LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR
May 2, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
One more time I want to comment on the television series “AD – The Bible Continues” produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Last week’s episode contained the biblical stories of the healing of the lame man at the Temple by Peter and John and the story of the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 3 and 5 respectively. Again I am very pleased that this Christian husband and wife team are bringing the Bible to the attention of the public in prime time. I am also gratified that they are concerned to provide some historical framework for the biblical accounts. However, they are sloppy historians and this does not bode well in the telling of the biblical story, since the Bible is very careful in getting the facts right.
The twenty-first chapter of John illustrates my point. In telling the story of Jesus’ appearance by the lake in Galilee John not only tells us they caught a net full of fish but he tells us there were 153 fish in the net. This is a very minor point for the reader, but it is likely that those fish were sold in the market in the morning, so John, who was a fisherman by trade, would have known exactly how many fish they caught.
The emphasis on Pilate in the “AD” series is overblown. We have one story of Pilate’s cruelty outside the biblical accounts. It involves an incident in Samaria recounted by Josephus. It probably took place in 36 AD and was followed by Pilate’s being sent home to Rome by Vitellius, who was governor in Syria. By the time he reached Rome Tiberius, the emperor, had died. Unfortunately for Pilate Tiberius was succeeded by Caligula who either banished him or ordered him to commit suicide.
Pilate was rarely in Jerusalem. He was headquartered in Caesarea where he was comfortable, away from the troublesome Temple establishment.
The backstory of the Sicarii (Siqariqim in Hebrew), translated as “dagger men,” is totally out of place. The party of the Zealots was in existence during the ministry of Jesus. Simon the Zealot was one of the Apostles. However, this was a party who favored resistance to Roman rule, but had not degenerated into the terrorist conduct of the Sicarii. The Sicarii were noted for concealing daggers in their clothing, mixing with the crowd, murdering Roman soldiers and Roman sympathizers, and then disappearing into the throng.
These Dagger Men came into prominence just prior to the first Jewish revolt in 70 AD, and were the the Jews who escaped to Masada and held out for three years after the Temple fell.
It may be picky, but to present the early Christian community in Jerusalem a kind of hippy group, tenting on the outskirts of Jerusalem and living like an early kibbutz is a bit off the wall. The early Christian community was urban in its orientation. They met in house churches and had Deacons who visited to be sure the widows and the poor were cared for. They met for prayer at the Temple in the large porches provided for just this purpose.
Again, let me say I am gratified for this mass media presentation of the Christian message. However, my whole family are Bible teachers, and the goal we strive for is to get it right. It confuses people when you get it wrong.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs