Episode eleven of A.D. The Bible Continues recently aired on NBC television. This series, as we’ve shown over the past ten weeks, is full of both biblical and historical errors—we certainly don’t recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the book of Acts or first-century Judea! Well, researchers and writers Avery Foley and Troy Lacey provide the following review of the latest episode:
This eleventh episode is yet another installment in the series marred by historical and biblical inaccuracies. As we’ve pointed out previously, both Pilate and Caiaphas were removed from office during the reign of Caligula, the time being portrayed in this show, so the entire subplot of the blasphemous statue on its way to Jerusalem, Caiaphas’ efforts to unite the Jews, and Pilate’s attempts to keep the peace are all historically untenable and sheer and utter fiction.
Much of the show is taken up with the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8:26–40. Of course, in Scripture this event took place before Saul’s conversion, not after as portrayed in A.D. In the show he bands together with the Zealots to start an uprising by donating money and weapons. But eventually he is ratted out by of all people, the high priest’s wife, and Leah (who just recently was conspiring with the Zealots). He is then summoned before Pilate, threatened, and sent away from the city in disgrace while his men are kept as slaves. He is, however, allowed to take the scroll of Isaiah that Caiaphas gave him with him. This is a ridiculous turn of events that is nowhere hinted at in Scripture. We are simply told that he had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was returning when he met Philip (Acts 8:27–28). The idea that a foreigner in charge of his queen’s treasury—a man hand-picked for the position because of his loyalty—would, without her knowledge, permission, or consent decide to join the forces of his nation with violent rebels is unthinkable. Such a story line, while colorful, would never have occurred.
The Ethiopian then leaves by himself to head back home. Philip had been told by an angel to travel to the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, something that accords with the biblical account. He then stumbles upon the Ethiopian with a broken chariot wheel and offers to help. Now, Scripture says that the Holy Spirit prompted Philip to “Go near and overtake this chariot” (8:29), so Philip then runs to the chariot and is eventually asked to come and sit in it. However, there is no hint that the Holy Spirit told Philip to talk with the Ethiopian in the show and the details regarding the broken wheel seem to contradict a plain reading of the text which implies the chariot was moving so Philip could “overtake” it. The dialogue that follows in the episode, though short, is close to the recorded account in Scripture and ends with the proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The eunuch is baptized and, as he comes up out of the water, Philip disappears from sight and the Ethiopian rejoices. This is similar to what is recorded in Acts 8:36–40.
The show also has Pilate’s wife Claudia and Caiaphas’ wife Leah going behind their husbands’ backs and against their express commands. When Caiaphas and Leah hear about the growing strength of the Zealots, Leah urges her husband to take the information to Pilate so he can stop a massacre. Caiaphas refuses, so Leah decides to go and betray them. Now, the idea of a wife openly defying her husband and turning devout Jews over to the Romans likely to be crucified for sedition is indefensible. Likewise, Claudia, after two unsuccessful attempts to get her husband to release Joanna (a young Jewish Christian girl imprisoned and awaiting death), takes matters into her own hands and tries to free her. But she is discovered and Pilate has the girl strangled in her presence. Now, as we pointed out last week, Pilate wouldn’t care about a Jewish girl who converted to what he considered another sect of Judaism. He is not going to have her executed for it. And there is very little chance that a Roman woman, married to the prefect of Judea, would risk her position to defy her husband and save a Jewish housemaid. The only redeeming part of this fictitious storyline is the faith, courage, and love displayed by Joanna as she awaits death. Her last words were spoken to the centurion Cornelius: “in the name of Christ, I forgive you.”
Another subplot is the apostle’s wrestling with what to do about Caiaphas’ offer to stop the persecution and let them speak in peace. Now such an idea of blanket forgiveness and permission for the apostles to preach Jesus as the Messiah publicly has no biblical or historical merit. The book of Acts reveals on-going conflict with the religious leaders, and Acts 23–25 shows conflict with the high priest as he continues to oppose Christianity.
The show also portrays Acts 9:36–43, the account of Peter raising Tabitha (or Dorcas) from the dead. In the previous episode she was flogged by Pilate for converting to the Christian faith and was left severely weakened. In this episode, she is shown, though weak, sewing for the widows and trying to help others. Eventually she falls down in the street, too weak to carry on. She begs Mary Magdalene to take her back to her hometown of Joppa. But Tabitha was a resident of Joppa, not Jerusalem (9:36), and she was known in the city for her “good works and charitable deeds” (9:36, 39b). Now Joppa is a seaport 35 miles (65 km) north-west of Jerusalem. The idea that Mary Magdalene would travel by herself 35 miles with a dying woman is frankly ridiculous. A woman would not travel alone, and a weakened, dying woman would not be able to travel 35 miles across Israel. Now, when she does get to Joppa she passes away from her wounds. Mary Magdalene leaves the house and runs into Peter who is preaching in the streets. She brings him back to Tabitha’s house to see if he can help. Now, Scripture does not say that Mary Magdalene found Peter. Rather, it says that two men went to the neighboring city of Lydda to fetch Peter when the church heard he was in the area (9:38). In the account in Acts 9 Peter purposefully prays and then speaks to Tabitha’s dead body and tells her to “arise” (or get up); seemingly confident that the Lord would perform a miracle through him. In the show, Peter appears to hesitantly go to the house, and then enters as everyone leaves in fear when they found out who he was. Peter seems to be just standing there confused and indecisive. Then the wind, presumably the Holy Spirit, starts whistling and eventually reaches a roar as Peter yells “YES! Tabitha! Tabitha! Get up! Get up!” She then comes back to life, sits up, and eventually heads outside to her family who attribute the resurrection to Peter, who never turns the credit back to whom it is due—to Christ. But, according to Acts, they welcomed Peter and stood around weeping and showing him the things Tabitha had made them while she was alive. He then had to put them out before he prayed and said, “Tabitha, arise.” He then presents her to the church alive and many more believe. The details of Tabitha’s resurrection in A.D. are very different from the details we know from the book of Acts.
One of the few positive parts of the episode was that the disciples finally come out of hiding and actually do what they should’ve been doing (and were doing all along in the book of Acts): preach! A statement made early on in the episode from Tabitha, followed by some chuckling, shows where the apostles’ focus has been: “I have my sewing and the men have their very long and very important conversations.” She’s right—throughout the past few episodes all the few apostles remaining in Jerusalem have done is sit upstairs and talk, too afraid to go outside and preach Christ. They really are useless and are accomplishing nothing! But this is a far cry from what we read in the book of Acts where the disciples fearlessly “filled Jerusalem with [their] doctrine” (Acts 5:28). It was refreshing to see the disciples finally leave their room and preach for a change—even if their sermons were somewhat lacking in content!
The gold, larger-than-life statue of Caligula arrives in Jerusalem right at the end of the episode. So it is apparent that in the A.D. miniseries’ world, both Herod Agrippa and Lucius Vitellius, governor of Syria, failed in their attempts to dissuade or delay Caligula in sending this statue—contrary to what actually happened in recorded history. We’re left with the “cliffhanger” of the havoc that this statue will cause in Jerusalem, between Pilate, Caiaphas, the postles, and the zaealots, but the suspense has no basis in history, as none of this ever happened and some of the “players” (i.e., Pilate and Caiaphas) were off the stage.
Be sure to stay tuned for our final review as the series wraps up with the season finale.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.