LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The highly publicized “Jesus” miniseries merits scrutiny for its portrayal of Christ and his work, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
“My concerns are where the movie diverges from the biblical story as recorded in the gospels, and there are some significant divergences,” said Mohler, who addressed the issue on a panel discussion on WLKY-TV, the Louisville CBS affiliate, following the showing of the first half of the miniseries May 14.
“Jesus in the movie says that he is dying for the goodness in every human heart when the Scriptures are very clear that Jesus died for the sinfulness in every human heart, and he died literally for our sins,” Mohler explained.
In addition to Mohler, the panel included several local religious leaders, including a rabbi, a priest and an Islamic leader. Mohler had viewed a pre-released copy of the miniseries in its entirety May 12.
Another scene of the movie that should concern Christians involves the depiction of Jesus’ baptism, Mohler said.
“When Jesus comes forth to be baptized, the movie seems to imply that Jesus confessed his sins,” he said. “It doesn’t say so directly, but John says that’s the purpose of his baptism.”
Yet, despite these negatives, the miniseries has some positive aspects, Mohler said.
“Let me say first of all that one of the best aspects of this presentation was that it was not the ‘Last Temptation of Christ,'” Mohler said. “It was not irreverent. I felt like it was a very respectful telling of the story and done in many ways very well.”
Though the movie maintains an appropriate emphasis on the humanity of Christ, Mohler said the stress on Christ’s human nature at times blurred his deity.
But in regard to the miniseries’ concern with the humanity of Christ, Mohler said: “It’s something that I really don’t want to complain about … because the believing church believes not only that he was fully human, but that he was fully divine and both in right measure.”
During the panel discussion, Mohler also responded to the moderator’s question regarding whether Jesus is the only way of salvation.
“The Scripture is very clear that Jesus himself said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me,'” Mohler said.
“That is central to the understanding of the Christian church and has been from the very beginning. … The central thrust of the Christian gospel is that there is salvation in Jesus Christ and in no other name, and there is salvation to all who call upon the name of the Lord and do so believing in Christ as God’s Son whom he has sent.”
In additional comments to Baptist Press, Mohler said there are other features to appreciate regarding the movie.
“Jesus is acknowledged as divine. The miracles are presented as real. And events as crucial as the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ are treated with respect,” Mohler said.
However, in many places, the producers neglect to relate the full and accurate story as told in the gospels.
“Television necessarily reduces and distorts the biblical record,” Mohler said. “Some events are changed to make for good movie production at the cost of biblical truth. Other events are simply invented in order to drive the story where the producers wanted it to go.
“As a result, Jesus is portrayed as uncertain of his mission at the onset. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, is depicted as in love with Jesus. John the Baptist does not recognize Jesus until after his baptism. And Pontius Pilate seems to be plotting the death of Christ and manipulating the Jews.
“The best response to this movie is to return to the original script — the New Testament,” Mohler said. “Let the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John set the record straight.”