The Chosen is a multi-season TV series about the life of Christ created and directed by Dallas Jenkins, the son of author Jerry Jenkins of Left Behind fame. The story of how The Chosen project began is an interesting one. Dallas lost his job as a director in Hollywood after a film he'd directed, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, performed poorly at the box office. While reeling from this loss, he made a short Christmas special called "The Shepherd," filmed on a friend's farm in Illinois, for his church. After seeing the positive impact and huge reception of that short film, Dallas got the idea to make an episodic TV show about Jesus' ministry. Using numerous episodes over multiple seasons allows the story, relationships, and character development to play out more fully than a typical two- to three-hour film about the life of Jesus.
In partnership with VidAngel, with "The Shepherd" as a pilot episode, The Chosen was created using crowd funding. It is currently the highest crowd-funded media project in history, with nineteen thousand supporters who have together given over ten million dollars. With full funding for season one, Dallas Jenkins and his cowriters set to work writing the script. The episodes were filmed in Weatherford, TX at Capernaum Village. Season one released to great success and, as of early 2021, has been viewed over fifty million times in 180 countries. Season two has been filmed in Texas as well as in Goshen, UT at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' replica of Jerusalem. It is the first time a non-LDS media project has been granted access to that location. The first episode of season two was released on April 4, 2021, with later episodes to follow as they are completed. There are seven seasons planned in total.
Dallas Jenkins has a degree in Biblical Studies, and he also invited an ecumenical panel to consult on the show to ensure historical, cultural, and biblical accuracy. Messianic Jewish Rabbi Jason Sobel, Catholic priest Father David Guffey, and Evangelical professor Dr. Doug Huffman all joined the team to consult on season one.
The show depicts events in biblically and historically accurate ways. However, it does add details, storylines, and characters that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. For instance, Matthew's gospel records that Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14–15). So we know that Peter must have been married and that his wife and her mother must have had names, but the Bible provides no more information. In The Chosen, Peter's wife is named Eden and there is much time spent developing the marriage relationship between the two of them. So the additions the writers have made are plausible for the historical and cultural context and do not contradict the Bible, but they are, nonetheless, creative imaginations of how it could have been.
There is disagreement among Christians about the appropriateness of retelling biblical stories with artistic license. Some fear that since no rendering of biblical events will be precisely accurate that to depict them is to add to or take away from Scripture. Others worry that using popular media will demean the Bible to "just a story" or that viewers will be confused as to where facts end and creativity begins.
Others find popular media to be an excellent venue for outreach and spiritual growth. Those who would never pick up a Bible might watch a TV show. The show might pique their interest in the Bible, and the show can certainly share the gospel message. Those who already know Christ might find a visual and imaginative depiction of the biblical account to be helpful in growing their faith. Being able to visualize the setting and cultural context can help bring fresh understanding to Scripture. Relating to the characters as real humans with complicated relationships, emotional concerns, and personality quirks can help readers make connections with Scripture to their personal lives today.
Ultimately, our knowledge and understanding of the truth must be based in Scripture. The psalmist declared, "The sum of [God's] word is truth" (Psalm 119:160). However, media like The Chosen can stir our imaginations and help that truth to penetrate our hearts and minds in new ways. The Chosen is an artistic retelling of biblical events and it never claims to be a replacement for Scripture nor an addition to the holy Word of God. Instead, the cowriters hope that the show will encourage viewers to read the gospels with renewed passion. Their goals are solidly biblical, and the show appears to be bearing fruit to the glory of God.
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