What is The Chosen and is it biblical?The Chosen is an award-winning, 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 viewers having given over forty million dollars. The episodes for Season One were filmed in Weatherford, TX at Capernaum Village. Season One released in 2019 to growing success. Season Two was filmed in Texas as well as in Goshen, UT at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' replica of Jerusalem. It was the first time a non-LDS media project had been granted access to that location. Season Three was filmed on a newly-constructed production complex on Salvation Army's Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, TX where future seasons are also planned to be filmed. There are seven seasons planned in total. In late 2022, the creators of The Chosen partnered with a non-profit organization, The Come and See Foundation, to manage funding which allows contributors to give tax-deductible donations. It is estimated that 108 million people in 180 countries have seen at least part of The Chosen. The Come and See Foundation's goal is to reach at least one billion people by translating the show into six hundred languages and distributing it worldwide. The show is free to watch and is currently available through its original distributor (Angel Studios), the show's own app (The Chosen App), as well as on Peacock, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Roku.
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 the project.
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. 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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