Mar 5

Two Bible-Based Dramas: One Fact, One Fiction posted by John Sorensen on Mar 05, 2013

Both productions come from people with delightful Irish or British accents. But that’s where all similarity ends. It’s the difference between fact and fiction. And, in either case, fodder for good conversation this Easter season with family or friends that do not yet know Christ.

Irish writer Colm Toibin’s new one-woman play, The Testament of Mary, opens on Broadway on March 26. It’s a 90-minute monologue in which an aged and despairing Mary reviews the life of Jesus, dismisses his claim to deity, and offers this bitter summation of his life’s work: “It was not worth it.”

The New York Times calls it “beautiful and daring,” but the New York Review of Books is more on the money, calling Toibin’s work “subversive and ruthless.” I’d have to add “blasphemous.”

And impossible, given the fact that Mary, more than any other human who has ever lived, knew Jesus as both man and God. The woman who gave birth to God in human flesh wound up wracked with doubt and despair? That’s a fable that only the truly credulous can embrace.

Still, you can see why some secular critics are tipsy with delight over this Irish offering.

There’s another one about which I’m much more optimistic. Irish-born actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) has teamed up with her British-born producer husband Mark Burnett (Survivor, Shark Tank, Celebrity Apprentice) to give television viewers The Bible, a grand five-week, 10-hour television mini-series that began March 3 on the History Channel.

Unlike Toibin, Downey and Burnett take the Bible at its word.

“We believe the Bible,” Burnett told ABC News. “You have to take the Bible as a fact.”

The couple spent almost four years producing the $22 million project, which was shot in Morocco. Downey said she and Burnett enlisted the aid of some 40 academics to ensure biblical accuracy. Their “hope is that this series will reach millions of people around the world.”

My friend Dr. Frank Wright, President of the National Religious Broadcasters Network, has seen previews and calls it “one of the more remarkable cinematic events of our time.”

It’s true that biblical productions sometimes disappoint as dramatic fare or that they distort biblical characters, as did the ethereal, other-worldly Jesus played by Max von Sydow in the 1965 movie, The Greatest Story Ever Told.

But that’s not the case here, according to Dr. Wright. “Having viewed various elements of the series, I would rate their endeavor an unqualified success! The Bible mini-series rises above its forebears, shining with cinematic artistry, dramatic creativity, and essential biblical fidelity.”

And one more thing. Roma Downey plays Mary in the mini-series. I’m pretty sure that the real Mary didn’t sound like she was born in County Cork but, beyond that, look for a story that presents biblical truth faithfully and with dramatic power.

Use it to grow your own faith and share it with others!

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