Adapting a literary work for the big screen is an endeavor fraught with peril. Stray too far from the original work and you risk wrecking the story’s appeal (and angering fans of the book). Yet adhere too slavishly to the exact details of the book and you risk producing an uninspired film that doesn’t play to any of the strengths of the medium.
And those are just the risks you face when adapting a typical novel—say, a Harry Potter or Twilight installment. You can imagine how much more intimidating and problematic this becomes when you’re adapting a book that millions of people consider to be the living Word of God.
Despite the risks, there have been many attempts to adapt Bible stories to film, from the Cecil DeMille epic The Ten Commandments to Mel Gibson’s controversial The Passion of the Christ. As you can imagine, such films have ranged all across the spectrum of fidelity to the Bible text. The meticulous Jesus film limited its dialogue largely to the actual text of the Gospel of Luke and subjected itself to daily review by Bible scholars during filming; while on the other end of the faithfulness/entertainment spectrum, the 1999 miniseries Noah’s Ark featured the Biblical character Lot pursuing Noah across the flooded planet with a fleet of pirate ships. (There are no pirates in the original story, and Scripture never hints that Lot ever went back in time to take up a career in nautical villainy.)
I mention all this because in a few weeks we’ll get a chance to watch the latest effort to bring the Bible to the small screen: The Bible miniseries, the first episode of which airs on March 3 on the History Channel. Here’s the trailer:
What balance will The Bible miniseries strike between faithfulness to Scripture and the demands of the film medium? Which Bible stories will it cover? The trailer above suggests that it will hit most or all of the most well-known stories; will any less-commonly-known Bible stories make the cut? We won’t know until the miniseries airs, but our interest has been piqued: the Bible Gateway team will be watching, and sharing our thoughts on our blog and Twitter feed. Among other things, we’ll share links to the original Bible stories on Bible Gateway, so you can read the original accounts and compare them to the miniseries’ treatment.
Will you be tuning in?
[Full disclosure: The Bible miniseries is a Bible Gateway sponsor—you may have spotted ads for the miniseries around Bible Gateway. But rest assured, we’ll be fair and honest in our discussions of the miniseries as it airs.]