The second installment of The Bible fared somewhat better in terms of accuracy this week. I at least observed no grievous misrepresentations, barring a significant shortening of the Samson and Delilah story that took away the original’s mysterious charm — in the actual story Samson tells Delilah three different ways to lose his strength that prove false before giving her the correct one, this after being nagged “to death” (Judges 16:16). The series has Samson bluntly tell her without any ado whatsoever.
As regards Mr. Hillyer’s post (it is an honor that a Spectator heavyweight like himself troubled to read and respond at all), the sharpness of my criticism stems from a concern that the show’s misrepresentation is an intentional attempt to water down the Bible. Questioning motives is the easiest thing to embark upon and the most difficult thing to prove, and Mr. Hillyer is especially correct in urging caution on this point. To criticize motives one must be able to point them out in the producers’ own explanations. That was the point of quoting Context with Lorna Dueck, an excerpt of which is provided below:
The Wall Steet Journal op-ed Mr. Hillyer cites underscores the point about watering the Bible down. “To encourage, perhaps even mandate, the teaching of the Bible in public schools as a primary document of Western civilization” is to quietly take away its self understood place as the inspired Word of God. To read the Bible merely in order to understand cultural references innoculates it, reflecting a kind of arrogance that is indeed well known on the continent of Europe.
With that position in mind, the end of the WSJ op-ed reads a little more clearly (emphasis added):
Interestingly enough, the common desktop reference guide “The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy” best sums up the Bible’s value as a tool of cultural literacy. Its first page declares: “No one in the English speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible.”
Can we hear an amen?
The fact that the producers promulgate such an attitude about Scripture, ended up producing a cheap, inaccurate and often frankly misleading narrative, and then actively call upon people’s sense of faith to watch it strikes me as hypocritical.
Clearly this blog post and the column that preceded it will be read much less than the Bible will be watched. It is nevertheless worth standing up to the stealthy invasion of “biblical secularism,” and a debate worth having vigorously in the open, even if it involves a little name calling.