Students and community members attended a panel discussion where three professors analyzed the History Channel’s The Bible. The three professors included professor of English Dr. Steve Jensen, associate professor of biblical studies Dr. Suzanne Nicolson, and professor of biblical studies Dr. Joel Soza.
The panel on April 16, sponsored by the Bible and Theology department, called into question the accuracy of the History Channel’s ratings hit, which pulled in over ten million viewers. After watching this miniseries, many viewers wondered about how true the film stayed to scripture.
“When I first started watching the production I asked my class, ‘Is this the thing if we had a panel discussion would you be interested in hearing about this?’ and they were all very interested in it,” Nicholson said. “So that’s kind of what led to creating this event.”
The panel was advertised to both students and residents of the Canton area, which led to a variety of people attending the discussion.
“I thought the discussion was great and we really wanted to have not just Bible people on the panel, but to have a literature person as well, somebody who could really help us to think in different directions about the dynamics of scripture,” Nicholson said.
At the panel, Jensen drew comparisons between the History Channel’s depiction of the Bible and Peter Jackson’s direction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“Well, I’m teaching a Lewis and Tolkien class so I guess it’s sort of on my mind,” Jensen said. “I think it’s interesting because you are turning this book into a series. It felt like you had to condense, and when you condense something, you have to make certain choices.”
Jensen explained during the panel that the miniseries focused on the most action-packed parts of the Bible.
“There’s just a sense [that] when you focus on those pivotal action moments in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament, the overall theme was sort of constant violence and action,” Jensen said.
Soza also talked about how the History Channel chose the most action-packed parts to include in the five weeks. In the panel discussion, he compared the decision to planning a tour in a city. Tour guides must select important parts to highlight and other parts to ignore. Similarly, the producers of The Bible, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, had to choose what parts of scripture to use in the film.
Daniel Christy, a sophomore business administration major, attended the event and asked numerous questions to the panelists. Christy saw a few episodes of the miniseries.
“I wanted to know if people who had seen it all and knew a lot about theology thought it was worthwhile to see the rest,” Christy said.
Despite the difference in fields represented by the professors on the panel, they mostly agreed on the strengths and weaknesses of the miniseries.
“I thought they all had a strong consensus as far as agreement in most areas,” Christy said.
Casey Stevens is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.