The Bible: The Epic Miniseries (Blu-ray Review)

TheBibleCvrBreathtaking in scope and scale, The Bible features powerful performances, exotic locales and dazzling visual effects that breathe spectacular life into the dramatic tales of faith and courage from Genesis through Revelation. This historic television event is sure to entertain and inspire millions across the globe.  Narrated by Emmy winning actor Keith David, The Bible features a stunning international cast including Portuguese actor, Diogo Morgado as Jesus Christ and beloved actress, Roma Downey as Mother Mary.  And for the first time since their award winning collaboration on Gladiator, Oscar and Grammy winning composer Hans Zimmer reunites with acclaimed vocalist Lisa Gerrard to create the majestic musical backdrop for this epic production.  The four-disc Blu-ray and DVD set dives deeper into the making of the series and features a behind-the-scenes look at how the groundbreaking docudrama came together. Interviews with producers, directors, and cast illustrate creative collaboration on-set and off and show how the remarkable Moroccan scenery was transformed into the world of the Bible.



There have been plenty of biblical epics that covered different aspects of The Bible throughout the years, but this mini-series is the first one to cover the entire period between “Genesis” to “Revelation” in one telling.  Of course, being a ten hour series, a lot of it had to be condensed but it’s still an ambitious overview.  In fact, you can think of “The Bible: The Epic Mini-Series” as a highlight reel of both The Old Testament and The New Testament, where all of the famous accounts are included but time is compressed to zoom through decades of history rather quickly.  To achieve that goal, the first five episodes have been taken from the Old Testament and the last five cover The New Testament.

After watching all ten, I wish they had just stuck with the Old Testament stories as they were a lot more interesting and varied. It’s one thing to read about how the city of Jerusalem changed hands constantly, but watching it got old quick. One group would control the city until their greed or stupidity brought about their downfall and then another group would take over and follow the same cycle until they too lost the city. I also had no idea that eye gouging was one of the most popular forms of punishment back then. It seemed to happen about every other episode in this series.

The best part of the series is the first half, where we get a much too brief snippet of Noah and his Ark, which will lead to the story picking up and focusing on his descendent Abraham (Gary Oliver). I’m not sure why Noah got such short shrift in this series, but I’m guessing it had to do with the expense of the special effects.  The story jumps into Abraham’s story as he is told by God to lead his people to a new land and that his offspring will spread out and thrive in this new land. The series shows us how difficult it can be being the chosen one as God asks Abraham to fulfill many difficult tasks to test him, including a request that Abraham sacrifice his own son.  Abraham does some of his own bargaining as well as he convinces God to change the amount of righteous people needed before Sodom is destroyed and he even asks for heavenly intervention when the city does fall.

The story of Moses (William Housten) leading his people out of Egypt is also included and we see the various plagues that befall Egypt before the slaves were freed.  The parting of the Red Sea is also here and it’s pretty cool to see.  We also witness the power of the Ark of the Covenant as it helps bring down the walls of Jericho without even a fight.  The show doesn’t just focus on religious objects like that Ark, as you can also find other well known figures from the Bible such as Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, and lots more.  And of course, there’s five episodes devoted to the life of Jesus (Diogo Morgado) from his birth to his death.

For all of the historical strife concerning who was responsible for Jesus’ death, I thought the show handled that aspect in a respectful and balanced way as no one side is given the entire blame.  Instead, we see a confluence of events that triggers the crucifixion of Jesus with blame to go around.  I’m sure that there will be people out there who won’t like how these stories from the Bible are portrayed, but the show’s creators and producers Mark Burnett and his wife actress Roma Downey consulted scores of researchers and theologians to verify accuracy and to come up with a script that most could agree upon.  Those consulted include different religious theologians from a variety of faiths including Joel Osteen, Joshua Garroway (a rabbi from Hebrew Union College), and a Catholic cardinal Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this or not, but I was interested in it because it was a series being made for the History Channel, a channel that I love to watch, so I gave it a shot and I’m glad that I did.  Condensing thousands of years of history into ten hours is a very difficult job, but they pulled it off nicely.  For myself, I would have preferred if they had added another five hours to it to flesh out some of the stories like Noah that didn’t get much attention.  It also would have deepened the characters, most of whom don’t get much time on-screen to get a chance to really delve into what motivates their character.  As a side note, it was great to see Paul Freeman (who played Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark) back on screen as Samuel, even if I didn’t recognize him at first.

Given the limited amount of screen time available, pretty much all of the actors do the best they can with their time given, especially the actors portraying Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.  Playing Jesus in particular has to be a daunting task, but Diogo Moroder does an excellent job showing the humility and strength that the role requires.  The special effects are also pretty good for a cable miniseries and looked a lot better than a lot of movies.  All in all this is a great series that really brings stories from the Bible to life with a modern sensibility that emphasizes the battles and action of the tales.  As Burnett and Downey later said, this ambitious series was conceived to  “affect a new generation of viewers and draw them back to the Bible…[and to show that] the Bible is not simply a collection of unconnected stories which are often discussed and analyzed in snippets with chapter and verse numbers.”   Considering that this series is the fastest selling mini-series of all time now, I’d say that their message is getting out.

Here are the episodes included:

  • “In the Beginning”/ “Exodus” – Noah endures God’s wrath; Abraham reaches the Promised Land but still must prove his faith in God.  Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, and his faith in God is rewarded when the Red Sea parts to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh’s chariots; Moses delivers his final message from God–the Ten Commandments.
  • “Homeland” /“Kingdom” – Joshua conquers Jericho; Delilah betrays Samson as the Israelites battle the Philistines; Samuel anoints David king, a move that could throw the nation into civil war; Saul is consumed with jealousy when David defeats Goliath. King David ushers in a golden age for Israel, but is soon seduced by power and lust for Bathsheba; God forgives David, and his son, Solomon, builds God’s temple in Jerusalem.
  • “Survival”/ “Hope” –  The Jews are enslaved in Babylon; Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den, but when his faith endures and God spares him, the Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem; the Angel Gabriel tells Mary she will bear a child; Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem for the census, where Jesus is born; the Holy family escapes Herod’s order to kill Bethlehem’s male babies; Judea comes under the ruthless rule of Pilate; John baptizes Jesus, who is now ready to take on his mission–and his revolution.
  • “Mission”/“Betrayal” – Jesus feeds the crowds in Galilee and brings a dead man, Lazarus, back to life; Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey–a declaration that he is the Messiah; Jesus turns on the money-changers in the Temple; Caiphas coaxes Judas into betraying Jesus; Jesus throws the disciples into turmoil at the Last Supper; Jesus is arrested and condemned to death as the disciples scatter.
  • “Passion”/”Courage” – Peter denies Jesus and Judas hangs himself; the crowd clamors for Jesus’s death; Jesus is crucified, but when Mary Magdalene goes to his tomb, a figure walks towards her–he is back; Jesus commissions the disciples to “go and preach to all creation,” but their godly mission meets with hatred and even death; Paul has a vision and experiences a miraculous change of faith on a journey to Damascus; John receives a revelation–Jesus is coming back, and all who keep the faith will be rewarded.


This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks better than the 1080i presentation that was shown on History Channel.  As the show was filmed with Arri Alexa digital cameras, the images look sharp and clear especially during daylight scenes, but they look a little grainer during darker scenes.  During those darkened scenes, some digital noise is apparent but it’s not too bad.  The film’s many CGI scenes look pretty decent for a cable series, but they aren’t up to par when compared to something from Industrial Light & Magic.  That’s not to say that we are talking about Syfy channel cheesiness, as they look a lot better than I thought they would.  Colors are well defined and vibrant, and the black levels are fairly dark and solid but not as inky as they could have been.  All in all, I think this is a pretty impressive transfer for a cable series.


The Bible’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation was the big surprise of this set as it sounds fantastic!  In fact, this lossless mix sounds fit for a big budget film, with its active and fully engaged sound design.  The dialogue is crystal clear and there’s a welcome focus on providing excellent ambience as well.  From the parting of the Red Sea, to the pounding of rain and waves aboard Noah’s Ark, to the procession of the Ark of the Covenant around Jericho, all of these sound amazing and the rear speakers offer dead accurate directionality as well.  There’s many cool cross channel effects that really add a lot of immersion to the series which really adds a lot to the viewing experience.  In addition, the wonderful Gladiator team of composer Hans Zimmer and singer Lisa Gerrard reunite to provide a wonderful score to the series that gives it an additional emotional heft.  Keith David also does a nice job narrating the series and keeping it moving.  I think viewers will be as surprised and happy as I was when they hear this mix.


I was a little surprised that this mini-series set didn’t offer many extras, but then again, most History Channel sets don’t.  While there’s not too many extras included, there is one in depth extra (“The Bible: Creation”) and they are all in high definition.

  • The Bible: Genesis – We hear from creators and producers Mark Burnett and his wife actress Roma Downey who talk about why they wanted to make this show and how it all came to become a miniseries.
  • The Cast of The Bible – A quick look at the cast who introduce themselves and who they play as well as hearing from Burnett,Downey and fellow executive producer Richard Bedser, who talk about the casting process and how it worked within the show.
  • The Bible: Creation – At a little over forty-two minutes long, this is the most in depth extra included on the set and this behind the scenes three part documentary covers just about every aspect of the show.  We learn about the filming locations, the research, the costumes, and the staging of certain scenes.  We also get some behind the scenes looks at the cast and crew during filming and the difficulties in wrangling animals to participate.  It’s very interesting and the best extra on the set.
  • Scoring The Bible A talk with legendary composer Hans Zimmer and vocalist Lisa Gerrard who talk about the score and their approach to doing it.
  • Believing in Miracles – We hear about some incidents that occurred during filming that were labeled “miracles.”
  • The Bible: Visual Effects – A very short look at some of the series’ visual effects.
  • “Mary, Did You Know?” Music Video – A music video by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna that is played over scenes from the series.


“The Bible – The Miniseries” is a solid effort across the board with some good acting, decent visual effects, a great score, and it’s been given a solid presentation on this Blu-ray set.  The set’s video quality is above average and the audio mix for the series is very impressive.  The extras are decent but not earth-shaking and it would have been nice to have more.  Overall, this is an easy set to recommend due to its quality and presentation.  If you are a fan of The Bible or even have an interest in history, I think you will find something to enjoy in this series.

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