The Bible Brought to Life

The successful producer of such shows as Survivor and The Voice faces his greatest professional challenge.

By Mark Burnett, Los Angeles, California

As appeared in

My wife, Roma Downey (you might know her from the role of Monica on the TV show Touched by an Angel), and I were having dinner. And Roma mentioned a documentary someone was doing on the Bible.

Roma thought the documentary focused too much on showing that God was harsh and unloving. It used examples like the millions drowned in the Genesis Flood and God’s demand of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.

She asked me, “Why wouldn’t they tell the true story of a loving God with a plan for all humanity? A God who sent his only Son to die for us all?”

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Then she spoke in that quiet, persuasive voice of hers, the one that Americans came to know so well from hearing it every Sunday night for over a decade.

“Mark, we should do this. We should make a TV series on the Bible. Not unconnected Bible stories, but the overarching, sweeping, loving narrative. A dramatic rendition that goes from Genesis to Revelation. We could tell that story in five two-hour episodes. We could bring it to life.”

I stared at her. It was an incredibly ambitious idea, and it’s not like we weren’t busy enough, raising three teenagers, and also producing some of the most demanding shows on TV (including The Voice and Survivor).

“How can we possibly take this on, and how can we tell this story in only ten television hours?” I asked, shaking my head.

“Think about it, Mark,” she said. “The Bible story is all the things that great television should be. It has adventure, it has drama and it has redemption.”

I do some of my best praying when I’m riding my bike on the country roads near our home, and clearly this was something to pray about. Pumping up the hills, watching the sun break through the fog, I kept talking to God and listening for answers.

All I could come up with were reasons why I was wrong for this project. I’m a producer, not a theologian. My biblical knowledge was pretty good (generally) and dates back to my childhood in England, from Sunday school and academic studies, and from rereading Scripture as an adult.

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This project, I was convinced, would require a deeper knowledge. It would require a serious time commitment and building a huge advisory team.

The biggest question was, would a channel actually green-light this? Today’s kids probably know more about Batman and Robin than about David and Goliath, and more about the Matrix than about Daniel’s prophecies. They get their stories from the screen.

But that was it! Doing this “on the screen” would allow millions of people to discover the Bible. We knew we couldn’t teach it, but we could create an emotionally connecting dramatization that might make them open (or reopen) the Book.

We also knew that with today’s amazing technology, we could do a much better burning bush or parting of the Red Sea, even with a TV budget, than has been done before.

I considered my own career. My first job in Hollywood after leaving the Army was as a babysitter. I’d had no inkling I’d ever become a producer, but that is the essence of America—a nation that provides opportunities. All you have to do is go for it.

I knew it was time to go for it again. This time it would be with a project that gave back to God for all my many blessings.

I believe that God calls those with the right skills at the right time. Could it be that everything I’d learned about producing TV shows would culminate in this one massive project? It felt like a call. I couldn’t get it out of my head, as though the Holy Spirit was saying, “Yes, Mark, yes.”

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One morning I came back from my bike ride, kissed Roma and said, “Let’s do it.”

We never looked back. I’d always loved the Bible, but making a TV series out of it only made me love it more.

You see, we just had to trust the story. The story was everything, from Noah in his ark to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, from Saul’s paranoia to David’s weakness, from Daniel in the lion’s den to the gift God gave to us of his only son, Jesus. His Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.

Close of Jesus from The Bible miniseriesThe five-part miniseries The Bible will premiere on March 3 at 8 p.m. ET on The History Channel.

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Your Comments (59)

I would like to know where i can find the movie .I dont realy watch tv.How can i get advd of the movie?.Thank u and may God bless ur careers .

The DVDs are available from all the usual sources, Alfrida, and can be rented via Netflix (and probably other services as well).

We missed the March showing. When will it be shown again?
Are DVDs available and where can I find them?

Will sincerely appreciate your help,
Laydon West

Hi Laydon. The show is available on DVD and can be purchased from all the usual outlets.

Well Done! We would have included a few short items, such as David's statement that God allowed him to slay Goliath so that, "The whole world will know that that there is a God in Israel". The Bible rather than reality shows? The Bible IS the ultimate reality show! These are not just stories, this IS history, and its appropriate that it is being shown on The History Channel. The History Channel is to be commended for running this series even though some of the content isn't politically correct. Thank You Mark and Roma for following God's direction.

I love the series and in my humble opinion it is very well done. It is written in a relative way, interpreted well and the actors are the best. Ignore the naysayers and critics. You are being used by God and can never please everyone.

This has been a truly moving series. I wish it was longer. I also think the idea someone had of doing a weekly series of Bible stories is an incredible thought. I would love to see that on tv.

I also think that the person who was disappointed about Sodom and Gomorrah was right. It wasn't shown why they REALLY were destroyed. Homosexuality is a sin that has provoked God into destroying entire cities over and that fact needs to be known. It is a sin that should NOT be flaunted and that "gay pride" needs to be shown to be the perversion it is. It is not right to ask Christians to accept and condone something that disgusts our Maker. I won't accept or condone it and WILL speak up about it being wrong, even if others won't. I wish this beautiful series had done so.

The series itself is so well done. It's quite violent, but that is a true representation of how life was then. I would surely love to see a series come out of this. Even once per month would be better than none! I will be so sad after watching the last episode this week. We need more stories from the Bible to be shown on tv!

The bigger sin is passing judgement on something that you know nothing about. Don't worry about what gay people do or don't do, just worry about your own personal relationship with God. Gay people do not need your approval, they just need Gods love, which they already have. God loves all.

I think the series The Bible is great! I can't thank Mark Burnett enough for deciding to make this series. I loved the show Touched by an Angel (it was so inspring)and The Bible series is even more inspiring and really brings the bible stories to life. I have wondered for years why someone hasn't made shows from bible stories. I believe they stayed true to the bible and the show might just help someone come to know Jesus and/or become more interested in reading the bible. I know it sure has made me want to read my bible more and try to really get into the stories of the bible and understand their meaning. I hope they do more stories from the bible. I wouldn't mind having a weekly series with a different bible story each week. It's nice to have something wholesome to watch on TV instead of those silly reality shows. Television needs to head in a new direction - in the direction of shows like The Bible. Thanks Roma and Mark for having a vision. I wish I could thank you personally. I know this show has touched lives.

I HAVE ALWAYS LOVE THE SHOW TOUCHED BY ANGELS AND ROMA. I HAVE NOT SEEN THE SHOW BUT I AM EXCITED BECAUSE ROMA IS APART. I AM A TRUE BELIEVER IN GOD'S DIVINE INTERVENTIONS AND HIS MESSENGERS BECAUSE OF TOUCH BY ANGELS. IT WARMED MY HEART WHEN I HEARD ABOUT YOUR SHOW "THE BIBLE"... BLESSINGS TO YOU.

Even though each show starts off stating that it 'follows the spirit of the scriptures', so far(2 episodes in), the series does NOT accurately follow the scriptures - in many, many ways!! I am sorry that I promoted this series to friends & family.

I was very excited to see this series, but due to illness, I missed it. Didn't even get to record it. Will you be showing it again, if so, when?

Howard, the series is still going on (the second episode aired last night), so check your local listings, but in any case, it'll be released on DVD on April 2.

Let me know if you get this article........A good one....M.

I saw the previews and was so excited to watch....and then I was "extremely" disappointed. No mention of Jacob (you know Israel?), no mention of Joseph, Abraham and Sarah were the youngest looking 100 year olds ever, Moses also too young and so much skipped or left out. But, my biggest complaint of all - Sodom and Gomorrah - you so "politically corrected" and watered it down that noone had any clue why it was being destroyed. The men of Sodom didn't come with clubs to hurt the Angels, they came because they wanted sex with them - Sodom's perversions caused their destruction. Especially in the area of homosexuality.
What disgusts me most these days is Christians who water down the truth and so-called Christians who don't know what the Word of God says, and praises the water-downed truth.
I'm sorry to be so critical of your work, but truth should stand over "PC" and profits. I understand your goal was to show God as loving and the Redeemer...but, people also need to understand why they need a redeemer.

I agree with you CAB. Too much PC these for fear of being singled out. Let us not deny Christ.

I wrote a script overview in the 1990's and the group agency directors asked me to talk with the writers of the Touched by an Angel TV show. I wanted it to be a film, so I didn't talk with them..I'm sorry I didn't. The ideas i had are one of the top TV show's main themes now..the real back bone of the show.
I have another idea now, it's better than the one they are using for the #1 show on TV they said.

I want to meet with Mark and Roma and become friends if nothing else but I'm sure that our God want to have done what he has put on my Heart for years.
If you can help us meet please do.
My wife and I as well as our child are very excited to do things God wants us to do.

I hope that people will see this series and accept Jesus as their savoir.

This is a wonderful article by Mark Burnett. It was inspiring the way this production came to be. I was eager for the first part and it was very well-done. Doing this for God's glory is admirable and the only way to do it. The actors are extraordinary and I can't wait for the next part. Thank you for this inspiration you have created for the world. Knowing prayer and spirituality surrounded the production shows. Thanks again Mark and Roma and all involved.

i just want to say thank you for bringing a wwonderful stroy to life and to go agenst all the flack you will more than likely get for making this show and I praise god for giving you the strength and courage to make this happen their are so many agenst the bible these days but you and i know that God will win the war agen I thank you and your husband for making this happen through the strength of our GOD and savior Jesus Christ your friend and brother mike

I would love to see this - will it be on Netflix? I know I want to see it.

I loved the series "Touched by An Angel" and recently while watching GMC and re-runs of that show, Roma Downey advertised this new Bible series coming soon. I am recording it to be sure I don't miss an episode.

Iam so glad you are doing The Bible. I will pray that it will be a big hit. Maybe it could be a series. Thank you for the good work.Daniel

"The Bible" mini series sounds great ... but I only hear about it being shown in the USA.
Will it be shown in Australia, & where & when?

Blessings ..
Major Royal Maynard

I encourage anyone with questions about the series to visit the series' official web site -- there's a link above.

I was so thrilled to see the advertising preview for this. It had crossed my mind why someone had not done this lately. I almost cried tears of joy reading this story about the show. Thank you so much and I look forward to watching..over and over...and having my family watch and learn. Thank you again!

Mark & Roma...Please don't water down your series. YES - God is loving and kind and always good. However the whole earth except Noah & his family drowning in the flood was NOT unloving. God had Noah preach to them for 120 years and their need to change from their evil ways but did they listen? Abraham's command & then willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac was NOT unloving. God spared Isaac yet it was a picture to us of God’s love and His provision for us. They are all part of the whole of scripture. If you water the series down to only a loving God - then you are not being true to scripture. Jehovah the Father has many attributes - one of them is love but his main attribute is His holiness. He is holy which requires that He must be true to his promises.

Roma….the ‘true story of a loving God with a plan for all humanity’; the God who sent his only Son to die for us all does also include judgment when we do not follow His plan. He first created Adam & Eve to live on a perfect earth but also gave them free will. Their choice passed sin & death down to all the human race. The same is true with us as parents; we love our children and want the very best for them but we give them restrictions – for their own good & safety – yet when they chose outside the guides that we have given them there must be consequences. And so it is with God our Loving Father.

Yes - God is love but also holy and that is why Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, then died that as we repent(continual turning from)of our sins & accept His sacrifice as our only way to Heaven – with NOTHING added - we can look forward to Heaven with Him. Please present the balance between His love and His holiness. There absolutely must be both to be true to scripture.

Thank you and I do look forward to viewing your series. I am praying that it will be a true picture of the Bible and that many hearts will be opened and receive them as their Savior.

I am soooooo sad. Because I am on a fixed income, I have only basic cable stations. Therefore, I do not have the History channel. I want to see The Bible so bad. As you know, TV programs these days are terrible to say the least. I don't enjoy TV anymore esp. since I can't get nice channels like Hallmark or Lifetime. I do get TBN though. I enjoy Dr. David Jeremiah on Sunday mornings.
Too bad you couldn't show The Bible on TBN!!!
Anyway, it was asked of you before, will a DVD be made? Can I purchase one? Cudos to you for making a wonderful movie like The Bible. Sure wish more producers would do the same. God bless you and your endeavor!!!

We've answered the DVD question several times in this comment thread, Barbara: They are available now for pre-order via the usual online outlets. And we also provided a link above to the series' official web site. That's probably the best source for info about the series and the DVDs.

I think this is a wonderful endeavor - know it will be well worth watching. Thank you Roma and Mark

We are looking forward to watching this program. We are busy sharing this information with friends and family' Keep up the good work.

Congratulations for taking on such an endeavour. I believe the only important detail in any religious movie should be "Love". Jesus came to teach us how to love each other. Love is respect, non judgment, non criticism, and trying to be a better person. When we do something with love only good can come from it. I believe that this is the one true message of The Bible. I look forward to seeing this movie. God Bless.

I can't wait until the story comes out and on tv. I hopw my sons and daughters-in-law will watch it and my grandkids. they all believe in Jesus and have all be baptise. My husband and i watch all the stories about Christ we can. So we can't wait to this stories come out.

Thank you so much for writing your account of how the seeds of the program were planted, how through prayer they germinated, and how the work of many cooperated to water those seeds and bring the project to fruition for viewers to see, learn, enjoy, discuss, and share. We will tape the series and invite our friends to come and watch it with us in our home - with an Open House/Potluck to accompany it (5x @ 2 hrs. each). Wow! That's an awesome endeavor! I am sure it will stimulate some lively discussion - and I am hopeful that the "Greatest Story Ever Told" will be told authentically so God smiles down on the whole project and says, "Well done, my good and faithful servants!"

I hope I can recommend this series to others, but I have to watch it first to make sure its actual, I believe there's to many shows out already that doesn't tell the truth, we shouldn't change anything from the Bible, when we tell someone something we are held accountable. So if its all factual then I will tell everyone I can to watch it, but if it's not factual, I will also tell everyone I can not to watch it, I just told my husband the other day that since TV is sooo popular, we need to put a series about the Bible on, If you have a series on TV, & you have it on for however many it takes to tell the whole Bible story, more people would have the chance to hear what God did for us, but they need to hear the whole truth, not a washed down version, which is what most other Bible storys are, people watch TV all the time, so why not use it for good, theres so much BAD STUFF on TV now, I believe we really need to put TRUE GOOD SHOWS ABOUT GOD on TV, fight SATAN, & the only way to do that is with GOD!!!!!!

I can't wait to watch '' The Bible " mini series, its on at 9:00 pm EST! so I'm going to set my DVR to tape the whole series. I know alot about the Bible since I accepted Christ as my Saviour in 1998, I really hope that this series will be actual, we need the truth to be told, God is Love but he can not just ignore sin, that is why Christ came in human form, to take our sin upon himself, but we have to truly accept him & let him change us, yes we will sin again, we need to confess our sins to Christ everyday & repent, then Jesus will forgive us, A Christian is not perfect, but when we ask for forgivness & truly mean it with our hearts, we will be forgiven. I willing hope that I can tell people to watch this series. God Bless.

I want to say Thank you all in advance,and I can't wait to see Roma on the screen again.

I've seen some productions @ Sight & Sounds here in PA that made me say That very phrase;"The bible has come to life".

In this world there has never been a better time to be a VOICE for GOD. "for such a time as this"

I believe GOD is well pleased you good, and faithful servants.

Will this be on DVD? We don't have the history channel

"YES" "YES" "YES" "THANK-YOU" SOOOOO MUCH FOR DOING THE "GREATEST" STORY OF "ALL-TIME"/AND "LISTENING" TO THE "HOLY-GHOST".. THE "WORLD" NEEDS TO SEE IT,FOR THE OLD/NEW/EVERYONE- "THANKS" AGAIN,MAY YOU BE "BLESSED" ALWAYS....C.K.

I would love to see this but am now living in Norway. Any suggestions?

The series is already available for preorder on DVD, Karen.

"The perfect Jesus?". Your project is well-meaning, however, you knowingly (or unknowingly) continue to propagate this European imagery of Jesus as "the perfect Jesus". This is totally erroneous. You have simply made a another movie of the Bible story and have depicted the characters according to your cultural comfort zone of how you want them to look. I have been to Egypt,the place where Mary & Joseph were said to have escaped with baby Jesus. You go where you "blend in".I have also been to the "Holy Land". No indigenous Egyptians and Palestinians, from 2000+ years ago to present day, are definitively Caucasian, with white skin, brown or straight hair, and blue eyes. God, in His infinate wisdom, incarnated Himself as a baby in one of the most diverse cultural crossroads on earth. Ethnically, we can all "claim" him as part of our heritage(Asians, Africans,Europeans) Jesus was truly the first "mixed" baby. Having said this, the truth of the God's love for us, by sending his only begotten son into the world, remains uncontested. Jesus brought the gift of salvation to every culture, and appears to all of us, as we need him to be.

You are wrong on so many accounts I wouldn't know where to begin. So let me say this the bible is a historical account of God and HIS children. Yes he is the creator of all things but the bible is an account of His special children the Isralites and there were 12 tribes. Ethically no we can not all claim it that is impossible and if you understand the bible then you would see that. Jesus was not mixed. You have a poor background and education in regards to the bible clearly, so do start investigating what happened to the 12 tribes of Israel and remember the term Israel in teh bible is a man thus his bloodline and family the descandents of...not a place. The term Isreal is a country and place only by goverment terms which wass adapted in the early 1900's by the churches. That change started in the 1850's by a small group that came out of a baptist church in an effort to water down the bible in order to get more to accept Christ...it failed horribly. That group is your moderen day athiests. Jesus can not be mixed and he was not or it would go against Gods laws. Look up the word bastard from strongs conconrdance like myself you may be shocked to the true menaing and the bible is clear that no bastard will be recieved in heaven because it is forbidden. bastard does not referr to a child born out of wedlock as many of us our taught. The problem your having with this documentary is it does not support YOUR views.

What a God-inspired project! Thank you both for saying "YES!!!" to the Holy Spirit!!

We are thrilled that the first of the series will be shown on March 3rd of 2013. We'll be telling all of our friends, so want to be sure our facts are correct. Can you tell us what time the show will air on Mountain Time?

When will parts 2,3,4 and 5 be shown? We don't want to miss any of it!

Sending heartfelt prayers and thanks YOUR WAY for. following His way!

Cathy and Scott Schwaegler
Ogden, UT

It's airing at 8 p.m. ET, Cathy, which would make it 6 p.m. in your area, no? It's being shown on the History Channel, so surely your local TV listings will carry all the info you need.

It troubles me that a show such as Survivor is produced by a Christian. Those people lie, decieve each other, do rotten things to each other, go around hardly dressed and lay around with each other. I think the show is sickening and I am no prude. Therefore, I don't watch it. The commercials about it are quite enough.

It seems odd that after searching so long to find an authentic Jesus, that you would have an Irish actress play the part of his mother. Can Roma speak in any fashion except with her brogue? I certainly hope so, because if not, it will be pretty strange that a Jewish Jesus should have an Irish mother. Or does she not speak at all in the movie? I guess I will have to watch it to find out, won't I. Good luck.

We'd love to watch The Bible starting on 3/3 but can't find out what time it will be shown on the West Coast.
We have a Small Group, in our home, every Sunday evening from 4:15 to 6:30. Can you help?
Joanne

Joanne, there's a link above to the official website for the show; I'm sure any info you seek can be found there. The show airs at 8 p.m. Eastern, so that would be 5 p.m. Pacific.

Thank you so much for making this series on The Bible. My husband and I are looking forward to seeing it. We have loved Roma on Touched By An Angel and still watch the reruns.

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