From Acts 9
The episode begins with Saul/Paul leaving the temple in Damascus after having preached about Jesus and causing a bit of a ruckus. He is let down over the wall in a basket.>the Acts account states that after he spent many days in Damascus there was a plot to kill him by the religious Jews and he did escape in a basket.
Switch to the Jerusalem Palace where Caligula is holding court and demanding obeisance, even to the point of asking a man who had sworn allegiance to his father (to even die for him) and also swore allegiance to Caligula, to kill himself, which he did, appealing to ‘the gods’ to find favor with him.
The episode is dominated by politics and intrigue in the palace. At the same time, it appeared in the episode that women are clearly large & in charge of things (primarily the wives of Caiphas and Pilate). Since all of the drama and intrigue is foreign to scripture, I will omit the recounting this time. It’s barely worth it. I will say that historians, mainly Josephus, do record Caligula’s desire to have his statue placed in the temple and elsewhere in Jerusalem (circa 39 A.D.) but his efforts to do so were eventually frustrated. The drama of the television episode is largely fictional, however.
The other dominating scene in this episode is the eventual meeting of Saul with the disciples in Jerusalem, which is quite ‘interesting’.
Here is the entirety of the account in Acts, Chapter 9:26 – 30:
“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.”
The television version is rather lengthy and drawn out with significant drama not in the biblical account. In the TV version, Saul first tells some of the disciples that he is now a believer in Jesus and ends up having a private session with Peter to sort things out. In that scene, Saul seems to ‘school’ Peter concerning how they should partner and boldly preach the gospel (Peter and the boys are still a bit fearful at times.
If I were asked about what I would consider the most problematic issue with episode 9, I would discuss the scene in which Saul, as part of his testimony, said to the disciples “I was baptized and made brand new”. In the biblically account, we are told simply that Barnabas recounted Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus.
Although one could debate whether or not this episode of A.D. intended to imply that water baptism causes one to be regenerated, ‘baptismal regeneration’ was clearly implied. While some might think I’m being a bit picky, I would remind readers that ‘baptismal regeneration’ is a primary tenet of the Catholic Church, while certain Protestant denominations would also consider water baptism necessary for salvation/regeneration. It’s interesting to note that the main producer of A. D. (Roma Downey) is Roman Catholic.
This leads to the issue of whether or not regeneration itself (being born again) is a sovereign act of God (monergistic) or the result of God and man working together (synergistic). In the synergistic paradigm, which would be the prevailing thought in most of today’s protestant evangelicalism, God made it possible for men to be saved by sending His Son to die, however it is a human ‘free will’ decision that brings about regeneration. I believe very strongly that regeneration is a sovereign act of God upon His elect whereby their hearts are opened to receive the message of the gospel and when that message is presented to a God opened heart, salvation always results.
There are other things that, to me, were problematic as well, both historically and biblically that I will refrain from discussing for the moment.
Another example of reducing the story of the establishment of the early church to mass/crass entertainment. Enough said for now. I can’t wait for the next episode!
If/when this episode is reviewed at Issues, Etc. I will also post that link.