The Dangers of Biblical Media Transfers

The title is not very good at summarizing my thought. I do not think anything short is great at that. But to give it a summary of a few key things I will be speaking about I’ll say this:

  • there are dangers in the translation/transfer of the bible into a different language or new media (television)
  • When transferring the Bible to a visual media, there comes a conflict on how to do it.
  • If going off the sole Bible for the plot, the people will not view it. If going off of more views, then there will be drastic changes, omissions, and additions from the Bible.

So with those key points, let start.

Many of us can remember the series called The Bible that eventually became a movie by condensing it down. Many of us can remember the movie called Noah and his ark. Everything that I am watching about the Bible (and reading too) I always try to see if they are staying true to the text. I remember with the Bible series, there were a few points that I could say was added to give the series more flavor. An example would be an odd shady Satan in the background of a mob getting ready to take Jesus to his death. I do not recall that being present in the text. I personally did not watch the movie Noah, but many of my friends would have described it as the most non-Biblical story about the Bible ever. It pandered to a larger audience, and so the movie tried to remove the Judeo-Christian labeling within it. God was not called any version of his well-known names such as God, El, Elohim, YHWH, Jehovah, etc. (to be fair, God did not have anyone know him as anything other than El, which basically means God, at the time of Noah. It was not until Abraham’s wife, Hagar, that God was given a name). Instead, he was known as The Creator, but not as God (El). Maybe creator was the best way to call him if we wanted to be accurate to the context, but it definitely still sends a secular vibe around. Other points are give, and are readily available to read with a quick Google search.

This brings me to the reason I am writing this. I greatly wish my parents would be willing to have a Bible study with some of the Spanish speaking Christians from congregations around us, yet they will not. I have the most power to be able to do so, but I have very limited in my Spanish to do so efficiently. My mom once told me that she does not know what is in the Bible at all, but she would love to learn. I have thought about buying her a Bible, but she told me why that would not work. Her only problem is she says she cannot get anything from reading. She says that if the Bible was set out like a comic or a television show, she would love to learn. This makes sense. Back before more and more people started to become literate, the main source of their Biblical knowledge came from hearing it during readings. I think a visual Bible is a great tool to use for spreading the word.

In the recent months, the Spanish television channel Univision has been airing many series based on the Bible. My parents were hooked. The first was called Moses, which is pretty self explanatory. The second was called The Promise Land, which is about the conquests of Canaan during Joshua’s leadership (although it really only focuses on Jericho). The series then takes a huge jump over to the kingship of Israel in The King David, which starts at Saul’s kingship and is going through David’s experiences. Within the commercial breaks, I hear there is another series based on the Rich man and Lazarus story.

You may wonder how some of these topics are able to have a large series made with very specific, and frankly small, parts in the Bible. Well, they have greatly added to it to make it more dramatic and appealing for the viewers. I will give you some examples

  • In the Promised land,
    • There is a lot of focus on just the events around the Battle of Jericho. That section in the Bible is very short, but the series dragged it on by making Rahab a wanted criminal, treason within the Israeli camp, Rahab’s son being involved in being sacrificed to Baal, and in the end, I do not think Israel was ever quiet and marched around the city 7 times for 6 days, and then on the 7th day blew trumpets and yelled at the wall, causing it to fall.
  • In The King David,
    • David does not cut part of Saul’s robe in the pooping cave, but instead he takes his sword while he was sleeping.
    • Michal has a larger role in David’s life than in the Bible.
      • She turns out to be this manipulative, jealous wife that tries to undermine David’s other romantic interests.
      • Michal spreads gossip about David with Bathsheba
      • She overall is portrayed as a douche with an active role later in David’s life.
    • More people know about David and Bathsheba than what the Bible mentions it. It is mostly private with only Nathan being the one that knows from out of the circle.
  • In all of them, there are additions of people and events that never took place in the Bible.
  • There are more examples, especially if I were to just watch it and point them out. I cannot go more than 10 minutes without pointing out an alteration.

This all goes to my main point. My mother and father are both watching these series, and it burns my heart to see that they might believe this to be truth. They are not the only ones, there are probably a large amount of Hispanic viewers that will be taking this show as their theology and basing their faith on the dramatic additions of the producers. This is why it is dangerous to transfer the Bible to a different media. Without the motivation to be Biblically accurate, and only producing for the views, there is no check on the show to be truth. It will lead many astray with their additions and omissions. Many translations of the Bible today have hundreds of people translating the Bible from the original Greek and trying to hash out a consensus on an accurate translation. That is why I personally enjoy reading from the NASB. Their goal is to try and give you the closest thing to the original Greek as possible, but it not being strict interlinear. So it keeps the same grammar and words, which will be harder to read, but it is closer to the Greek than say an ESV, NRSV, NIV, or MSG.

All of this has given me motivation to start a video series on an intro to the Old Testament, intro to the New, and a how to read the Bible series. I hope to start create the structure and schedule on the videos, while also having a written portion to correspond to the video. In no way will I say I am an expert in the Bible, no matter how many years of school I go for. In no way will I act like many Christians I have seen and think I know better just because I have a shiny degree, or have spent every day for 10 years reading the bible and studying it. I personally have a huge pet peeve when I see that attitude because it is extremely prideful and sounds very gnostic. This is why I am not a fan of Grad level Bible, or of scholarship, because they put out a vibe that seems as if they know a truer truth than all of the peasants. And it is their responsibility to “manage how this new information gets dispersed within their community.” That last part was actually a phrase one I have heard from someone in the grad level field. I hope that through this series, I will stay strict to the bible and not be motivated in selfish reasons, but instead be motivated to dish out truth because I want to serve God’s Kingdom.

Thank you all (which is like 7 people), and keep me in your prayers!

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