A.D. The Bible Continues: “The Tomb is Open” Review

by Ken Ham on April 11, 2015

The producers of the hit TV mini-series The Bible have just come out with a new series titled A.D. The Bible Continues to show what happened after the Crucifixion of Christ. The NBC website describes the purpose of this program this way:

[It is] an uplifting spiritual journey through the later chapters of biblical history. “A.D. The Bible Continues” picks up where the smash hit miniseries “The Bible” left off, continuing the greatest story ever told and exploring the exciting and inspiring events that followed the Crucifixion of Christ.

The first episode, “The Tomb is Open,” aired on Easter Sunday, April 5. This installment briefly covered Jesus’ trial and Crucifixion, His death, and the time during which He lay in the tomb. The episode ends dramatically with the announcement to the high priest Caiaphas that the tomb is empty. Writer and researcher Avery Foley watched the episode and provided the following review:

This first episode remained fairly accurate to the details provided in the Gospels. There was, of course, much artistic license taken in portraying the characters and some of the events, but for the most part the story remained true to the inspired account we are given in Scripture. They accurately portrayed the undeniable proof that Jesus did die on the cross by taking pains to emphasize that Jesus was really and truly dead. They also accurately placed Christ’s death simultaneously with the celebration of the Jewish Passover. They correctly portrayed the political pragmatism of Caiaphas and Pilate and the fear and despair of the disciples.

There were a few discrepancies and omissions, but most of the omissions could be explained by the difficulty in trying to squeeze a lengthy sequence of events into a 45-minute episode. However, there were several significant omissions and discrepancies that deserve mention.

The episode begins with Christ’s trial before the high priest, Caiaphas. During this trial Jesus is asked by Caiaphas if He’s the Messiah. Jesus replies by saying, “I am. And soon you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God.”* To this Caiaphas declares, “How dare you speak His name? The charge is blasphemy. He deserves to die.” Caiaphas’ pronouncement does not match with Scripture: Jesus was condemned not because He spoke God’s name, but because He claimed to be “Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). Also, according to Scripture, Caiaphas left the verdict to the Sanhedrin to decide (Matthew 26:66).

Likely because of time constraints, Jesus’ other trials are extremely condensed. There is no hearing before Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law (John 18:12–24); no trial before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:1–2); and no hearing before Herod (Luke 23:6–12). The episode only shows a hearing before Caiaphas and other religious leaders (Matthew 26:57–68) and it conflates the two hearings before Pilate (first in Luke 23:1–5 and second in verses 13–25) into one. Unlike in the Gospels, Pilate quickly gives in to their demands for Jesus’ death. There is also no mention of the releasing of Barabbas in exchange for Jesus (Matthew 27:15–26).

The film leaves out the brutality of the guards, Christ’s flogging, the crown of the thorns, and the mocking of the Romans, the chief priests, and others which occurred throughout His beating, Crucifixion, and while He hung on the Cross. These are all mentioned by John later in the episode, though.

Several of the statements that Jesus made on the Cross are not presented, though the episode does have Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) and “It is finished” (John 19:30). Upon Jesus’ death the temple curtain is torn from top to bottom as it was in the Gospels (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45) and the earthquake is shown (Matthew 27:51), but the resurrection of many holy people and their exodus from their tombs is not shown (Matthew 27:52).

While Jesus is lying in the tomb, Jewish Zealots, intent on freeing Israel from Roman tyranny, try to convince the disciples to join their cause. However, the disciples refuse. Such an event is never recorded anywhere in Scripture and is clearly an example of artistic license in introducing the Zealots and their cause.

Perhaps the most glaring discrepancy is that Mary, Jesus’ mother, maintains faith in His upcoming Resurrection and chastises others for their lack of faith in His words. In response, Peter says that they will remain in Jerusalem for three days and wait. However, nowhere in Scripture does it say that anyone—including Jesus’ mother—anticipated His bodily Resurrection. It was not until after He rose from the dead, bodily appeared before them, and opened their eyes to what the Scriptures said about Him that His followers believed (Luke 24:27, 44–49).

Sadly, there is no clear presentation of the gospel message or any mention that Jesus had to die as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). If someone simply watches this episode they might conclude that Jesus died, not because of the sovereign plan of the Father, but, rather, because of the pragmatic choices of humans. The reasons for Christ’s willing sacrifice was a rather conspicuous omission of a vitally important detail. Hopefully this will be cleared up in later episodes to come.

Overall, the episode was largely faithful to the biblical narrative and did a good job portraying some of the events that took place during the tense time of the Crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ.

Hopefully this first episode is a good indication of how the rest of the series will go. We hope the producers will even be more accurate to the biblical text as the episodes continue. Stay tuned next week for a review of episode two.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

* All quotations from the episode are taken from the subtitles provided by NBC in the video on their website.

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