Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Bible, Part 3

Rembrandt's Jeremiah
The third instalment of The Bible series on TV was on last night. It was just a single episode (#5) and covered the fall of Jerusalem and a few stories from the life of Daniel. This time, I am happy to say, I agreed with the filmmakers' interpretation.

I liked the way that they had a relatively unknown Bible character (Zedekiah) and how they had Jeremiah in the story as well. Although he does not appear in the Book of Kings, we see from the Book of Jeremiah that he was an important figure in the last days of Jerusalem.

They included the story of Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3), and Daniel in the lions' den (Daniel 6). I was disappointed with Nebuchadnezzar's response to Daniel's interpretation of his dream. He says something like "You're a brave man, I value that; you will serve me." In the Bible, however, it says that he "fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him" (Daniel 2:46).

Donald Wiseman (1918 – 2010)
When we come to the story of Daniel in the lions' den, the TV series has Cyrus as the king, instead of Darius. This website lists this as one of the inaccuracies of the series, but in fact they are – correctly in my opinion – identifying Darius and Cyrus. This is following a suggestion first offered by Donald Wiseman in 1957, and it comes from a particular interpretation of Daniel 6:28. The Hebrew word usually translated "and" can also mean "namely" or "that is" – "So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius – that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian." The identification of Darius and Cyrus indicates that Daniel had an important part to play in the return of the Jews to Palestine. It's great to see that this interpretation has now become somewhat mainstream.

I also appreciated how the episode was working hard to connect to the New Testament. It correctly construed Cyrus as a Messiah-figure (see Isaiah 45:1) and when he entered Babylon on a donkey, people throw palm fronds in his path, in subtle anticipating of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The episode emphasises Daniel 2:44, which surely is one of the most significant prophecies in the Old Testament. And the fourth beast of Daniel 7 is (correctly) interpreted as the Roman empire, which enables the series to jump forward into the New Testament era.

Finally, I was interested to note that the episode also borrowed from the "Prayer of Azariah", appearing in the Septuagint version of Daniel, and included in the Apocrypha. I guess that's better than just making up one's own dialogue in telling these stories.

Read my reviews of Part 1 and Part 2

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