What Binge-Watching Old TV Can Teach Us About The Bible
I recently started watching the show Rome on HBO Max. The series is set in the 1st Century BC and tells the story of Ancient Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire.
We’ve all been there, deciding which show to watch next. We typically start by quickly browsing the new releases across Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Hulu….etc. We then narrow down our choices based on our friend’s recommendations and how appealing the thumbnail image is for the shows in question.
The night that I decided to commit to watching Rome, I had narrowed the bracket down to Rome vs. Billion Dollar Code.
Rome is 2 seasons, originally airing from 2005–2007. Billion Dollar Code was released in 2021 and is only 4 episodes. Rome’s story is ancient, Billion Dollar Code is about the creators of Google Maps. Which empire would win out?
The reason I am writing this seemingly banal post is because I had a thought that surprised me when deciding which show to watch: Maybe, I thought to myself, I shouldn’t watch Rome because it is outdated and could be filled with inaccuracies.
That is when I decided to watch it.
How crazy is that? The story of Ancient Rome is over two thousand years old and I was concerned that the facts had changed so much in the last 15 years that it wasn’t worth watching the show at all!
I think this is the challenge people have with studying the Bible. We get so caught upon the feeling that we don’t know how to approach the text as a modern reader, that we don’t read it at all. We think to ourselves, who actually wrote it? Did these people actually live? Did a flood really destroy the entire world?
The reason I watched Rome is the reason none of those questions matter when studying the Bible. The stories matter more than the facts.
The stories in the Bible have persisted for thousands of years. The characters, tribulations and lessons have shaped the greatest thinkers, rulers and civilizations. Put otherwise, would finding an archaeological site that contradicts the Biblical account of the number of Israelites living in Canaan at the time of Joshua change any of that? No.
Another Netflix show motivated me the write this piece: Squid Game.
As you have likely read, Squid Game is Netflix’s #1 show of all time, reaching 111 Million viewers in the first month. That makes Squid Game, a Korean drama about heavily indebted people willing do to anything, a significant cultural touchstone.
I thought it was great. I really liked watching it. But, the most watched Netflix show ever? The single thing you can assume most people in your office have seen this month?
This isn’t a religious statement, I just think we can do better.
In 2012 the writer James Chapman set out to determine the “Top 10 Most Read Books in the World based on the number of copies of each title sold during the last 50 years.”
The Bible was the clear winner at 3.9 Billion copies sold — but you have to wonder, who is reading those? Were they bought in bulk by schools and houses of worship?
I get the sense that many people are turning back to traditional text like the Bible. It’s evident from the exploding Faith Based media scene (check out @Soulshop_studios). Perhaps we are on the cusp of being able to assume that the average person at work will have the same level of Biblical literacy as Netflix literacy…but that too may seem a bit fantastical.