I enjoyed the series, but don't know how to characterize it. Is it documentary? Fiction? Something else? Obviously to fit the Bible into ten hours of programming, including commercials, requires severe editing. I'm sure I would have chosen some different things to include, and maybe excluded some of what they put in. But that would be being picky. Even if it had been twenty hours of programming, I probably wouldn't have agreed with everything.
A filmmaker clearly needs to add things to what the Bible says to change words on paper to images on a screen, so no problems with how they did it. For the most part they did an excellent job. I thought they especially did a good job showing how the Jewish leaders reacted to this new problem coming out of Galilee, and how they interacted with Pilate. The Bible gives us few words about this, so we have to add to it to make a movie. I think those responsible did it well.
They also have to create scenes with scenery. Since the Bible tells us little about what various places looked like, we can only guess. Style of clothing, type of buildings, vegetation, habits of the populace. All of these must be created from sources other than the Bible. Except as I will mention below, I thought they movie did well with this.
Here are a few specific criticisms.
- Almost every scene showed a desert land, brown and tan colored and devoid of vegetation. The only exception I can think of was the scenes in the garden of Gethsemane. What happened to the western arc of the fertile crescent I learned about in grade school and junior high? What happened to the land flowing with milk and honey described in the Old Testament? Sorry, folks, but I just don't believe it. At the time the Jews first took possession of their inheritance it was all a garden. I know climates can change over time, but I don't believe that, by Jesus' time, it had become a desert. There are desert lands south of Israel, and perhaps east as well. But Israel itself? I haven't been there, but I just don't believe it. Those who have been there tell me a different story.
- Quite a few things that happened at night were shown in daytime scenes. I didn't catalogue these as I saw them, and right now specific examples don't come to mind. I remember noting them, however, as the miniseries unfolded.
- Many legends of church history were included. These non-biblical vignettes are fairly well established in church lore, but are not established by the Bible record. Such as Saint Veronica wiping the face of Jesus as he slowly trudged to Calvary.
- The life of King Saul, predecessor of King David, was the main Old Testament story I thought was poorly done. I would have to see it again and take some notes to be able to expand on this comment, but I remember that was my reaction at the time I watched that part of the miniseries.
That brings me down to: Is it fiction or nonfiction? I think it is something in between, what they now call creative non-fiction. It is close enough to the biblical record to be considered nonfiction, but has enough things added, enough interpretation, to not be able to call it documentary or pure nonfiction.