Is ‘The Chosen’ series about Jesus Christ a cultural moment worth watching?

The Chosen. The Chosen./ Press image.

The Easter Sunday season two premiere of The Chosen, an evangelical Christian-produced internet series dramatizing the life of Jesus and his disciples, could have significant influence on religion and culture, a veteran religion journalist has said.

 

“Even reporters who I know are linked into the evangelical culture have missed this story,” said Julia Duin, writing at the religious news commentary site Get Religion April 6. “This thing has been watched by 50 million people in 180 countries, so it’s time to take a serious look. Are they cutting it in terms of acting; of being true to the Jewish traditions of the time? What sorts of experts are contributing to this effort?”

 

The first season of The Chosen focused on the initial meetings between Jesus and his early disciples, Peter Simon and Andrews’ struggles with debt, Matthew’s encounters with Jesus, Mary Magdalene’s meeting with Jesus, and several miraculous events. The second season’s initial episodes address Jesus’ growing fame. The production team is preparing for a third season of filming.

 

The character of Jesus is played by the actor Jonathan Roumie, a devout Catholic. The producers have used a Jerusalem set built in Goshen, Utah by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, colloquially known as Mormons.

 

The series is available through an app for iOS or Android systems, or through the website of VidAngel, its distributor. The first season is also available on DVD.

 

The Chosen’s creator and director Dallas Jenkins explained his reason for making the series.

 

“I have a passion for people to hear the ‘old, old story’ again … for the very first time,” he said.

 

“When I see Jesus movies, it’s sometimes hard for me to feel moved or excited. I've heard the stories before, and many Jesus projects just take you from Bible story to Bible story, not spending as much time on the humanity and backstories of all these characters. And they sometimes feel stiff and formal,” he said in the description of the app for The Chosen.

 

Jenkins said he wanted “to write a show that explores Jesus through the eyes of those around Him.” This means exploring characters like Simon Peter, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and some of those who benefitted from Jesus’ miracles.

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“We couldn’t help but identify with their recklessness, rough pasts, religious piety, and desperation for life change. And ultimately, their redemption,” said Jenkins.

 

The show has three biblical consultants including Catholic priest Father David Guffey, C.S.C., national director of Family Theater Productions. Another consultant is Dr. Doug Huffman, a professor of the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Huffman is an ordained minister of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Messianic Jewish Rabbi Jason Sobel of Fusion Global Ministries also serves as a biblical consultant.

 

The biblical consultants reflect on each episode in round tables, also available through the app and the Vidangel website

 

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The Chosen’s YouTube channel has one million subscribers. Its Season Two Premiere on YouTube had over 2.3 million views, as of April 19.

 

The Chosen claims to be the first multi-season show about Jesus. Its website said 75,000 donors gave a total of $10 million through crowdfunding to support the first season, and over 125,000 gave a total of $10 million for the second season.

Jenkins, director of “The Chosen,” is the son of Jerry Jenkins, a writer who authored the novelization of the first season of the series.

Jerry Jenkins co-authored with Tim LaHaye the popular and deeply controversial Left Behind fictional novel series. The book series in 2003 was condemned by the Catholic Bishops of Illinois as “anti-Catholic in content and form.” They said that book series had been “a vehicle for anti-Catholic sentiments” and “a marketing tool for fundamentalist preaching about the end times and a thinly disguised polemic against the Catholic Church.”