Last night we finished season two of The Chosen, a television show about the apostles. Mrs. Greenbean got so enthralled that every evening she would say, ‘I can’t go to bed until I see Jesus,’ which, taken out of context is fascinating. What she meant was — I need an episode. All in all, this is a fabulous show and given the high volume of garbage on the streaming platforms, this one is a real keeper I highly recommend for people of all ages. Here are some big picture take aways, and be advised, there are spoilers.
REMEMBER: I TOLD YOU THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW
Things They Get Right
The biggest win for this production about Jesus is the tone. I believe they have the exact right tone of Jesus, his followers, the enemies, the seekers, and just about everyone else who was involved. The feel is real.
The acting is also right. The man who plays Nicodemus, Eric Avari, should win an Emmy. No lie. He won’t, of course, but he should. Jonathan Roumie is nearly magical playing Jesus, who is the most impossible character to embody. Literally. I also really like the nasty Roman Quintus (Brandon Pottery) and Paras Patel as Matthew. They are all so good. The woman playing Mary Magdalene started off strong for me, but has turned into a bit of a stale character, but that could be writing and not acting.
I love the episode with the kids — I think it is the second one of season one. It is like Jesus goes to children’s camp. I adored that episode.
Things They Wobble On
It is a small list, as I admit I love the show, but they make leaps in narrative that are not grounded in scripture at all. An example is the supposed fraternal relationship of Simon the Zealot and the man healed at Siloam. The Siloam healing is a major moment in John’s gospel, one of the seven signs, and nowhere is it told us that he was related to Simon. It is a fictionalization, I recognize that, but many people will watch the show and assume it is biblical. I don’t mind imagination engaging in the Bible (indeed, I do a lot of that myself) but I’m queasy on this kind of projection. The same is true for the early ‘interrogation’ of Jesus by Romans.
Along the same lines, I am very uneasy about the conflagration of differing stories into one. The most notable of these is the miraculous catch of fish. In the Bible, this is one story of Peter recognizing Jesus’ power. In The Chosen, it is connected to the idea of Peter having back taxes, which sounds like the famous story where Jesus tells Peter to go look in the mouth of a fish and he found coins to pay the temple tax. Jesus tells him to pay the tax for both of them. The television show pushes these into one, and the miracles draught of fish is used to pay off the debt. Clever story telling, but very loosey goosey with the biblical material.
Things They Get Completely Wrong
As I said earlier, the tone is right — Jesus as a man who does things only God can — but I feel like their Jesus is not as in control as I perceive the Jesus of the New Testament to be. I have a hard time thinking of him fretting over the right wording of the Sermon on the Mount, as the show portrays, or him encouraging the work of promoting this sermon with handbills (more on this later) and advertising as if Jesus were on the first leg of an arena rock tour. Jesus didn’t beg the crowds to come. They came because he was preaching and healing. My take on the preaching of Jesus is that the SOTM is essentially Jesus stock sermon he preached everywhere, which is why we have it in Luke as well, although slightly altered. Which is kind of the point.
This is nitpicky, I know, but I also don’t read the biblical material as thinking of Jesus being forever making camp in wide open places. For certain they did that when traveling, but lodging would have most certainly been available and they would have taken it.
One more thing. I perceive Jesus would not have dressed as a homeless man living under the bridge. He was a rabbi, people addressed him as a rabbi, and he carried himself as such. I think he would have dressed as any other rabbi in the first century world.
Okay, now one more thing for real. The age of the apostles is important. My understanding is they would have all been, with the exception of Peter (who is notable for having a wife), been between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. Young men attaching themselves to a teacher. As such, the cast of this television show should more closely resemble the cast of Stranger Things.
Okay okay, one more. Mary Magdalene is never described as a prostitute in the Bible. Never. That is a kind of slur that has been held over her reputation to minimize her, but the text of the Bible only says Jesus healed her of seven demons.
Things That Make Me Scratch My Head
This show has them using way too much paper. There just wouldn’t have been that much paper — certainly not for passing out like flyers promoting a sidewalk sale.
Roman secret police? Yes, the frumentarri were a thing, but not nearly this active at this time period. It wasn’t until Hadrian, as I understand it, that they took a more active role and likely did participate in espionage against some Christians but at the time period of Jesus, Palestine were hardly cause for concern.
Numbers! When the Roman soldiers move about, there would have been more than a half dozen going to arrest Jesus or doing anything. This as an occupying force in a hostile land. Rome used overpowering numbers.
Why no baptism scene? Why!
Looking forward to Season Three — even with its holes and faults, it is the kind of television I want to be watching.