Sunday, April 26, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) - "The Wrath" (4/12)


It was an interesting episode, but one that I found somewhat wanting in conveying the narratives as they are found in the text of the New Testament. I think it is overplaying the political conflict between Caiaphas and Pilate. I give this episode about a 5 out of 10.

This episode covers some of the stories found in the span of Acts 4:4-5:11. Most of the key elements from these set of texts are found in the program, although as has been the case, the setting and the ordering may be altered, sometimes considerably. This episode introduces Stephen (who does not yet appear in the text) and Barnabas (who does).

Pilate becomes increasingly unstable and relentless. He believes he is the hand of Rome. He has also conflated his personal quest for vengeance with Rome’s will. There is nothing that will stop him and no one can talk him out of pursuing all means in order to capture and execute his attempted assassin and the killer of one of his soldiers. Even when Caiaphas tries to explain that his actions are actually causing political destabilization, Pilate no longer listens. Pilate is shown to be literally going down the road to madness.

Caiaphas, too, has gone mad with his single-minded desire to be rid of anything having to do with Jesus. The only thing that brings him back from the edge of disaster is when Joseph of Arimathea, after finding his nephew as one of the ones crucified due to Pilate’s vengeance, comes and demands that Caiaphas put an end to this madness.

Boaz, the Zealot, is driven by hatred and anger toward the Romans. The more the Romans act against the Jews, the more determined Boaz is to harm and destroy them.

We have seen quite a bit of Cornelius throughout the series thus far, but he has been mostly depicted as a loyal soldier to Pilate. I am assuming that this Cornelius will be the one Peter eventually is told to go see – the first Gentile convert to Christianity. I think we got a first glimpse of his character in this episode. He sees himself as desiring to be merciful. He seems to carry out at least some of the orders given him somewhat reluctantly. It will be interesting to see this character change and how that affects his relationship to Rome.


The episode is appropriately given the title “The Wrath.” Pilate’s wrath is most evident, but as the episode progresses, the viewer sees that in many ways “wrath” propels the actions of some of the key players. In none of the cases are the results of wrath good. Anger and hatred cause a madness that causes people to become blind to the effects their actions have and they become deaf to reason.

Nonviolence is shown as the counter to the effects of wrath. Joseph shows this in his prayer offered as he surveys the innocent youths that have been crucified. Peter shows this in his confrontation of Boaz.

Faith is the antidote to fear. Peter and John face the real possibility of death, yet they do not fear. And when released, instead of retreating into silence, they with all the disciples are more determined to speak about Jesus. Claudia has not expressed an explicit belief in Jesus, but I see faith in her, and it is this quality that allows her to stand up to the madness of her husband, Pilate, and go behind his back to try do something to restore order and peace.

The women recede mostly to the background in this episode. The only exception is Claudia who continues to be Pilate’s (unwanted) voice of conscience and reason.


The number of believers, down from five-thousand to a few dozen at most. Given the budget for the series, I can understand why the producers chose to drastically reduce the numbers of people that are given in Acts.

Hemorrhaging from all body orifices? Really? Did you really have to overdramatize Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths like that? The text of Acts just says they dropped dead. It was just as likely to have been a heart attack, aneurysm, or a fatal stroke. (At least the pronunciation of Sapphira was true to the Greek – a short “i”.)

Minor quibble – a rather large amount of time seems to pass between Ananias and Sapphira donating the proceeds and Peter discovering their deceit.

I think this episode brings in far too much dramatization that is not even tangentially found in Acts. Some fictionalized and imagined historical context is fine, but when it feels like that forms a rather large part of the episode, maybe the series title should be something other than “The Bible Continues.”

The explanation for why God was displeased with Ananias and Sapphira is rather interesting. The Peter of this show explains that it was because their holding back of some of their proceeds from the sale was a lack of faith, a betting against the success of Jesus’ mission and against God. This is certainly an invention not found in the text of Acts, which gives the reason quite plainly, “they lied to God.”

In the series, both the Jewish and Roman authorities are out to get followers of Jesus. And so in the program, the land belonging to Barnabas isn’t sold but is donated to the apostles who then turn it into the first Christian campsite. This too is contrary to the text of Acts that strongly imply the apostles and the Christians remained in Jerusalem and did in fact, worship at the Temple regularly. But then the supposed conflict between the parties would have to go away, and the dramatic tension would be eliminated. We certainly cannot have that if we are to keep an audience…


Prison scene. Cornelius visits cell where a man is being tortured to give up the name of Pilate's attempted assassin. Caiaphas comes to see Pilate. Pilate tells him that ten Jews will be crucified every day until the assassin is found. Caiaphas wants to continue his pursuit of the disciples and bring Peter and John to trial. Other priests believe the assassin needs to take priority. Caiaphas believes that the priesthood must appear strong by not caving in to Roman demands.

Baptisms into the Christian community taking place outside of Jerusalem. Stephen is baptized. Maya, Mary Magdalene, and Stephen return to Jerusalem to seek information about Peter and John.
Joseph of Arimathea goes out to where the Jews have been crucified. He prays a prayer of nonviolence, to not act with violence upon violence, to have empathy for all who suffer and are in pain.
The man's (initial scene's) daughter is brought by Cornelius to see him. Cornelius demands the man's name. Scene cuts away to Peter and John. There are screams of agony from the man's cell. Peter and John are sure they will die this very day.
The man in the cell appears to have died, but Cornelius has found the information he needs. He takes a squad of soldiers to raid the building where the assassin is thought to be. Boaz has fled, but the weapons have been left behind. Cornelius reports to Pilate that the assassin is known but has fled. Claudia suggests that Pilate ought to let Caiaphas find Boaz, but Pilate refuses to lower himself to accept Jewish assistance. "Rome does not beg favor of its subjects."
Leah comes to see the cripple who was healed. She asks how much he was paid to pretend to be a cripple. Leah says that she believes Peter will destroy the temple. She hands money to the former cripple, asking him to prevent this from happening. Peter and John are led to the temple courtyard where they will face the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas questions Peter. (Dramatic guests of wind occur whenever Peter and John feel the Holy Spirit move within them.) Peter claims the cripple was healed by God in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He accuses the leader of crucifixion but that Jesus was resurrected. Caiaphas accuses Peter and John of deceit. The former cripple is brought in. He glances back at Leah. Beggar, Melek, is questioned. A quick cut to Joseph who appears troubled, then back to Caiaphas. Caiaphas accuses Melek of pretending to be lame since childhood because it was an easy way to get handouts from strangers. Melek refutes Caiaphas' accusation. He praises God and Jesus for his healing. Melek is rushed out. Caiaphas orders Peter and John released, but commands them to never speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter asks whether it is right to obey Caiaphas or God. In great commotion Peter and John leave the Temple and return to the rest of the disciples. They find that the number of believers has grown considerably since their arrest. If this is the result of their speaking and arrest, Peter will do this again.
Peter gives a speech to the gathered. Because the kingdom of God is coming, they should share their belongings and take only what is needed. The believers give what they have. A couple discuss whether they should or shouldn't give everything. The woman thinks they should; the man thinks they should be prudent. They come to Peter and claim they are giving all they have
Out in the streets Peter is approached by a mother whose daughter is sick. She asks for healing. Peter says any healing would be because of God's will. Peter takes the girl, holds her and in the name of Jesus asks for healing. But nothing seems to happen. Peter tries again. This time the girl is healed. Stephen is amazed. He thinks they should go to the Temple and show the priests. Peter rejects Stephen's course of action. Peter says to Stephen that the time will come when the priests will hear of it. But now is not the time.
Cornelius and a squad of soldiers lead Jewish youths and come upon Stephen. Stephen demands to know what they have done. Cornelius orders Stephen to move. Stephen refuses. Cornelius beats and kicks Stephen, but does not kill him. When Stephen asks why, Cornelius answers, "Because I am merciful."
Mary, the mother, converses with Peter. She reassures Peter that Jesus chose him because he knew Peter would remain faithful and could take on the responsibilities needed by a new movement.
Cornelius leads the youths to their deaths by crucifixion. Scene cuts to Pilate and Claudia, where Pilate is handling ashes of the murdered Roman soldier, Marcus. He builds a small mound of ashes on his table. He tells Claudia that he is building a mountain out of the ashes of Jews.
Boaz is found by one of his associates and told to disappear.
The disciples are sleeping. John has a dream. In the morning he goes to look for what he saw in the dream. It is at the Temple - a crack pattern in the stone ground. He is approached by a man whom he does not seem to know. The man seems to know about John. He has attempted to fulfill himself through wealth, but his soul remains poor. John asks the man to come with him. The crack on the ground is gone. John believes the man was what the dream wanted him to find.
Crosses continue to rise. Joseph looks at them. Claudia accuses Pilate of changing for the worse. "I am an instrument of Roman power. My actions are an expression and reminder of that power. And that power sustains Rome. It is paramount." Pilate demands that Claudia never involve herself in affairs of which she does not understand.
Peter, John, and the man John met (Barnabas) walk in the wilderness. Barnabas offers a piece of land to the disciples.
Joseph comes into Caiaphas' chamber and in agonized voice tells them that his nephew is one of the crucifieds. Annas offers consolation. Joseph refuses platitudes and demands that this be brought to an end now. He reminds Caiaphas that the close association with Pilate that he has cultivated all his life needs to be cashed in now.
Boaz appears to leave.
Christians set up camp on Barnabas' donated land.
Caiaphas tears his cloak and pours ashes on his head.
Boaz shows up in the Christian camp. Peter wants to know why Boaz is here. Peter tells Boaz that if he repents and accepts Jesus, he is welcome to stay. Boaz states that he believes in God. But Boaz does not recognize Jesus. He knows David, Solomon, Joshua, etc. but not Jesus. Boaz believes that God, the Rock, has trained his hands for war. Peter turns away. Peter notes that there are people taking advantage of them. But he won't name them. He doesn't believe it is the way.
Peter has a vision and sees that Ananias has kept a portion of the sale for himself. Ananias denies the accusation. He starts hemorrhaging all over his body and dies. The people look on in fear. Sapphira is brought to Peter's tent. Peter pleads for her to speak truthfully. He asks if they gave all, and she says they did. Peter informs her that he saw in a vision that they kept back a small amount. She asks why that matters. What they gave was a huge amount. Peter tells her that it was because they bet against the mission of Jesus succeeding and bet against God. She hemorrhages like Ananias.
Caiaphas comes to Pilate to beg for mercy. Pilate laughs at Caiaphas' appearance of ashes and sackcloth. Caiaphas accuses Pilate of provoking insurrection upon himself by his poor judgment. Pilate takes some of Marcus' ashes and forces it into Caiaphas' mouth. Pilate will not back down and there will be no mercy. Claudia looks upon Pilate with anger and exasperation. Claudia catches Leah in the darkness and tells her the name of the assassin is Boaz. Leah will know what to do.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Review–From Field to Fork…

From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for EveryoneFrom Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone by Paul B. Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Modern debates about food, ranging from food and social justice issues to GMO, are complicated issues. The problem is that for most people, they are seen as relatively simple, because modern pedagogy is taught in isolated silos of subjects and because people generally don't make decisions based on strictly rational thought.

In From Field to Fork Paul Thompson discusses the primary debates going on today, not merely as issues of food, but as debates of social norms, history, philosophy, ethics, economics, politics, psychology, and yes, even the hard sciences. He shows how these debates cut through, across, and involve all these disciplines and how a single discipline simply is inadequate to inform any of these debates.

Even though the book itself is about food, the methods and principles that Thompson utilizes can be extended and applied to just about any contentious topic. He demonstrates why a liberal arts education is still valuable and necessary, and gives evidence of why a good philosophical foundation is vital, even in a modern, data-driven and science-heavy society.

Whatever your views of food in relation to economics, social justice, politics, and scientific innovations, this book will give you something to think about and in ways that you probably hadn't thought to think. It is a very philosophical work, referencing a number of key philosophers and their schools. It is not a light and easy book to read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A few observations on Luke 15

Volumes have been written and (probably) tons of ink used on the exegesis and exposition of Luke 15. It contains three of the most popular parables of Jesus: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the the lost child.

Here, I’m not attempting a critical discussion of the chapter, but some general topics and questions I might consider if I were to use this chapter in a sermon or study.

The Opening

15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NRSV, and all that follows)

This sets the stage and forms the crux of interpretation. The three parables are Jesus’ response to the religious establishment of their criticism of his behavior.

“Sinner” is a term that is used, not by Jesus, but by the religious establishment. It was certainly a legal term for them in that the “sinners” were in violation of what they considered laws defining ritual purity, which in turn defined who was a “true Jew.” But we should be careful about extending “sinner” to mean “people who violate the law.” It is much more a social violation when brought into the 21st century.

Thus it appears that the primary issue is that Jesus, as a rabbi, as one who is supposed to be teaching the meaning of the Law, is including among his group and associating with those that the Law defines as “outside.”

The Lost Sheep

image3 So he told them this parable: 4 “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The crux of this pericope is “joy.” When something that is lost is found, there ought to be rejoicing.

It’s interesting that Jesus uses the term “losing” and “lost.” One does not lose something that he or she never had. Could it be that Jesus is saying that all the people the religious establishment considers “outside” really belongs together with them? And who is doing the “losing” in this parable? The common interpretation is that the shepherd is Jesus or God, but is it really? Should the shepherd of this parable more properly be seen as the “insiders”? How would that change the perspective and meaning of this parable? Maybe this parable is Jesus saying to his critics, “This is how you ought to be acting.

Given the defining of “sinner” in the introduction, maybe Jesus’ use of “sinner” here needs to be reconsidered. Maybe Jesus is using it and “repent” in an ironic sense. Maybe Jesus is using these terms as it would look from the perspective of the religious establishment.

The traditional interpretation that I’ve heard over and over in regards to the “ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” is that this is talking about the self-righteous people who think they don’t need to repent. But maybe the problem is once again, we are projecting our legal and moral ideas of repentance onto the parable. Maybe Jesus is continuing his ironic usage.

The point of this parable seems to be that when those who were outside are brought in, by whatever means, instead of criticism, there ought to be joy and celebration.

The Lost Coin

image8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Joy is again the crux of this second parable.

Once more the coin is “lost” meaning the coin belonged to the owner, the woman, originally.

A coin has even less self-determination than sheep. In fact, a coin has none. So how was the coin “lost”? Maybe someone else came in the house, played with it, and lost it. Or more likely, it was the woman herself that lost it. Like the previous parable, is the woman a representation of Jesus, or is she a representation of Jesus’ critics?

I think these parables follow in the pattern of “how much more” motifs found in many other parables of Jesus. If a shepherd goes looking for a single sheep out of a hundred, and if a woman will turn the house upside down to look for a single coin (and maybe they bear some responsibility for the loss), and upon finding their lost belongings they call the entire village to celebrate, how much more should the religious community go seeking after those they have alienated and rejoice and celebrate when they return?

Once more, the main focus should be on the joy and rejoicing. I think the repentance aspect is partially ironically used, and is not the focus.

The Lost Child

imageI won’t copy the entire text of the remainder of chapter 15 here.

The Prodigal parable, in particular, has been the subject of thousands and perhaps millions of books, commentaries, sermons, lectures, etc. But what happens if it is seen as the climax of the earlier two parables and the definitive response to Jesus’ critics? How does this third parable retain, yet expand on the themes and messages from the two earlier parables? How the preacher works through this thematic unity is key.

The younger son, unlike the sheep and the coin, has volition. He ought to be responsible for taking himself out of the community, for violating ritual purity, for turning himself into an outsider. He was very much an insider, but for whatever reasons he intentionally made himself an outsider. Now he returns. He doesn’t think he can be accepted back fully into the community. He just wants the scraps of being on the edge. But the father demands that he be fully reinstated as an insider.

The parable speaks directly to the criticism that the religious establishment made of Jesus. These “tax collectors and sinners” were born Jews, but due to their choice (maybe they had a choice, maybe not) of occupation or their disregard for purity, have taken themselves out of the circle of Jewish purity.

How should the community respond when they decide to return? The younger son’s assumption that he would be fine on the margins is one possible response. The tax collectors and sinners who want to come back may do so, but they will always be second-class. The older son’s response may be another possible response: they cannot return; they will forever be outside because they have voluntarily given up being a Jew.

The father’s response is a third possibility: full acceptance. And what ties all three parables together is the joy and celebration upon recovering what was lost.

Traditionally the father has been interpreted to be Jesus and/or God. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But perhaps it is broader. Perhaps in this third parable, Jesus is including everyone among the three characters. Perhaps Jesus is asking with which each hearer will choose to identify.

I think it is interesting that no reason is given for the younger son’s initial demand to leave. For some reason he does not like being home and does not like the father. Perhaps it is rebellion, but the initial character of the father is not given. Perhaps it isn’t a stretch to give an interpretation that the father and the home initially represents collectively the religious leaders and the environment of Jesus’ time (of which Jesus is a part and a leader, we must remember). Maybe the father is responsible for losing the son (as is the case with the previous two parables). How might this change how this parable is read? Or maybe the father is the same throughout the parable, but the younger son is receiving his impressions of the father from his older brother and his relationship to the father.

Perhaps as the story progresses, the father does become more of a representation of Jesus. Or perhaps Jesus is asking a question directed toward the religious leaders:

You are the fathers of this community. You are seeing prodigals returning home. You see them coming to you way off in the distance. What is your response?

Jesus is telling them, “As a rabbi, a teacher within this community, as a ‘father’ figure, this is how I am responding to the lost children of my community.”

I think it is important to keep in mind that this is a parable and not an allegory. Meanings are not clear-cut, one-to-one correspondence is not necessary, and symbols may change within a single parable.

By the end of the parable, when the older son enters the stage, the father is a symbol for Jesus and the older son a symbol for those who would deny the returnees a welcome. I think the parable is about the artificial constructs of “insider” and “outsider.” For Jesus there is no distinction. The only “repentance” Jesus recognizes is the simple desire to belong. There are no rituals or purity codes that one must conform to in order to belong.

What Are These Parables About?

It’s not about salvation. Or at least not about how people are saved or what God does in order to save.

And yet, it’s about salvation. If salvation is understood as belonging in God’s family, then it’s about welcoming everyone who wants to come in.

It’s not about sacrifice. The sheep, nor the coin, nor the son demanded their owners/father to do something to find and restore them. The shepherd did not take the place of the lost sheep; they came home together. The woman did not have to give something up in order to recover the coin. The father did not pay for his son’s return, nor did he send the older brother in his place.

And yet, it’s about sacrifice. The shepherd chose to risk his time and possibly his life, depending on where the sheep was and what threats might have been encountered. But these were not things that were demanded. The woman chose to give up her time and get dirty because the possibility of finding her lost coin was worth so much more. However, time and filth weren’t demanded of the woman as a prerequisite for finding her coin. The father chose to give up his dignity and incur the wrath of his older son (and quite likely that of the entire village) to restore his younger son to full belonging. These were consequential costs, but they were not required costs for the restoration.

It’s not about evangelism. If by evangelism it is meant as going out and preaching about sin and repentance.

And yet, it’s about evangelism. At least in these parables, the kind of evangelism the shepherd, the woman, and the father does is to correct past errors, whether they be of one’s own doing or of someone else’s.

It’s about our distaste for God’s inclusiveness. All religions draw and create boundaries. Or maybe it is the drawing of boundaries that is the first step toward creation of a religion. We want to control who’s in and who’s out. And in the process I wonder if we draw God out.

It’s about celebration. The one common theme that runs through all three parables is celebration. God’s family ought to be known as one that is always celebrating.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) - "The Spirit Arrives" (3/12)


What would it look like if Acts 1:12-4:4 were compressed into a single hour-long (with commercials) TV episode that covered just a few days? It might look this episode three, which was broadcast tonight.

This episode was much more about political intrigues and machinations going on outside the biblical text. The portrayal of Pilate may be fictional and imagined, but what is shown in this episode does seem to align with what is known historically about his tendency to ignore Jewish sensibilities; a short temper; and to take unilateral, violent actions against the Jews. Less seems to be known about Caiaphas and Herod Antipas, and their portrays are likely more fictional and imagined than Pilate’s.

My evaluation of episode three is that is falls somewhere in the “decent” range. There was one major omission (IMO) noted below, and a few other issues also noted below. I think it portrayed well the tensions that could very well have existed between the various groups: the Romans, the priests, the rest of the Jews, the Zealots, and the disciples. In many ways, all the groups except the disciples, are quite the same. All except the disciples are interested in self-preservation and will use whatever means is necessary to try to achieve it. Only the disciples are shown as acting against self-preservation. They must fight this urge, but in the end their commitment to Jesus overcomes their fears. They would be safer to retreat to Galilee and return to their old occupations. But they choose to remain in Jerusalem and await the promise of the Holy Spirit and to whatever and wherever that leads.


Women continue to play an important part in the narrative. Where episode two seemed to push them into the background, episode brings them back into the foreground. A new female character, Maya, Peter’s daughter, is introduced. She, like all the other female characters in this program, is feisty and strong and has a mind that she is willing to use and speak.

Politics and religion continue to drive the drama. The Romans and the Jewish leaders are fully entangled in this web. There is pressure among the disciples to escape entanglement through escape into anonymity and noninvolvement in the way that Jesus has commanded. The disciples are seen as victims of these external, powerful forces that are beyond their control. The developing story is to see how they navigate the delicate balance between engaging in the world without becoming entangled in its powers.

Another developing motif is that no individual, however much power and authority they wield, is fully in control. In fact the more power they wield, it seems that in the end they have less control.


The title of this series is A.D. The Bible Continues. However, this episode, in comparison with the first two, seems to contain less biblical material and takes more liberties with the material it uses.

Where are Jesus’ brothers that are written to have been present with the disciples in the Upper Room? Acts reports there were at least one-hundred twenty by the time of Pentecost, but throughout the episode, it is the disciples, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the new (fictional and imagined) arrival, Maya.

Judas is forgotten. There is nothing about his replacement taking place.

There is very little made of the “speaking in tongues” after the Holy Spirit arrives. The viewer might see it as the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer changes into what might be speaking in tongues. But by the time the disciples go out of their room into the crowd, they are no longer speaking in tongues. The whole mystical, miraculous, and unexplainable event of the disciples speaking to the multinational crowds in Jerusalem is omitted. I see this as the worst omission of this episode. The key theme of Christianity as a gospel for all the nations is sadly omitted. For now, in this program, the gospel is still one that is confined to the Jews. The outpouring of the Spirit is primarily to give the disciples courage to leave their room. Given the title of this episode, “The Spirit Arrives,” I would have expected much more surrounding the event, and closer adherence to the text of Acts.

Peter’s first sermon, recorded in Acts 2 is not found in the program.

What does happen is that the first action of the disciples is to go to the Temple and encounter the cripple at the Beautiful Gate. This is the episodic selection that the program uses. It combines a miracle/healing event with Peter’s preaching to the crowds, with the religious authorities confronting them and taking them into custody. A lot of time and story compression occurs, but I suppose that the episode the producers chose does encapsulate the highlights.

No one speaks out against the violence that is happening, as was the case in the first two episodes. However, it could be said that the acts of violence being initiated by Pilate and Boaz might themselves be arguments against any redemptive nature of violence. Boaz himself speaks of his actions as “the way of the world. Blood will have blood."


Starts in Galilee. Peter looking at his daughter, wondering how he is to tell them he must return to Jerusalem. Peter and John return to Jerusalem. His daughter sees them leave.

Back to Jerusalem. Caiaphas speaks with a widow of one of the temple guards who had been killed. Leah enters. Caiaphas thinks the widow suspects something. Six of the priests have been murdered by Pilate. Leah is matter-of-fact about the murder. It had to be done to erase witnesses of the resurrection. "It is a necessary sacrifice."
Streets of Jerusalem. Roman squad drinking at an establishment. Boaz is one of the staff. Romans are a bit drunk. Proprietor encourages them to take leave. One bumps into Boaz. A tense standoff. Roman starts to draw sword. Proprietor comes to calm him down and stands between them. As the Romans leave, Boaz draws out a knife. Proprietor tells Boaz that it is not yet time.
To the Praetorium. Servant cleaning up blood from earlier executions of guards. Claudia comes in and asks Pilate what has happened. "Just politics." Claudia demands to know what happened. She knows what has happened. Pilate changes subject: Herod and his wife are arriving for a visit.
Jerusalem. Herod arrives. Boaz looking on. Herod thinks he sees more Roman soldiers in the streets since Jesus' crucifixion. The procession stops. He demands that the king must be allowed through. The Romans refuse. Herod and entourage are diverted away from the main path.
Herod arrives at Caiaphas' residence. Herod asks what is going on in the city. Herod accuses Caiaphas of mishandling Jesus, of breaking Jewish law, and collaborating with the Romans. Herod is afraid of what might happen at Pentecost with all the pilgrims arriving for the festival.
Upper Room. Peter and John arrive and join other disciples already there. They discuss how Jesus intends to build the church. Mary, mother, states there are two ingredients, belief and patience, both which are lacking among them. Knock at the door. Mary Magdalene and Maya, Peter's daughter are there.
Caiaphas and Herod walk through the temple area. Herod demands a peaceful Pentecost. His positions is secure, but Caiaphas' is dependent on his support and that of the Sanhedrin.
Herod reaches temple gates where there is a cripple beggar. Herod orders Caiaphas to give the beggar some money.
Leah visits the aforementioned temple guard widow and hands her some coins. She would like to come to some kind of agreement outside of official temple protocol, in which annual income will be provided. But the widow is skeptical. She knows her husband was respected and his last post was guarding Jesus' tomb. She wants to know what is going on. The widow must leave Jerusalem immediately to avoid the same fate as her husband. Leah will take care of all their needs.
Praetorium. Pilate, Herod, their wives. Discuss the festival of Pentecost. Herod observes that excessive Roman presence around the Temple do not contribute to the feeling of Roman tolerance. It re-emphasizes the perspective that they are an occupied nation. Herod requests that the Romans be taken away from the Temple area so that the Jews could celebrate the festival in peace. Pilate reminds Herod that Jerusalem is not Herod's city. As a response, Pilate will double the guards and he will attend Pentecost himself. Herod asks Claudia to intervene. Claudia replies that she supports her husband in all he does.
Back to upper room. Peter and Maya. Discussion of what they expect to happen. Peter fears for his daughter's safety. She wonders what could be so dangerous about following a rabbi.
Pilate discuss his visit to the festival. Claudia questions his wisdom.
Upper Room. They are all inside, waiting. Some wonder whey they will go out. They question why they are shut away. They are waiting for the Holy Spirit. Maya questions all their waiting and not going out to tell people about Jesus' resurrection. Peter is annoyed with Maya's questions. Maya rebuffs him saying he's the one who taught her to question things.
Boaz receives a report that Pilate will visit the temple on Pentecost. The messenger thinks this is the abomination of the sacred space that the prophets had spoken of. Boaz believes the time has come to kill Pilate. Looks at knife.
Claudia enters Pilate's bedchamber. Claudia encounters Herod. He tells her this was the palace of his father before they took it. Claudia encounters Cornelius. They cannot sleep because of worries about Pilate's safety.
Upper room. Maya asks whether the disciples will face the same fate as Jesus if they are found.
Herod informs Caiaphas that Pilate will be coming to the Temple. They are all concerned. Boaz prepares for a showdown.
Peter on rooftop. Maya comes up to see him. Peter is afraid. Not of the Romans or priests, but that he is the wrong person for the task Jesus wants him to do. Maya asks what Jesus would do if he were still here. Peter answers, "He'd pray." They head down and wake all the disciples. They are going to pray.
Pentecost morning. Pilgrims entering the temple. Roman procession enter.  Rear guards prevent further entry of pilgrims. Upper Room: the disciples pray. Boaz preparing his weapons and approach the temple.
Camera shows glow, comet-like object coming down from the heavens. Clouds and storm gather about the upper room. A strong wind is followed by a stream of light and flames that envelop the disciples. The Holy Spirit has arrived. They are now ready to leave to spread the gospel.
Pilate and Cornelius arrive at the temple. Temple guard arrives to give Caiaphas's demands for entry to the Temple. Pilate refuses. They enter. Boaz is seen among the crowd.
Peter leads the disciples out of the building. They greet the curious crowds about. They head toward the Temple.
Caiaphas and Herod come out to greet Pilate. In Aramaic, Caiaphas calls out to the crowd to accept Pilate's visit. Romans spot Boaz and give chase as they also lead Pilate away. Boaz attempts to attack Pilate, but is foiled by Cornelius. Another soldier gives chase and as Boaz is about to be apprehended, using a wrist-based dagger slices the Roman's throat.
The disciples approach the Temple gate. The same beggar is there. Peter stops. He tells the beggar they have no money, but taking his hand Peter offers healing in the name of Jesus Christ. The cripple is healed. Peter gives his "sermon" about Jesus, resurrection, and the Holy Spirit. John announces, Jesus is alive.
Caiaphas hears and orders the guards to silence the disciples. Peter and John are beaten, then taken into custody.
Cornelius comes to Pilate to report that a soldier was found murdered. Some in the area were taken into custody. Pilate orders them to be executed. Cornelius does not believe the murderer is among them. Pilate doesn't care and orders all of them to be executed on the steps of the Temple. Cornelius goes out.
Mary Magdalene comes to the holding cells with some supplies. She reports that word is spreading and that many are coming to Christ. Roman soldiers come to take others in custody to be executed. Cornelius looks into Peter's eyes as he leaves. Jews are executed. Caiaphas and Herod come out to see the results. Crowd is antagonized.
Boaz shows no regret or remorse for his actions. It is simply "the way of the world. Blood will have blood."
Peter and John pray in their cell. Caiaphas comes to see. Peter and John recite the Shema while he looks on.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC)–“The Body Is Gone” (2/12)

A.D. The Bible Continues


My general impression of this episode is that although artistic and dramatic licenses were taken with the narrative and many details, the overall narrative follows well-enough the key incidents and dialogue that is found in John chapters 20 and 21, and the first part of Acts 1.

My expectations had been raised with the first episode, so my impression of episode 2 is that while decent, I didn’t find much that was particularly noteworthy.

There is a lot more action in this episode than there was in the first. Since there were no cars to do car chases, the next best thing is rooftop chases.

Maybe the part that impressed me the most was the portrayal of Thomas. His “doubting” was quite believable. Anyone in his place would likely have responded in a similar manner.

I re-watched the end of episode one and now see that the heavenly warrior dude is an angel. He shows up again in this episode near the end.


  1. This episode continues to develop the political conflict between the Jewish priesthood and the Romans. By the end of this episode, any cooperation or trust between them is gone.
  2. The issue between followers of Jesus and the Romans continues to be developed primarily as a political issue. The followers are seen as destabilizing Roman rule.
  3. Pilate is portrayed as utilitarian and ruthless. Whatever works to keep his position and Rome in power, he will do.
  4. Non-violence from episode one gets a brief mention, but I think it is a powerful scene. Peter is once more offered the choice between what seems like pragmatism and idealism. Peter is shown a stash of daggers, but he refuses the kind of help that will require killing to accomplish.
  5. The coming together of the disciples. As long as Jesus was absent, the disciples were scattered in thinking, beliefs, and action. As reports of Jesus’ return begin to filter in, they begin to come together and work together. By the end they are once more walking together, in unison.
  6. It’s all about whether the body of Jesus can be found or not. For the writers and producers, I sense that this is a central pillar of Christianity on whether or not it stands.


A week doesn’t pass between Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples-minus-Thomas and his appearance to Thomas. I can see how the dramatization might want to compress time, but still…

While the first episode presented some strong actions from women (and in the case of Leah, perhaps over-the-top) this episode doesn’t really show much strength and initiative from the women. Even Leah is somewhat subdued. The most problematic is the complete omission of Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the living Jesus and his commissioning of her to tell the news to all the other disciples. I am sorely disappointed in this huge omission.

Would the Romans really have bothered to try to round up the disciples? The gospel accounts and the book of Acts doesn’t mention early friction between the Romans and the disciples – between the Jewish leaders and disciples, yes. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened, but I get the feeling it’s there for the dramatized action. This also leads to Zealots throwing the 1st century equivalent of Molotov Cocktails at the Romans blocking the city gate. That there were no immediate repercussions for this action went beyond suspension of disbelief into the realm of la-la land. This was the most difficult-to-accept part of the episode.

The ascension scene was rather hokey and not much like the description in Acts. I mean, we saw a “comet” with an angel coming down in episode one, so why couldn’t Jesus have lifted away into a cloud? And finally, where were the two beings that explain to the disciples what happened. Maybe these details are going to be found in episode three…

And an unquibble

At first I thought how the temple and the Roman guards at the tomb were depicted as very separate was odd. The temple guards were paid off, and the Roman guards were handled the way they would have been if they abandoned their posts. The text of Matthew 28 reveals that it was “some of the guard” that is involved, and although they are paid off, nothing about their ultimate fates is recorded. So with artistic and dramatic license, what is found in this episode is a plausible interpretation.


Jerusalem, the Third Day. Leah and Caiaphas. Temple guards report disappearance of Jesus' body via an angel who rolled away the stone.

Mary Magdalene arrives at tomb. Startled to see it open and empty. Runs away.

Back to Caiaphas and Leah. Plot an explanation. Gives money to the guards to tell a fabricated version about the body being stolen. Caiaphas and Leah believe the disciples really did stole the body. Afraid that Pilate will discover the truth. Commands temple guards to find Jesus' body so it can be shown he is still dead.

To Pilate and Claudia. Leaving Jerusalem. Claudia is sure Jesus' execution bodes ill omens.

Mary returns to tell the disciples about the empty tomb.

Caiaphas comes to meet Pilate. Pilate asks if Jesus is still dead. Caiaphas assures Pilate this is so. Caiaphas thanks Pilate for his support for supporting their requests about Jesus. Pilate states that when faced with having to stand firm or be fair, he will always stand firm.

Pilate's guards return to speak about what happened at the tomb.

Temple guard hands someone money to find a corpse.

Pilate enters Caiaphas' bathroom while he is taking a bath, and demands an explanation about what really happened to Jesus' body. Pilate is afraid that the Jesus movement will grow beyond control and threaten Roman authority.

Mary, Peter, and John return to the tomb to confirm Mary's report. Peter and John enter. Wonders who would have taken the body. John wonders why whoever took the body would fold the burial cloth. John states it is the third day. John believes. Mary remains at the tomb. She enters to examine the cloth, cradles it, and cries. Jesus appears and asks "why are you crying?" Mary asks the voice if he has taken the body and where it has gone. "Mary." She recognizes the voice, recognizes Jesus.

Back to Jerusalem. Mary runs through an alley. John reports what he has seen. Other disciples are afraid the officials might think they have stolen the body and come after them. John tries to explain the prophecies of Isaiah that applies to Jesus. Roman soldiers approach. Mary arrives and reports she has seen Jesus and has spoken to her. Mary, the mother, is on the rooftop. Mary Magdalene goes up to report to her that Jesus is alive. The disciples wonder if it could be true. Peter's guilt and shame continue to haunt him.

Jesus appears among them. "Peace be with you... Is there any food?" Jesus reminds them how prophecies had to be fulfilled. Knock at the door. Thomas arrives. Jesus is gone. The others tell Thomas about Jesus' presence. Thomas doesn't believe their report. Accuses the others of trying to play him for a fool. Mary tells Thomas to go to the tomb and see for himself. "Lest I put my finger..." etc.

Roman soldiers. Pilate goes to the remaining guards who are beat upon by other soldiers. The one guard who came to Pilate to report what happened is spared.

Temple guard has come up with a body with all the necessary marks of crucifixion and the piercing of the side. Caiaphas sees but realizes this is not Jesus' body. Guard explains that if Caiaphas declares this to be Jesus' body, people will accept it as such, and if it is far enough off the ground, people will fail to see the deception. Caiaphas doesn't think it will work and commands the body to be taken away.

Thomas returns from the tomb with a report that the temple guards are resealing the tomb to make it appear that the body is still inside. Thomas still feels left out and refuses to believe. Jesus appears behind Thomas and allows examination of the wounds. "My Lord." "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Jesus disappears.

Romans break down the door to the room where the disciples were staying. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother are inside. The disciples flee, Romans in pursuit. Chase over rooftops and alleys. They run inside a building, and when the Romans come through, they are attacked.

Mary and Mary are apprehended by the Romans, and demand to know to where the disciples have fled. They ask where Jesus' body went. Centurion commands his men to lock down the city.

Peter is assisted by Boaz and led to a safe room. Boaz offers his help. Scene cuts to a stash of knives and daggers. Peter refuses this kind of help involving killing. Boaz defends himself and says they only take lives as a last resort, unlike the Romans.

Annas is upset with Caiaphas for his close association with Pilate in regards to Jesus' execution. Annas rebukes Caiaphas. Leah (daughter of Annas, wife of Caiaphas) sides with Caiaphas. Joseph of Arimathea bursts into the room and demands an explanation as to why his tomb was desecrated. Joseph accuses Caiaphas of making matters worse, and that it will come back to bite him. Annas demands that any attempt at trying to apply Isaiah's prophecy to Jesus must be quashed, so that it doesn't come to destroy the priesthood.

Jerusalem gate. Romans preventing exit of city. Disciples want to get out. Zealots have prepared bombs against the Romans to clear the blockade. People run out.

Pilate wants to know (from centurion) why they have not yet apprehended the disciples. Centurion tells Pilate that the disciples did not escape with the corpse. Pilate wants to know if the body is at their hideout, then. Centurion says it was not there either.  Pilate hates Jerusalem. He cannot handle how the Jewish people seem to take every unexplainable phenomenon as a sign and a portent. He thinks this is affecting Claudia. Pilate will do whatever it takes to bring to end the mess with the Jesus incident.

Scene switches to Galilee. Lake Gennesaret. Fishing boat. Disciples on boat, fishing, but not catching anything. It is way past dawn. Pulling in the nets one more time. Nothing. From the shore, "How's the catch? ... Cast them on the right hand side." They do so. They catch some fish. John recognizes Jesus. Peter, too. Peter jumps in and begins swimming toward Jesus. A fire is burning. Jesus and Peter embrace.

Jerusalem. (This scene is confusing. Not sure if this description is accurate or not.) It looks like a temple guard is following an old man. A disguised Roman is following the guard. The old man is strangled to death by the temple guard. The Roman knocks out the guard, then slits his throat, leaving the body lying in the alley. (After seeing through to the end of this episode, it is under Pilate’s orders that all the temple guards that have been paid off by Caiaphas are being killed.)

Back to Galilee. Dialogue between Jesus and Peter. "Peter do you love me...?" Three times.

Leah approaches Caiaphas. He is annoyed that Annas is trying to control him. He thinks that Leah sometimes does that, too. Caiaphas is assured he has both of their support. Temple guard arrives to report that two of the guards in charge of the tomb have been discovered murdered, and the rest have disappeared. Pilate demands Caiaphas' to come see him.

Back to Galilee. Jesus and disciples in circle. Jesus explains prophecies. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. He commands Peter to return to Jerusalem and wait for the promise. Jesus foretells Peter's martyrdom. Jesus asks if Peter is ready to do that. Peter responds in the affirmative.

They walk together. The commissioning from Acts 1. Dramatic sky. Disciples look on as Jesus is taken. Dramatic lighting effects. Jesus climbs a mountain where the angel from the resurrection scene is present at the top.

Pilate. "This will soon be over." Caiaphas appears. Pilate orders the Roman guards who abandoned their posts to be brought in. They are strangled to death. The one guard who came to Pilate to tell his story is killed by Pilate. The prophecy of the Nazarene appears to lie dead on the floor.

End, episode 2.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV - NBC) - "The Tomb Is Open" (1/12)

A.D. The Bible Continues


I came to this with VERY low expectations. So anything other than a complete and utter catastrophe (e.g., “The Bible” miniseries) would rate fairly decently. And it turns out that, at least this first episode, wasn’t that bad. It was quite watchable for the most part. It takes dramatic and narrative liberties, yet much of it remains within the realm of plausibility.

If this first episode is an indication of the approach to the entire series, I think it is quite viewable (without all the cringing and grinding of teeth that often accompany “Bible” dramas).


I came away with three major motifs that I felt this episode wanted to establish for its audience:

  1. That Jesus really, really, really died.
  2. That Jesus’ crucifixion was a result of a confluence of many complicated political and religious factors, and that early Christians will continue to face issues in this realm.
  3. The role of women in ancient society.

Jesus Really, Really Died

In regards to the first point, the dramatizations of the brutality of the crucifixion, the Romans coming to break the crucifieds’ legs, the spear thrust, the burial witnessed by multiple individuals, (I think it was) Caiaphas examining the cross, Cornelius (the Centurion) confirming Jesus’ death in front of Pilate and Caiaphas, are all designed to show dramatically that there is no way Jesus could have been merely unconscious.

Politics and Religion Cause Jesus’ Death

Caiaphas’ and Leah’s (his wife) primary motivation as dramatized is to preserve the Temple and its systems. They see nothing wrong with the sacrificial rituals, and the pilgrims who come to offer them. Their concern is to preserve the traditions and peace with Rome. They see Jesus’ teachings as challenging the very foundations of their society and culture, and by extension, a challenge to Rome. Thus Jesus is not merely a troubler of their religion and way of life, but an insurrectionist. Caiaphas will stop at nothing to do what he believes is right, even if that means bringing in Rome. There are hints that this will eventually cause the Jewish nation problems.

As a foil to Caiaphas and Leah, Joseph of Arimathea is presented as a high-ranking priest, perhaps in line to become High Priest someday. But his actions in regards to Jesus will become a problem if greater priestly authority is the subject. Joseph questions Caiaphas’ actions and Leah’s approval of Jesus’ execution. Joseph questions whether Jesus really was that dangerous as Caiaphas believes him to be. Thus two powerful members of the priestly family are shown to be coming to odds.

Pilate and his wife, Claudia, are the other party. Pilate represents the political and military might of Rome. His main concern is to maintain the peace at all costs. He intentionally (but quietly) pits Caiaphas and Joseph against one another because infighting among the Jews means less of them fighting the Romans. He does not want to involve himself with Jewish squabbles and intervenes only when his position is threatened.

The dream Claudia had about Jesus defines who she is. She believes there is far more to Jesus than Pilate thinks there is. She is shown as one who is spiritual, who believes in omens from dreams. Pilate, on the other hand, is strictly pragmatic.

The Role of Women

Women take a prominent place in the first episode. Mary, Jesus’ mother, is the only one who continues to believe in Jesus and comes out scolding the disciples for their lack of faith. Leah, Caiaphas’ wife, is outspoken about her opinions about Jesus and the right-ness of how Jesus was handled. Claudia directly challenges her husband, Pilate, until he threatens her with his right and authority as political ruler and husband. Mary Magdalene seems to almost believe Mary, the mother’s, belief that Jesus will rise again. She confronts Peter about his denial. Taken as a whole, the women, on whichever “side” they place themselves, are strong-willed and confident; they know what they believe.


I don’t think this was presented as a major motif (but it could become one later). But I mention it because it was intentionally developed. When Peter is invited by his Zealot acquaintance, Boaz, to join him, Peter refuses because, in spite of Jesus’ death, Peter still believes in the nonviolent way of love that Jesus taught. Boaz proclaims freedom; Jesus taught love. Peter chooses love. Peter has realized that the way of the sword only leads to death. Does love lead to life? He’s uncertain, but that is what he will put his faith in.


My major quibble is with Mary, Jesus’ mother, fully confident that Jesus will rise in three days. It makes for interesting interpersonal drama, but I don’t see where this is supported in scripture.

My next major quibble is why nearly all modern dramatizations of Jesus’ crucifixion have to concentrate so much on its brutality? The gospels don’t really put down a whole lot of ink. Granted the original audience knew all too well what crucifixion involved, and perhaps we need images to show what happened. On the other hand, maybe the gospels weren’t so concerned with the process of crucifixion and more with that mere fact that it happened and Jesus died.

Next, the resurrection where Jesus (Or was this the angel that came down in what looked like a comet? I’m still a bit confused here. I think the rest still applies.) seems to be shown as a conquering warrior with a drawn sword. I understand how imagery from particularly Revelation contributes to this, but it seems to run counter to the message of nonviolence.

And were wives and women that outspoken? This may be the correct trajectory of the gospel, but seems like an anachronistic portrayal.

Finally, why do so many of the disciples (and other Jewish men) look like hippies?


This was typed while watching, so I’m sure there are mistakes and omissions.

Opens with Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin. Charge of blasphemy. Transfer to Pilate. Pilate tries to dismiss charges. Gives in to Jewish religious leaders' demands. Sentences Jesus to crucifixion. Peter is in the crowd. Golgotha - crucifixion. Graphic pounding of spikes - three of them. Women near the cross. Raising and dropping of cross.

Temple scene - blood being poured out onto an wall. Passover. Jerusalem. Priests (incl. Joseph, Annas, Caiaphas) - discuss the need to maintain sacrificial system. Jesus was a direct challenge to the system. Discussion includes the high priest's wife (Leah). Assembly line sacrificial scene at the temple with pilgrims.
Back to Jesus on the cross. "My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?"
To Pilate. Request to expedite the death of Jesus. A request by Joseph of Arimathea to take the body. Pilate orders Cornelius to finish Jesus off. He grants Joseph's request. Justification: as long as the Jews are fighting amongst themselves, they won't become a serious threat. Pilate's wife, Claudia. Speaks of her dream. Pilate dismisses her dream - can't govern based on a woman's dreams. Pilate tries to justify his decision by claiming that Jesus was a threat to Rome. Claudia states that killing Jesus won't be the end of him.
Back to the cross. "It is finished." Jesus dies. Mourning by some of the bystanders. Peter way of in the distance looking toward the hill. Darkness over the land, storm, and earthquake. Chaos. Tearing of the temple veil.
Jerusalem, then cross. Mourning women. Detachments of soldiers to break legs. Mary (mother) implores the soldier to not break Jesus' leg. Spear thrust. Joseph arrives to claim the body and offer a tomb.
Judas hangs himself. Interspersed with returning blood money and Jesus' burial. Closing of the tomb. Peter still looking from a long distance away. Mary and John return to a room and joined by Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene thinks Mary (mother) believes Jesus will rise from the dead.
Caiaphas residence. Children and wife. Joseph arrives. Joseph doesn't believe Jesus posed a threat. Caiaphas' wife believes Jesus was a threat. Joseph reveals that his tomb holds Jesus. Caiaphas refers to Isaiah's prophecy, alarmed at its implications. Argument between them. Caiaphas is sure Jesus' teachings will not survive.
Peter comes to John. The other disciples are not around. Mary Magdalene confronts Peter about his whereabouts during the ordeal. Peter asks if Jesus is dead. John confirms. Peter is resigned to all this being over. Mary Magdalene speaks of various foretellings of Jesus: Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial. She asks if Peter did or did not deny Jesus. Peter admits failure. Mary Magdalene repeats Mary's (mother) belief that Jesus will rise.
Jerusalem, next day. A Zealot (Boaz) draws a dagger and eyes Romans trying to provoke confrontation. Soldiers are distracted and walks away.
Caiaphas returns to Pilate. Pilate denies any hidden intent of causing friction amongst the Jews by allowing Jesus to be buried in the tomb of a prominent elder. Caiaphas claims prophecies to state that his followers will attempt to steal the body to claim a resurrection. He demands Roman guards for the tomb. Pilate wonders why this "nobody", a single individual is so much trouble for the Jews. He sends a detachment to keep the peace.
Back to Jerusalem. A couple of disciples of Jesus return to Jerusalem, are recognized by the Romans, and run. They are taken by a couple of Zealots (incl. Boaz) and explain who they are.
Back at the cross. Caiaphas(?) examines the cross and says, "He bled like a man." As he leaves, says to the Romans to remove the cross and break it up.
Peter and Boaz are old acquaintances. Boaz wants Peter and the rest to join the Zealots. Jesus preached love; the Zealots preach freedom. Boaz claims the Romans will come after each of them, one by one. Peter cannot join the Zealots or employ their means.
Pilate and his wife. Pilate is annoyed by Claudia's obsession with Jesus. Cornelius arrives and confirms that Jesus was dead. (Lots of dialogue in this and earlier scenes about confirmation of Jesus' death.) Pilate threatens Claudia to never again speak of Jesus or of dreams about him.
The disciples debate leaving Jerusalem. Some think they are being targeted. Others don't think they matter anymore and are being ignored. Mary (mother) enters to remind them of Jesus' prophecy that he will rise again. Duty to family is that they save their lives. Peter convinces them to wait three days.
Back to Caiaphas. A messenger arrives with news of Judas Iscariot. Caiaphas thinks (not yet hearing the Judas is dead) wants to use Judas to go after the other disciples. Now gets news that Judas has killed himself.
The tomb. Roman detachment of soldiers. Before dawn. Jerusalem. Disciples. John describes the trial, torture, and crucifixion to the other disciples. Caiaphas and wife - she commends him for his political savvy in maintaining peace, for using Pilate to achieve his ends. Flashback to trial. Pilate - flashback to "What is truth?" Peter - flashback to denial.
Earthquake. Tomb. An angel (comet-like) descends from the heavens to a sealed tomb that is starting to glow. Stone is rolled away. Jesus (or an angel, I lost track) is portrayed as a sword-wielding conqueror. The soldiers look away. Soldiers come to Caiaphas to report the event. Jesus is gone.
End of episode 1.

Finding Jesus (TV) - Mary Magdalene (ep. 6/6)

A series cannot talk about Jesus without discussing Mary Magdalene. Who was she? She is one of the most misunderstood characters in the Bible. Certainly devoted to Jesus. Wife of Jesus? A prostitute? The very first Christian?

The NT mentions her just twelve times. But they are central to the story of Jesus. Many of the ideas we have are merely myths.
The myth that Mary was a prostitute comes from a story in Luke 7, about a sinner woman comes into Simon's banquet. The story itself is certainly quite scandalous, especially in Jesus' response to the woman. The Bible itself never names this woman. None of the gospel accounts identify this woman as Mary Magdalene. The identification occurs with Pope Gregory V (The Great) when he gives a homily in which he conflates Mary with the sinner woman, a result of poor scholarship. By this time, Christian tradition had developed to where various stories could be blended together.
What the Bible tells us about Mary Magdalene is that she was possessed by seven demons. Many of the gospel stories occur in NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. One of the cities in the area is Magdala. (Here, Ben Witherington describes how Jesus supposedly performed exorcisms: by demanding the demons name themselves and then casting them out. This seems like an interpolation, rather than what is actually found in scripture. In a few (just one?) cases Jesus asks for the demons' names. In all other cases, Jesus simply commands them to leave.) Dramatization of Mary's exorcism. What were the demons? We don't know. A mental health issue? Depression? Whatever the case, she becomes one of the devoted women followers of Jesus.
Jesus had a very inclusive movement. He included many who would have been rejected by the social norms of society. It was unusual for unmarried women to leave their home and follow an itinerant rabbi. She supported Jesus financially. She may have owned a fishing business which provided her with the funds to do so. Luke describes "many women" who supported and followed Jesus as disciples. (Candida Moss suggests that because Mary controlled some of the money supply, that gave her unique and privileged access to Jesus.)
In 1945 a discovery is made in Egypt: thirteen ancient Christian texts. (And we get Elaine Pagels commenting.) These extra-canonical texts suggest a different role for Mary than the canonical gospels suggest.
The Gospel of Thomas suggest a different relationships between Mary and Jesus, and with Peter and Jesus. Here Peter demands Jesus dismiss Mary because she is a woman.
The Gospel of Philip suggest Jesus and Mary were romantically involved. (Here commentators suggest that early Christian missionaries were married, Rabbi Joshua Garroway suggests it was likely that as as proper Jewish man Jesus was married, Candida Moss does not say Jesus was married but suggests implications if he was.) In this text it states Mary was Jesus' consort, that Jesus loved Mary more than the other disciples, and Jesus kisses Mary but the text is missing as to what precisely what this kiss involved. (Pagels mentions Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and its fanciful extrapolation to a romantic kiss.)
There is no reliable extra-biblical evidence of Jesus' romantic involvement with Mary, or that she was his wife. What it does is confirm the gospel's portrayal of Mary Magdalene as somehow having a special place in Jesus' circle of disciples. What the extra-biblical portrayals are consistent in is the tension between Mary and Peter. This suggests there is some kernel of historical truth, but what exactly that might be is lost to us.
What we do know from the gospels is that Mary was one of the few followers that was with Jesus all the way through the trial and crucifixion. Dramatization of Palm Sunday and Last Supper. The women are not present at the Last Supper (or at least they are not mentioned in any of the gospel accounts as being present) because (Tim Gray suggests) Jesus wanted to protect them from the potential violence that would be part of his betrayal and arrest. Dramatization of Jesus carrying the cross. Pagels suggest the men fled because they could have been arrested as co-insurrectionists.
The women hear what has happened and they are the ones who come to be with Jesus through the crucifixion. The women show courage and faithfulness that eludes the men. Mary does the one thing she is still able to do for Jesus - be with him in his suffering. She exemplifies the ministry of presence.
Removal of the body and burial. Mary goes to the tomb after the Sabbath. Her devotion compels her to perform one more act of love. Mary does not know what has happened. Peter and John rush to the tomb. Mary returns to the tomb and sees what she thinks is a gardener.
After the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene is the first witness of the risen Jesus. For a short period, she is the sole member of the new church. And then Mary disappears from the pages of Christian history.
Peter emerges as the leader of the new church. And Mary's importance fades away.
In 1896 a German scholar purchases an ancient book, The Gospel of Mary. Does this work shed any light on what might have happened to Mary? Many of the pages are missing. It picks up after the resurrection with her telling Peter about it. In this gospel she is depicted as teacher and authority. This troubles the male disciples. Peter resents this and an open argument ensues. This is a battle for who is best fit to carry on the gospel. This gospel shows Mary finding an equal footing with the male disciples. But is this tale true? Even if it cannot be taken as historical truth, what we can see is that the early church was troubled by the questions of leadership and gender.
Myths and legends have given us a picture of a young, attractive Mary Magdalene. But what if this wasn't the case? She could just as easily have been an older, successful, independent businesswoman who in her later years is now focusing on a spiritual quest. Maybe she didn't live very long after the resurrection.
Thus on Easter Sunday this series ends with a topic central to the Resurrection: its first witness, Mary Magdalene. This episode examined a number of the myths and legends around this character, and showed what the Bible itself says about her. It looked at a number of the extra-canonical Christian texts that portray her and the male disciples differently than do the gospels. While none of these texts can be used as proof of a particular relationship between Mary and Jesus, and between Mary and the rest of the male disciples, their consistency points toward questions and controversies within the early Christian church that may have prompted the writing of these "gospel" texts. The controversy was probably around the issue of women in church leadership. The strong probability that there was controversy is evidence that in the early church, women did hold positions of leadership and authority -- something that would have run counter to cultural norms and likely raised questions about the respectability of Christianity. Thus I don't find it surprising that as Christianity sought acceptance and respectability in the Empire, it would want to shed its women leaders.
There were some points in this episode that I questioned, but overall it presented a decent overview of Mary Magdalene and some of the “Gnostic gospels” on which some of the her legends are based. The most intriguing is what this program reveals right at the end: that Mary might have been an older woman with a lifetime of business success that gives her the ability to leave her home and direct involvement in her business, to follow and support Jesus.
Overall I think the series did a fairly decent job of taking some of the popular “icons” in recent Christian thought and examine what history and science tells us, and to separate fanciful conjectures from what could be true. What this series did was describe the development of early Christianity through the relics and legends that developed during those years. The history of Christianity is just as important as the gospel texts, because it is through traditions (formal and informal) that each of us interprets the gospel texts. None of us come to it free of biases and baggage. This series helps explore some of them.