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.