The Bible miniseries takes a few creative liberties with the scriptures, but producer Mark Burnett says there’s a good reason.
After all, he’s trying to squeeze thousands of pages of text into 10 hours of screentime.
Burnett, the creative genius behind reality television hits like Survivor,The Apprentice, and The Voice, said he had a desire to make the bible come alive for viewers. The Bible miniseries is a labor of love for Burnett and his wife Roma Downey (who stars as Mary, mother of Jesus). Both were born in Europe and moved to the United States, and told CNN they were stunned that the bible was not taught in public schools.
The Bible miniseries, which premiered on Sunday on The History Channel, is Burnett’s attempt to convey the message to American viewers.
“It was time for an updating. Adding fresh visual life to a sacred text,” Burnett said.
That “fresh visual life” sometimes strays from the actual words of the Bible. For one, he compressed the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s arc into one narrative.
Later, when David picks up a stone to fight Goliath, he recites the famous 23rd Psalm, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” In the bible, King David writes the Psalm after he already slayed the giant Philistine.
Burnett said his intention was to take the countless stories of the bible and make it into a seamless story.
“The first decision was, it’s one story,” Burnett said. “It’s not a series of unconnected stories, it’s one grand narrative.”
“You could call it the meta narrative.”
Not everyone is on board with Burnett’s interpretation of the bible. New York Times television critic Neil Genzlinger said the stories in The Bible miniseries often fail to meet the mark and often substitute a little too much drama.
“The mini-series certainly seems unlikely to be much of a recruitment tool for Christianity, putting the emphasis on moments of suffering rather than messages of joy, and not just when it comes time for the Crucifixion. In this heavy-handed treatment, having Jesus born in a manger is not enough; the arrival also has to occur during what looks like a typhoon. Because why have a moderate amount of hardship when you can have an excess of it?”
Still, Burnett said he’s counting on The Bible miniseries having a massive impact. He told CNN that within 25 years, he thinks more people will have seen the miniseries than all of his ratings-topping reality shows combined.