Updated: Mar 30
To finish our exploration of 12 Bible movie (and TV) adaptations for Easter and Passover, we'll take a look at The Chosen and Jesus: His Life, two recent shows exploring Jesus' life. These adaptations are similar not only because they recently came out (Jesus: His Life released in March and The Chosen just released its first four episodes earlier this week) but also because of how long-form storytelling allows them to adapt the gospels in a way that is distinct from the Bible film adaptations that we looked at yesterday and on Thursday.
Photo from: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9637536/mediaviewer/rm734160896
Directed by: Dallas Jenkins [The Chosen]; Ashley Pearce and Adrian McDowall [Jesus: His Life]
Starring: Jonathan Roumie (Jesus), Erick Avari (Nicodemus), Shahar Isaac (Peter), Brandon Potter (Quintus), Elizabeth Tabish (“Lilith”), Mike Saad (Matthew) [The Chosen]; Houda Echoufni (Virgin Mary), Greg Barnett (Jesus), John Hopkins (Peter), Cassie Bradley (Mary Magdalene) [Jesus: His Life]
Photo from: https://www.press.thechosen.tv/
Adapting: The Canonical Gospels
Synopsis [The Chosen]
The first episode introduces us to Nicodemus, several of Jesus’ future apostles, and a demon-possessed woman we know as Lilith in the midst of their seemingly hopeless life-struggles in Capernaum, leading up to their first encounters with Jesus.
Synopsis [Jesus: His Life]
In each episode, we approach Jesus through the perspective of an important person connected to him, including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary, and Caiaphas. The show is a mixture of dramatization and commentary by contemporary scholars and religious leaders from a variety of backgrounds.
Because a film has a limited amount of time to tell a story, it has to be very disciplined about what it includes and what it cuts. Long-form stories like television shows have the luxury of exploring a broader cast of characters and showing how they change over an extended period of time. As a result, each character can have his or her own fully-realized trajectory, which interweaves and builds on the trajectory of other characters in complex and interesting ways. Jesus: His Life and even more The Chosen (which will unfold over several seasons) are taking advantage of their spacious medium to explore the characters that surrounded Jesus in a way that film adaptations of the Bible never could.
Distribution Method [The Chosen]
The Chosen is the first Bible adaptation of the binge-watching era. Whereas previous shows have worked on the assumption that they would be watched according to a weekly television schedule, The Chosen has no set schedule. In fact, it even uses the phrase Binge Jesus in its marketing. The episodes of the show are designed to flow easily from one to another. This encourages viewers to move through an entire season in a few sittings.
The Market [The Chosen]
The Chosen has also been remarkably successful in raising funds. It set an all-time record for television crowdfunding, with over $10 million dollars from 16,000 investors, a feat that was made possible through the recent JOBS Act legislation and Angel Studios, a Netflix-esque content platform. The project began with a short pilot based on the nativity story, which served as a proof of concept and captured the interest of Christians looking for a historically and biblically accurate depiction of Jesus’ life.
Expectations of Supporters
Because of its funding method, The Chosen doesn't have to operate according to the expectations of Hollywood or major broadcast studios. The influence of the studio system has led many previous Bible TV adaptations to subvert or undermine the original biblical source material. Of course, The Chosen has also been influenced by its support system. But the supporters of The Chosen have a very different set of expectations. In particular, it’s clear from how the show is marketed and introduced that The Chosen intends to support and undergird the gospel accounts rather than subverting or undermining them.
The casting for both The Chosen and Jesus: His Life reflects a growing cultural dissatisfaction with anglicizing Jesus and first century Palestine. This is, again, seen in how both shows are marketed. Because it is funded by a network and not by private backers, Jesus: His Life takes this impulse for diversity a step further by including in the cast of commentators a theologically diverse grouping of scholars and teachers. The result of this is not a single interpretation of Jesus but several, some of which have been criticized by Christian leaders as undermining the biblical text.
Photo from: https://www.press.thechosen.tv/
Access to Historical Knowledge
Both shows tout themselves as being historically-informed. While historians may still have quibbles, we've clearly come a long way from The King of Kings, which depicts Mary Magdalene as a zebra-chariot-owning-seven-deadly-sins-possessed prostitute. Both shows depict the complexities of every day life in first century Palestine with a degree of detail that wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for the past several decades of archaeological and historical research.
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A New Resource for Studying The Chosen
If you're like me, watching The Chosen is about more than entertainment. Bible movies & shows like The Chosen provide us with fresh eyes to see the significance of the Bible and the beauty of the Gospel. That's why I'm excited to share with you a new resource that I've created to help you study biblical adaptations & reflect on how they apply to everyday life. Come and See is a devotional journal designed specifically for studying Bible movies and shows like The Chosen. It includes sections for you to take notes on each episode's plot, your favorite quotes, personal connections, questions, and, of course, Scripture references. Whether you're studying on your own or with your small group or ministry, Come and See is a perfect resource to help you dig deeper into The Chosen.
FYI: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Click here for my affiliation policy.
If you liked this post, you might want to check out some of my other posts on The Chosen and Bible adaptation. I have Bible studies/discussion guides for each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1-3, blogs exploring how The Chosen adapts key biblical figures, and articles exploring the controversial nature of adaptation. I hope you enjoy them!
The Chosen Season 3
Adapting Biblical Characters Series
Thomas & Ramah in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Yussif, Jairus, & Shmuel in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Quintus, Gaius, Atticus, and the Romans in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Little James in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Pontius Pilate & his Wife in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Judas in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Matthew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Exploring The Chosen with Youth or Small Group [Discussion Guides]
Episode 1 Guide: Homecoming
Episode 2 Guide: Two by Two
Episode 3 Guide: Physician, Heal Thyself
Episode 4 Guide: Clean Part 1
Episode 5 Guide: Clean Part 2
Episode 6 Guide: Intensity in Tent City
Episode 7 Guide: Ears to Hear
Episode 8 Guide: The Feeding of the 5,000
Season 2 Reflection P1: What is The Chosen Season 2 about?
Season 2 Reflection P2: What was The Chosen Season 2 about? (Plots & Theme)
Episode 1 Guide: The Beloved Disciple
Episode 2 Guide: Philip, Nathanael, & Matthew
Episode 3 Guide: Life Among the Disciples of Jesus
Episode 4 Guide: Simon the Zealot & the Man at the Bethesda Pool
Episode 5 Guide: Mary's Demons & the Destiny of John the Baptist
Episode 6 Guide: Mercy and Not Sacrifice
Episode 7 Guide: Quintus Returns
Episode 8 Guide: Judas, Matthew, & the Sermon on the Mount
Episode 1 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Lilith, and the Redeemer
Episode 2 Guide: Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and Shabbat
Episode 3 Guide: Depicting Jesus in Art, Film, and TV
Episode 4 Guide: When Jesus Met Simon (Peter)
Episode 5 Guide: Mary, Mother of Jesus
Episode 6 Guide: Jesus, Shmuel, & the Pharisees
Episode 7 Guide: Did Nicodemus Follow Jesus?
Episode 8 Guide: The Woman at the Well, Eden, & Zohara
The Chosen Controversies Series
Themes & Theology of The Chosen [Buy Me a Coffee Members Only]
Episode 1: What do we do when we are scared?
Beyond The Chosen
The Chosen: 9 Good Friday & Easter Episodes ***Season 3 Update***