We just got over the hysteria of the release of Noah, and now it appears that there is a controversial television series on the way. According to this article from the Christian Post, FOX is preparing to release a series entitled Nazareth. I understand that some people thought that Noah was a great conversation starter while others were irritated by it, but I am sincerely concerned that not very much good can come out of Nazareth (no John 1:46 pun intended).
Although the details are still a bit sparse, this series is going to focus on Jesus from the age of 13 through the age of 30. He began His ministry at age 30, so I suppose this is going to turn into some kind of behind-the-scenes look at what it must have been like to grow up and become an adult man while simultaneously being the Son of God.
It is certainly an interesting topic, but I am very worried about it because there is absolutely nothing in the Biblical record about Jesus in this time. Here is all that we know after the episode of the 12-year-old Jesus teaching in the Temple.
Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Before this verse He was 12, and after this verse He was 30. We simply do not know a lot other than the fact that He grew up like you would expect any normal person to do.
However, that would be an awfully boring television show. I can kind of imagine the narrator coming on TV, saying that verse, and the credits rolling. There is going to need to be a lot of filling in the blanks if a compelling TV show is going to be made out of something that we really know nothing about. This is a pretty common practice in Hollywood.
For example, when a movie is made about Abraham Lincoln, he has conversations in those movies, and we honestly do not know if he had those exact conversations in those exact words in the mid-1800s. However, I don’t know about anyone who gets overly upset about a minor misrepresentation of Lincoln. Why is there a different treatment?
Abraham Lincoln was not claiming to be the Son of God. He might have been a great man, and he might have been very morally upright, but he was not the focal point of anyone’s faith. If the minor details are not right, it certainly might be bad history, but it is not bad theology.
Why does that matter though?
Jesus fulfilled a very special place in history. He did something that no human ever did in the past or ever could do in the future. He lived a perfect life according to the standards of God. That is what qualified Him to then become the perfect sacrifice who died in our place.
If there is anything about Jesus in that film that does not present Him as perfect, this might be a very bad representation. I know that every portrayal of Jesus certainly runs that risk, but this one seems even more egregious. Making a film about Jesus and portraying the stories that we have recorded in the Bible is one thing. At least for those stories, we have facts, and we have things that we know we can tell. Speculating about a time of His life that we know nothing about seems to be asking for major trouble.
Now, even if we assume no ill will essentially on the part of the filmmakers (I don’t know very much about them, so this is a large assumption), it is a reality that the Jesus represented by many people in society today is not anywhere near the Jesus in the Bible. There is plenty of bad theology in the world today. I worry what will happen if some of that makes its way into this portrayal. Something will have to fill the time because of the lack of historical data, and if you start with bad theology, we could have a major problem on our hands. We could be combining speculative history with bad theology.
Again, I am not necessarily opposed to the portrayal of Jesus in film. I know that some people feel like that should never be done, and while I certainly respect that viewpoint, I do not always think it is a bad thing. However, I do think that we run into problems when we start speculating. Think about what happened with the Da Vinci Code. People take it as fact and run with it because it is a novel story about. I would hate to see that happen again with Nazareth.