As a teenager, Jesus Christ, Superstar burst into our world with much debate and discussion. It took liberties with the gospel, even adding music and choreography. It was more than controversial. Many found it highly objectionable. In spite of that – or maybe because of it? - I became involved with an amateur production of it. Although I understood the liberties that had been taken with the gospel, I found being part of that effort powerful. Seeing close friends portraying Jesus and Judas and Pilate and retelling the basic storyline, over after over, brought a depth of emotional reality to the gospel story which I had not experienced before. While I knew the places where liberty had been taken, I appreciated the way it drew me into the gospel story.
Through the years, there have been many media efforts to portray scripture. The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Passion of the Christ, The Jesus Film, and the list goes on, all attempt to draw us into the scriptures. Some of them are very faithful to the scriptures while others take some – or many – liberties with scripture. (I am not writing about those that just flat out contradict scripture!) Watching them reminds me of the difference between reading a “translation” and a “paraphrase” of scripture. The “translation” is as direct and accurate a translation from the original language as possible – even if the English is difficult to navigate. The “paraphrase” is a rephrasing of a translation into more contemporary language for the sake of being easier to read and comprehend. Both have their proper place for study and understanding.
I think about this as I watch The Chosen. It is not a “translation” of the Gospel. Attempting to provide character and relatability to the Biblical persons, the writers take some liberties with the gospel story. Yet, despite those liberties, I find myself emotionally engaged with these portrayals of Jesus and those around Him. Whereas so many portrayals seem one-dimensional, these seem real and fully developed. I like them and want to spend time with them. My heart and my mind are drawn into the Gospel story. This cinematic “paraphrase” of the Gospel story is one of the more attractive media presentations of the Gospel that I have seen.
Let me be clear, there is no substitute for serious study of scripture. We must always begin there. But, as many of us have learned, a visit to the Holy Land certainly adds to our understanding of the story. Many of us can also name film or video that have bolstered our devotion. I find The Chosen adds to my longing to connect with the people of the Gospel story. Dr. David Watson has said that the “ultimate reference” of all scripture is Jesus Christ. All of our scripture study and contemplation is ultimately about connecting with Jesus. I hope that you will view The Chosen with us. I pray that doing so will help open us all to a deeper connection with Jesus,