers to express their one thinking is soooooooooooo common in the Bible it’s not funny.

You see this in the New Testament, too.

When you’re reading in, say, the Gospels or in Paul’s letters, and they quote the Old Testament to prove a point, go back and compare what the Old Testament meant and how the New Testament writer “adapts” the Old Testament to mean something else. (If you want an example, compare Matthew 2:15 to Hosea 11:1.)

Now, before you send those angry cards and letters, yes, I know the difference between Roma Downey adapting the Bible and later biblical writers adapting earlier ones. I realize Downey et al. are not chosen vessels of God to write Scripture.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot–I mean A LOT–of adapting going on in the Bible. That’s my only point. Don’t get mad at Downey and company for adapting. Get mad at them for something else if you want, but not the mere fact that they are not sticking to the script.


Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.