The Chosen - Its Theology

Shawn Stafford (Janesville, Minnesota USA)

About the presenter

Shawn Stafford, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Bethany Lutheran College, graduated from Bethany Lutheran College (A.A.), St. Olaf College (B.A., History and Ancient Studies), and Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary (MDiv). He served as an Evangelical Lutheran Synod parish pastor for 21 years in Lengby and Bagley, MN and Hartland and Manchester, MN. He and his wife Amy live in Janesville, MN and have three children.

As a parish pastor and now as a religious studies professor, I have often employed film versions of the gospels or portions of the gospels when teaching about the life of Christ, especially His Passion. For the most part, these have been word-for-word adaptations, such as the Visual Bible: Matthew, the Visual Bible: John, and the Jesus Film, based on Luke. The Passion of the Christ and The Nativity Story would be notable exceptions, with some added dialogue and scenes not directly from Scripture. Likewise, in its disclaimer at the beginning of the first episode, The Chosen writers acknowledge that it is "based on the true stories of gospels of Jesus Christ." While some characters, locations, and events are combined, the purpose of "any artistic imagination" is "designed to support the text and interpretation of the Scriptures." Rather than claiming authority for itself, "Viewers are encouraged to read the Gospels." (Season 1, Ep. 1)


The Authority Principle

While The Chosen is not a word-for-word presentation of Scripture, it points us to the Scripture, and in its use, displays a high view of Scripture. Often a verse from the Old Testament serves as a theme for an episode, such as season 1, episode 1, centered around Isaiah 43, "I have called you by name; You are mine." Throughout the series, several characters are reading Scripture aloud, learning to read Scripture, and writing Scripture. Several episodes feature Jesus and His disciples and others praying the psalms. Jesus pronounces the Aaronic benediction on His disciples.

The Chosen portrays the reliability of the Gospels as eyewitness accounts of the life of Christ. Matthew is in the background of several scenes, taking detailed notes. He says of his account, "Mine will be precise." In preparation for the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has Matthew take notes as He develops and organizes His sermon. Likewise, John is writing down what he observes as Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda. In another scene John is talking to disciples about the first time they met Jesus. The gospel writer Luke is seen interviewing witnesses of Jesus' life and receiving from Mary Magdalene an account from Mary the mother of Jesus of Jesus' birth, including her song The Magnificat. These scenes depicting eyewitness accounts and the evangelists writing down Jesus' words goes against commonly held views of an oral stage of development for the gospel accounts or that there was some oral tradition, such as the so-called "Q," upon which Luke and Matthew based the teachings of Jesus recorded in their Gospels.

The Chosen gives us visual examples of the hermeneutical principal of the unity of Scripture, that the New Testament is veiled in the Old and the Old revealed in the New. There are examples of rectilinear prophecy, such as John the Baptist quoting Isaiah 40, which finds fulfillment in his preparatory ministry for the coming Messiah, and Isaiah 9 the promised birth of Immanuel, "God with us." There are also typological connections made with Old Testament events that foreshadow Jesus' ministry. The episode where Jesus and His disciples are confronted as Sabbath breakers for gleaning heads of wheat on the Sabbath, begins with King David and his men eating the showbread from the temple. Jesus refers to this event in His discussion with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath in the Gospels. The episode featuring the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar is introduced with a scene from Genesis involving Jacob's well.


The basic problem of the human condition

Several times throughout the series, it is made clear that that Jesus came to save us from sin and its effects. Jesus comes preaching the message, "All must repent or perish." As Zach Cole, a writer for 1517 put it in a summary of the themes of The Chosen, "Jesus did not come because we had our act together. He came because we couldn't get our act together." Mary Magdalene's character puts it this way, in words not found in Scripture, "I don't think He's waiting for us to be holy. I think He's here because we can't be holy without Him." Peter acknowledges his sinfulness at the miraculous catch of fish, "Depart from me! I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).

One of the effects of sin is that it separates us from God and from each other. We see that as Matthew is separated from his parents by his decision to become a tax collector. In another scene, a tax collector tells Jesus, "I don't get invited to dinner parties." Jesus replies, "That will be no problem. Tonight, you're the host."

Even after they are brought to faith, the characters in The Chosen continue to struggle with their problem of sin. Believers are saints and sinners at the same time. Mary Magdalene and Peter especially have scenes in which they struggle with sin and temptation, and fall back into old habits. When they stumble and fall, Jesus does not leave them. It is especially comforting to see Jesus tell Mary, "I forgive you."


Jesus' Mission

Like the Gospel of Mark, The Chosen jumps into the story at the start of Jesus' ministry and the ministry of John the Baptist to prepare for His coming. In the Nicodemus episode John 3:16 quoted literally, "God loves the world in this way…," then the familiar "He gave His one and only Son." Several times it is shown that the reason Jesus has come is "to take away the sin of the world" (cf. John 1:29). Jesus says to the woman at the well, "I'm not here to condemn you." Rather, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work" (John 4:34). Jesus has come to save those who cannot save themselves, which is all of us by nature. Preaching on the text from Isaiah 61 at His hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus declares, "I'm not here for vengeance. I am here for salvation," to "release from spiritual debt." In words that paraphrase verses in the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as saying "I'm here to preach the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven." As result, others observe of Him, "He's been changing many hearts."


Jesus: True God and True Man

Who is Jesus, according to The Chosen? Jesus is fully God and fully man. There are flashback scenes to the twelve-year old Jesus in the temple and to Jesus' birth that point out the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The twelve-year old Jesus knows He is God's Son and says, "I was supposed to be with My Father. Did you not know I must be in My Father's house?" Jesus' divine nature is on full display as He displays His omniscience, knowing Nathaniel when seeing him under the fig tree and calling him "a true Israelite" upon meeting him. Jesus performs miraculous signs, turns water into wine, supplies a miraculous catch of fish, and multiplies the loaves and fish to feed five thousand families. Jesus displays His divine power by casting out demons, healing diseases, and raising Jairus' daughter from the dead.

Arguably, Jesus' human nature has never been portrayed in such depth on screen as it is in The Chosen. Jesus takes time away to rest and pray. After a long day of healing, His breathing is slow and painful and He says, "I'm so tired." Before He goes to bed, He says bedtime prayers. He also says to Mary his mother that He misses Joseph, who raised him as a father. Jesus shares laughter and tears with His disciples.

Often we hear it asserted that Jesus did not claim to be God or that the divinity of Christ was something that was later attributed to Him or decided at a church council centuries after Jesus' life and ministry. The Chosen has many scenes in which Jesus gives to Himself the supernatural title "The Son of Man" from the book of the prophet Daniel. Jesus claims for Himself the divine authority to forgive sin. He claims to the be the "Lord of the Sabbath." When the woman uses the expression "until the Messiah comes," Jesus says, "I am He." One assertion Jesus makes on The Chosen as He preaches in the synagogue in Nazareth is, "I am the Law of Moses." This is not found in the Bible or the Gospels but in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 15:9, Jesus says, "I am the law." This statement is similar to ones Jesus makes about the Scriptures testifying of Him (John 5:49) and John chapter 1, that Jesus is "the Word made flesh" (John 1). However, "I am the Law" is not a statement we can attribute to Jesus according to Scripture.

Jesus' followers also make clear declarations of Jesus' divinity and Messiahship in The Chosen. John the Baptizer calls Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Already in episode 3, Andrew tells his brother Simon, "It's happened. I saw Him! The Lamb of God! This is the Messiah." The woman at the well says of Jesus, "He is the Christ." Nathaniel says to Jesus, "You are the Son of God, the King of Israel." When Andrew visits John the Baptizer in prison, John explains to Him, "You've got a new Rabbi. The Rabbi." When Judas Iscariot leaves home to follow Jesus, he says to his sister, "I think He's the Messiah." Other scenes portray characters with misunderstandings about the role of the Messiah. Some think Jesus might be the Messiah but wonder why He isn't trying to overthrow the Romans and set the Jews free.


Chosen by Jesus

The title The Chosen points to another of the series' main theological themes: that God chooses us, not the other way around. The episodes are all told from the point of view of those whom Jesus has chosen to be His disciples. Those who are judged and condemned by others, cut off from the worshipping community or from their family because of sin or its effects, are called to follow Jesus. Jesus gives them release from their sin and guilt, forgiveness, and healing. His message is for all, not just for religious "insiders." As the episode "Jesus Loves the Little Children" teaches, adults need faith like that of children, and faith comes first, then understanding.


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Philip 2023-10-17 10:31:27am
Shawn, I want to thank you for the context and scriptural references you bring to the discussion. I get the impression that most of the theology the show presents is accurate. I love the idea of having Christian based (educational, edifying, and educational) content.

How careful should we (as Lutherans) be when embracing this? And if they get some things wrong, do I need to be cautious about promoting this to friends and family?
Shawn Stafford (Bethany Lutheran College) 2023-10-17 3:18:45pm
In my opinion, this is a series one can promote to friends and family with few reservations. Most of the creative elements support the biblical account. Since my presentation was focused on the theology and not so much the screenwriting or creative license, I did not focus on one of the more over the top scenes, where flyers for the Sermon on the Mount are distributed and a stage set up and it's like an outdoor music festival. It just has to be kept in mind that there is a lot of backstory added for the sake of rounding out biblical characters. The overall concepts of who Christ is and the central message of God's grace come out strongly.
Anna Busch (MLC) 2023-10-17 3:49:52pm
Professor Stafford,

I just started watching "The Chosen" as a school assignment, but your presentation has encouraged me to continue the series. You highlight the connections to Scripture in the show by quoting it directly, referencing it through flashbacks, and proving that events read about in the Bible are in fact eyewitness accounts. As I continue on past episode three, I will actively take mental notes of scenes that come directly from the Bible or at least have some Scriptural connection.

After reading your response to "The Chosen," one question came to mind in reference to the portrayal of Jesus’ humanity. You mention how Jesus’ human nature has never before been portrayed in such a deep way. Do you think that this fact makes us almost pity Jesus because of his awkwardness and “weakness” he endures as a human? In one way, it is comforting to know that Jesus went through similar human emotions and feelings that we endure every day, but does highlighting this humanity in such depth overshadow his divinity? Based on my little experience with the show, I do not know if this it true or not, but is this a possibility, especially for someone who possibly does not know much about Jesus’ humanity in connection with his divinity on earth?

Thank you for your thoughts about "The Chosen" in connection to its theological ties. I appreciate knowing that watching this series will give me an accurate look at Christ’s life and work.
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-10-18 9:37:38am
In my opinion, highlighting his humanity depicts well his state of humiliation. I do not think this overshadows Christ's divinity since He is still portrayed performing miracles and displaying divine attributes, such as omniscience. In His state of humiliation He does not lay aside His divinity as such but only keeps Himself from making full use of His divine attributes. It is so comforting to know that Jesus able is able to sympathize with us our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). In our time in which Gnostic ideas about matter and the body are pervasive, it is important to show Christ, as Luther would put it, deep in the flesh.
Deb Uecker (Professor Emeritus from Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2023-10-17 7:39:22pm
Fascinating submission. As a ‘fan’ and financial supporter of ‘The Chosen’…..and as someone who has seen most all of the films portraying this subject….this series shows the divine and the human together as never before on film. Seeing Jesus tired, frustrated, enjoying time with children, seeking solace with his mother after a long day of preaching, is powerful. As it moves toward the films inevitable ending, I will curious to see how Dallas Jenkins portray those final days.
Kendra Rivera (MLC) 2023-10-17 7:41:44pm
Pastor Stafford,

I appreciated your article for its description of the clear and sound Gospel message found in The Chosen. The series is not just meant to be an educational description of events found in the Scriptures; it has a message, that Jesus was both God and man and came to save sinful humans, who were chosen by Him. Its ability to make us relate to the characters allows us to draw connections from us to them. We are also among those whom Jesus has chosen. We are saved by His grace and yet remain sinners. These points are all clear in the series, and I appreciate your pointing that out.
As I was reading your article, your discussion of the Biblical basis for events and some of Jesus’ statements intrigued me. You mentioned that in the series, Jesus says “I am the law.” You pointed out that this is not found in Scripture, but it is found in the Book of Mormon and does not go against what Scripture says. I am wondering if you have any concerns that the show might confuse people about what the Scriptures actually say. Although the series is clear in its disclaimer that not all the events found in it are directly pulled from Scripture, it does not specify which statements and events are or are not found in Scripture. While the onus is at least partially on the viewer to verify and search the Gospels for themselves, how would you respond to the concern that the series can confuse and mislead its viewers?

Thank you for your research and commentary on this topic. I especially enjoyed your exploration of Old Testament/New Testament connections in The Chosen. May God bless your future work!
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-10-18 9:41:25am
While recommending this series to a friend, it would be good to make clear this isn't one of the word for word Visual Bible productions, but based on the Bible accounts plus a screenwriters imagination for backstories etc. Viewers should keep their Bibles close at hand for comparison. The episodes are intended to lead viewers into Scripture. There are books like A Harmony of the Words and Works of Jesus Christ by Dwight Pentecost that have the four gospels side by side as well.
Ryan Singleton (Bethany Lutheran College) 2023-10-17 11:55:46pm
Professor Stafford,

I have not gotten around to watching The Chosen yet but I have been meaning to and after reading this I will definitely give the show a watch! Firstly, I really appreciated you talking about how the show depicts Jesus and how He is fully God and fully man. Sometimes I don't think about Jesus being tired in the way that we are but with Him being fully man as well as fully God we know He did get tired physically just like we do today. That's pretty cool to think about because that means Jesus understands fully the things we go through as humans because He was human too! I think it's very comforting knowing Jesus experienced the difficulties and temptations we do today because it means we are not alone in the struggles we go through, Jesus Himself knows what it's like to be tempted because He became a human man for us! It is even more comforting knowing Jesus never sinned and that He lived a perfect life for us because He knew we are incapable of doing that! Secondly, I also really like how the show directly quotes Scripture, like John 3:16. It's awesome how they're able to show biblical stories through a TV show, it kind of helps to see how certain things happen in the Bible, assuming it's biblically accurate of course. I am excited to watch, thank you for writing about the show!
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-11-05 5:59:28pm
Ryan- It's good to see one of my students has read this article and that it has prompted interest in the Chosen series. I look forward to discussing it further with you.
Nolan Dittrich (Bethany Lutheran) 2023-10-18 2:38:17pm
Now, I have never seen the chosen, so I did not really know what to expect coming into any of these articles. I did not think or expect a show to get some of these things right, or put them in at all. I expected full man and fully God, and maybe part of the human condition. I expected the show to be Like a Sunday school lesson and just say "Jesus loves you, and also here is a miracle." That is kind of how my high-school had chapels, and they referenced the choses a lot, so I didn't expect it to be good at all. What you wrote made me want to actually watch the show and look for these things. I think that a show about Christ's life is a great idea to give more people exposure, and would also like to see one about the old testament. (although there is a lot in there, and quite a bit of it should never be shown on television) I enjoyed reading your article quite a bit. With the Chosen being such a big hit do you think that will inspire more biblical adaptations of shows and movies?
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-10-19 11:03:54am
I my opinion, the popularity of the Chosen will lead to further series. I think the business model of how this show was funded will encourage others to produce such biblical adaptations. I had not started to watch this series until I was asked to write about it. Once I started watching, I was drawn in immediately by the interesting backstories and character development. I also appreciate how various groups among the Jews and Romans are depicted, giving historical context to the biblical stories. I appreciate how much of Jesus' words are directly from scripture and how accounts. from scripture are depicted in an in-depth manner. In my opinion, this show could change some people's minds about who Jesus is and Christianity is about, gaining a listening audience to the Scriptures and the Gospel.
Hannah Bodden (MLC) 2023-10-18 3:38:44pm
Pastor Stafford,

When reading the bible, I often feel displacement between myself and the chosen people of Jesus’ time. Since the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and we only see what he needs us to see, it is hard to accept that I do not have the full picture. Often I view the disciples as half-written characters because I do not have a full understanding of their back story and lives. I think that it was incredibly insightful for the creators of this show to take artistic liberties with what they do know about these people, and give them more relatable qualities. Although we know that these traits may not be Biblically accurate, The Chosen is a good way for an audience to remember that the people of the Bible were in fact real people and that they struggled with sin just as often as we do. The reminder that they also had personal lives outside of serving God is important because many Christians feel as if the disciples were “better” than other Christians, and that they fully devoted their entire lives to serving God, and no longer felt any personal obligations.

As I watched the show The Chosen, I struggled with one question: How does a sinful cast and crew create a show that accurately depicts the perfection of Christ? Did you find, in your viewing, that the perfection of Jesus was consistently represented with accuracy or did you find that (intentionally or unintentionally) there were moments where the performance decisions regarding Jesus might have been at odds with the Biblical truth of his absolute perfection?

Thank you for sharing your insights on this acclaimed show, and for having a positive attitude toward the artistic liberties taken within it. You discussed these aspects of the story as a way to remind the audience that the disciples and Christ’s other followers were sinful humans too.
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-10-19 10:54:39am
Your question, "As I watched the show The Chosen, I struggled with one question: How does a sinful cast and crew create a show that accurately depicts the perfection of Christ?" is a challenging one. As I mention in my essay this TV show shows the depth of Jesus' humiliation and His human nature. It also shows that He as the Son of God is the One who gave the moral law in the first place. There were actions interpreted by Jesus' enemies as breaking the law. After having watched the first three seasons in close succession, I have not seen examples of any moral failings on the part of Jesus, in word or action. You also ask, "Did you find, in your viewing, that the perfection of Jesus was consistently represented with accuracy or did you find that (intentionally or unintentionally) there were moments where the performance decisions regarding Jesus might have been at odds with the Biblical truth of his absolute perfection?" As far as perfection in general, there is a scene where Jesus consults with Matthew as far as the sculpting the Sermon on the Mount, but I do not see this as necessarily showing imperfection, but Jesus in the depth of His humiliation preparing His message before preaching it to the crowd. Of course according to His divine nature He already had the perfect words, which is not what is being portrayed in that scene. It is a struggle to show the full divine nature inhabiting the human nature since our minds have trouble grasping that.

Chaplain Don Moldstad (Bethany Lutheran College) 2023-10-18 8:26:28pm
We have watched a few of these. Thanks for the analysis.
Serina Blase (MLC) 2023-10-26 4:26:41pm
Professor Stafford,

While watching the early episodes of The Chosen with my husband, he made a comment along the lines of “Why does Jesus seem to be so distressed?” I reasoned that the show was just emphasizing his human nature. As I read your article, I was excited to see that you agreed with my thought. In your article, you wrote, “Arguably, Jesus’ human nature has never been portrayed in such depth on screen as it is in The Chosen.” One of the reasons that I feel I like The Chosen so much is because it has this uniqueness that shows Jesus as God but also stresses his human nature. I was happy to see that you included this point and examples from the show, along with the focus the show has on his divine nature.

You discussed how, on the show, Jesus states, “I am the Law of Moses.” You say that this statement is not found in the Bible, but instead in the Book of Mormon. While this statement is not wrong because it is similar to statements made in the Bible, such as “the Word is flesh.” it made me think about the small flaws with the show that could lead to bigger issues. My question is, how does someone determine what inconsistencies with Scripture are acceptable to look around? My thought is that this use of a quote from the Book of Mormon is not detrimental because it is still in line with Scripture. However, my fear is that the show may start to alter more crucial parts of Scripture as they gain higher audiences. I feel that there may be a point where some aspects of Scripture are not accurate, yet the show still does many other parts of Scripture well. How do we know when the line has been crossed and the show should no longer have our favor?

Thank you for exploring the theological themes and ideas of the show. It is important that a show with a growing population such as this one be looked at in order to determine its accuracy and value. I appreciate the time you took in writing this in order to provide a better understanding and insights into the show.
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-11-05 5:30:25pm
You bring up an interesting questions, beginning with, "My question is, how does someone determine what inconsistencies with Scripture are acceptable to look around?" While there is a screenplay based on Scripture, the script is not word for word Scripture. Many elements of the screenplay help us understand the context of the biblical account or help us understand what a biblical character may have been going through. These lead us into the biblical text and support biblical teaching and agree with the Bible's teaching of who Jesus is and what He came to do. You ask, "How do we know when the line has been crossed and the show should no longer have our favor?" We must always evaluate any Scripture based entertainment on the basis of the doctrines taught in Scripture, which summarized in the Creeds and confessions of the Church. When the subject of the series is Jesus, then we must ground ourselves in the gospels and their teaching about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Again does the show portray Jesus as the God-Man, the Savior, who came bring us forgiveness of sins?
Alex Schroeder (MLC) 2023-10-26 4:28:00pm
Prof. Stafford:

Your article about The Chosen helped me to connect some of the ideas depicted in The Chosen with deeper theology in the bible. It was very well-written and helped me recognize a lot more scriptural interpretations than when I initially watched the show.

I did have a question on the “visual examples of the hermeneutical principle.” Could you please elaborate on this principle and the theological component of that? Is it correlated to the examples of rectilinear prophecy shown later in your article? I just have very little background knowledge in this area, and was wondering if you could provide some more knowledge in this area?

I found your article very enlightening. You highlighted the value of the humanization of Jesus and the characters in The Chosen. This allowed me to find a lot more value in the artistic interpretation the writers used in the show. Thank you for your contribution, Professor! It was very informative.
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-11-05 5:19:07pm
Thanks for your questions. Hermeneutical principles are principles of interpreting Scripture, such as that Scripture interprets Scripture. In my article I say, "The Chosen gives us visual examples of the hermeneutical principal of the unity of Scripture, that the New Testament is veiled in the Old and the Old revealed in the New." The unity of Scripture is another principle of Scripture interpretation, that there is one divine Author and one central message of Scripture. The unity of Scripture is seen not only in rectilinear (direct) prophecy and fulfillment and in typological prophecy in which Old Testament events, persons, and things point ahead to aspects of Jesus' saving work.
Eva Doebler (MLC) 2023-11-02 9:30:26am
Professor Stafford,

If you were to ask my dad, my high school campus pastor, or really any pastor who’s spent enough time around me, they’d tell you that I really enjoy diving into specific theological concepts and breaking them down. Because of that, I was immediately interested in your article from the title, and it did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the theology of The Chosen held up to my own understanding of Lutheran doctrine. The section about how The Chosen portrays Jesus as choosing us, rather than the other way around, really caught my attention. I should really have made that connection myself – after all, the show is called The Chosen – but it hadn’t occurred to me how the entire premise of the show is in opposition to the decision theology that is so popular today. Not only that, but the show vividly highlights why the fact that Christ chooses us is so much more comforting than the idea that we choose Christ. That is encouraging to see in such a popular piece of media.

One part of your article that I would be interested in learning more about is the idea of an oral development state for the gospel accounts. I found the choice that the writers of The Chosen made to include depictions of the Gospel writers recording their stories very fascinating. It wouldn’t have been something that I would have thought to include, but I really appreciate how it backs the reliability of the Gospel accounts. I have heard people say that the Gospel accounts were mainly fabricated or exaggerated by Jesus’s followers. However, the concept of an oral tradition is new to me. Where does that idea originate from? Is it based on any evidence, or simply a reluctance to accept the validity of the Gospel accounts? Also, your article makes a reference to “the so-called ‘Q’,” and I haven’t heard of that before. What does that refer to?

Thank you again for laying out all the theological ideas we find in The Chosen. Not only did I find it fascinating, but I was also encouraged as a Lutheran who enjoys the show.
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-11-05 5:34:11pm
Eva- To answer briefly, "Q" refers to "Quelle," Geman for "source," a hypothetical oral or written collection of Jesus' teachings that appear in Matthew and Luke but are not found in Mark. We have no physical evidence of any manuscript of such a source but it was the product of scholarship that was trying to account for similarities and differences between gospel accounts but would not accept divine inspiration.
Renee Johnson (MLC) 2023-11-02 9:38:57am
Professor Stafford,

I have just read your essay on The Chosen and the theology within the show. I admit, previous to this week, my experience with the show had been minimal, but your expansion on the themes of the human condition, Jesus’ mission, the nature of Christ, and our chosenness by God have made me question the series in a new light. Your highlight on the titles of episodes being taken from Bible passages is particularly insightful.

It does, however, make me question the integrity of the doctrine within The Chosen. How does creating fictional stories around Bible verses affect their meaning? As noted in your essay, the hope of the show is to make “viewers encouraged to read the Gospels” (Season 1, Ep. 1). Several historical characters are seen praying the psalms and declaring the Aaronic benediction–which are helpful ways to declare their faith to the audience–but what happens when an entirely fictional setting is created to inaccurately frame a Bible verse? How do you make sure it stays true to its original meaning instead of falling into blasphemy?

Your essay has made me think twice about the benefits to partial adaptations of the Bible. You have made clear the key points of doctrine in The Chosen, as well as how they promote the conclusion that God chooses us. Thank you for such a phenomenal read. Blessings.
Shawn Stafford (BLC) 2023-11-05 5:56:50pm
Renee- Thanks for such thought provoking questions. You ask, "How does creating fictional stories around Bible verses affect their meaning?" In many cases, the writers appear to be rounding out characters because this is a TV series focused on those whom Christ chose to be His disciples. Other times the backstories help give us cultural insights to the story which reflect the findings of archaeology and other ancient documents regarding, for the example first century Jews and Romans. While viewing the show, we should keep in mind what is fact and what is creative license. Studying the Gospels or a harmony of the Gospels helps with this. In the episodes I have seen most of the artistic license has led into the Bible story rather than away, but there are some cases in which side stories are made up which do not seem to aid in the understanding of the main point of Jesus' life and ministry, but are there for character development.
Another question you brought up is, "but what happens when an entirely fictional setting is created to inaccurately frame a Bible verse? How do you make sure it stays true to its original meaning instead of falling into blasphemy?" The examples you cite are ones in which Jesus Himself or others are quoting Scripture in their daily lives and ministry. We must evaluate the program as we're watching it, on the basis of Scripture, in order to determine whether these contexts and settings are fitting and appropriate or incorrect. While I have been pleasantly surprised at the use of Scripture on the Chosen so far, as viewers we must not let our guards down when it comes to any product of the human imagination.