Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Do You Remember "Hooked On Classics?"

Some years ago, I was approached by a person who wanted to write a new version of the Bible, with my assistance. The man who called me was not a Biblical scholar, a theologian, nor an expert in the Hebrew or Greek languages. I had the impression he was fairly conservative in his outlook, and it seemed he didn't know me very well. But, we attended the same church, he knew I was a clergy person, and he thought it would be a good idea to write a version of the Bible "that people can understand."

Oh, is that all?

Just off the top of my head, I can think of numerous versions of the Bible currently available, appealing to various readers' tastes: New Revised Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version (which leads me to believe there must be an "International Version"), The Message, The Living Bible, Good News Bible, The New English Bible, so forth and so on. There even is a Manga Bible, which is a graphic novel-style Bible produced by someone calling himself Siku.

I haven't looked, but I suppose there is a Bible For Dummies, as well. (So it seems likely someone beat to the punch the guy who called me!)

The reason I even bring this up is that I read of a new project soon to be underway at The History Channel.

The television producer who has clogged our entertainment arteries with such programs as Survivor and The Apprentice has in mind to turn out a series of "scripted dramas" that tell stories from the Bible. His name is Mark Burnett, and he noted that "'Some of the stories are obvious,'...like Noah’s Ark, Exodus and accounts of the birth and death of Jesus. But the project will also cover stories that Mr. Burnett said he was unfamiliar with."

Executives at History say "the series would not try to impose any kind of historical context to events like the Flood." The producers are "not stepping back to examine anything that could be called a controversy. We are just telling the stories that are in (the Bible)." Researchers have already begun their work, and "theologians will be consulted."


It seems to me quite an undertaking to write dialogue for stories handed down by oral tradition for generations before quill ever touched parchment, without putting a spin on them. Thousands of years have passed since they first were told. As for lack of controversy, The History Channel may be in for a surprise.

In some cases, this project has the potential of sparking renewed interest in the scriptures. For others, though, it may become a faux fundamentalism, as the images and words on the TV screen become the first, last, and only sense of the Bible stories being portrayed.

I know that ever since I first saw Jesus of Nazareth on television over thirty years ago, I can't help but think that Pilate looked just like Rod Steiger.

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