In light of the "Son of God" film out in theaters, I thought it would be fitting to post a portion of the
article by The Berean Call called: The Bible According to Hollywood. My motivation isn't to be a "debby downer" but to bring to light the importance of staying true to God's revealed Word. If you truly love the
Lord and His Word, you wouldn't want Him being misrepresented in any
way. That is my motivation here.
Question: How does a biblical movie satisfy the necessity of biblical accuracy?
Answer: It doesn’t, and it can’t—and the reasons are many. Here’s a short list:
1) A movie takes what God has directly
communicated in the Scriptures and makes the visual translation of what
He said dependent upon what is in the minds and the craft of a film
production crew (writers, director, cameramen, art director, actors, and
a host of others).
2) Other constraints that determine what shows up
on the screen have to do with budget, locations, weather, and the
inevitable “Murphy’s law” of filmmaking, which states, “If anything can
go wrong, it will.” Those are hardly “let’s be true to the Scriptures”
3) Any movie must begin with a screenplay. The
Bible cannot be translated into a biblically accurate movie because
nearly all movies need dialogue, which the Bible provides only in
limited situations. Hence, the screenwriter (whether he is a believer or
not) has to supply the dialogue to maintain story continuity, which
means that he must add to the Scriptures, thus including false
information. “Adding to the Scriptures” is forbidden by God’s Word (Proverbs:30:6; Revelation:22:18-19). A few such productions try to avoid some of the translation
problems by incorporating only those words that are found in a
particular Bible version. This is greatly misleading because it gives
the false impression that the production is more accurate. More accurate
than what? A movie is, first and foremost, a visual medium. When a
person exits a theater after watching a powerful movie, I can almost
guarantee that it will be the images that he will leave with, not the
4) “Biblical” movies are an assemblage of false images and scenes. Not one frame is accurate. Yet The Passion of the Christ was lauded by many highly regarded evangelical leaders as “the most accurate biblical movie yet.” Yet
?—as if the film medium were capable of a progressive movement toward
truth? No! Suppose that I were to watch a video by someone who claims
that he has produced a documentary featuring my family. After watching
the video, I tell him that he has gotten a few things right but that
everything else is wrong: yes, my wife’s name is Peggy; no, she doesn’t
weigh 300 pounds. Yes, I have five children; no, they are not all girls.
Yes, my kids are excellent athletes; no, they are not on the
synchronized swimming team.
I’ve been told all too often that my concern for accuracy misses the
fact that God can “use” these movies. Some have said, “Admittedly there
are problems, but…but…the Lord can use a movie to get people interested
in reading the Bible,” which, by the way, was a stated goal of the
History Channel’s The Bible . Should I likewise conclude that
the inaccurate documentary of “my family” might get some people
interested in knowing my real family? Would they be disappointed that my
kids are all very good runners but that my three sons are not huge fans
of the “sport” of synchronized swimming? What happens when the
multimillions who might be motivated to read the Bible because of all
the Hollywood drama, effects, dialogue, and compelling music realize
that it’s not in the “book version”?
A similar situation occurred when the Bibleman (a
character playing off the popularity of super heroes Batman, Superman,
Spiderman, Iron Man, etc.) video series and tour, through the “wisdom”
of marketing, attempted to get pre-teens excited to read the Bible. They
found that if the kids even bothered to look at the Bible at all, they
were disappointed at not finding the fleshly excitement in the written
Word that they had loved in the video.
5) There are many more aspects unique to the
medium of film that work against the translation of the Bible into that
means of communication. Through this art form, one is attempting to
convince the audience that what they are seeing is believable. Shooting a
scene in the place where the actual biblical event took place may help
its accuracy, but often, if that location doesn’t quite satisfy what the
film director believes an audience will accept, then it’s “on to a more
‘believable’ location.” For example, The Passion of the Christ , featuring Christ’s crucifixion in Israel, was shot mostly in Italy.
6) This point may be the most serious error.
Those who have played the character of Jesus in Bible-based movies from
the last century on have all portrayed false Christs. Many spoke words
that Jesus never spoke and misrepresented the character of the biblical
Jesus. In a made-for-TV movie, as one example, Judas questions the Jesus
character regarding his actions in clearing the moneychangers out of
the Temple. Jesus’ reply was that he blew it. This is a
misrepresentation of the perfect, sinless God/Man. Yet, tragically,
that—along with all the other misrepresentations of Jesus—are the only
representations that millions upon millions around the world may ever
see or hear about the One who came to save them from their sins.
7) Finally, the problem isn’t only for the lost
worldwide, but it is also a stumbling block for many evangelical
Christians, even those with a reasonable amount of biblical discernment.
I spoke at a conference about a year after The Passion of the Christ
had its theatrical release. As I sat chatting with a group of young
adult believers, Mel Gibson’s movie somehow became the topic of our
conversation. I listened, somewhat uncomfortably, to their glowing
praises of the film and wondered how I might make an important point
without seeming to be “preaching” to them. Then the thought came to me, Why not give these somewhat biblically literate Christians a Bible quiz of sorts?
Having seen the movie a couple of times and written a book on the
subject, it was easy for me to describe eight scenes in detail. The quiz
part was, “Tell me which of the scenes are found in the Bible and which
are not.” The consensus of the group was that five were biblical and
three were not. To their shock, they only got three correct; all eight
were either from Mel Gibson’s movie-making mind or the mystical nun’s
book ( The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ ) to which Gibson had looked for more content in creating his script. I have great concern for our upcoming visual generation.
Ignorance of the visual medium with regard to so-called biblical
productions is a serious problem among evangelicals of all generations.
Without the support of evangelicals, whose churches bought out theatres
so that their sheep and guests could view the film, Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ would have been a box-office flop. In Showtime for the Sheep? , I could have filled nine pages with endorsements from evangelical leaders for this production that Gibson described to Christianity Today as “his very Marian movie.”
Yet the lack of discernment continues to abound. Here is a list of some of the advisors/endorsers for the History Channel’s The Bible
, most of whom were thrilled with the series’ “biblical accuracy” or
“bringing the Bible to life”: Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Nicky Gumbel,
Luis Palau, Tony Campolo, Erwin McManus, T. D. Jakes, Leith Anderson of
the National Association of Evangelicals, and Jim Daly of Focus on the
Family (details of their endorsements, as well as more endorsers can be
found at http://www.outreach.com/the-bible/about.aspx).
As overwhelming as this lack of discernment may seem in the church
today, it has only just begun as Hollywood continues with its
mistranslation of the Bible for Christians. Pray that the Lord’s people
will take to heart His words of warning: “Take heed that no man deceive
you.” Only the habit of daily reading God’s Word and living it out will
equip us with the discernment necessary to avoid being deceived. TBC