Yesterday’s post took issue with a British documentary, Channel 5’s Mysteries of the Bible: Jesus, which aired in the run-up to Easter 2015.
Today’s examines the first episode of BBC1’s David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St Peter.
Whilst I admire that the actor who portrayed Hercule Poirot converted to Christianity at the age of 40 in 1986, this documentary left me wanting. I almost stopped watching five times. As such, I did not tune into the second, concluding, episode.
Suchet has done an 80-hour recording of the ‘entire’ Bible but dropped two clangers, which demonstrates that Scripture reading has to be a regular exercise rather than a one-off if we are to familiarise ourselves with it.
The first centred on the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. Suchet discussed St John’s (John 20:1-10, emphases mine):
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Suchet said that ‘we do not know’ the identity of this disciple whom Jesus loved.
It has been commonly believed since the earliest days of the Church that John was referring to himself. What was he going to do, write ‘I, John’ throughout?
However, Suchet evidently prefers modern scholarship (not his, but summarised elsewhere):
The most common identification of this character is drawn from an early tradition, which holds that the beloved disciple was an actual individual known as John, the son of Zebedee, a disciple of Jesus. This theory also identifies the son of Zebedee as the author of the Gospel of John. This idea remains an important view among contemporary Christians, though there is little evidence to support it.
I despair. I really do.
People are going to think that, because David Suchet said something, it must be true.
The second scriptural error concerned Luke’s account of the Last Supper. Readers might remember this from my recent post on the same verses (Luke 22:35-38):
Scripture Must Be Fulfilled in Jesus
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Suchet was aghast at our Lord’s instruction about the sword. Perhaps this passage was this not part of his recording of the ‘entire’ Bible.
An archaeologist told him that men would have carried a dagger, not the full-length swords we think of. They used them for self-defence against brigands and wild animals.
However, there is a biblical explanation, which Suchet left unexplored, although he had access to clergy in the Holy Land, where this programme was filmed.
My post cited the time to which Jesus was referring to in Luke 22:35. Luke 9:1-6 refers to His sending the Apostles out to preach and heal:
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
After their successful ministry, He sent out the 72 disciples (Luke 10:1-12):
Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Although He did not accompany them, our Lord was in the background, as it were, to ensure their safety.
However, at the Last Supper, He said that things would be very different in a short space of time. He would no longer be with the Apostles to protect them. Hence, the need for practical items such as a sword.
In an interview about his programme on St Peter, Suchet told the Radio Times:
I think it’s every Christian’s duty to read the whole of the Old Testament and the Koran. I think we owe it to our brothers and sisters in faith to have a better understanding of Jewish and Muslim doctrine, knowing that we all come from the same root.
Surely, it would be better for Christians to know the New Testament inside and out.
These two comments of Suchet’s illustrate why it is so important to keep going back to Holy Scripture: know it, love it, study it.
How is it that Suchet could record the ‘entire’ Bible in 80 hours when it takes a year to read it? In reality, he must have read certain chapters focussing on the main episodes. Either he or the Radio Times should have made that clear.
The programme had two highlights. One was the atmospheric filming in the Holy Land. The other was the revelation that St Peter’s fish is actually a type of tilapia:
Tilapia were one of the three main types of fish caught in Biblical times from the Sea of Galilee. At that time they were called musht, or commonly now even “St. Peter’s fish”. The name “St. Peter’s fish” comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish. While the name also applies to Zeus faber, a marine fish not found in the area, a few tilapia species (Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus and others) are found in the Sea of Galilee, where the author of the Gospel of Matthew recounts the event took place. These species have been the target of small-scale artisanal fisheries in the area for thousands of years.