Alissa’s Note: A.D. The Bible Continues began airing on Easter Sunday, and during its run, Peter Chattaway recaps episodes as they air. Recaps involve spoilers, especially if you’re not familiar with the Bible story.

Episode 3: "The Spirit Arrives"

'A.D. The Bible Continues'
Image: NBC

'A.D. The Bible Continues'

The first two episodes of A.D. The Bible Continues were based on the gospels and had to juggle the various accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection while also speculating as to how the authorities—specifically the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate—might have responded to the disappearance of Jesus' body. But now the third episode takes place entirely within the timeframe of the book of Acts, so there is less juggling, less harmonizing, to do.

That means there are now even more opportunities for the filmmakers to add fictitious elements that flesh the characters out; all they have to do is look for possible gaps within the narrative of Acts and add some details of their own. And thus, this episode introduces Maya, the teenaged daughter of Peter, as well as Herod Antipas, the quasi-king who is mentioned quite a bit in the gospels but plays no role in the events of Acts.

The Bible never says whether Peter had any children, but there is an old tradition to the effect that he might have had a daughter. The gospels do say that Peter had a mother -in-law, who is also mentioned (though not seen) in this episode, and Paul even writes in I Corinthians 9 that Peter was one of many apostles who were accompanied on their journeys by "believing wives" (unlike Paul, who was single). But this episode imagines that Peter's wife is already dead, presumably to keep the story from getting too complicated.

'A.D. The Bible Continues'
Image: NBC

'A.D. The Bible Continues'

As for Antipas, both Luke and Acts say that he was partly responsible for the death of Jesus; Luke even adds the detail that Herod and Pilate had been "enemies" beforehand but became "friends" on the day that Jesus was crucified. But the first episode of A.D. rushed through the trials and crucifixion of Jesus so quickly that it didn't leave any time for Antipas.

And so, when he appears here, Antipas doesn't get along very well with Pilate, and he is also very critical of Caiaphas for how he mishandled the whole Nazarene affair.

Thankfully, for the first half of the episode or so, all this extra-biblical material allows the filmmakers to just pause and explore the characters for a bit. Pilate's wife Claudia discovers that her husband murdered his own soldiers in his office—or "in my house," as Claudia puts it—in last week's episode. Caiaphas's wife Leah tries to persuade one of the temple guards' widows to leave the city. Peter spends some time with his daughter.

And all the apostles wait . . . and wait . . . for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

'A.D. The Bible Continues'
Image: NBC

'A.D. The Bible Continues'

But once the apostles start speaking in tongues, the plot kicks into gear, and we're right back to the violent back-and-forth that we saw in earlier episodes. This episode skips right past the first sermon delivered by Peter in Acts 2 and goes straight to the healing of the lame beggar in Acts 3, presumably because that story ends with Peter and John being beaten and imprisoned as per Acts 4 (though the beating—which leaves the apostles with bloodied faces and, in John's case, a swollen eye—isn't actually specified in the text).

Meanwhile, Pilate tries to enter the Temple with some of his guards, in a deliberately provocative move that results in a Zealot slashing the throat of one of his officers, and in revenge, Pilate starts ordering the death of random Jews. And so it goes.

The episode ends with Caiaphas and Peter glaring at each other through the bars of Peter's prison cell. Presumably the next episode will get into the trial scene from Acts 4. But it's a little worrying to see how quickly this one episode zipped through the first few chapters of Acts. There are nine episodes to go, and only six or seven chapters of Acts remaining this season, so how will the series pad things out? More gratuitous violence?

We shall see.

Peter T. Chattaway writes about films in general, and Bible films in particular, at FilmChat.

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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