05 December 2013
1.2 million viewers watch The Bible
The first episode of The Bible TV series was aired on Sunday night on Channel 5, attracting an audience of 1.2 million people in the UK.
The five-part series, which received three Emmy nominations, was produced by The Apprentice creator Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and is sponsored by Spring Harvest.
The 10-hour epic covers major events recorded in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
The first part, entitled Beginnings opens with a dramatic portrayal of Noah's ark on storm-tossed flood waters during which Noah explains creation and the fall to members of his family. The episode covers key moments in the establishment of the Israelites as a people, from Abraham and the destruction of Sodom and birth of Isaac through to the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and their eventual emancipation by Moses.
The WEA explains that the series aims to inspire people to engage with the Bible in a fresh way with the slogan 'the story everyone knows, told like never before'.
Given the low levels of biblical literacy in the UK, some question whether this is the story everyone knows. Reviews in the national press have been critical but the Christian response appears to be largely enthusiastic.
Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the WEA, said: "I had the immense privilege of previewing the entire 10-hour TV Bible series. It was a marathon but well worth it. At the conclusion, I felt like I had gone through the whole Bible and experienced the meta-narratives of scripture – God's amazing love for humanity.
"This series is epic in its production, powerful in its storytelling and deeply spiritually moving. It is a once in a generation project."
Krish Kandiah, executive director of churches in mission at the Evangelical Alliance, said: "I'm delighted that 1.2 million people across the UK watched the first episode. This must be one of the biggest group Bible studies in British history! It was exciting to see the Bible trending on Twitter while The X Factor and I'm a Celebrity were going on. Not everyone will agree with all the artistic decisions that have been made but this is a huge opportunity for the Church; let's not miss it."
The Bible was the number one cable series in America.
Producer Mark Burnett, originally from Dagenham, is reported as saying: "We were very aware that our shows like The Apprentice come and go, but with The Bible we fully believe people would be watching it in 30 years. It's much more meaningful. This is certainly the most important thing I've ever done".
There are reports that 3,000 people were baptised as a result of the series at Saddleback Church in California, led by Rick Warren
A new website entitled The Bible Journey was launched to coincide with the series and aims to take people through the New Testament with the aid of maps, original photos and profiles.
The creators are retired head teachers Chris and Jenifer Taylor who used material gathered from dozens of trips to the Eastern Mediterranean over 15 years. "We want visitors to the website to see the Bible 'on the ground' where it actually took place. It really opens your eyes when you cross the same wild mountain passes as Paul," explains Chris.
The Damaris Trust, working directly with Channel 5, has produced an official souvenir guide to the series. This 24-page glossy, photo-rich book features articles and information on each episode, and explores the major themes such as choices and consequences, faith and life, forgiveness and transformation.
The Bible Society is offering free official resources connected to the series, including bookmarks, posters and souvenir guides.
The Evangelical Alliance is offering free online resources which provide background biblical material linked directly to each of the discussion questions in the Official Souvenir Guide. The background biblical resources are available at www.eauk.org/thebibleuk and the twitter discussion uses #thebibleuk.
Episode two will be shown on Channel five at 9pm on 7 December.