The Acts of the Apostles
Reprinted from the January 1998 VP
I remember vividly reading forty years ago for the first time at one setting Luke’s Book of Acts of the Apostles. It was a college reading assignment, and the translation was the RSV. I was surprised at how exciting the book was, seeming more like a novel than a dull holy book. I felt that way again while viewing the second set of four videos from The Visual Bible. The filmmakers have captured the excitement, the danger and the passion of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, in a way that most viewers/readers will find unforgettable. The preaching; the travels from city to city; the beatings and imprisonments; the narrow escapes from death; the great storms at sea; and the thronging crowds, sometimes calling for blood (as in the case of Stephen early on and for Paul later when he returns to Jerusalem for the last time).
Well-known actor Dean Jones plays Luke, author of Acts. He is telling friends aboard a ship the story. The camera switches back and forth between him and the action. He “reads” the NIV text, and actors say the dialogue portion. As with MATTHEW” this technique works well, though at times the camera lingers a little longer on the narrator than necessary. Maybe this is to whet our appetite for the live action.
James Brolin plays Peter, who dominates most of the scenes of the first part of the story. There he is preaching to the curious crowd at Pentecost, going up to the temple, leaving jail almost bewildered by the miraculous event that freed him (and then left standing outside when the excited servant shuts the door in his face as she rushes to tell the other apostles upstairs her good news), his strange dream and mission to the Roman soldier and his family.
Henry Arnold portrays the Apostle Paul. He is especially good in the fourth cassette when he is mobbed by the Jews and rescued by the Roman guard at Jerusalem. He is passionate in the series of defenses he makes before the Roman governors Felix and Festus and King Agrippa. We experience something of the majesty of his bearing and the fiery eloquence that he employed so well in the service of Christ. One of these segments could be used in a class, or even at a service of worship.
The videos will be prized by anyone teaching a course on Acts. Chapter and verse appear at the lower right corner of the screen, making it easy to fast-forward to any particular passage the teacher wants. A secondary use for the set would be during the week: the church visitor (pastor or deacon, or –) could leave it for study or devotions for the sick and shut-in, many of whom might not feel up to reading, but who could watch a video. If promoted right, ACTS and its companion set MATTHEW could be the most used videos in the church’s collection. (You ARE building a video collection for your church library, aren’t you?!) If the price seems a bit out of the reach for a small church’s regular budget, suggest that it would make a good memorial gift — or join with several other churches for a joint purchase. Certainly an area resource center will want this.
(Note: the film would have cost in $99.99 in 1998 when I reviewed it, but now Vision Video offers it in a 2-DVD package with lots of bonus material for just $19.99.)
Vision Video, www.visionvideo.com or PO Box 540, Worcester PA, 19490, (800)523-0226)