Rated PG. Running time: 6 hours.
Our content ratings: Violence 5; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 3.
Our star rating (1-5): 4.5
In addition to the current NBC miniseries A.D.: The Bible Continues you might want to watch the 1985 TV miniseries, simply named A.D., most of which is available on DVD. Although both draw from the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles, the older version is far less violent—and, best of all, no Ninja angels. It does, however, like the current miniseries, weave in lots of fictional material, presumably to hold the attention of the causal viewer, as if there were not enough exciting material in The Acts of the Apostles.
A.D. was the third part of a Biblical trilogy produced by Anthony Burgess and Vincenzo Labella. First they released Moses the Lawgiver; then Jesus of Nazareth, both excellent productions. * The scriptwriters Anthony Burgess and Vincenzo Labella drew upon both Acts and the Roman classic The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, and even the Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius. Thus there are lots of scenes in Rome during the reigns of the Emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. There was so much material that the original series ran for 9 hours (this included almost two hours of commercials): the DVD version has been cut down to six hours (the actual running time is well under this—again, the “six hours” included commercials, which, of course, are omitted from the DVD).
There are two fictional interfaith love stories interwoven between episodes dealing with the apostles, but I won’t go into these. Pertinent here are the stories of Peter and Paul, excellently played by Dennis Quilley and Philip Sayer. The Pentecost event is presented with less flamboyance, meaning that there are no Roman soldiers chasing Peter and the apostles over the rooftops and through the streets. Peter and John’s boldness before the Sanhedrin; the “Rock’s” dream and visit with the Roman officer; his eventual martyrdom in Rome (by upside down crucifixion, hence Eusebius); and, of course the conversion of Saul/Paul and a small portion of his travels and eventual martyrdom (by beheading) in Rome are depicted. Also included are the episodes of Stephen’s martyrdom, the evangelist Phillip’s conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, and the house church of Aquila and Priscilla in Rome—plenty for the believer to appreciate, though it must be extracted from the two love stories of fictional characters
I wish that more of Paul’s letter writing had been included, this being such a crucial part of the formation and maintenance of the early church. Also, the baptisms, as in most Catholic-influenced Biblical productions, are by pouring, rather than by the total immersion then in practice. These are minor quibbles, this version of the story being, for this viewer at least, far more satisfying that the new too Hollywoodized miniseries. Better yet, watch Visual Bibles ACTS—there is no fictional material added to this dramatization of the NIV text of the New Testament book!
*. (See my review of the first in the Jan. 2015 VP, pp. 28-29 in “Moses: Movie Star;” and of Jesus of Nazareth on VP’s website at http://www.readthespirit.com/visual-parables/jesus-nazareth-1977/.)