A.D. The Bible Continues: “The Body is Gone” Review

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Episode two of the TV mini-series A.D. The Bible Continues aired last week on NBC. This series is intended to depict what happened after Christ’s Crucifixion. Episode one showed His death and burial and dramatically ended with an open tomb. You can read our review of “The Tomb is Open.” This second episode, which aired Sunday, April 12, portrayed Christ’s Resurrection appearances and His ascension into heaven.

Writer and researcher Avery Foley wrote a review of episode two that highlights how the producers have neglected yet again to present the gospel. This was one of our main complaints with the popular The Bible TV mini-series (the precursor to A.D. with the same producers)—the gospel was neglected in the presentation. The producers have, so far, chosen to do the same thing with A.D. There have been opportunities to include a full presentation of the gospel, but so far that has not happened. There hasn’t even been a reason given for Christ’s death except for the pragmatic choices of those in charge. This does not match with the biblical text, which is clear that Christ died in our place, taking the penalty of sin and death upon himself so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Here is Avery’s full review of the second episode:

This second episode was as exciting as the first. The excitement of Christ having risen from the dead carries across the screen and enthuses the viewer. Also, like the first episode, it remained reasonably accurate to the biblical text. I was pleased to see that the way that Christ’s Resurrection was portrayed made it overwhelmingly obvious that Christ bodily rose from the dead. It was refreshing to see Christ’s Resurrection portrayed as real history in space and time. It is popular for secularists to claim that the disciples hallucinated the Resurrection or that the disciples stole the body, but this episode made it clear that the disciples did not expect Christ to rise and that the idea that they stole the body was a rumor started by the Jewish leaders (Matthew 28:11–15).

Also, the disciple Matthew makes it plain that this could be no hallucination when he says, “We saw him. Each one of us touched him, sat with him, ate with him, laughed with him”* and another, Simon the Zealot, says “How could each of us be mistaken in exactly the same way at exactly the same time?” Another positive was that Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53) was mentioned and it was stated that Jesus, even while He was dying and buried, fulfilled those prophecies.

Unfortunately, the producers again took some liberties by omitting and changing biblical details as well as adding things that are not in Scripture. Most of the additions were obviously added for dramatic effect, but many of the omissions and deletions were unnecessary and one was quite concerning.

Throughout the episode, there were several interactions between Pilate and the high priest, Caiaphas, about Jesus. Both characters are portrayed as angry that Jesus’ body has disappeared and desperate to find it and immediately extinguish the idea of a Resurrection. These interactions took much artistic license, but very little in these exchanges contradicted Scripture. One minor error was that, after the guards report Jesus’ disappearance to Pilate, he has them beaten and later killed. The Jewish leaders, however, when they bribed the guards, told them, “If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble” (Matthew 28:14). Scripture does not tell us whether or not the guards suffered any repercussions, but there was no attempt made in the film on Caiaphas’ part to keep the guards from trouble. Additionally, at one point the idea is toyed with of substituting another body with similar wounds for Jesus’ missing body, but Caiaphas rejects the idea. This idea, of course, is not in Scripture.

Scripture describes a group of several women, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and others as visiting the tomb early Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body with spices (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1–2; Luke 24:1, 10). This episode, however, ignores all the other women, and just shows Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb by herself. She doesn’t carry any spices to anoint His body with. Also, there are no angels present at the tomb during any of the visits by Mary or the disciples. Scripture records an angelic presence at the tomb and pronouncements and instructions by those angels (Matthew 28:5–6; Mark 16:5–7; Luke 24:4–7).

Later that day Jesus appears to the disciples, except for Thomas, in the upper room. There He eats with them, but they give Him bread in the show instead of fish and honeycomb as Scripture records (Luke 24:42). Later on Thomas joins them and Jesus appears in the presence of them all. Thomas’ doubts are put to rest when he puts his finger in the nail marks and sees the spear mark on Jesus’ side. In Scripture, Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). However, this TV episode has Thomas merely saying, “My Lord!” This is a major, and very concerning, omission. Jesus as God is a central part of the Christian faith (Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5–8) and Thomas’ exclamation of Christ’s deity is the climax of John’s account in John 20:24–29. Indeed, John’s purpose, as revealed just after the account of Thomas, was to convince His readers that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). The omission of Thomas’ declaration of Christ’s deity on the part of the script writers was certainly not necessary, and it is troubling that they would cut out this direct admission. Hopefully this does not foreshadow other important theological omissions.

After Jesus appears before the disciples, they are chased out of the house by Roman guards and make a daring escape from Jerusalem with the help of the Zealots. Of course, this escape is not recorded in Scripture. After they leave Jerusalem, they head to Galilee where several of them begin fishing (according to John 21:2, there were seven disciples but the episode only shows six). As in Scripture, they catch nothing until they obey a call from the beach to cast the nets on the other side. They haul in a load of fish, and John alerts the others that it is the Lord who called to them. Peter then swims to shore (John 21:1–8). In Scripture, Peter has removed his outer garment for work but before jumping into the water he wraps his outer garment around himself (John 21:7). But in the episode he remains fully clothed at all times, and he does not grab his outer garment before leaping overboard. After this, Jesus asks Peter three times if He loves Him, and Peter affirms it each time. But in Scripture Peter is hurt by Jesus asking him three times and he says, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (John 21:17), but he betrays no sign of being hurt or offended by Christ’s question in the TV show. Also, after Peter answers for the third time, John records that Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17) and later on He says, “Follow me” (John 21:19). However, the episode omitted the last “feed my sheep” and instead simply had Jesus say “then follow me.”

The TV show also omits Jesus’ other post-Resurrection appearances, such as the appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–35) and 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6), and goes immediately to the ascension with no indication that 40 days have passed (Acts 1:3). The ascension was rather vaguely presented, and viewers do not actually see Jesus ascend. While angels can be seen sprinkled throughout the clouds, no angels speak with the disciples and tell them that Jesus will someday return as He left (Acts 1:10–11).

Although overall the episode was fairly faithful to the biblical narrative and certainly did a good job portraying Jesus’ Resurrection for what it was—a real, bodily Resurrection—the biggest downside was that the gospel was not fully explained. As mentioned earlier, the character playing John does make reference to the prophecies of Isaiah when the disciples are discussing the Resurrection, which vaguely links Christ’s work on the Cross and the Resurrection with Old Testament prophecy. Now, Jesus makes a reference to the gospel when He gives the Great Commission before His ascension (from Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8), but viewers are never told what this gospel is. The reasons for Jesus’ sacrificial death are never explained nor is the significance of His Resurrection. In the episode, Jesus mentions that the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms foretold that this would happen, but there is no elaboration into what that means or what exactly they foretold and why. This would have been an excellent time to proclaim the gospel and explain why Christ had to come and die but, sadly, the opportunity was missed.

It’s disappointing that the gospel message was not clearly presented so far by the producers of A.D. The Bible Continues. However, it is good to see the Bible being generally portrayed as real history on a secular TV channel. I hope it will spark interest in the minds of viewers about who Christ was and what He did. I encourage you to use this popular TV program as a springboard into gospel-centered conversations with your friends, family, and coworkers. Help them to fully understand why Christ had to come, die, and rise again.

AiG prays this series will direct people to the Word of God where they will learn about the gospel.

Next week we will feature a review of episode three.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

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 its website.

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