Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is bringing the good news to their network this week … literally. The Chosen, the first ever multi-season television show about the life of Jesus debuted on Monday and will air seven more episodes every Monday evening until Easter.
The series that is the largest Crowdfunded TV show project in history, takes an inside look at the ministry of Jesus, and depicts the Gospel story through eyes of the townspeople who encounter Him.
Since the middle of last year, The Chosen has been viewed online nearly 50 million times in 180 countries.
In addition to the eight episodes from season one, TBN will also air The Chosen Unveiled, a program hosted by Rabbi Jason Sobel that will help viewers understand the traditions and activities of the New Testament that were present during the life of Christ.
I recently spoke to Rabbi Sobel about the authenticity of content in The Chosen, how the production ensures its accuracy, and the vital role of prayer in the making of the series.
Up to now, The Chosen has been sort of a hidden gem, available only on VidAngel. Now, it goes to a larger stage. Do you think the series will have appeal with general audiences who just happen to come upon it when flicking channels?
Oh, I absolutely do. I think it’s compelling. I think the production value is great. But most importantly, I think that we’re in a time in history where people need to be uplifted and are looking for hope. The Chosen brings that message of hope, when you encounter God, when you encounter Jesus, your life can be changed and transformed. I think we need that message of hope. The message of hope is the belief that your future can be better than your past. And everyone in The Chosen who encounters Jesus and obviously the Bible, their lives are changed for the better. Their future becomes better than their past. That’s the hope for all of us when we encounter Him, the same is true in our lives.
Now that the series has been available for a while, I am sure you are hearing from people who might question the authenticity of the content as it relates to Scripture. What is the series approach to Scripture and faith? Can viewers trust this series?
Yes, absolutely. Number one, we want to make sure that nothing in The Chosen contradicts the message of the Bible. And that’s the message of Scripture and the message of the New Testament. So, there’s nothing that is contradictory or that is not in the spirit of Jesus and the teaching of the New Testament. Of course, there’s creative license that is taken to build the drama, to build the plot, to make it engaging, and to flesh out the characters so that we get a feel for what it might have been like. I think that’s the beautiful thing. It is interesting that we’ll watch The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or one of my favorite movies, The Lord of the Rings, and we don’t have a problem finding analogies with Biblical or redemptive themes. I would hope that people would say, “Listen, here’s something that’s being made on a high level that’s trying to engage people with Biblical content and the overall Biblical story, and to be faithful to the theology of the New Testament.” It’s changing lives. So, I hope people would see it from that perspective and not look at it from a literal, wooden perspective, which would kill the creative aspect of it.
With that said, what is the process for making sure The Chosen is accurate, authentic, and true to the Word of God?
There’s a team of writers that write each episode of The Chosen. Then, after each episode is written, it gets sent to primarily three of us (on the advisory board). (That board is comprised of) me as a messianic rabbi, a pastor and professor from Biola University, and a Catholic priest. The scripts are looked at from all those different perspective, from the Jewish perspective, from the Evangelical perspective, and from the Catholic perspective. All of us give our input on it. Most times they (director and writers) take that input. For example, in Season Two, in the opening episode, they deal with Jesus encountering Nathaniel. So, they created a backstory for Nathaniel. And I was like, that backstory you created just doesn’t jibe (with Scripture). I know it’s good drama but it doesn’t jibe with what I think the text says about who he is. And they changed it because they want to be creative, but they want to honor the text. And so there’s definitely those sorts of things. Another example was in Season One, where they had Peter fishing on the Sabbath. And I said listen, Peter was a Galilean observant Jew. He’s not going to be fishing willy-nilly on the Sabbath. It’s just not going to happen. It’s such a huge violation. If the people found out, it would be over for him in the community. So, I said, no.
As part of airing the series on TBN, you will be hosting a special program called The Chosen Unveiled. What can you tell me about this show? What is its focus?
The focus is really about helping people see The Chosen and the (Scripture) passages behind it in high definition. It’s so funny, a number of years ago, right before the Super Bowl, I went out and bought a high definition television. I was so excited to watch the game. And I thought, man, this (viewing experience) isn’t so great. I watched the whole game and toward the end, out of boredom, I was flipping through the channels and had a revelation. I had watched the entire game in standard definition because I did not understand the higher channels were the high definition ones. And when I saw it in high definition, I was like, wow, this really makes a difference. And that’s what we’re doing with The Chosen on television.
We’re taking people three or four layers into The Chosen and the significance of it. So, an example of that is from one of my favorite episodes, “The Wedding Gift”. This is where Jesus made cold water into wine. When you look at it, you see this beautiful ceremony. It’s awesome. But the thing is you can see it in ‘high definition’. For example, why is the first miracle Jesus does, turning water into wine? Of all of the miracles, why is this the first one? Well, the New Testament is trying to show Jesus as greater than Moses. What’s the first miracle Moses did? He turned the water into blood. Jesus doesn’t come to bring death. He comes to bring life. So, He turns the water into wine because wine is a symbol of joy and life in God’s kingdom.
Then, why six stone pots? Why not seven? Why not eight? If there’s six, obviously the Bible doesn’t waste words. If it gives a detail, it’s there for a reason. Man was created on the sixth day. We lost six things as a result of the Fall. Jesus does the miracle with six stone pots because He’s coming to restore what was lost in the Garden. And then when He dies on the Cross, we call it Good Friday, but on the Biblical calendar it’s the sixth day of the week. So, He dies on the same day man was created and fell to restore everything that was lost.
The program goes into all of those details surrounding and giving a deeper perspective on The Chosen. For example, from “The Wedding Gift” episode, we talk about what a Jewish wedding was like. What are the details of it and how does it all point to Jesus in the New Testament? So, we go into all of this material in the 30 minute program.
What role has prayer played in the making of The Chosen? How can viewers of the program be praying for the series?
When I took director Dallas Jenkins to Israel, one of the things that God put on my heart is that we are in a John 21 moment. The disciples were fishing all night and said, “Cast the nets again on the right side of the boat.” And there was this great catch of fish. I think we’re in this time where God is wanting to bring in a great catch. He wants to bring a move of God, but before we can see revival, we have to prepare the nets for revival. And I believe part of that net to bring this great catch in, of impacting the world, is the net of media. That’s what the hope is, that The Chosen and The Chosen Unveiled would be used by God to be a net that’s cast far and wide, to be one of the tools that God uses to bring in the great catch of fish. (Our desire) is for people to know the Lord and have lives be transformed, because at the end of the day, that’s ultimately what it’s about.
After people have seen The Chosen and The Chosen Unveiled, what would you like your audience get out of the viewing experience? What is your greatest hope for the series?
What I love about The Chosen as a whole is that the focus is on how people are transformed when they encounter Jesus, when they encounter Yeshua. And that’s the beautiful thing about the story. It’s told from the perspective of the individuals and how they’re impacted by encountering Him whereas most Jesus movies are focused on Jesus. He’s the sole focus. This was one of the unique things about The Chosen. It’s about how people are impacted by encountering Him. The hope is that people will be impacted and transformed in powerful ways. I think when you see the healings that occur, everyone can relate to them. All of us have very similar struggles of doubts, anxieties, financial issues and dilemmas that we’re wrestling with in life. How do we work all these things out through our faith and living in the real world? My hope is that people will find answers and that people will see how God can work in the midst of that and can be transformed. I hope people will fall more in love with Jesus.
Watch a Trailer for The Chosen television series: