The Bible miniseries premiered on The History Channel Sunday, March 3. The creators and executive producers of The Bible are husband and wife, Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice) and Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel). The Bible will air in five two-hour episodes, concluding on Easter, March 31.
Lifeway.com sat down with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett to discuss The Bible.
Lifeway.com: What inspired you to create The Bible miniseries?
Mark Burnett: We're at the point of our careers now where we've been so blessed with abundant success in television, that we get a chance to do things that we really want to do and we love the Bible. We love it in terms of faith. But it also happens to be the most important book in the history of the world, the fabric of society. The set of laws. Tells us who we are. How to live. And what a great opportunity. So we decided you know to stick our necks out a little bit and make The Bible. And we were able to get it made. And it's so exciting.
Roma Downey: We felt called to do it though a real prompting from the Holy Spirit. It just nudged and nudged and there have been times I have felt in our marriage that maybe we were brought together for such a time as this - that we've been able to bring our combined strengths and talents and experience and the platform that we've been given. We've prayed every step of the way that the right people would be drawn to us. Obviously to create something on this scale has required an enormous amount of people every step of the way. We drew great and experienced teams to us.
And it's been a wonderful experience. And to be able to work together shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, and still be speaking to each other is a testament to our love. But this is, for us, something that we expect to be seen by more people than have seen anything else that we have created in our careers collectively combined. The potential for this to reach dark corners of the world that have never been exposed to the Bible or the great stories of the Bible or the words of the Gospel. There is great potential for this and we are very excited by that.
Lifeway.com: What kind of impact do you want to have with The Bible?
Roma: The best-case scenario for us is that there's an opportunity here for people to be discussing the Bible at the water cooler the day after this has aired. You know that seems so exciting that it just will stimulate conversation.
I think several things will happen. The faithful will find us and I think that that audience will see the beautiful stories come to life in new, fresh visual ways on screen. But there's an opportunity here for many people who are unchurched or who have never read the Bible that it will show them just how amazing the Bible is and maybe draw people to it. That people will pick the book off the shelf and go back to it.
I myself am a very visual learner. I think everything I know I learned from the movies. If I've seen it, it anchors it in my mind. And even for us going back in now when we read the Bible, informed by the images and the characters that have played them in our movie, it brings it to life in a different kind of a way. And I think that's very exciting.
Mark: We've tried to make this Bible series youthful, vibrant, and make it look like a major motion picture. I think we succeed with that and made it emotionally connected. Clearly we're not qualified to teach the Bible. This isn't the Bible. This is a connected piece of television which will make you love parts of the Bible and ideally make you read the book.
People who really know the Bible we'll say, "Oh, I forgot about that or I don't remember that part." That's what's so great. It will make people say, "I'm going to look that up." I think that biblical literacy is at an all-time low, and it's incumbent upon us with our influence in the entertainment business to use our power to get a series like this on television which will cause millions to engage with the Bible either for the first time or again. That's what we want to come out of this. And we hope people will love it.
Lifeway.com: How have the Scriptures become important to you?
Mark: I can't remember when the Bible wasn't in my house growing up. But there's no question, once you take on a project, The Bible, for television and in books, it's incumbent — it's been years now of studying it, reading it more and loving it more. And also putting images to the stories on a television miniseries like this, you start to imprint in your mind those images so when you read the Bible or pray, you now have those visual images flooding into you and it just makes it closer. And hopefully that same experience that I've had with that, millions and millions of people around the world will also have. For some people, by the way, this series may be their first ever time they'll touch the Bible and think about the Bible. So I think it's exciting to spread the Gospel, spread the Word and to evangelize in this way.
Roma: I think it would be true to say that from working on this that it has deepened our faith. That would be a very accurate statement.
Lifeway.com: What's your favorite scene?
Mark: There are so many scenes in 10 hours (of The Bible) that I love. I do love the scene where Pontius Pilate sees Jesus for the first time in the cells. Very, very powerful which as we know culminates because Pontius Pilate was the most powerful guy in the region reporting to Caesar. He can do anything he wants. Kill who he wants. Tax who he wants. Make laws, adjudicate. But he goes and sees this prisoner and he understands there's something unusual about this prisoner, Jesus. He didn't try to defend Himself. Try to talk His way out of it.
And Jesus talks about truth that whoever believes in the truth knows. And there's a moment where Pilate says, "Truth. What is truth?" And it's such an important moment to me because I think politicians and leaders all over the place take short-term expediency over the truth. And that's happened in politics and governing nations forever.
I feel Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus wasn't guilty, knew he shouldn't have crucified him. But he tried to get out of it a couple of ways by offering Barabbas and various things, but even then he could have said no. But then to crucify Jesus and think by washing his hands that's OK. And yet he even feels like this is something that will be forgotten in a week, just another Jew.
Actually Pontius Pilate goes on to become one of the most reviled people in history. And I think it comments in that scene when the first time he ever sees Jesus and asks Jesus, what is truth, but Jesus doesn't answer him. Jesus looks up into the light and just smiles. Because Jesus is the truth. He's not pointing the way to the truth. He is the truth.