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April 25, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

Each time a new biblical drama or series is produced for Television my hopes rise.  Will this be the one that really makes an effort to present the story with historical accuracy derived from the sources?  My expectations are particularly high when the producers are devout Christians as in the case of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

I was not ecstatic about the production of “SON OF GOD,” although I was pleased to see they had done it.  The story was told well and the supernatural elements were not suppressed.  My complaint was, as always, the historical accuracy of the presentation.  Christianity is not an ideology.  That is, it is not grounded on an idea.  It is grounded on facts, in history, on the mighty acts of God in time and space.  This is why I am such a fuss budget when it comes to getting it right.  I understand the artistic temperament and the need to be artsy.  But, in the process, get the facts right.

Let me use just two illustrations from the current series “AD – THE BIBLE CONTINUES.”

First the setting for the ascension of Jesus was spectacular.  I really enjoyed the fact that Jesus did not go up but entered into the Shekinah of God.  The problem is that it did not occur in the Galilee.  Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives, somewhere near Bethany.  It was ten days prior to Pentecost and the Disciples were ordered to wait in Jerusalem until Pentecost when they would receive the Holy Spirit who would equip them for carrying the Good News to the world. Luke makes this quite clear.

The presentation of the “filling” of the Holy Spirit was likewise a dramatic master piece.  The problem is that it most certainly did not take place in the privacy of the “Upper Room.”  It was nine o’clock in the morning and the time for Morning Prayer at the Temple.  According to Acts there were 120 believers gathered together.  They started in the Upper Room, but went to the Temple together for prayer.  The word “house” in Acts 2:2 is the short form of “House of the Lord.”  There were a lot of people there from all over the empire and beyond.  The Spirit of the Holy One gave them the ability to witness in the home tongues of the thousands of pilgrims.  The response to Peter’s sermon saw 3000 new believers baptized in the mikvah pools surrounding the Temple.  It was a very public event and thoroughly Jewish.

There is no indication either in the New Testament texts or in Josephus that Pilate was in Jerusalem at Pentecost.  Our sources for Pilate are scarce.  He was Procurator of Judea from AD 26 – 36.  From the records we have it seems he was anxious to avoid any involvement in the religious institutions of Israel.  He was pressured into approving the crucifixion of Jesus.  He did not see the early believers as any threat to Roman rule.  The opposition to the early Church in Jerusalem came from the Temple establishment, not from Rome.  I can see Pilate returning to Caesarea after Passover and simply hoping the whole matter would just go away.  It didn’t.

I would not want to be understood as opposed in any way to the efforts of the Burnetts (Roma Downey is married to Mark Burnett).  It is a great series and meets a real spiritual need in our beloved “One nation under God.”  I just wish the artists would pay more heed to the historians.

(Bill Scarle may be contacted at END-whs