I continue to be impressed with this show’s accuracy, in terms of painting an (almost) realistic portrait of what life was like in Judea around the time of Christ’s death. And I like what they are doing with Pilate, in the sense that he is becoming the personification of Rome itself within the Judean government. He is the villain of the story, a domineering force literally threatening to crush the life from Caiaphas, who lives in a subdued constant state of fear as to what Rome might do. I love what they are doing with Caiaphas… he is sympathetic, despite being the man who schemed to bring about “The Nazarine’s” death. To make me like, care about, and fear for the man who bayed for Jesus’ blood is a testament both to good writing and good acting.
This episode pulled no punches in the violence department and in doing so revealed a lot about Roman rule for those ignorant of how the process worked. After all, if you cannot silence a story, as Pilate says, “you kill it.” And he chose to terminate the Roman soldiers who witnessed the happenings at the tomb in front of the shocked, horrified, and terrified Caiaphas… whose mind no doubt flitted back to Joseph of Arimathea’s earlier warnings that he would “come to regret” an alliance with Rome. The writing is on the wall, so to speak. I have actually seen some viewers stunned at Pilate and his behavior, though it is wholly in keeping with his historical character and the methods of Rome. (Please read the history of the period, not just your Bible.)
Something that occurred to me as I watched anger and violence unfold on the streets of Jerusalem is that the situation then is not so different from now – only instead of Romans, the Palestinians live side by violent side with the Jewish nation. The terror that modern-day Israelis endures gives us some small insight into what it must have been like in the first century, living alongside a stronger force determined to annihilate every last spark of rebellion in Judea. Not only do you have Roman enforcers, but the Zealots … a militant Judean force hell-bent on uprising and overthrowing the oppressive government. Oppressors and radicals, and right smack dab in the middle of it arrives a Messiah preaching a radical (to that period, and to our own) worldview of … love… forgiveness… peace… it was even more mind-blowing then than it is now.
Gosh, but the disciples are great. I’m rapidly becoming fond of all of them – particularly Peter and John. I love how they are framing Peter as the unofficial leader; how the others look to him, ask his advice, trust him. Yet, he is not as idealistic as John, not as hopeful … so lost in his own sadness and guilt over his denial that all he wants is to be able to say, “I’m sorry.” And in a moment that gave me shivers, suddenly, Jesus’ hand is on his shoulder and He stands in the room with them all. I like Peter. I do. And John … I like him perhaps even more. He seems a gentle man, and he was undeniably the most courageous of all the disciples – the only one that saw it through to the end, and stood at the cross. And, he is the first to believe it is possible the Messiah has arisen. All he needs is an empty tomb.
I thought it was quite clever to throw in “a body” … a falsified body to support the allegations that it was stolen; but Caiaphas is angry that they cannot find the REAL one. (Oh, honey… good luck with that.) That they gave time to Christ and Peter’s exchange (“Do you love me?”) is powerful, to contrast the thrice denial, as was His ascension … the heavens darken and then, heavenly light explodes through them … light flowing out of angels, formed of wings of light and flame, and in and around them, from a much mightier source. Magnificent.
My only complaint is minor, but worth noting: much as I enjoy strong women, these women are too bold for the period. That is why I said “almost” accurate. Caiaphas’ wife would not have chastised his men in public, nor tongue-lashed Joseph of Arimathea last week; she would know her place as a woman and of lesser value than the men and not step out of it. In private, yes, but in front of others… no. The same goes for Mary Magdalene. I like it that she’s feisty, but no woman in that culture who didn’t have a death wish would sass Pilate’s captain of the guard. And that brings me to the thing that I find most baffling… in both this and the earlier “Bible” adaptation, Mary the Mother of Jesus does not see her son between the crucifixion and the ascension. Yet, it seems to indicates in scripture that she went to the tomb (was she “Mary the mother of James”?) and met Jesus outside of it. Am I wrong? If I am right, why this alteration? Why is she not allowed to see her son alive again?
Some are denouncing this miniseries for “inventing filler,” but I feel incredibly blessed to have such a high caliber production, revolving completely around Bible history, on NBC of all places. It does not profess to be a substitute for the Bible, and it is not inventing so much as building bridges between scripture and what Josephus wrote of the period. The addition of fictional characters adds an element of suspense, because we do not know their fates nor their intentions in advance. All in all, I think it is quite well done.