Walk on Water: A Review of “The Chosen”
Image courtesy of The Bible Artist (Life Among the Disciples of Jesus (Exploring The Chosen Season 2 Episode 3 with Youth) (thebibleartist.com)
By Kristijan Jakominich
The concept of yet another attempt at Christian media is an exhausting, eye-roll-inducing prospect. Long gone are the days of epic films like The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959), which could display biblical truths in an entertaining and grand way. Most stabs at the medium, at least the ones lacking talking vegetables, tend to fall short. One can give exhaustive examples of failed attempts, with the only real success in the last few decades being The Passion of the Christ (2004). The Chosen, however, is a diamond in this media rough.
The Chosen is a streamed, multi-season TV series that takes a new approach to the Gospels through the perspectives of the Apostles and disciples of Christ. The show was created by Dallas Jenkins, an evangelical Christian filmmaker whose father created the popular Left Behind (1995) series. The show stars Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, Shahar Isaac as Simon Peter, Elizabeth Tabish as Mary Magdalene, as well as many other talented actors depicting the many figures central to Christianity. The show is produced by Angel Studios in collaboration with other Christian production companies.
The Chosen takes an approach to the Gospels that hasn’t been seen before. Rather than being strict to the text of the Scriptures, which in itself is a safe and understandable way to present them, it uses artistic license to make every character feel more real and personal. It explicitly states at the beginning of the show that it has taken said liberties, so it shouldn’t be interpreted as being Scriptural in many senses. There are many additions that are purely for the sake of conveying a message or relating a given character to the audience’s experiences. This is the purpose of the show.
Anyone who delves deep into theology, speaking as a theology major, will be overwhelmed with all the doctrines and dogmas, which are important in themselves, and may forget a fundamental reality of Christian truth: God became man and lived with us as a man. The show portrays Jesus, whose depiction by Jonathan Roumie is one of the best to date, as a kind-hearted, gentle, and prayerful teacher. He jokes with His disciples and is extraordinarily down-to-earth and understanding. This does not discount anything of His solemn divinity, as many of the biblical miracles are present and it is clear that He carries an authority with Him that everyone instinctively feels. Rather, as a recent Super Bowl commercial stated, it shows that He gets us.
The Chosen has yet to delve into the more solemn and, one might say, more challenging parts of the Gospel. Namely, it has yet to reach the last week before the Passion, and the Crucifixion has yet to be mentioned beyond a scene of Christ looking mournfully at a crucified criminal outside of the city walls of Jerusalem. It will be interesting to see how the show intends to handle these. The show has handled heavy themes before, with the biblical story of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth being shown in full detail and an extra-biblical addition of (spoilers) Simon’s wife suffering a miscarriage while he’s away on a mission. All of these were handled with the right solemnity, and I would say the latter may be a source of some comfort to the viewer who has gone through that tragedy, as it directly handles how one with faith might struggle in the aftermath of it.
As a practicing Catholic, whose faith is an important part of everyday life, the show has been a boon. It was recommended viewing by my spiritual director on campus, and I binged the entire show in about a week. There’s an element to it that is almost cathartic in nature, as many of the portrayals of biblical and extra-biblical figures are handled in such a way as to give life to the spiritual struggles that remain in the backs of our minds. I will admit to crying at a scene at the end of Season 3 that hit particularly close to home.
Personally, I recommend it to everyone. There’s some noise online about theological problems, and there are some areas that may be vague or misleading to the uninformed viewer, being that the show was written by non-Catholics, Dallas Jenkins being an Evangelical Protestant. Speaking as a theology student, however, they are few and far between, and the viewer should just remember that the show does not intend to make any doctrinal statements or dogmatic stances.
Overall, The Chosen is a phenomenal show that should give hope to Christian media. Jonathan Roumie’s career has skyrocketed due to his portrayal of Jesus, and having a Catholic voice in the acting world is ever more important in the modern day. If anyone wants to watch, they can search for The Chosen online and watch for free on Angel Studios’ website, which is also linked below.
It should be a good view for the believer and the non-believer alike, as besides portraying the faith in a beautiful way, it is well written, well shot, and well-acted. Being that the show is not even halfway done, millions of watchers are waiting to see what comes next in this rendition of the life of Christ.