Is ‘The Chosen’ Biblical?

Is the popular show, “The Chosen” a show that you should watch? Is it scriptural? Are there any problems for Christians to be watching this popular television series?    Those are the types of questions that I’d like to address here today.   

Back in 2019, I had heard about the television series, “The Chosen,” and decided to give it a look. My wife and I had watched the first episode, and though I was intrigued, we kind of let it slip and didn’t watch anymore of it. Recently, we picked it back up and have been watching the episodes again. 

Now, if you’re not familiar with the series, it’s a show based on the ministry of Jesus. One of the things that makes the show unique is that it was not filmed like the typical Hollywood movie but is more of an underground-type production. It’s a crowd-funded film, meaning that it was funded by donations, over 10 million dollars and counting to be exact. It was at first ignored by the mainstream media, and was only available on the VidAngel app. However, I know that the first two seasons are now on Amazon Prime.     

The show is the brainchild of Dallas Jenkins, who is the grandson of Jerry Jenkins, who co-authored the famous Left Behind series books. Dallas had sort of bottomed out as a director and no one in Hollywood was really interested in him any longer. As a believer, and at a very low point in his life, he began to rebound with a different kind of approach on how he was going to do his job.  He’s stated that the idea for the miniseries came some ten years ago while he was doing a short film for his church about the crucifixion.

Now, of course, The Chosen is not the first film about Jesus. There have been many. For example, back in 1977 there was the release of Jesus of Nazareth, and more recently there was Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Both of these movies had a huge impact. However, I find that there’s something very different about The Chosen. Perhaps the biggest difference is that it not just a two-hour movie, but is series of episodes spread out over a growing number of seasons. This gives the producers the luxury of really exploring the various characters.

Like the previous movies about the life of Jesus, The Chosen centers itself around the Gospel accounts and more specifically the teachings and miracles of Jesus. However, The Chosen spends most of its time between the known events of Jesus life, fixing itself on the characters, the Jewish way of life, and the political climate of the day. And there is a lot of character development in the series.     

Now, I have to admit that when I first began to watch the episodes, I was a little taken aback by how much liberty the producers took in the storyline. They were developing these characters in a way that at first made me kind of uncomfortable. For instance, Simon Peter is a fisherman who can’t make ends meet and so he decides to make some money by identifying Jewish fishermen who are fishing illegally on the Sabbath and not paying taxes. Of course, there’s nothing in the Biblical record suggesting that this was the case. The disciple Thomas is depicted as having worked for the winery that was providing the wine to the young couple getting married in Cana, and who happened to run out of wine as described in John chapter 2. And, probably one of the most colorful characters in The Chosen is Matthew, who’s displayed as being on the autistic spectrum. Incidentally, they portray Matthew as the tax collector who is leaning on Simon Peter to pay his debts.

Now, none of this is based on Biblical evidence. The storylines that they have developed are just the literary license taken by the producers.  So, as I said, I was at first taken aback by how the producers were telling the life story of Jesus, since it added in so much to the Gospel accounts. However, as I thought about it I realized that from nearly every single full length feature film to a small town Christmas pageant, liberties are always taken in making the Bible come alive on stage. To go from one account of Jesus to the next story of Jesus in any of the gospels, most directors and writers fill in the gaps with some type of fiction that they see is consistent with the overall picture of Jesus.

For example, one scene that stands out in my mind of The Passion of the Christ is when we find Jesus sort of inventing the high-top table and chairs and Mary his mother telling Him that it will never catch on. Of course, that scene is not based on any information that we get from the Gospels. It was just sort of a filler scene used to enhance the overall picture of who Jesus and Mary were. It was a fictional scene used as part of a larger story that is fact-based.  Christian-fiction is a genre that’s very popular. There are tons of Christian-fiction books out there – even by yours truly, which I wrote a number of years ago. Christian Fiction can be used to entertain while at the same time teaching some important Christian truths. It’s not new, by the way. Christian fiction goes way back.

One of the best-selling books of all times is the theological fiction book, A Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyun in 1678.  Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur was written in 1880 and was the best-selling novel of all time for over 50 years. Probably one of the most memorable Christian fiction pieces to make it to the big screen was the 1953 film, The Robe. The film centers on Jesus’ robe, which was won in a dice game at the foot of the cross, and its impact on the Roman soldier who obtained it.  In my opinion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Christian fiction – just as long as the consumer of it understands that the events may not have actually happened. 

Way back in the 80s I was teaching some teenagers in Bible school. One of the young girls had asked me if it was true that God had given Moses 15 commandments, but Moses had accidentally broken one of the tablets and we were left with only ten of them. What she was referring to was the 1981 comedy, History of the World Part 1. She saw the scene where Moses drops one of the tablets and she thought that that may have really happened. Sometimes books and movies will influence the way we think events may have occurred and so I think a good working knowledge of the Bible is always helpful when we watch or read Christian Fiction.   

Now, back to The Chosen

Of course, one of the most significant characters in the film is Jesus of Nazareth, played by Jonathan Roumie. The way they’ve portrayed him is incredibly fascinating.  Oftentimes, Jesus is portrayed in movies as sort of a standoffish, stoic, troubled character. However, in The Chosen he’s not only approachable and likeable, but he has a wonderful sense of humor. I think most of us like to think that Jesus had a sense of humor, though the Bible doesn’t give us much detail about that.  Jesus, in the The Chosen, is also very human. I guess it would be kind of hard for them to show his divine side, so they’ve really highlighted the human side of Jesus. Jonathan Roumie and Dallas Jenkins have made Jesus the kind of guy you’d want to be around – the kind of guy you’d feel comfortable approaching. Heck, in season 3 he’s seen playing sports with his friends, and he loses the game!  

I don’t know what it was like being around the real Jesus some 2,000 years ago. It’s something that I have thought an awful lot about over the years and I’m eternally grateful for the New Testament that gives me an idea of who He was.  Still, I find myself sometimes just thinking about him and contemplating what he would have been like to encounter as a man. Was he a man a lot like Jesus in The Chosen? Possibly.

Two faces of Jesus painting

Throughout the generations, artists have given us many different images of who they believe Jesus was like. Oftentimes, this tells us more about the artist and his culture than how Jesus really appeared. For instance, during Medieval times baby Jesus was often painted as having an adult head and features. 

Some of the earliest depictions of Jesus displayed him as somewhat Roman and without any facial hair – which is typical Roman. Initially, Christians in Rome rarely depicted Jesus on the cross, but as someone like the Good Shepherd.   

 Later, art would attempt to capture different aspects of Jesus, like this 6th Century icon. The two different facial expression on either side of his face emphasize Christ’s two natures as fully God and fully human.     

It’s not uncommon to find Asian paintings of an Asian Jesus surrounded by Asian people.  Or an Italian painting of Jesus appearing somewhat – well – Italian.     The followers of Jesus have always wondered not just about what Jesus looked like, but about who he was as a man and how he fit into our world. Those who have been gifted by God to be artists have taken brush and paint, or perhaps camera and film, and labored to give us a representation. I believe that those pieces of art, can contribute to our appreciation of Jesus. They stir us, they can inspire us, they can cause us to look upward toward God. And they can fill us with awe and wonder about our God.    

If nothing else, I think The Chosen may challenge our own notions of the personality of Jesus. We’ve probably reached some conclusions as to who he was and what he was like. Maybe we’re right, or maybe we’ve reached some conclusions that are a little off base. Since the answers to all of those questions we have about him are unknown to us, we can’t say for sure.  But, what I do know is that God loves me and He loves you. And, that’s a good starting point for any piece of art.   

So, is The Chosen biblical? Well, it offers a lot of content that is most likely fiction. Yet, I still find it a fascinating show to watch as I contemplate the real Jesus. I don’t see any more danger in watching it than looking at other artistic renditions of Jesus, but I would encourage its viewers to read the New Testament and acquaint themselves with the stories that the witnesses told of Jesus. The best way to recognize the difference between fact and fiction is to be so familiar with reality that you can easily spot that which is made up.  So, currently, I’m a fan of the show and I’m looking forward to its future episodes, as I’m always interested in how others know and see Jesus. And with that I’ll sign off. I hope to see you here next time.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 36 years.





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