Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Reflecting on The Chosen: A Review and Interpretation Series

I’m going to embark on a review series on The Chosen. For anyone who happens across this page and doesn’t know what The Chosen is—I don’t know why you would; this website has been defunct for a while—The Chosen is an independently produced series on the life of Jesus and his disciples, specifically from the disciples’ point of view.* It portrays a number of passages in scripture, but its primary purpose is not just to retell Bible stories. It fleshes out Jesus’ disciples, and his opponents, with imagined backstories, to transform the narratives from simple morality tales to more gripping drama. We become invested in the stories of Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Nicodemus; we care about them as people, rather than seeing them as names without further information.

The point is not for these backstories to be accurate, since we have little reliable information about most of these characters. The point is for them to be relatable. While The Chosen is formally set within first-century Israel, and clear efforts have been made to represent accurately the social, political, religious, and cultural context of the Roman-occupied land of ancient Israel, the human stories are meant to be applicable to present-day issues and problems.

The Chosen is a bit of a “what if” drama; a place where we could imagine what it would have been like to be with Jesus as one of his first disciples. But it also takes the “what if” in the opposite direction—what if Jesus in the flesh were calling us, right here, right now? What would our struggles be like; what unexpected directions would opposition come from? And then we think—other than the “in the flesh” part, isn’t that actually our situation, right here, right now?

Although I'm a big fan of The Chosen, I'm not a completely uncritical one. I'm an evangelical Christian, as is Dallas Jenkins, the showrunner and creative force behind the project, so I'm in sympathy with what he's doing. Although the project got its initial distribution through Angel Studios, whose founders are members of the LDS church, and some of the filming has taken place on a film set in Utah which was built for LDS productions, I don't find rumors of Mormon influence credible. The stories themselves reveal the gospels themselves, viewed through a distinctly Christian and mostly Evangelical lens. Nonetheless, there are a few aspects of the writing that I would have done differently. I have a New Testament studies background that informs my view of the accuracy of the series and the theology implied by it. I have an undergraduate degree in English literature and some community theatre experience which informs my view of the storytelling and drama involved. Most things I think work very well; a few I have quibbles with.

In short, I find The Chosen inspiring, but not inspired. I think it is what it claims to be and only what it claims to be: a television show based on the gospels, but not restricting itself to only the material in the Gospels. It's historical drama; a bit like Tolstoy's War and Peace vis-a-vis Napoleon's invasion into Russia in 1812. Some of the characters are made up; some are composites; and some are real figures who go through both historically verifiable and completely imaginary events.

So if you're interested in this perspective, come along for the ride. Feel free to comment and join in the conversation. My review of the first episode will drop this coming Sunday. God bless.

*If you're unfamiliar, The Chosen is available to watch for free on its own app and on the Angel Studios app, both available in the Apple Store and the Google Play store; early seasons are also currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Peacock, Tubi, and other streaming services.


  1. Read your article, and appreciate your insight.

  2. I look forward to your comments and reflections. I really appreciate your take on the series when you state that it is INSPIRING, but not INSPIRED. I do, however, believe that God can take the seeds that may be planted thru this series and with the help of believers see a harvest of followers. For such a time as this 🙏🏽. PB