When I watched Episode 8 the first time, I almost turned it off after the first five minutes. It began so badly I might have titled this episode something like ‘The Degradation Picks Up Speed’. I started watching it again today, this time more attentively and listening for a few things Pastor Ted Giese mentioned in his podcast review at Issues, Etc., which you can find here. I think the Pastor would give me good marks for listening ‘carefully’ (as he put it) since I had indeed picked up on some of the same specific things he discussed and found problematic, both historically and biblically inaccurate.
Here’s the play-by-play and a caution – it might make you dizzy.
The episode opens with Caiaphas telling a Temple soldier that he will be accompanying Saul and his party to Damascus from Jerusalem.
Now to Pilate’s palace and a morning after scene with Caligula and Agrippa in the middle of the previous night’s debauchery artifacts. Pilate’s wife Claudia is incensed at the sight.
Over to Saul’s departure from Jerusalem, which was conveniently witnessed by a small boy who reported Saul’s activity to Peter and the gang hiding out in a cellar, with a couple of the disciples feeling like cowards for Phillip having left for Samaria alone.
Back to the palace, where Mary Magdalene (MM) meets Joanna and tells her Jesus is alive. Although A.D. is mostly from Acts, Joanna is only actually mentioned a couple of times in the book of Luke and presented as the “wife of Chuza, steward of Herod,” that is, Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. The Joanna of the latest episode seems to be patterned after Joanna in Luke. Nevertheless, MM and J appear several more time together in Ep. 8.
Back to Saul motoring on foot toward Damascus for a moment and then back to the palace where Claudia is commiserating with Tiberius. At this point Tiberius extends an offering for a posting of Pilate to Rome, to the delight of Claudia. The stipulation is that Pilate would play a part in separating Caligula and Agrippa.
Back to Saul and company sitting around a campfire at night and Saul complaining about the followers of Christ.
Back to Jerusalem to see the Disciples leaving the cellar, no doubt because Saul has left town.
Next we have a scene in which Agrippa and Caligula are relaxing in a sauna when Pilate enters and ends up almost slitting Caligula’s throat because of “C’s” insults.
Back to Saul on the road to Damascus (feel like a tennis ball yet?). The Temple soldier’s horse seems to get frightened about something and collapses, throwing off the soldier. The soldier ends up leading the horse, who is still skittish about something.
Back to the palace where Pilate is complaining about Caligula and Claudia relays the offer for a post in Rome for helping separate C & A.
Now the scene changes to where Phillip is baptizing in Samaria and Peter and the gang show up. Everyone is really ecstatic. Of course, Simon is hanging around with his assistant. In this scene Phillip blurts out “Today we commit ourselves to Jesus”. (as if reuniting with P & the boys prompted it).
Back to the palace again where we find Joanna under suspicion. MM and Joanna’s husband come to her defense. Agrippa hits on Joanna but is busted by Herodias (Agrippa’s sister), who tells him to leave her alone.
Back to Saul on the road to Damascus. He argues with the temple soldier. Clouds move over and the sky darkens. A glowing Jesus, who also seems to be giving off a mist of some sort. Saul is blinded and told to go to Damascus. Pauls screams at Jesus “What do you want me to do?” and is helped to his feet and led off to Damascus, now blind.
In Damascus now – a street scene. Barnabas overhears a conversation about Saul being in Damascus and goes off to alert Ananias.
Back to Samaria where Simon the sorcerer is sharing his ‘testimony’ of how he was baptized and wants to hang out with the disciples.
Over to Damascus where Barnabas is telling Ananias of Saul’s arrival in Damascus.
Back to Samaria where Peter and John are preaching in the street where is the laying on of hands and giving of the Holy Spirit. Many are healed, some without the laying on of hands, apparently suddenly having faith and being healed. John preaches that people are to repent, have faith, and ‘accept’ Jesus into their lives.
Meanwhile, back in the palace, Tiberius hands Pilate the official orders to a post in Rome, C & A are separated by Tiberius leaving Jerusalem, taking Caligula with him. C & A are really mad.
Back in Samaria, Simon tries to buy the Holy Spirit, is chastised by Peter and slain by God, seemingly in the same manner as Ananias and his wife in an earlier episode. Peter actually pleads with God so spare Simon’s life.
Back in the palace Agrippa catches Joanna praying and Claudia is having night dreams and visions.
Back in Samaria Jesus appears to Ananias and tells him to find Saul in the street called Straight. Over to Paul, who rips off his eye bandages and cries out for Ananias. Ananias finds Saul and heals him.
Back in the palace, Joanna is brought into ‘court’ about her praying. Her husband says she has fits now and again and MM says she will watch over her.
Back in Damascus, Saul (now Paul?) testifies to his companions that he saw Jesus, wants to make amends and will be baptized. He asks his companions to also be baptized.
Caligula assassinated Tiberius in Rome and goes back to Jerusalem, where at the end of the episode he revokes Pilate’s posting to Rome and demands obeisance as the new Emperor.
Next we see Paul, Ananias and Barnabas where Barnabas is suspicious of Paul, but becomes really happy when Paul is baptized and ‘accepts’ Jesus. Ananias tells him he has been chosen to preach among the Gentiles.
Back to Jerusalem where the Temple soldier has returned and tells Caiphas of Saul’s conversion. Paul shows up at the temple doors and against objections of Barnabas and enters to preach.
Caligula’s return to Jerusalem speech and end of episode.
I found it interesting that we are introduced to what is termed by some as ‘decision theology’ or ‘decisionism’, meaning that in the process of a person’s salvation/coming to faith is ‘accepting’ Jesus into one’s heart/life. An individual ‘accepting’ Jesus with a free-will decision is the final determining act that results in salvation. In other words, Jesus died to make possible the salvation of men, but it is the free-will decision of men that seals the deal. This is contrary to scripture that tells us that salvation is not of man’s will but is by God’s mercy (Rom 9:16).
Sadly, decisionism seems to be a prevailing theology in today’s evangelicalism. However a meritorious act by man cannot/will not bring about salvation, as it is not only clearly spoken against, we are also told that salvation is by grace through faith (both of which are gifts), so that no one can boast.
I’ll say no more at the moment, but leave you with food for thought.