From the Opening Credits of season 1, episode 1
“The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added. However, all biblical and historical context and any artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels. The original names, locations and phrases have been translated into English for anything spoken.”
I thought I’d share my thoughts on The Chosen, a multi season show about the life of Jesus. The disclaimer above is important in relation to the show overall.
I chose this picture below because it is from episode 8 of season 3 (the last available to view currently) where Asaph has brought a new psalm before King David for presentation. The queen is a bit confused because there are no instruments, rather they are presenting it as a spoken word accompanied by the low singing of a choir. The composer of the music tells them they are trying something new. So good!
That resonated with me as I attempted to think how I might present my thoughts on this show. It is the first time a show about Jesus’ life has been presented in an extended, multi season format (a new way). Dallas Jenkins, the film maker working to make this project come to life, says that the show does not, nor does it attempt, to replace scripture. It is a rendering of the story we find in the word of our Creator, and from what I can see based on the seasons that have been released, it is a very well done production that works hard to stay to true to the story.
The way I see the show (or any Biblical story put into film), it is just the work of a team of artists. It is a partial presentation of what a person may find, if they go to read the text. It is one possibility, one way things may have happened, a what if, filtered through the interpretation of the writers, crew, and cast. It is not necessarily what really happened 2000 years ago, it is simply one telling of the story based on the source material. The Chosen production is presenting the story, and from the interviews I’ve watched, are working to do so to glorify and lift up the life of Jesus to the world. Dallas says he is a believer along with many others (not all), working on the show.
I’m a writer, and I have written (under other pen names) novels, novellas, short stories, and other work in addition to my non-fiction Christian book presented on this site. From a story telling perspective, I am good with all of the additions (outside the Bible) that The Chosen has added for the sake of story. It is a show, not scripture. The line for me is if the production contradicts scripture in some way. Contradiction is a massive problem, if the show skewed.
I truly love what The Chosen has done with all of the disciples, and having watched the show, for the first time I actually feel like I can see the disciples more clearly. I know the fictional characters in the show are not the disciples, but somehow the real disciples seem much more clear in their humanity and lives as people, in that time. I really love all of the characters in the show… Matthew, Peter, Phillip, John, Big James, Little James, Nathaniel, Andrew, Simon, Thomas, and Thaddeus. I think they’ve done a good job with Judas as well and his backstory. I really hope they introduce Matthias, who replaced Judas as an apostle. There were others who were there from the beginning of the ministry (Acts 1:21-22). That would be really interesting. On another side note, I hope the character of Barnaby turns out to be Barnabas who travels with Paul!
Jonathan Roumie plays the part of Jesus, and honestly I think his portrayal, as an actor, is the best that I’ve ever seen. Of course, I love Robert Powell’s portrayal in the 1977, Jesus of Nazareth, but Jonathan’s emotional range is so profound. His depth is incredible. His delivery of the words is so very well done. I can not be more pleased with his acting and work that he has given to the production. And, that is also true for all of the actors and actresses in The Chosen. I am especially fond of the characters Nicodemus, Eden, Mary, Zebedee, Shmuel, Gaius, and Quintus. They have all really done an amazing job, presenting a what if story based on the Bible.
I have always felt a passion for filmmaking, and I acted in high school, college, a couple of productions at church, and my own personal projects. If I was ever to do anything in film professionally, it would be to work on Bible based movies and shows. It would be wonderful on both sides of the camera. Alas, it was not the will of the Lord for my life.
From a production perspective, I think The Chosen has done a great job. The costumes are well done, the sets are excellent, and the supporting actors and actresses have all done very well. The cinematography, lighting, audio, and special effects are all high quality. The attention to detail, nuances, attempt at being genuinely historical where they can be is excellent. The music is good too, and I would encourage the team to take cues from older films that used music at times to highlight specific scenes. Jesus of Nazareth and The Greatest Story Ever Told lifted specific moments at just the right time with music that made it epic. There is something to be said about epic music in the 70s and 80s that really made an impact.
One of the most incredible things about The Chosen is it is funded by the audience. The money comes from the people who want to see high quality stories based on the Bible, and Dallas Jenkins and his team were the right people and here at the right moment to do so. It is really a tremendous part of the story surrounding the production that it is crowd funded, and I believe this will be something that continues. People are truly tired of “Hollywood” attempts at Bible films and shows because they simply do not know their audience. They may want the money, but they do not know the audience. We do not want entertainment based on our most important beliefs to contradict, twist, mock, or not accurately present what the Bible says. Either compliment the Bible or don’t bother making it. There are so many examples out there.
No review would be complete without some constructive criticism. Yes, I have some for The Chosen, and it all comes down to scriptural contradictions. I am happy to say that so far in three seasons, there is only a couple of things that made me cringe. It has to do with John the Baptist and Jesus’ preparation of the Sermon on the Mount.
First, the Sermon on the Mount preparation is one point that really bothered me. Yes, Jesus was fully human (and fully God), and it is conceivable that perhaps He had to work on the words He was going to present. But, that is not the truth. This is what the Bible has to say about it, and I am surprised this text was overlooked.
John wrote in John 14:24, Jesus speaking, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” Jesus did not have to come up with the words He would speak, because the Father Himself gave Jesus the words. That completely shakes the choice made for The Chosen to the core in those scenes. I did not mind the scene when Jesus is “practicing” with Matthew and getting his feedback. It was the point in the show that Jesus had to come up with the words (shown in other scenes).
Second, I do not like how The Chosen writers have portrayed John the Baptist in some scenes. I’m not speaking about the fictional views about him in the show (like Peter’s humorous comments), I’m talking about the way John is presented when he is on screen. The scenes where he is in jail or Herod’s prison are good, but when he meets with Jesus, that is where I have a problem. Here are a few thoughts.
Jesus said of John in Luke 7:28, “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he was in the womb of Elizabeth (Luke 1:15).
Truly, The Chosen made a real blunder presenting John almost as comedic. I was so disappointed with those scenes. Oh, what a man, John must have been in reality, a godly man, a prophet of God, filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life and making a straight way before the Messiah. The Holy Spirit came upon prophets before John, but this John was filled! He was a huge presence, so much so that he was known in places outside of Galilee and Judea, all the way to Ephesus in Asia Minor (Acts 19:2-4). All of the quips and comedy pointed at John from the disciples should have been as a response to how serious John was in their eyes, almost a reverent fear of the man. He was a divinely inspired preacher of righteousness and repentance, the only true prophet sent to Israel by God in hundreds of years. What a lost opportunity in my view.
The other point I have is an actual contradiction. The Chosen presents John as having prior knowledge about Jesus being the Messiah when they were younger. Sure, I do not have a problem with them spending time together at times growing up, but John did not know who the Messiah was until it was revealed to him. That is true, even if He was filled with the Holy Spirit. The identity of Christ was hidden from everyone, including John. Did he have some knowledge? That is not what the Bible teaches us.
John the disciple wrote about John the Baptist on this specific point. John the Baptist said, “I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water… I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:31-34).
This is clearly stated in the very first chapter of John’s gospel! He may have known Jesus as a family member, but John did not know Jesus was “HE,” the Messiah. It seems like the writers somehow overlooked this very important fact. I am baffled. When did John know? He only knew when the word of the Lord that was given to him was fulfilled at the baptism of Jesus.
The baptism was when the full knowledge descended into John’s soul, heart, and mind. Wow, what a scene, and then all subsequent encounters John had with Jesus would flow from that moment. So much more could have been done with John the Baptist and the relationship there between him and Jesus. Another tremendous lost opportunity (not to mention why John did not immediately follow Jesus and continued baptizing on his own).
Now, with all that said, I do love The Chosen, and I think it is a great show. But, with every human production, it is not going to be perfect. I wish it was perfect, but none of us can reach that kind of standard in this human life. It is hard for me, at those points, when I think about the show, but everything else is so well done. It is one of the best production about Jesus’ life, and it really is the best one made when it comes to the format of a multi-season show. It gives so much more time to really develop the characters, and that is what it really comes down to, character and relationship development which lifts the emotional connection to all of us.
I made it to the theater for the last two episodes of season 3, and I am so happy I did! The experience in the theater was so powerful. The sound and lighting was so special in that setting, and watching it on stream simply does not match it. So, if the show has theatrical releases, moving forward, I really encourage everyone to go! Looking forward to season 4 and beyond, I am really hoping for the highest quality they can reach in every point including the writing, production, and acting. I hope they work to exceed everything that has come before.
A few thoughts on the future… besides the thoughts on music. I think the crucifixion should be handled in a similar manner that was done for Two Thieves by Dallas Jenkins with Jonathan Roumie that I watched on Pure Flix. It was really a tremendous short film, in my opinion. We have the Passion of the Christ when it comes to the raw brutality, and I personally do not think we need a repeat. I think The Chosen should approach it differently than any other production from the past. I’d love to see it handled in a more abstract and artistic way. And, I think the Shroud of Turin should be a serious source to illustrate the wounds and crucifixion of Jesus. It could be done so well and in such a way that connects so deeply with the emotions of the audience that it could be the greatest story telling ever witnessed about the crucifixion of our beloved Savior and Redeemer that has ever been filmed… if it is done right.
Beyond that I want to see the Resurrection and the story all the way up to the Ascension. And then I’d love to see a scene of time passing, the world coming up to our day, the Rapture, images of the tribulation and darkness, and at the very end, the Second Coming for just a moment as the heavens open and reveal the glorified Christ. It could be incredible… if it is done right.
Outside of that, I’d love to see the story continue with the Acts of the Apostles, other Bible stories, and I’d love to have a full dramatized, audio Bible with the cast of The Chosen from Genesis to Revelation. The Word of Promise audio Bible is excellent, but The Chosen audio Bible could far surpass it. I really believe that.
You can watch the show for free just about anywhere. The Chosen app (Apple, Android, Roku etc), at the website for the show, Angel Studios website, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Pure Flix, and I’m sure others. You can watch all kinds of additional material on The Chosen app, YouTube, and Facebook.
That brings my review to a conclusion. I love you, my brothers and sisters, in Christ. Be blessed, stay strong through the Spirit, and keep the faith. Our Lord is about to call us out, changed in a twinkling of an eye, and we will be with the real Jesus forever.