Dr Who (Mis)Quotes Scripture
The most recent season of Dr Who has widely received praise, including from recent converts to the series.
A recent episode of the show has raised eyebrows, however, for the way that it dealt with a particular piece of scripture.
Season 11, Episode eight aired in Australia on November. The episode featured an exchange between the time travelling Doctor and a medieval woman over the treatment of witches.
Becka: [about witches] As King James has written, in his new Bible, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
The Doctor: In the Old Testament. There’s a twist in the sequel – “Love thy neighbour”.
This seeming throwaway line has been at the centre of controversy over what it implies regarding the nature of the Old Testament, being a violent set of books superceded by the “twist in the sequel.”
Even @bbcdoctorwho is dabbling in antisemitism! What is wrong with the British?! att: @ADL_National “Love thy neighbor” is actually *from* the Old Testament [Lev. 19:18]. To claim Jews + their “Old” Testament are heartless/cruel in contrast to Christian “sequel” => antisemitic pic.twitter.com/vUyaPlrt72
— Reince “Beto2020” Niebuhr (@ReinceNiebuhr) November 26, 2018
The phrase “Love your neighbour” appears in in Leviticus. 19:18, part of the same book that this exchange alludes to.
As United Theological College Old Testament Lecturer Anthony Rees told Insights, the concept has a wider presence in the Old Testament.
“Love for neighbour is everywhere in the Old Testament,” Dr Rees said.
“The law and prophets lay very specific demands upon people in the way they are to “love” each other.”
In the context of the Leviticus passage, this love includes providing for our neighbours’ welfare in practical ways.
The slippage is perhaps all the more surprising because of the show’s Jewish roots. The man broadly considered to be Dr Who’s creator was Sydney Cecil Newman, a Jewish TV producer from Canada who helped develop the show.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor