The A.D. The Bible Continues mini-series continues on American television and, unfortunately, it continues downward. We previously mentioned how there’s been a complete neglect of the gospel so far, and last week’s episode just made it worse. Episode three, “The Spirit Arrives,” built on Christ’s ascension and His command for the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit as the series moved into Acts 2 and the arrival of the Spirit at Pentecost. What should have been the perfect opportunity for a powerful presentation of the gospel ended up being a completely missed opportunity.
Avery Foley, a researcher and writer, has been reviewing the series each week and she provides the following review,
Well, A.D. took a disappointing dive last week. I noted in previous reviews that episodes one and two neglected to present the gospel and even seemed to purposefully omit references to Christ’s deity. Episode three, dealing with the exciting events around Pentecost and the preaching of two of the most evangelistic sermons recorded in the Bible, would have been a perfect opportunity to correct this failing and to clearly present the message of what Christ’s death and Resurrection really means and how we can receive forgiveness and eternal life. Sadly, this opportunity was completely and utterly missed.
Rather than focusing on the biblical portrayal of events around Pentecost and the disciples, the episode took a lot of artistic license and spent most of its time focusing on drama between the Roman governor Pilate, the Jewish king Herod Antipas, and the Jewish high priest Caiaphas. None of this supposed drama is included in Scripture. Moreover, the tension and thinly veiled hatred between Pilate and Herod contradicts the biblical account. According to Luke 23:12, Pilate and Herod had been enemies until the trial of Christ, and after that they “became friends with each other.” But they clearly are not friends in this episode and most of the episode focuses on conflict between Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas and an attempt by the Jewish zealots to assassinate Pilate.
A large chunk of the remainder of the episode that did not deal with the governing authorities, revolved around Peter and his daughter, Maya. Now, nowhere in Scripture are we taught that Peter had a daughter, but we are told that he was married, so it is possible that he had a daughter. Matthew 8:14–15 mentions Peter’s mother-in-law and Paul states in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that Peter had “a believing wife.” In the episode, Peter’s wife has passed away, which seems to contradict Paul’s statement in his letter to the Corinthians, a letter written around 20 years after the events at the beginning of Acts occurred.
At one point in the episode Maya asks Peter, “What’s so dangerous about following a Rabbi?”* Here would have been an excellent moment to present who Christ was. Peter could have said, “He’s not just a Rabbi. He’s God incarnate; ‘God with us.’ He’s the Messiah, our Savior, the risen Lord!” Instead, the producers and script writers completely threw away the potential opportunity they had created and simply had Peter laugh knowingly and then change the topic.
Acts 1:14 tells us that the 11 Apostles “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14) while they waited for the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised. However, in the episode there aren’t any other women except Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother, and Maya. Jesus’ brothers aren’t present. Instead of having the disciples praying, the group is simply sitting around wondering when and how this will happen, and it isn’t until Maya speaks privately with her dad and suggests he do what Jesus would do that Peter even considers praying. The account of the selection of Matthias to replace Judas isn't mentioned (Acts 1:15–26) and there is no reference to the 120 disciples of Christ that were with the Apostles when this selection occurred (Acts 1:15).
Once the disciples do begin praying, they merely chant the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) over and over again until the Holy Spirit arrives. This contradicts how Christ commanded His followers to pray. The Lord’s Prayer was not a chant but was merely a pattern for prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) and we are specifically told not to pray with vain repetitions (Matthew 6:7). Later, when Peter and John are thrown in prison, they chant the Shema (taken partially from Deuteronomy 6:4) over and over again as well.
In the last third of the episode, the attention finally turns from extra-biblical events at the temple to the upper room where the disciples are praying. A light streaks down from heaven, accompanied by a wind, drawing a crowd around the house where the disciples are waiting. According to Acts 2:2, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” It was this sound that attracted a crowd. In the episode, fire enters into the house, but it does not divide into individual tongues that sit on each person’s head as Acts tells us happened. Instead rings of fire rush around the room and outside the building before returning to heaven. While the fire is circling the room, the disciples begin quoting the Lord’s Prayer in different languages briefly until the fire disappears and they return to speaking their normal language.
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit-filled believers speak in different languages to the gathered crowd. The crowd is amazed as they hear “them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). Others, however, mock the disciples and claim that they are simply drunk. Peter gets up and connects the day’s events with the prophecy in Joel 2 and then launches into a powerful presentation of the gospel. This first sermon results in more than 3,000 people being baptized and a community of believers who worship, learn, fellowship, and eat together is born (Acts 2:40–47). Unfortunately, the producers of A.D. completely skipped this sermon and completely skipped the preaching the gospel in different tongues. Instead, they have the disciples immediately follow Peter to the temple.
Conflating the events recorded in Acts 2–3, the episode shows all of the disciples and those following them from the house encounter a lame man begging at the temple. Peter tells the beggar that he has no silver or gold but to rise up and walk in Jesus of Nazareth’s name. But in Acts we read that “Peter and John went up together to the temple” (Acts 3:1), and no mention is made of any of the other disciples being with them. Rather than just being Peter alone who, through Jesus, heals the man, as the episode shows, Scripture records that John was involved (Acts 3:4). After this healing, Scripture records another sermon from Peter that beautifully highlights the gospel and the need for the Israelites to repent and embrace their Savior, Jesus Christ.
Now, in the episode, Peter finally preaches his first sermon, but instead of using phrases taken from the Bible like “repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19), Peter’s sermon and the gospel is condensed down to “It’s through Jesus that this man walks again. God sent us His servant, Jesus, and God raised Him again from death. We are His witnesses and the Holy Spirit is with us and makes us strong.” He then adds, “Let all Israel know. God made Jesus Lord and Messiah. Join us, and you, too, will receive the Holy Spirit. Come, save yourselves from this cruel wo—.“ His sermon is cut short when a temple guard begins beating him. There is no mention of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin, no mention of repentance, no connection of Jesus to Old Testament prophecy—really, there is no gospel presented at all! People did not receive the Holy Spirit by joining the Apostles. They received the Holy Spirit by repenting and believing in Christ (Acts 2:38). Rather than presenting the gospel as it is given in Scripture, the producers chose to water Peter’s sermons down theologically as well as dramatically cutting them in length.
Now, in accordance with Acts 4:1–3, Peter and John were arrested and hauled off to prison. During their stay, Mary Magdalene visits and tells them that many people were coming to them, maybe even thousands. This number matches with Scripture, which tells us that after Peter and John were arrested “many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). The episode ends with Peter and John in jail and Caiaphas arriving at the prison to see them.
This third episode was very disappointing. More focus was given to events completely foreign to Scripture, than was given to what we know actually happened, based on Scripture. For being a series titled A.D. The Bible Continues they certainly aren’t placing much emphasis on what the Bible actually says. Instead, they are choosing to concentrate more on what they imagine might have happened between the government and the zealots than on the actual start and spread of the church!
The purposeful watering down of Peter’s sermons in Acts 2 and 3 into a “Jesus is alive and has the power to heal you” message is a severe misrepresentation of Scripture at best, and an outright denial of Scripture—and the gospel!—at worst. The producers’ handling of the beginning of Acts was shameful and was an obvious attempt to avoid a clear presentation of the gospel. They turned Pentecost, one of the greatest moments in history and one of the defining moments in church history, into a side story and stripped it almost entirely of its gospel emphasis. It appears that our prior concerns that the neglect of the gospel was setting the tone for future episodes was accurate.
It’s disappointing to see what could have been a fantastic evangelistic opportunity wasted. Still, I encourage you to do as Paul did in Acts 17 when he took something that was common to the culture, a pagan altar, and used it as a springboard to preach the message of the gospel. Use this episode to show people what’s missing—the true message of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
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 its website.