Sunday, May 31, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) – “Saul’s Return” (9/12)


Has anyone else finding Saul to be annoying? Because ever since he showed up in the series, he's been a rather unlikable person. (If that's the intent, the producers have succeeded overwhelmingly.) He also speaks and acts like he's on some kind of substance - oh, say marijuana... It just occurred to me tonight that his scruffy appearance, his almost slurred speech, and his "I don't care what the world thinks" attitude seems like a stereotype of a pot addict... But that's just my observation.

This episode's link to the Bible is found in Acts 9:23-28

Historically, there was a threat of a statue of Caligula being placed in the Temple at Jerusalem. It didn't quite happen the way it is described in this program.

This episode portrays the suspicion and dilemma of the apostles as they are confronted with Saul's conversion and his desire to be accepted into the work of gospel ministry. Although Acts 9:26 gives a brief acknowledgment of the apostles' fear, I think this episode did a pretty good job of working through what that fear might have looked like. The text of Acts makes it seem like it was just a simple matter of Barnabas vouching for Saul and all was well, but that seems rather unrealistic.

This exchange highlights one of the problems I've had throughout this series. The problem is with the meaning of forgiveness as understood by it. I've noticed how forgiveness is consistently portrayed as having all the past washed away, all is lovey-dovey, everyone is accepted, and there are no consequences for past actions. When Saul asks Peter for forgiveness, this is what Saul expects. Peter struggles with forgiveness, because to forgive Saul means (at least according to the definition of forgiveness in the series) that means that there is no accountability or responsibility for Saul's past actions. In fact it is with only great reluctance that Saul eve mentions to Peter his acknowledgment of the past. Saul thinks that forgiveness should just be given.

And here I think this series parrots some of the troublesome teachings found in some segments of Christianity: namely that if a person claims genuine conversion and has accepted the forgiveness from God/Jesus, then the church's responsibility is to accept that, without question. (Certain recent events come to mind where a person acknowledges their "sin" before God and claims to be forgiven. Therefore, the past should be forgotten and they should be accepted fully into community, no questions asked.)

After several episodes in which women were rarely seen in prominent roles, this episode returns with a bang the strong women of the series: Claudia, Leah, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Eva. This episode introduces the character of Tabitha, who may be the one so named in Acts 9:36. In the series, she is a servant in the household of Chuza and Joanna. These women are not content to sit by and wait for events to come upon them. They are involved in making things happen, for good and for evil.

I felt like there was more character development in this episode. The political intrigues continue, but it didn't feel like that was the main plotline. No one seems to be in control of their destinies. Pilate is at the whim of Caligula. Caiaphas seems powerless to do anything constructive. Leah is behind the scenes trying to kill Saul, but how successful will that be? The apostles have been given a huge unknown to deal with: Saul. Agrippa now fears his "friend" Caligula, the emperor.

This was, in my opinion, one of the better episodes in the series. I wasn't banging my head against the table nor grinding my teeth while watching it, as sometimes has been the case during watching of the "terrible" episodes. I give it a 7 out of 10 (which in my history of TV program ratings, means quite decent).


Damascus. Mob with torches seeking Saul after he preaches Jesus in the synagogue. Barnabas finds him and has him lowered down in a basket over the wall to safety. 

Caiaphas, Reuben, and Leah discuss Saul’s conversion. Leah wants Saul shamed and killed. 

Caligula in Jerusalem. As new emperor, he seeks assurances of his subjects’ loyalty. He orders one to kill himself to prove it. Caligula wants his statue all over the empire, including in the Temple. He wants Pilate to make sure it happens. 

End of Segment One.

Saul and Barnabas return to Jerusalem and to the Temple. 

Pilate wants Agrippa to speak with Caligula to stop the statue from going up in the Temple. Agrippa doesn’t think it will work, but he gives a half-hearted word to try. Pilate and Claudia wonder how to stop a madman. 

Reuben and Leah come to Caiaphas to inform him that Saul has been sighted in Jerusalem. 

Barnabas goes to a house with a small fish symbol on the door. He tries to convince the apostles that Saul has changed and wants to speak with them. They are skeptical. Peter and Saul speak away from the others. Saul thinks that claiming to have been converted and to have been baptized should be sufficient for the others to accept him. The others do not accept. Peter wants to hear everything from Saul’s mouth.

End of Segment Two.

Peter remains skeptical. Peter wishes things were clear. Saul believes everything is quite clear. Saul wants to know how someone who has been with Jesus ought to be forgiving and accepting.

Caligula prepares to leave Jerusalem. 

Mary Magdalene comforts Tabitha. Tabitha had been assaulted by Caligula? 

Pilate informs Caiaphas of Caligula’s “gift” of a statue of himself for the Temple. Caiaphas is incensed. This problem isn’t Pilate’s. It is between Caligula and Caiaphas. The wives discuss separately among themselves. Leah suggests using Saul as a scapegoat for resistance against Caligula. Leah uses claims of Jesus as king and Messiah as a threat against Rome’s claims. Claudia is not convinced. 

End of Segment Three.

Saul and Peter continue their dialogue. Saul wants to know why they can’t practice what they preach, and simply accept him. Why can’t they forgive and accept? Saul asks, has Peter ever been forgiven of something awful? Peter realizes, but isn't ready to accept Saul. After all Peter has been Saul's personal vendetta, and has even threatened his daughter.

Temple guards search for Saul. 

Herod Antipas and Herodias are under house-arrest in Jerusalem. Mary Magdalene overhears their talk of a statue in the Temple. They discuss how they can retake power from Pilate and then get rid of Jesus followers. Mary is shocked and runs. She goes to Joanna. Joanna gives her some money to go to the apostles and offer help. Chuza walks in. He is not pleased. Tabitha, overhearing, wonders where Joanna learned to stand up to her husband. Joanna tells her that Jesus gives her the power.

The apostles discuss Mary’s news. They think this has to do with the abomination written in the prophecies of Daniel. When this happens, they think it will fulfill what is necessary for Jesus to return.

End of Segment Four.

Leah tries to convince Caiaphas to use Saul as a scapegoat. Leah wants Saul dead. Caiaphas isn’t certain. Caiaphas believes in the power of the Temple to make Saul return. Caiaphas will speak with Saul before pursuing any other action. Caiaphas thinks they have for too long used force to try to keep people in line. He thinks other measures may be more effective. Caiaphas recites the "love your neighbor" passage from Leviticus. Leah is annoyed. Rome has been using force and taking lives to maintain order. Jews have been among the casualties. She tells him to send Rome the scroll of Leviticus and see how well that goes. 

Peter discusses Saul with Barnabas. Peter still isn’t convinced. He thinks Saul is arrogant and conceited, and wonders why Jesus chose him. Peter wonders why Jesus chose Saul, and why Saul seems to be acting as a leader.

Cornelius discusses the statue with Pilate and Claudia. Cornelius offers dire estimates of casualties on all sides if the statue goes up. Cornelius and Pilate believes the Jews must be made to accept the statue. Claudia thinks the arrival of the statue should altogether be prevented. 

Peter comes to the other apostles with Saul, that they should accept him. Simon the Zealot leaves. Saul runs after him to try to convince him of his good will. Temple guards roam the streets looking for Saul. They find Saul and take him in. Barnabas observes.

End of Segment Five.

Saul is led into a dungeon cell. 

Simon enters a building where other conspirators and revolutionaries are known to frequent. He has information.

Claudia offers prayers to various deities for peace and security. Cornelius comes upon Claudia. She asks how he prepares to handle crisis and destruction. Claudia accuses men of easily destroying things. 

Simon is given a drugged drink. He is taken upstairs. He meets with Eva.. If he is willing to do what needs to be done, they will protect him. Levi enters to further discuss matters with Simon.

Saul is in a cell, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Caiaphas, disguised, watches.

End Episode Nine.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: Short Stories by Jesus

Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial RabbiShort Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Parables told by Jesus are meant to provoke. In this volume by Amy-Jill Levine, she seeks to reopen the readers' eyes to the provocation they contain.

Christian tradition has too often resorted to allegory (or worse) to read and interpret the parables. In that process the parables have been used to disparage and attack Judaism and Jews. They have been used to claim for Christianity purity and holiness that Judaism supposedly had lost and corrupted. They have been used to drive a wedge between Judaism and Christianity, to paint an us-vs-them picture of what following the God of the Bible means. Levine, writing as a Jew, brings a broad Jewish perspective and corrective to traditional Christian interpretations and suppositions.

On the other hand, perhaps modern Christians shouldn't be judged too harshly for perpetuating traditions. Levine writes that as early as the gospel writers recording the parables, and likely even earlier, the parables had already begun their "domestication" to try to tame their provocative natures and to support an exclusive Christian theology. What cannot be forgiven is that with the amount of scholarship and knowledge available to Christians today, that they continue to perpetuate traditions and interpretations that are questionable and may not have any basis in the original telling.

Levine goes through a selection of parables, one per chapter, first offering a translation of the text that adheres very literally to the Greek. She then addresses the traditional Christian interpretations, and offers critiques and counterpoints. She ends each chapter with a different, and based on her scholarship, what she would say is a more accurate reading and understanding of the parables.

The re-imagining and re-reading of the parables will definitely provoke thought, especially among those of us who grew up understanding the parables in another way, where parables were supposed to provide some kind of model answer to a problem or a picture of the kingdom of God. In Levine's interpretations, the parables are open-ended; they ask troubling questions, and the reader must come up with how to respond to them.

The final chapter is both a summary and an invitation for the reader to continue exploring the parables. She gives brief overviews of another handful of parables and suggests some directions that the reader might take in following the pattern she has provided in her book.

Don't read this book if you don't want your comfortable Christian hermeneutics disturbed. Read it if you are genuinely interested in discovering what the original hearers of the parables likely heard from Jesus.

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) – “The Road to Damascus” (8/12)

A.D. The Bible Continues


Three separate plotlines in Acts were dramatized in this episode. And this time the episode title does justice to what is actually in it. The plotline with the most development in this episode is Saul and his experience coming toward and in Damascus (Acts 9:3-20). The second plotline is the political machinations going on in Jerusalem amongst Pilate, Herod, Tiberius and Caligula. The third plotline, and the one that takes a backseat, except for some dramatic sensationalism is Peter, John, and Philip in Samaria with Simon and Magician (Acts 8:14-24).

The bad: the political intrigue storyline has little basis in history. The only part of the plot that remotely comes close to history is that Tiberius might have been murdered by Caligula, or someone under Caligula’s orders. Agrippa was a friend of Caligula, but was most likely in prison during the time the events described here occurred. (For a more authoritative account of Tiberius – see “Tiberius” at Ancient History Encyclopedia.) The rest is pure “fanciful imagination” (echoing Pilate’s character’s words in response to Claudia’s visions). I guess the producers somehow think that Christianity’s threat to Rome has to be developed in this way, by bringing the most important actors into close proximity with one another and with Jerusalem.

The so-so: Peter and John in Samaria as they handle Simon the Magician does follow the biblical text, more than less. The “less” part of following the biblical text is where the episode dramatizes the result of Peter’s condemnation of Simon attempting to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit. What transpires is very similar to what was depicted happening to Ananias and Sapphira when they came under judgment: bleeding from the eyes as they fell to their deaths. In this case though, apparently Peter’s pleading (which is also not in the biblical text, though Simon does request that the apostles plead for his case before the Lord) is heard by God and Simon gets to live. (Again, not in the biblical text – it doesn’t say that Simon suffered anything at all, nor any result if he did.)

The better: Saul’s conversion storyline stays fairly close to the text in Acts. There are extra scenes that attempt to “fill in” what might have been going on with Saul’s disciples that accompanied him, and with Reuben, the temple guard assigned by Caiaphas. I never could find very believable the premises given by this series for Saul’s hatred against the followers of Jesus, and especially Peter. It seemed like a very personal thing, which this episode seems to imply and brings out nearly explicitly: that Saul believed he should have been the specially chosen by God, rather than Jesus. Now the series can stop trying to sell Saul, the persecutor. It has to now sell Saul, the converted and messenger of the gospel.

Sorry, as has been often the case there is nothing in this episode that I would place into the “good” or “very good” categories.

Caiaphas was nearly absent in this episode. Cornelius was completely absent. As was Leah.

Tiberius is right: Pilate really needs to listen more often to and heed his wife’s advice.

Joanna and Chuza are introduced with this episode. Joanna (looking at IMDB) is slated to appear for the remainder of the series. Chuza for the next two. The series assumes viewers know about the mentions of Joanna in Luke 8:3 and 24:10.

For actually going back to the text of Acts and for keeping the main plotline true to the episode title, I give this episode a six of ten (6/10). The historical inventions are quite distracting, however, dragging down my opinions of the series and the episode.


Jerusalem. Temple. Caiaphas orders one of the temple guards to accompany Saul to Damascus to make sure he doesn’t return to Jerusalem before Tiberius leaves.

At Pilate’s residence. Caligula is sleeping after a drunken orgy. Tiberius and Pilate discuss how this is not appropriate behavior for a future emperor. Tiberius does not approve of Caligula’s fraternization with Agrippa. Agrippa is a poor influence on Caligula. Tiberius orders Pilate to wake Caligula and take all involved away before Claudia sees what has gone on. Just then Claudia walks in and is very displeased.

Saul begins his journey to Damascus and discusses taking an accelerated pace. The temple guard wants nothing to do with this; he turns back. A boy overhearing near the gate runs.

The apostles hear from Philip that he needs assistance in Samaria. The apostles are still hiding. Peter comes in with the boy to inform the rest that Saul has left Jerusalem. They are free to come out of hiding and go to Samaria.

Mary Magdalene is serving. Joanna, servant to Herodias, sees Mary. Joanna hasn’t heard yet about Jesus’ resurrection. Mary tells her.

The temple guard catches up to Saul. The guard has secured a horse for himself.

Tiberius asks Claudia what to do with Agrippa. She tells him that Pilate will deal with Agrippa. Tiberius notes how much Claudia works to promote her husband. Tiberius informs Claudia that he is thinking about giving Pilate a position in Rome. Claudia seems pleased, but then sees vultures circling outside the window.

Saul makes camp and spews hatred of Peter amongst his companions. He believes Peter is a snake-oil peddler, who tells people that they have a problem, that they killed a man sent by God, and he has a solution: to repent and to throw themselves into the river. Saul believes in his mission: to stamp out heresy and to prevent the fake cure from spreading. (The apostles leave Jerusalem under cover of night.)

End of segment one.

Pilate comes to where Caligula and Agrippa are resting. But he seems powerless to do anything. He accuses them of meeting the Jewish idea that Romans are degenerate.

Saul continues his travel. The horse balks and throws off its rider. The temple guard must lead the horse on foot.

Pilate is annoyed for not following through on taking Caligula’s life. Claudia asks how long he would survive if he had done that. All he needs to do is keep Caligula and Agrippa separate and their future in Rome will be secure.

Peter and John arrive to see Philip baptizing.

Return to Mary and Joanna. Chuza, Joanna’s husband, enters unexpectedly. He is suspicious of Mary. As they walk, they encounter Agrippa and Caligula. Agrippa tries to take Joanna. Herodias walks by, just in time.

Saul continues to walk on, The guard follows. He wants to know why Saul is so obsessed. Saul can’t accept that God would choose a man from a fishing village to be a Messiah. He can’t understand why God wont’ choose someone articulate, knowledgeable, cosmopolitan, like… Saul doesn’t say, but he clearly thinks it should be someone like him.

A darkness comes over Saul, and a light shines upon him. Jesus appears to Saul in a vision. Saul can’t accept that this is happening. He asks, demands, what Jesus wants. Jesus only tells Saul that he is to continue to Damascus and he will be told what to do once he gets there. Saul is blind.

End of segment two.

Damascus. Saul remains blind. Saul’s disciples discuss how they must continue the mission of rounding up Peter and other followers of Jesus. Barnabas overhears and quickly walks away.

Samaria. Simon the Magician tells his story, of how he was a trickster who started to believe in his own tricks, and then Philip came along. He’s been baptized and wants to work together to spread the gospel and the power of Jesus. A large crowd has gathered because they’ve heard about the miracles in Jerusalem and they want to experience it also.

Barnabas goes to Ananias’ home, where his wife is in labor. Barnabas says he must leave Damascus now, because Saul is here. Ananias challenges Barnabas. If Jesus is so powerful, why does he cower at the first sign of danger? Ananias talks Barnabas into staying, to trust in Jesus.

Samaria. Peter performs miraculous works in Jesus’ name.

Tiberius gives a letter to Pilate that will secure him a job in Rome. Tiberius tells Pilate that Claudia has much wisdom, that he should listen more to her words. Caligula and Agrippa enter and accuse Pilate of machinations that seek to separate the two. Caligula threatens Pilate of making a grave mistake, and insinuates that Tiberius will not always be around to protect him.

Damascus. Saul is wandering about in his blindness.

Tiberius leaves Jerusalem. Caligula hurls accusations and threats against Pilate.

End of segment three.

Samaria. Peter, John, and Philip. Simon gives them a bag of coins. All he wants in return is a bit of the Holy Spirit, to be able to do the miracles that they are able to do. Peter accuses Simon of trying to buy God’s power. Dark clouds form. Peter gets angry and throws the coins at Simon. Simon begins to bleed from his eyes (a lot like what happened to Ananias and Sapphira). Simon claims he repents. Peter begs God for mercy to be shown Simon. The clouds break, but Simon is spared.

Joanna is praying to Jesus. Agrippa overhears, begins to enter, listens and then leaves.

Joanna is having nightmares of vultures. She has a vision of Caligula appearing to be in a position to assassinate Tiberius.

A light shines onto Ananias (in Damascus). He sees a vision of Jesus, directing him to Saul. Ananias protests, but Jesus assures him that Saul is his chosen vessel. Saul seems to have a nightmare of sorts, unwraps the cloth around his eyes and calls out a name: Ananias.

End of segment four.

Ananias comes to the house where Saul is staying. Ananias goes to Saul. He is able to see.

Herod, Herodias, and Agrippa walking. They enter a room, then moments later Joanna and Chuza enter. Herod asks if Joanna is a follower of Jesus. Chuza claims that Joanna is mad. Herod asks Joanna if she is mad. Joanna replies that she was once cured of demons. This response satisfies Herod, who lets them go with a charge to Chuza to control his wife and that no further speaking to Jesus should occur in his house. Agrippa is angry that there were no more repercussions.

Damascus. Saul’s disciples ask what happened. Saul states that he saw Jesus, the Son of God, and that Jesus is here. Saul admits that what he has been doing has been wrong. Saul will go to the river to be baptized. He implores the others to accept Jesus and be baptized.

Caligula suffocates Tiberius in his sleep. Claudia has a nightmare where she sees this. Pilate wakes and asks. Claudia tells him, but he doesn’t believe it. He thinks it is just fanciful imaginations.

End of segment five.

The temple guard begins his return to Jerusalem, echoes of Saul’s words before and after in his mind.

Saul is at the river with Ananias and Barnabas. Barnabas wonders how Saul could hope to be saved when he has the blood of Jesus’ followers on his hands. Saul doesn’t excuse his actions. He just asks for forgiveness. Ananias calls on Barnabas to stop from leaving. How could they deny someone’s request to accept Jesus and be baptized, even if the person is Saul? Saul is baptized. Barnabas seems ready to  accept Saul.

The temple guard, Reuben, returns to Caiaphas with the nightmare that Saul is now a follower of Jesus.

Saul heads straight to the synagogue where he begins to preach Jesus.

Pilate is preparing to leave Judea. He has nominated Antipas as his successor. Claudia warns that things could change. As they enter the official room, they are startled to see Caligula. He informs those present that Tiberius is dead. Caligula is the new emperor.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) – “The Visit” (7/12)


I’m not quite sure what story this series is trying to tell. Is it the story of the first generation of the followers of the resurrected Jesus? Or is it the story of the political intrigues in Jerusalem and Judea in the middle part of the first century A.D.?

For this episode, the producers and writers appear to have magically (pun intended – see next paragraph) invented an event that (at least in my searches) cannot be located in history – a visit by Roman Emperor Tiberius to Jerusalem at the time of Pontius Pilate. As the title of the episode indicates, this fictional event is the main plot. Although the title of the series would cause a person to expect the biblical sources to be predominate, it is rather the invented plots about the political intrigue that are primary to this series.

The part of the Bible this episode sort-of covers is Acts 8:4-13, the story of Philip and Simon the Magician in Samaria. Very little program time is actually found narrating the story. It feels almost as if the producers keep these stories in the program to pay token lip-service to the idea that they are (still) telling the story of the Bible. In the overall “A” plot of this episode, I found this story of Philip and Simon to be more of a distraction and really don’t see how it contributed in any way to the plot. The “Christian” characters come off as flat and undeveloped.

One of the issues I find with the depiction of Saul in the series vs. what is found in the Bible is that in this series, Saul is very aware of Peter and in fact, Saul’s main objective is to destroy Peter. In the biblical text, there is nothing to indicate that Saul was so obsessed with the apostles. In fact the very text covered by this episode could be read in a way that shows the apostles being kept above the general harassment that the other Christians were experiencing.

Claudia (Pilate’s wife) is the voice of reason. She is present at key hearings and discourses, and she is the one who Tiberius confides in.

We are given an introduction to Caligula, the future emperor. He is shown as a narcissistic, unbalanced person, and he is brother to Herodias, wife of Antipas.

It’s becoming increasingly plain that this series is not about the Bible. I wish the producers would just rid themselves of pretending that it is. At least then I wouldn’t be shackled with the idea that it needs to retain some faithfulness to the biblical source and history. It would be easier to enter the world of its invented history and plot.

Its need to retain a tie to the Bible drags it down. I rate this episode 4 out of 10.


Jerusalem. Saul goes house to house trying to eradicate Christians. Apostles are gathered in a room, holding Communion. Philip believes he is being called by the Spirit to go to Samaria. The others aren’t so sure. Saul enters the building where they are hiding. He searches, but do not locate them. Mary Magdalene sneaks past Saul’s carnage and returns to the apostles. Philip leaves for Samaria.

As Philip leaves Jerusalem, he observes a Roman legion approaching Jerusalem. Pilate informs Caiaphas that the Emperor is coming. He warns Caiaphas that all must appear in order during the Emperor’s visit. Pilate demands rounding up of Christians to cease and for funds to help pay for the visit. Caiaphas can do something about the former. The latter will have to come from a private source.. Leah is annoyed that Caiaphas agrees to Pilate’s terms to support an emperor that has driven out Jews from Rome.
Philip approaches a small band of people appearing to be in trouble. They turn out to be bandits who beat him and strip away a medallion around his neck. The leave.
End segment one.
Caiaphas calls Annas in. In return for reconciliation, Caiaphas demands Annas pay 60,000 to him which will be used to support the Roman demands.
Mary Magdalene suggests she go to work for the Romans during the emperor’s visit. She will be able to secure food by working in the kitchen.
Philip is rescued by a man named Yitzhak. Together they reach Samaria where they encounter Simon the magician who performs dramatic acts. Yitzhak happens to be Simon’s assistant.
Saul is torturing Christians in their holding cells. A temple guard arrives and orders Saul to stop, under orders of Caiaphas. Saul protests that he is doing God’s work. The guard tells him that he cannot do this in Jerusalem, at least while the emperor is there.
Back to Simon. Simon calls Philip up to stage. Simon knows that Philip lost something valuable, a pendant. Simon produces the pendant and Philip finds it around his neck. Philip is not convinced. He accuses Simon of trickery, not God’s work.
Saul comes looking for Peter in Galilee. His daughter, Maya,  is there. She tells him that Peter is not there. Saul warns her that he will find Peter, no matter where he goes.
End segment two.
The emperor arrives in Jerusalem. Cornelius is in charge of crowd control duty. Tiberius is emperor. Caligula, his nephew accompanies.
Maya comes to Jerusalem to warn Peter.
Tiberius is not here for goodwill. Claudia warns Pilate that Tiberius has come to remove him, and that they must cultivate good relationships with Tiberius’ successor, no matter how distasteful.
Simon attempts to cure a boy’s mother. Simon is unable. Philip calls out that he can help. Simon allows Philip to try. The crowd looks on. [Dramatic sky scene as clouds move and light shines down.] Philip prays for healing in Jesus’ name. [More dramatic sky scene.] The mother is healed. The crowd cheer. Simon and Yitzhak look upon Peter with contempt.
End segment three.
Pilate’s court. Mary Magdalene is serving the guests. Caligula grabs her and tells her that she is good enough to satisfy a future emperor.
Tiberius discusses how to control Judea and the Jews. He believes force and a strong hand are the only means. Claudia interjects that tact and diplomacy are what works better, and that Pilate has such qualities. Cornelius recognizes Mary as someone he has seen before.
Philip baptizes new believers in Samaria. Simon, too, is baptized. Yitzhak looks on with a look of annoyance.
Tiberius speaks with Claudia.
The apostles confront Saul in the nighttime streets of Jerusalem. Peter challenges Saul with words. Peter lets Saul go. The others question Peter’s actions. Peter states that they are not men of violence.
End segment four.
Simon is still in the waters. Yitzhak comes to see him. Simon exits the water, asks for Yitzhak’s knife and uses it to  makes a cut in the hand of Yitzhak,  who is taken aback in pain by the action. Simon assures Yitzhak that it will be all right, because he has been baptized. Simon tries to heal the wound but is unsuccessful and wonders why he doesn’t have the same powers as Philip.
Antipas, Herodias (Caligula’s sister), Pilate, Tiberius, Caligula – they are all in one place. Cornelius sees Mary again. He questions why she is there. She just needed a job. He asks her why she shouldn’t be arrested then and there. She responds with how she was taught to love her enemies. Cornelius lets her go with a warning to not approach Pilate again.
In the inner chamber Pilate attempts to defend his actions. Pilate calls in Caiaphas. Caiaphas relates how much his relationship with Pilate has benefited the governance of Judea. Tiberius dismisses Caiaphas and Pilate. Pilate’s future is in Tiberius’ hands.
End segment five.
Saul resumes rounding up Christians in search of Peter.
Leah is angry that Caiaphas has pleaded Pilate’s cause. She is angry that he didn’t support the one who will win the power struggle. A temple guard comes to Caiaphas informing him that Saul has resumed rounding up Christians. Saul’s band and his prisoners  encounter Caligula. Caligula asks what is happening and upon finding out that Saul is rounding up heretics, Caligula is amused and begins to chase after the prisoners. One of them attacks Caligula, not knowing who he is. Caligula is not amused and strangles him to death.
Tiberius and Claudia speak again. Tiberius relates a dream he had. Claudia speaks of dreams she has had.
Pilate is afraid. Claudia tries to reassure him that things will work out.
Saul enters the temple courtyard. He is summoned by a guard to follow him to the cells. One of the prisoners tells him that Peter has left Jerusalem for Damascus. Saul leaves. A pouch of coins is thrown by the guard to the prisoner along with an order to let the man go. Caiaphas reveals himself from the shadows. It was all a ruse to get Saul out of Jerusalem.
End episode seven.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What I learned about ministry from Mormon missionaries

ln1 (2)In my town of Petersburg, Alaska, this weekend is host to the largest annual festival and street party – Syttende Mai, or the 17th of May – celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day. The town was founded by Norwegian fishermen in the late 19th century. It is known colloquially here as MayFest or Little Norway Festival. It is a weekend of parades, pageants, street vendors, parties, food, and drinking – lots of it and very visible. There are two beer gardens serving beer and wine from noon into the evening, after which the party moves indoors into the bars.

When someone mentions “Mormon missionaries” the first thing that comes to most (all?) people’s minds is young men in white shirts, black slacks, and black ties, name badge affixed, going door-to-door to proselytize into their church. (Yes, there are women too, but their appearance isn’t quite as stereotypical.)

Our town is part of the mission route for many of these young Mormons. They stay anywhere from a couple of months to a year or two before moving on. They do more than just go door-to-door. They volunteer in our medical center, help with food collections and distributions, and provide help to any number of community events. I’ve seen them doing all this.

But what struck me this weekend is that I saw the current missionaries in town not dressed in their “missionary attire” but in work clothes. And they were at one of the beer gardens. Collecting trash and cleaning after the revelers. And they were out on Main Street, after the parade and herring toss, collecting the abundant trash left behind. Yes, they were still wearing their name badges, but they aren’t nearly as visible when not against a white shirt.

They weren’t there to proselytize. They weren’t there to gain an audience. They were just there to be part of the community – to be and do something positive in the community so everyone else could enjoy themselves.

ln1 (1)Setting aside the question of whether Mormons are Christians or not, where are the other churches? Are Christians only “doing ministry” when an activity is explicitly spiritual or leads to someone coming to a church? Is simple engagement in community improvement and betterment not “real ministry”? Is helping to maintain cleanliness at a drinking event “promoting sin” or at least excusing questionable behavior, and “not ministry”?

I wonder what Jesus and his disciples would be doing, if they were at MayFest.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) – “The Persecution” (6/12)

A.D. The Bible Continues


If you were the producer of this series, how would you take the following three verses (Acts 8:1-3) and expand it into a full episode?

Acts 8:1 Saul was in full agreement with Stephen’s murder.

At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment. Everyone except the apostles was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some pious men buried Stephen and deeply grieved over him. 3 Saul began to wreak havoc against the church. Entering one house after another, he would drag off both men and women and throw them into prison. (CEB)

A bit difficult? I’d think so. But the producers of this series had no difficulty because they’ve set up plenty of political conflicts and intrigues that to advance these side plots (having nothing to do with the text of Acts) can take up a lot of time.

The episode ends with Saul receiving the letter from the high priest authorizing him to do whatever is necessary. This, I assume, is a reference to Acts 9:1-2. In the text of Acts, this letter is actually to the synagogues in Damascus. Saul had already been persecuting in the region of Judea without any need for a letter. In the program, he engages in full-blown persecution in Jerusalem and against the “camp” only after he receives the letter.

Looking at the preview for next week, it looks like the series will be returning to the remainder of Acts chapter 8 and the stories involving Philip.

The women are nearly invisible in this episode. Mary Magdalene makes a brief appearance to tell Peter to start leading. Leah is present but she has no significant words to say or actions to take. At best she seems to be relegated to a messenger status in this episode. Claudia appears only briefly and her words seem to make little difference in the actions of those around her.

The central element driving this episode is an attempted coup against Caiaphas, led by his own father-in-law. There is certainly historical basis for Annas acting as kingmaker (or high-priest maker, in this instance). The problem is that everything else in this episode acts as supporting cast to this primary plotline.

The B-plot is Saul. Saul made a brief appearance in the previous episode at the stoning of Stephen. In the current episode viewers are given much more of what he is like and what motivates him. About the only thing taken from the Bible in this episode is about Saul. But even here a huge amount of material is fabricated. Could they have happened? Perhaps. But in my opinion, unlikely. This plotline, too, exists to support the Caiaphas plotline.

Halfway through the series, what started out as potentially promising, at least to my mind has entered the gutter. The way in which it treats the text of the Bible and fills it in with imagined narratives harkens back to the original The Bible series; i.e., pretty much bad to terrible in its execution of the material. As with the original series, this series increasingly is focusing on creating drama and tension unnecessarily, and by doing so ignores what is implied by the title of the series: that it is something about what is in the Bible.

I give this episode 3 out of 10.


Upper Room, a few apostles with Stephen’s body, preparing it for burial. Procession through Jerusalem. Stephen’s mother accuses Peter’s politics of causing her son’s death. “Where is this Messiah now?” she asks. Other apostles wonder why Peter doesn’t ask God for Stephen to be raised back to life. Stephen is buried.
Saul of Tarsus comes to the Christian “camp. He warns them to stop blaspheming by their preaching of Jesus. The apostles ask Saul to explain to them what is so wrong with their proclamation. Saul claims Jesus is a false prophet. He claims the Sanhedrin has declared it and is supported by the Old Testament prophets.
End segment 1
Jerusalem. Annas walking, speaking with his son Jonathan (Leah’s brother). Annas is not happy with how Caiaphas has been handling the politics with Rome and wants Jonathan to challenge him.
Leah and Caiaphas discussing a dinner party for Purim in which all her relatives will be present. Herod Antipas and Herodias have invited themselves to the dinner. Herod and Herodias approach Jerusalem on horseback and see the Christian camp. They wonder why anyone would leave all they knew and had to live apart in a camp.
Dinner. Discussion of recent events. Annas introduces the subject. Jonathan interjects. Caiaphas defends his actions. Herod is concerned. Discontent and anger is continuing to grow. Herod mentions the Christian camp. They wonder when it will stop. Caiaphas is annoyed. He asks what they want done. Caiaphas wonders aloud if they want him to slaughter the Christians in their tents. There is no objection. Annas suggests that what the Jews need is a strong high priest who will lead. Jonathan adds that the high priest should be in command and not led by the whims of the Roman governor. The tide is turning against Caiaphas. Herod doesn’t care for either Caiaphas or Jonathan, but he will have to back one of them.
Back at the Christian camp. Saul tries to convince the Christians to turn away from Jesus by giving examples of false prophets who led the people to ruin. Peter arrives and confronts Saul. Peter claims that the only way to the Father is through Jesus (John 14). Saul’s language confounds the crowd. Peter asks Saul to explain himself in simple terms. The simple explanation is this: that anyone who oppose the Temple will be destroyed by it.
Annas, Jonathan, and Joseph discuss a change in the high priest. Joseph isn’t sure he could get the Sanhedrin behind the family of Annas after what Caiaphas (Annas’ son-in-law) has done. After much persuasion Joseph appears reluctantly convinced.
Saul argues from Deuteronomy that a Messiah couldn’t be crucified and cursed. Peter counters that Jesus was resurrected. Saul doesn’t believe Jesus could have been resurrected. Saul argues that Jerusalem rejected Jesus. Peter counters this was in fulfillment of Isaiah. One of the Christians gets angry to the point where he threatens Saul. Saul backs off noting that reason isn’t going to persuade the Christians. He promises that he will be back.
End of segment 2
Saul and Gamaliel at the Temple. Saul asks why the Christians want to destroy the Temple and Jerusalem. Gamaliel tells Saul to stop concerning himself with the Christians but to seek to understand better the scriptures. Saul doesn’t understand why the Christians would want to replace the old ways with a new way. He has to stop them.
Jonathan and Annas are seen leaving an audience with Herod. Caiaphas sees. He enters to have an audience with Herod. Herod wants to know what Caiaphas is going to do with the Christians. Caiaphas thinks the Christians will soon tire and go away. Herod suggests that the Christian movement will turn into a revolt, and then a Roman response. Herod wants Caiaphas to do something, and as long as he deals with the Christians, Herod’s support is with Caiaphas if the news of the attempt to overthrow him reaches Pilate.
Leah speaks with Joseph in passing. She tells him that she knows he is part of a conspiracy to remove Caiaphas, but that they won’t succeed. She threatens Joseph. He tells her that the tide is turning and if she doesn’t see it, she will drown in it.
Saul attempts to seek an audience with Caiaphas. He is rebuffed, but encounters Leah. Leah takes Saul to see Caiaphas. Saul wants authority to act on Caiaphas’ behalf to remove the Christians permanently from existence and memory. The Christians offend Saul. They are against everything that Judaism stands for: the Temple, the institutions, the order and way of life. The Christians, who themselves are supposed to be Jews,  are against what it means to be Jewish.
End of segment 3
Back at the Christian camp. Peter is building a brick structure. Speaks with Mary Magdalene. She tells him to stop bottling up his emotions and grief about Stephen. Be like the women who openly grieve.
Saul wants authority and some guards to do what it takes to destroy the Christians’ popularity. He believes this is their strength. Caiaphas tells Saul to recruit his own men and Caiaphas will pay for it.
Peter talks to the people about the stone on which Christ’s church will be built. Jesus is the foundation. The people are the church. He exhorts the people to set aside fear of persecution and return to Jerusalem to preach. They go to Jerusalem and preach that the true message of truth must be reclaimed from the priestly families and their Roman masters.
Saul marches on. Under the authority of the high priest, he confronts the apostles. He doesn’t take them, but arrests all who are listening for participating in blasphemy. Saul’s intent is to instill fear into people for associating with the apostles. Saul speaks with Gamaliel. Saul reports his actions and states that the problem has been solved by isolating the apostles and turning the supporters against them. Gamaliel observes that Saul has created a new problem. They look and see crowds heading out of Jerusalem to listen to the apostles. Peter seems pleased, but John and Mary are concerned. They think the hammer of the Temple will come down hard and soon.
Annas comes to Caiaphas and informs him that his attempt to solve the Christian problem has failed. Annas asks Caiaphas to step down. Caiaphas will not. He relates all the problems Annas created during his tenure as high priest. Caiaphas will have Pilate make the determination as to who should be high priest.
End segment 4.
At Pilate’s court, Caiaphas, Jonathan, and Annas wait for his decision. Pilate walks with Claudia. Claudia suggests backing Caiaphas. Pilate wonders if her reason is her “friendship” with Leah.
Pilate enters and takes out a small statuette from a box. It is Minerva, goddess of wisdom. He offers a prayer to Minerva asking for wisdom. But receives no response. Pilate confronts Caiaphas with a number of rumors about improprieties and possible treachery. Caiaphas denies all of it. Pilate will not waste time trying to figure out truth from fiction. He will have Tiberius – a coin – make the decision. The coin is flipped. Jonathan is condemned for his treachery. Pilate’s expectation of the office of the high priest – to follow orders and maintain order – not to be liked. Pilate flips another coin – heads mean Caiaphas stays as high priest. Pilate lets the coin fall to the floor and asks Caiaphas to get it. Caiaphas picks it up and says, “Head.” He stays. The other two are dismissed. Caiaphas observes the coin: it is heads on both sides.
Leah comes to Joseph. He is ordered removed from the Sanhedrin and ordered to leave Jerusalem, or face charges of treason. He observes that all this began with her scheming against Jesus, and that this will eventually come back to bite her.
Saul comes to Caiaphas. Reasoning has failed. Trying to turn supporters against the apostles has failed. Caiaphas seals a letter with wax. It authorizes Saul with the full backing of the high priest to rid the world of the followers of Jesus. “Do whatever is necessary… Whatever is necessary.”
End segment 5
Saul speaks to a group of men. He tells them that the Christians are trying to bring down the Temple. They disregard the Sanhedrin’s proclamations against them. The group has had enough. Saul unveils a cache of weapons. He whips them into a frenzy. They will make the Christians leave or be killed. The mob enters buildings and homes where Christians are known to reside. They are beaten and taken away. As this is going on, Cornelius appears and observes.
Saul and mob exit Jerusalem and approach the camp. Peter orders everyone to take what they can and flee. A few key apostles will remain and return to Jerusalem. Saul orders everything destroyed. Peter is still in camp as the flames go up all around him. Peter leads Saul toward the edge of camp where flammable oils have been poured. Peter crosses over and then lights a wall of flames blocking Saul’s pursuit.
End episode 6

Sunday, May 03, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues (TV / NBC) – “The First Martyr” (5/12)


Here’s what I’ve really learned from the series: Caiaphas loves to take baths. (He has been portrayed more than a few times enjoying his baths and scolding people for interrupting him.)

I’m quite perplexed with this episode and not entirely sure what to make of it. It covers the portion of Acts from 5:12-8:1a. But what is found in this program can at best be said to be “inspired by some of the accounts found in the texts.” There is very little in congruence between the program and the text of Acts.

I think there were two martyrs in this program. The obvious one is Stephen, but perhaps Boaz was the real “first” martyr. The community of Zealots would certainly see him as one, but was he converted to the way of Jesus that compelled him to surrender and accept his fate? If so, then at least as far as this program is concerned, Boaz may have been the first “Christian” martyr. It is an interesting addition that the producers have made.

It is an entertaining and engaging episode, but due to its vast departure from the text of Acts and its predominant focus on the (non-scriptural) religio-political conflicts, I give this episode a rating of 5 out of 10.

What Did It Get Right?

The reason for Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths (previous episode) are finally given as “lying to the Holy Spirit” at the beginning of this one.

The arrest and the miraculous release of the apostles, their subsequent preaching in the Temple, their second arrest, Gamaliel’s counsel, and their flogging. (Acts 5:17-41)

Stephen asking forgiveness for his killers. (Acts 7:59-60)

That’s pretty much it for this episode.


The many problems with what is in this series and episode vs. what is found in Acts… Where shall I begin? (I choose to completely ignore the narrative sequence differences.)

The whole “Camp Christian” thing is fiction, and not even a good one at that. As I note in the first paragraph under Synopsis, it seemed like in the early episodes both the Jewish authorities and the Romans wanted to get rid of anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus. But somehow the apostles get to set up camp within what appears to be a short walking distance away from Jerusalem, they will take in anyone, and the authorities don’t seem to care or suspect anything. They didn’t have modern surveillance but surely their intelligence wouldn’t have failed them this badly.

The text of Acts really cannot be read any other way than to read it as having the apostles and all the believers in Jerusalem, daily worshiping at the Temple.

Second, the whole appointing of “deacons” veers far from the text of Acts. There is apparently no internal conflict within the Christian community. Rather it is merely that the camp is getting so large that Peter needs more help in managing it. So he asks Stephen and Philip to manage the camp. But Stephen protests. He is far too educated and knowledgeable to be a camp manager. The biblical text state no such thing. (Tradition was that deacons were there to “serve tables” but some of the more recent scholarship suggests that the most proper understanding was that they were to manage the distribution of the common funds and property.) Also, where were the other five? Stephen is important because he’s needed to die at the end of this episode. And Philip probably returns in a near episode.

In the text of Acts it is said of Stephen: “Stephen, who stood out among the believers for the way God’s grace was at work in his life and for his exceptional endowment with divine power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8 CEB) But in this program Stephen is portrayed as rebellious and impetuous, something almost diametrically opposed to the biblical text. The reason for his martyrdom in Acts is that he is falsely accused and brought before the Sanhedrin. In the program he impetuously goes to the Sanhedrin to accuse them of their errors.

I understand why an action TV program cannot have its entire time taken up by a sermon, but the most important sermon in Acts is shortened to just a few sentences. At least what was kept was a fairly decent paraphrase (Acts 7:51-53) of what finally made the authorities turn against Stephen.

Completely absent from the program is Stephen proclaiming his vision of Jesus in heaven, sitting next to God.

The real travesty of this episode is that it covers a huge amount of biblical ground, but the actual time spent by the program dramatizing the biblical text is a very small portion. A far greater portion is found dramatizing the (non-scripturally based) conflicts involving Pilate, Caiaphas, and the search, surrender, and death of Boaz.

Even as a somewhat liberal, and very progressive Christian, I find the definition of the gospel that is implied and communicated in this series to be rather bland, flat, and uninspiring. I appreciate the theme of non-violence and non-judgment, yet I haven't really seen anything so far that is truly worth following or dying for in what the Jesus followers have shown. Perhaps the problem lies somewhere in two things Peter says in this episode. 1) Christianity is all about love for all people and forgiveness. 2) But he cannot defend it because it’s something he “just knows.” It cannot be clarified or explained. As much as it pains me, a progressive Christian, I have to say that the kind of non-violence, non-judgment, and love that is being preached in this series, I would be hard pressed to find it worth dying for, let alone live for.


Politics. This episode was pretty much about the conflict between the Romans and the Jews. It does get resolved, to a degree, with the surrender and death of Boaz. But new tension opens up between Claudia and Leah when Leah has the guts to accuse Claudia of being part of “the problem.”

Conscience and compassion. Pilate is turning into a genuine jerk. He cares for no one (including himself). His only care is to do what he thinks Rome wants. On the other hand, Cornelius continues to follow orders and perform actions that he believes are loyal to Rome, but his conscience is having trouble reconciling his actions with what is right.

Non-violence, non-judgment, forgiveness and love. Peter and the apostles will accept whatever is done to them as God’s will. Whether they suffer death or their camp is destroyed, if it happens, it must be God’s will. He won’t turn in Boaz, even to save the camp! On the other hand, I find this unquestioning acceptance rather unbelievable and problematic. And what does it say about God?


Begins at the Christian “Camp” (the land donated by Barnabas in previous episode). People are afraid of Peter because of Ananias and Sapphira. (So this really begs the question: why don’t the Jewish and Roman authorities come here to just round them all up and shut it down? Isn’t that what they want?) Mother Mary comforts Peter and tells him that Jesus came to free people from hopelessness and despair, the very thing that is confronting the Jews of Jerusalem daily with the Roman noose (or spike and hammer) literally around them.

Jerusalem. Cornelius comes to Pilate and reports that Boaz has not yet been found. Pilate is not happy. He notes that there will be a wedding taking place this day and orders Cornelius to take ten women to serve “justice” by crucifying them. Claudia looks askance; Cornelius hesitates a moment but leaves to carry out the order. Claudia asks Pilate if he has any compassion. He has none. He does only what he would do to insubordinate soldiers under his command.
Caiaphas is floating on his back in his bath… (Uh, what…?)
Peter explains that Ananias and Sapphria’s deaths were punishments from God for lying to the Holy Spirit. The fear is paralyzing the Christians. Peter is asked what they should do. Peter tells them that the camp can offer Jews freedom from fear, that they could share what they have with any who come. To do any less would be to be the same as Ananias and Sapphira. The apostles make a return to Jerusalem. Back at the camp, Maya (Peter’s daughter) is introduced to Tamar, a young girl who has lost everything.
Back to Caiaphas in the bath. Leah comes to tell him that the assassin’s name is Boaz. Boaz’s fiancée has been found. She could lead them to Boaz. Cut back to camp. Boaz is there. Leah approaches Eva (Boaz’s fiancée) to ask her to give up Boaz, for the sake of Jerusalem and her people. Eva refuses.
Peter and company return to the house they had occupied earlier. When they enter there is a group within. The leader is Philip. They need help. Some do not share belief in Jesus. Philip had been baptized by James. They will be taken to the camp.
Cornelius enters the location of the Jewish wedding, but no one is there. He returns and accuses Claudia of tipping them off. He states that Roman soldiers cannot afford to think and have a conscience. They simply carry out orders, or else Rome will fall. Claudia declares how convenient that he can use this as an excuse to absolve himself of any responsibility. He reveals that the ten were taken from the marketplace. He asks, were they any deserving of death than those at the wedding?
Caiaphas hears the horns sounding the crucifixions. Leah tells him that Eva was holding something back.
(That was a very packed first segment.)
Back at the camp, Peter asks Stephen and Philip to look after the camp. Stephen objects – he is educated and well-versed in scripture and languages. Looking after the camp is not in his job description. He believes he was meant to preach. Stephen starts to move off but Peter thinks of something that will put Stephen’s skills to good use.
Eva comes to see Leah. The only thing she knows is that Boaz went some place where his sins could be forgiven. Caiaphas is listening behind a screen. Eva is led to a room where she will be kept until Caiaphas returns with Boaz. Caiaphas rides out to the Christian camp where he speaks with Peter. (Peter has Stephen translating scripture.) Caiaphas asks for Boaz. Peter does not know (or chooses to not know) if Boaz is in the camp. Peter goes to see Boaz. Peter won’t give up Boaz because only God can decide a man’s fate. The foundation of this community is love for all people. All Peter can do is to forgive Boaz, even if it means Romans come to destroy the camp. If that happens then it is God’s will and so be it. Boaz sits to think.
Boaz returns to Jerusalem and gives himself up to Caiaphas.
(End segment 2)
Caiaphas wonders why Boaz would give himself up. Leah comes to Eva to tell her that Boaz surrendered.
Maya and Mary Magdalene converse. They talk about Tamar.
Claudia and Leah talk. Boaz has been found so things can return to “normal.” Leah questions what this “normal” is. For Claudia it is the return to a balance of powers. Leah asks if this is how things should be. Leah accuses Rome of tyranny, of draining resources from Judea, and committing mass murder. Leah wants to know if “normal” means returning to being the “grateful subject”of Rome. Leah tells Claudia she cannot understand because she is Rome. Leah accuses Claudia of being the problem. Claudia slaps Leah. Claudia’s action has proven Leah’s accusation.
Boaz is brought to Pilate. Pilate orders Boaz to show, on him, where Marcus was struck. Boaz slowly approaches, shows the slit to the throat. Pilate takes a small dagger and stabs Boaz. Boaz will die very slowly over many days. Pilate twists the dagger into Boaz. Bleeding, he is taken away. Boaz is tortured in public. A man (Levi) with an arrow takes the life of Boaz to end the torture.
(End segment 3)
Pilate is upset that Boaz was killed. He is angry with Cornelius for allowing this to happen. Pilate accuses Cornelius of sympathizing with the Jews.
Caiaphas and Peter encounter one another at the body of Boaz. Peter begins to sing a psalm; Caiaphas joins in. Peter preaches forgiveness and love for all. He continues to speak of Jesus and the establishment of a new kingdom. Caiaphas orders Peter taken. Stephen is allowed to go tell the others and the guards will be waiting. The apostles return to Jerusalem. The temple guards are waiting and arrest all of them. John thinks something bad is about to happen. Peter believes something wonderful will happen.
Eva speaks with the leader of the Zealots (Levi, the one who shot Boaz). She knows Boaz must be replaced and offers to take his place. She wants to be taught how to kill.
It is during the night, in the temple prison. Locks are miraculously broken. The cell doors are opened. An angel stands in the doorway leading out.
(End segment 4)
The apostles appear in the temple courtyard where they preach about turning away from hate and violence. They preach the message of Jesus, which is hope and love for all peoples. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Temple guards arrive and take the apostles away, once more. They are brought before the gathered Sanhedrin. Caiaphas asks how they escaped. The apostles remain silent. They are accused of preaching under the name of a false prophet and of conspiring to to lead souls astray. Caiaphas demands an answer.
Peter finally responds. They cannot defend what they believe; they simply know it is true. Truth cannot be defended or clarified – it simply is. “What is the truth” asks Caiaphas. Peter responds, “That God raised Jesus from the dead, to sit at his right hand as Prince and Savior. And it was his Spirit that freed us from your chains.” They have condemned themselves. Caiaphas orders them to be stoned to death. Gamaliel steps up to interrupt Caiaphas and the proceedings. He counsels that the apostles be left alone. If there is nothing to what they say, the movement will fade away in time. But if there is something to the movement, Gamaliel warns that by trying to destroy them, they will be in opposition to God. The Sanhedrin is in uproar. Caiaphas raises his hands to calm them. Stoning will be commuted, but they will be publicly flogged.
Flogging of the apostles as Caiaphas recites from scripture about law, obedience, and judgment.
(End segment 5)
Back at camp Peter’s wounds are washed by Maya. Stephen looks on but he cannot accept this kind of treatment. Maya asks if they should go home to Galilee. She wants to go home. The camp doesn’t need Peter’s presence to continue running. But Maya knows Peter won’t leave. Maya is leaving to return home to Galilee. She will take Tamar with her, to Galilee, where they can be safe.
Stephen returns to Jerusalem. He goes to the temple. The Sanhedrin is meeting. Stephen interrupts the council and accuses them of being like their rebellious ancestors. Stephen is taken away, dragged outside of the city and stoned. Saul looks on. Stephen: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Do not hold this sin against them.” Saul hands another a final stone to finish off Stephen. He goes to make sure Stephen is dead.
(End of episode)