The Chosen - Historical Drama from the Bible

The Chosen is a dramatization of the Biblical Gospel story, told largely through the lives of Jesus’ disciples. It’s got three seasons out now with a fourth in the works, and the whole thing is crowdfunded, so it’s not part of any of the usual streaming services (though several have licensed it) but instead is produced independently. If it’s not on one of the services you have, it can be watched free here or on free apps as well. It’s a historical drama, by which I mean that they follow the broad outlines of the historical place and time, but took plenty of liberties with adding details to characters and storylines that are not actually part of any record (the Bible or otherwise).

Now, I know we have plenty of folks who are not terribly interested in religion of any kind around here, but I think the series is worth a conversation on the merits as a historical drama. I think they did a wonderful job of making the people involved full-fledged characters, with their own lives and concerns that intersect with the Biblical narratives. There’s plenty of family drama, one of the disciples struggles with an autism-like condition, the Roman occupiers are a constant concern, there are plenty of jokes and ribbing one another (yes, Jesus does this too)…all the things that you’d expect and enjoy in any other historical drama. (Well, maybe not ALL the things, not a lot of sex or violence.)

Yes, there’s miracles, not a standard part of most historical dramas. For my part, I’m a Christian (ELCA Lutheran, specifically) so I have no trouble with the bits where Jesus performs miracles or has supernatural knowledge. But if that bothers you, it wouldn’t be hard to think of Jesus as a superhero in Roman-occupied Judea, if you prefer that framing to the religious aspect. There’s plenty of other media that retells history with folks that have superhuman abilities, from the comic books to novels to movies, so it’s not terribly hard to consider this in the same category if that’s your preference.

As someone who has been familiar with Bible stories from a young age, seeing this new twist on the story has been great. It’s similar to how I felt when the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies came out - familiar story, certainly some differences that I wasn’t expecting, but great to see it all come alive. I’d be very interested to hear how others feel about this series, particularly if you’re not as familiar with the subject matter. Do the characters and story still hold the interest of those who don’t have the same long history with the stories that I do?

Roman Catholic here , the best kind of Catholic because ROME! (Please ignore the religious persecution and crucifixion set up phase).

I watched all 3 seasons just before Easter this year, and very much enjoyed the retelling of familiar stories I’ve heard dozens of times.

The casting in this show is seriously top tier in terms of quality mostly unknown actors.

Also a (cultural, mostly, these days) Roman Catholic, and it would take a lot to beat Franco Zefirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, I guess this one has the advantage of being in high def, and not a who’s who of famous actors as that was (Olivier as Nicodemus, James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea, Anne Bancroft as Mary Magdalene–the ahistorical conflated version–Peter Ustinov as Herod the Great!). OTOH, the 1977 miniseries had the director setting up some shots pretty much modeled on Renaissance religious art. It was gorgeous. And the scene of Peter being reconciled with Matthew upon hearing the Parable of the Prodigal Son still affects my jaded self.

Thanks for sharing this. I’ll definitely check it out. I was a Christian for most of my life, but nowadays I would describe myself as a possibilian. Regardless of my faith (or lack thereof, to be more precise), I still have a fondness for the Bible (and theology and general), and this sounds really interesting.

I’ve dipped in and out of this periodically and ended up watching the first season and a half, I think. It is quite well made and generally well cast, given how it came about. Johnathan Roumie is incredibly likeable and charismatic as Jesus. I prefer the Last Temptation approach to Jesus, as someone who only progressively comes to understand his mission, but as was said, the show is more about the experience of the disciples than Jesus.

Always love seeing Erick Averi in anything, and he’s a compelling figure in this as Nicodemus. He really makes you feel the conflict between maintaining the comfortable status quo and the upheaval that comes from recognizing the appearance of a messiah.

I just found out yesterday listening to a podcast that Dallas Jenkins, the creator of this show (who I think it clearly quite talented), is the son of Jerry B. Jenkins, one of the co-authors of the Left Behind books. So that is a little weird, given that I think those books screwed up public understanding and self-understanding of Christianity quite a bit. I do think the Chosen, from what I’ve seen, has the potential to be a great corrective to the kind of skewed dispensationalist vision of Left Behind, in that it really gets back to the fundamentals (oops, loaded word!) of the experience of Jesus in people’s lives.

Glad to hear that a few others have been enjoying the show as well! And I’m definitely curious to see what you think, @rhamorim .

I don’t recall ever having watched this, although it’s possible that my parents showed it to my brothers and I at some point and I just don’t recall. I’ll have to track it down at some point.

I certainly hope this is the case. I’ve recently been attending a seminar on faith-sharing at my church, and one of the points that our pastor continually hammered home there is that we must put Jesus front and center. Power of prayer, angels, the end times of Revelation…all that is important, but only after the relationship with Jesus. Popular religious fiction like Left Behind and Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, entertaining as they may be, don’t put Jesus at the center of their stories. The Chosen may be focused on the people surrounding Jesus, but their relationship with him is clearly the most important thing.

You should definitely check it out. Being of its time, is of course pretty Euro-centric-- Robert Powell, the British actor who played Jesus, had piercing blue eyes. It was a British-Italian production, co-written by Zefirelli, Anthony Burgess of A Clockwork Orange fame, and famous Italian screenwriter and actress. The score is by Maurice Jarre, the composer of Dr. Zhivago’s score and others, and father of Jean-Michel Jarre, electronic music pioneer.

As I mentioned it’s a who’s who of well-known actors, including a young, impossibly handsome Ian McShane as Judas Iscariot (who probably wasn’t that well known then, admittedly), and Rod Steiger as Pontius Pilate. Here’s the link: Jesus of Nazareth (TV series) - Wikipedia . They usually run it on some cable channels around Easter but it might be on some streaming service or other.

It’s on Peacock

The best way to view Jesus for non-religious people is as a Neutral Good level 40 Cleric/Druid/Monk with a dip into Paladin and maybe some Bard levels as well with a background in craftsmanship.

I suppose I could consider him a magic D&D character, but then I’d have to come to terms with how the creators believe his magic was a historic fact.

Feels wrong to me, like watching a recent Bruce Willis movie knowing he has mental issues.

Really should try this again. I was impressed in the first season(only made it a few episodes before we drifted away) how naturally the characters were written and acted, something so rare in this type of show. I do feel like they fell into that trap a bit with Jesus where he ended up coming across like he was written for a different live-action Bible production. His big reveal in probably episode one that strongly evoked Abed Abed Abed didn’t help.

I tried watching an episode of this from season 1 the other day. The guy they picked for Jesus (I assume he was supposed to be Jesus, since everyone was calling him Rabbi or The Master), looks “ridden hard and put away wet” for a 30 year old – looked 45 at least-- and on top of that one of the apostles started using neologisms like “weaponize” and I was out. I guess I’m too traditional in my expectations for stories about the period.

I realize that anything where they’re not speaking Aramaic and Ancient Greek is inaccurate historically but c’mon, give me the illusion of ancient times, at least, by not using words invented in the last 50 years or so. What’s next, fam and drip?

John is totally a Jesus stan!

What is that “stan” thing supposed to mean again? I can’t keep up.

It means fan. It comes from the Eminem song about a (fictional) stalker fan who went crazy and killed himself and his pregnant girlfriend. So the original connotation had “crazy stalker” attached to it. But these days, it’s softened to just “really big fan”, like you could say “fan” and basically mean the same thing.

Kind of–now that I think about it–how fan is short for “fanatic”, but has lost the obsessive connotation.

Yup! Stan is a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan”, but it means mostly a really big fan. Like, literally! It’s lit.

Season 4 hits the app this week.