“The Chosen”– AngelVid TV Series-Updated

Last year about this time I watched the first episode of season 1 of the VidAngel TV series The Chosen. It was free. I posted my own thoughts about it here, as well as the producer’s perspective (Dallas Jenkins) here. Now that season 1, in it’s entirety is free (great marketing strategy) I have watched all 8 episodes, as well as summarized each episode. This post will not provide the episode summaries, but instead will provide this old man’s thoughts on the series as a whole. Let’s go.

Here again is the producer’s (Dallas Jenkins) ‘disclaimer’:

“The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.

However, all biblical and historical content and artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.”

That disclaimer is quite similar to many we have seen for Hollywood productions and is extremely significant. We’ll explain.

The Chosen Web page states the following, which is also very significant:

“The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you.”

The episodes themselves follow several distinct story lines in each and every episode:

There is the story of Mary Magdalene, which seems to be the main story in Episode 1, where she receives deliverance from her demon(s). She also appears in the other episodes, traveling with Jesus and the disciples, and is presented more “fully” than in the biblical text.

Then we have the story of Nicodemus, Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, who in the first episode is traveling to Capernaum on a teaching mission. His meeting with Jesus described in John, Chapter 3 occurs in the final episodes, while previous episodes build up to the John account.

He too is present in all of the subsequent episodes.

Then we have a story centering on Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and Matthew the tax collector. The three meet in interesting circumstance in the first episode and like the other stories they are seem in all of the season 1 episodes.

And of course, we have Jesus. He delivers Mary Magdalene in Episode 1, calls his disciples to follow him, teaches children, heals the sick, and shows great compassion to everyone he encounters.

Format

Presenting several main stories throughout the series episodes was clever, and not unlike many secular television shows. Each episode is set up to get you interested in the next one. The first free episode last year was intended to encourage you to rent/buy the rest. Last year I watched the free episode only. I wasn’t about to pay for a LOT of fiction biblical fiction. I find scripture far more interesting. Offering all of last year’s episodes for free this year encourage you to rent/buy year 2 episodes. Good marketing.

The Producer’s Disclaimer

“The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.

However, all biblical and historical content and artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.”

This disclaimer heads off the ‘adding to scripture’ allegation, depending on how you define ‘adding to scripture’. Some viewers will accept that, others will not. Key terms are “Based on” and “artistic imagination”.

Similar statements have been made for other Hollywood and made for TV docudramas through the years. But should ‘artistic imagination’ be used to embellish biblical accounts? Your call. Also, I would estimate that the amount of scripture in the entire series probably wouldn’t add up to more than an hour of content, most of which was in the last two episodes. That might be too generous.

The stated purpose of The Chosen series:

“The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you.”

More to follow on that.

Content

True to the disclaimer, much was added to the biblical account. After all, it was touted as being an in-depth look at Jesus from the viewpoint of those who knew him best. Since the New Testament accounts don’t provide that in-depth coverage, the best we can say is that those perspectives are probably accurate in some places but they might get it wrong in others.

There are a lot of segments that are made up out of whole cloth (artistic imagination). While they add a lot to the story lines, they place an undo amount of emphasis on certain aspects of the main characters, thus distracting from the life of Christ Himself.

The good news of Christ’s death for sin runs in the background, however much more time is given to His love and compassion, which is sadly similar to much of today’s evangelicalism. The serious issue of our sin before a holy God is not presented. Personally, I find that sad, but it’s entirely in line with the vast majority of today’s evangelicalism.

Issues

We are told by the producer, Dallas Jenkins, that “No matter where you are this is for you.” Yes and no. If you enjoy good clean entertainment, yes. Depending on where you are in your Christian walk however, it might not be for you. We’ll look at these issues from three perspectives.

New believers. While they have repented of sin and believed on Christ for salvation, they are still babes in terms of their knowledge of scripture. They could easily assume that all the added material (necessary for a series like this) is actually in the Bible. Their knowledge of scripture is minimal, for the most part.

Believers growing in their faith. These could be believers whose spiritual diet ranges from Facebook memes and favorite verse quotations to those involved in serious Bible study. By ‘serious’ I mean studying the Bible in context (immediate/surrounding section/book/whole Bible). They might suspect that some of the series’ content has been added to the text of the Bible, but might not. Some will even remember the disclaimer at the beginning. Some will be encouraged to more biblical research, but some will not.

Believers who really know their Bibles, having read (hopefully multiple times) and love serious Bible study (includes using different translations & good commentaries) for what is in the text and the author’s intent (human and God). They take the matter of salvation very seriously and find it sad, if not inexcusable that God’s hatred of sin and it’s eternal punishment all but missing from Season 1. There is a short mention early on, but you get no spoilers from me!

If and when they watch The Chosen they will immediately recognize most of what was added to the Bible narrative. They will most likely check out that which they are not sure of, like I did. Some might forget the early disclaimer and play the “if anyone adds to this book let him be cursed” card. Some will thoroughly enjoy it, others will be conflicted, and others will hate it.

Dans’ Personal Opinion

Jesus and the gospel message are far too important for cleverly presented stories, whether they are set in biblical times or the present. It bothers me If/when the message of the gospel that Christ died for the sins of men is diminished in any way. The gospel is a serious matter with eternal consequences.

In my opinion, the BAD news of the gospel, the problem of sin and eternal judgment, must precede the GOOD news, Christ’s substitutionary atonement for our sin. When a sinner truly recognizes the problem of sin, repents of that sin and believes in Christ, there exists true salvation. Whenever a sinner comes to Christ for his/her best life now, or any variant thereof, hell awaits a deceived sinner and Satan laughs.

Therefore, In my opinion:

  • The Chosen has good entertainment value. . .for Christians. It will be offensive to those who are living in rebellion to the God they know exists.
  • The Chosen is not a very good ‘standalone’ evangelistic tool. However, I do think it can be a conversation starter leading to a clearer presentation of the gospel. I’m not saying that no one can/will be saved watching it on their own. Many souls have been saved down through the centuries whose hearts have been opened by ‘something’, who became curious, and to whom a clear presentation of the gospel later provided.
  • If I apply the BIG question with which I approach Christian entertainment (Where’s the Gospel?), The Chosen series does a slightly better job than most Christian entertainment these days.

If you think that is a theologically ‘Reformed’ opinion, you would be correct. If you think it’s merely the opinion of one of those awful ‘Calvinists’, there’s help available and you can start here.

BTW, Todd Friel, over at Wrethed Radio recorded a Wretched Radio podcast after having asked for reviews of Season 1 episodes, discusses the reviews and the series in general. He did a good job. You can listen to that podcast here.

Have a blessed day!

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