Season 1 | Episode 6 | “The Persecution” | Aired May 10, 2015
A.D. The Bible Continues is an intense political and religious drama. For anyone who is familiar with the Biblical accounts of the early days of Christianity, you may find it fascinating to see these early days placed in Middle Eastern historical context. It’s also interesting to see how there were three prominent schools of thought in Israel at this time.
First, there’s traditional Judaism, the strict following of the law of Moses and the worship of God at the temple in Jerusalem. Second, there is Rome, which occupies Jerusalem and rules with an iron fist. Third, there are the Christians, Jewish converts who believe the law of Moses has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus, who is the resurrected son of God.
In the midst of this religious/political triangle of thought and ideologies, each sect leader is struggling to make sense of how to rule. Peter is continually learning how to lead Christ’s people. Caiaphas is doing his best to lead the Jews, but finds himself stuck between his people and Rome. Pilate is mostly concerned with keeping civil peace and tax laws, but he keeps getting dragged into religious proceedings. This week’s episode shows how all of these groups are connected, and how one can cause violence to another merely out of fear.
Caiaphas is challenged
If the last few episodes have shown us anything about Caiaphas, it’s that he will do anything to keep the peace in Jerusalem. He is an entrusted leader, he is married to the daughter of the former High Priest Annas, and he has done everything he can for his people. He found Boaz, stopped the murders, and even let Pilate enter the temple, all to keep the peace. Despite all of this, the men around him are planning his demise. Annas has come up with a plan for his son Jonathan to become the next High Priest. Annas even tries to form an alliance with the regents of Galilee, Herod Antipas and his wife, Herodias. Herod has other plans, though, and offers to support Caiaphas if Caiaphas can promise the death of the rogue Galileans (Peter and the other disciples).
The obsession of Saul
Caiaphas’ desperation for the support of Herod makes him an easy target for Saul. Saul is a man of religion and education. The teachings of Moses and the sanctity of the temple are of the utmost importance to him. While he is currently a scribe, he wants to become a Pharisee and wants to sit on council at the temple. His faith is sacred to him, and he feels the beliefs of the disciples are not only misguided, but blasphemous.
Saul first confronts Peter in the camp, openly challenging his beliefs. Saul calls Jesus a false prophet, shouting out to the crowd and challenging their beliefs in Jesus and in Peter. Peter declares that Saul is a man “living in darkness [who] doesn’t know his eyes are closed.” This is great foreshadowing to an experience Paul will have on his way to Damascus later on this season. Since Saul cannot reason with the camp, he asks Caiaphas to put him in charge of the temple guards. Caiaphas agrees. Saul begins arresting anyone who listens to message of the disciples.
This plan backfires. The more he persecutes them, the bigger their camp grows. Saul approaches Caiaphas again and gains full authority to act on his behalf. Caiaphas agrees to this because he knows that Saul can do the work that Herod has asked: annihilating the camp of the Nazarene believers.
While many Jewish leaders want to back Jonathan’s bid for High Priest, the final decision comes down to Pilate. Pilate, who has had a working relationship with Caiaphas for over a decade, declares he will let the goddess of wisdom decide who shall be the next High Priest. When he hears nothing from her, he takes out a Roman coin, tossing it to see how the fates will decide. Both of these actions seem trivial and insulting to Caiaphas, who was looking for Pilate’s support in the decision. Pilate tosses the coin in the air: If it lands on heads, Jonathan will be punished for his weaseling and Caiaphas will remain High Priest. The decision of the flip? Heads. Pilate tosses the coin again, and this time it lands on the ground. Heads means Caiaphas will remain the High Priest, tails means he will be removed from his position. Caiaphas picks up the coin, which is on heads. The fates have spoken: Jonathan will be punished and Caiaphas will remain in control. As Caiaphas hands the coin back to Pilate, he notices the coin has heads on both sides. Apparently, Pilate had already made his decision, but was trying to appear unbiased.
Now that Saul has the full authority of Caiaphas, he readies the guards to storm the camp. Peter can sense that violence is coming and must decide what to do. Earlier, Mary Magdalene had encouraged Peter to let out his hurt and anger over the death of Stephen. She encouraged him to be bold in the face of opposition. Peter tells everyone to leave and sets a trap for Saul. As Saul burns the camp, Peter surrounds Saul in a ring of fire! We are left with Saul screaming behind the fire, enraged at Peter and the other disciples who outsmarted him. I was really impressed with the actor portraying Saul, Emmett J. Scanlan. I’m looking forward to seeing the transformation of this character from Saul to Paul in the coming weeks!
A.D. The Bible Continues airs Sundays at 9/8C on NBC.