Question: "What is The Chosen, and is it biblically sound?"
Answer: The Chosen is television show about the life of Christ. Season 1, released in 2019 (with a pilot episode on the birth of Christ released in 2017), garnered attention for several reasons: it is the first TV show of its kind, presenting the life of Christ over multiple seasons (it plans seven seasons total); it was crowd-funded, bringing in more donations (over $11 million) than any other media project ever; it is the first series to be launched in every country simultaneously via its own app (with over 61 million views so far in 156 countries); and it is being praised for its accurate and engaging storytelling.
The Chosen is free to watch, with no fee or subscription necessary. DVDs of Season 1 are also available for purchase. Season 2 launched on April 4, 2021. The show’s creator, Dallas Jenkins (son of Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins), has a degree in Biblical Studies. In creating the show, Jenkins put together a panel of expert consultants to ensure biblical and historical accuracy in the script he was co-writing for the show. On the panel were a Messianic Jewish rabbi, a Catholic priest, and an evangelical professor of biblical studies.
Jenkins’ goal in creating the show was to help people know Jesus better and love Scripture more. To reach that goal, he and the other scriptwriters took the gospel accounts and added plausible details about the lives of the biblical figures found there. They added backstories to well-known characters and fleshed out other characters who might receive only a passing mention in Scripture. The intended result is that viewers see the people in the Bible as real people who dealt with the same types of issues we all have to deal with. In The Chosen, the disciples have families and friends, they have reputations to uphold, they have a sense of humor, and they struggle with finances and other concerns.
As with all storytelling based on historical events, some artistic license is evident. In retelling the gospel accounts, the writers have inserted or modified some characters, storylines, and details of the inspired original. The changes are respectful and designed to give each episode a feeling of being grounded in real life. Of course, no one knows for sure that Matthew was on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, but that is how he is depicted in The Chosen. There’s nothing wrong with portraying Matthew as having a disorder; it’s a plausible detail and part of artistic license. Since no one is claiming that the show is God’s Word or that it is on par with the Bible, such license is acceptable, and even expected in a medium such as television. As long as viewers remember that what they are seeing is art and not real life—and they compare what they view with Scripture—there is no danger of confusion. We all know intuitively that, for all its historical accuracy and attention to cultural context, The Chosen is simply one idea from one group of people about what they think it might have been like to be near Jesus.
Dramatizations of biblical events such as are presented in The Chosen provide an opportunity for sharing the gospel with those who otherwise might not be exposed to the Bible. For believers, such dramatizations can promote spiritual growth, reminding us that the Bible is more than just a story—it relates actual events in the lives of real people who had emotions, relationships, and concerns similar to ours.
There is some concern that members of the Mormon Church are involved in the production of The Chosen and that resources owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are used to film the show. In fact, the distributer of the show, VidAngel, was founded by two Mormons. Also of concern are some statements made by Dallas Jenkins that seem to embrace Mormons as his brothers and sisters in Christ. Are these concerns enough to keep us from viewing The Chosen? The question we need to ask is, “Is this a Mormon show?” That is, “Does this show teach Mormon theology?” The answer is “no,” at least so far. Nothing in the series is promoting uniquely Mormon doctrine, or Catholic, or that of any other group. So, it’s possible to use things owned by a Mormon company without producing a Mormon product. Most people, if they don’t hear about Mormons on the set, would never think that The Chosen has an LDS connection at all. That’s because the finished product is not Mormon. It is biblical (with some artistic license) and honoring to Christ.
The show’s evangelical creators still retain full control over the content of the show. As long as that doesn’t change, and The Chosen keeps producing a faithful retelling of the life of Christ, all is well. If elements of Mormon (or Catholic) theology begin creeping into the show itself, then they will have betrayed their viewers and the truth of the gospel. Until that time, watching The Chosen is a matter of conscience. Some Christians will appreciate the retelling of Jesus’ life. Others will balk at the involvement of Mormons, even if Mormon theology is not promoted on the show. “Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind” (Romans 14:5).