The Bible: A History
(PG) SBS DVD
This recent SBS series has all the stylistic strengths and limitations of documentary genre as developed by public broadcasters.
It is a series of video essays by a prominent thinker or presenter as they encounter other prominent religious thinkers and places.
There is no overall presenter and little apparent executive production. Some material is repeated between episodes and the overall structure seems patchy.
The result is an entertaining, diverse if somewhat unwieldy presentation of ideas very much shaped by the opinions and interests of individual presenters.
Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe’s inquiry into Mosaic Law ends up flat. Gerry Adams does a lot better on justice and Jesus.
The overall content would not be new or even substantial for an educated Christian, although the thesis of the first Creation episode — that the first books of the Bible (along with Judaic monotheism) were created during the time of Babylonian exile to justify a belief in a god and future for a people who were absent from their homeland — seems stimulating.
The walk and talk style can seem as incidental as it is colourful — there are quite a few plane trips, door knocking and kerbside inquiries — as well as splendorous pans of global travel destinations.
However, the series is a high quality production and quite excellent material for discussion that could well be open to newcomers. At 50 minutes each episode allows for viewing and guided discussion in a single meeting schedule.