Dallas Jenkins brings Gospel stories to life in series 'The Chosen'

Michael Miller  ·  Sep 24, 2019

Wanna binge on the Gospels? Now’s your chance.

The Chosen is a streaming series created by director and Samaritan Ministries member Dallas Jenkins (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone) to give us not only a more complete visualization of the stories related by the first four books of the New Testament but also newly conceived backstories of the people in them.

Four episodes are available now, including the nearly hour-long introductory episode, and four more have just been shot to complete season 1. They’ll be released later this year.

The genesis of the project occurred a couple years ago when Dallas produced a short film for his church about the Nativity from the point of view of a lame shepherd. The film received a lot of positive feedback.

“At the same time, I was binging on shows with my family and wondered why there wasn’t a binge-worthy series from the Bible’s perspective,” Dallas says. “There have been movies and miniseries, but there’s never been a multiseason show that allows you to really dig into the details.”

Now he’s making one with The Chosen, thanks mainly to a record-setting crowdfunding effort, raising $11 million to become the largest crowdfunded series of all time, with more than 15,000 investors. Also key to fundraising and distribution has been VidAngel, a streaming service that allows members to filter content from other streaming services.

Jenkins and his crew have not disappointed, staying true to Scripture but diving into the possibilities that the Gospels only hint at.

“It’s really been fun to explore these stories and give them the kind of weight that you see in most TV shows and to see the reaction from the viewers,” Dallas says.

Episodes 1-4 gradually introduce Biblical people like Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Peter, Andrew, Matthew, and, of course, Jesus, as well as supplemental characters like a Roman official and townspeople of Capernaum. The episodes also set the stage for Jesus’s public ministry, in particular an episode devoted mostly to the Messiah’s interaction with a group of children.

The backstories are the key to the uniqueness of The Chosen, Dallas says.

“These were real people and I believe that they were in Scripture for a reason,” he says. “While Scripture didn’t spend a whole lot of time on each of them, God sure did, and His Son sure did, and I want to get it right.”

We see Peter as a rough-and-tumble, impulsive, and somewhat conniving resident of Capernaum, along with his more serious, soft-spoken, and conscientious brother, Andrew. Mary Magdalene is a woman tormented by demons to the point of being suicidal and at the same time scorned by her community. Matthew is a delicate tax collector who despises (and is despised by) his poorer fellow Jews (especially how they smell) and is equally despised and manipulated by the occupying Romans. Nicodemus is a religious leader who desires to communicate the love of God to his colleagues and his people but seems stymied by the bureaucracy of tradition.

There hasn’t been a backstory on Jesus through the first four episodes. He has been introduced more subtly, most notably in interactions with Mary Magdalene and, in an extraordinary episode, with a group of children.

Also impressive is the attention to historical detail, especially when it comes to the Jewish milieu. The Chosen has taken advantage of a tourist attraction called Capernaum Village in Weatherford, Texas, near Dallas-Fort Worth.

“This woman built a first-century Capernaum village,” Dallas says. “It’s small but usable. She did it for tours and short films and stuff, and we decided we could use that as a foundation. We built on top of it and added some things to it and changed some things so we could use it more than once. It was a good starting point.”

When The Chosen storyline heads to Jerusalem, just like Jesus did, the production company will need to find another site or simply build it themselves, Dallas says.

He has also gone to pains to get first-century Jewishness right.

“One of my co-writers is a historian and provides a lot of good Bible context,” Dallas says. “I was a Bible major in college and have been immersed in it all of my life. We start with what the Bible says and we work our way backwards to fill in some backstory to make sure that we are doing things that are plausible, to make sure we’re not contradicting anything that’s in Scripture.”

The Chosen has also employed a New Testament professor and messianic Jewish rabbi, Jason Sobel of Fusion with Rabbi Jason, to help establish authenticity.

The next step is to finish preparing the complete release of season one in December, then to finish fundraising for season 2, which is being done online and through sales of the first season’s product. Dallas hopes to complete seven or eight seasons.

“We want to do justice to the Gospels,” he says.

A devotional is already available for purchase at the website as part of various bundles, and Dallas’s famous father, writer Jerry Jenkins of Left Behind fame, is at work on a novelization of the series.

One thing Dallas emphasizes is that The Chosen doesn’t add anything to Scripture.

“The Bible is complete,” he says. “We’re doing a show that’s based on Scripture, but we have no interest in contradicting Scripture or writing a new gospel. We’re simply giving tools and providing a show for thousands of people who already have a love and desire for Scripture.”

He says his prayer for The Chosen is “that by seeing Jesus through the eyes of those who actually met Him, viewers will be affected in the same way that they were.”

Dallas adds that the production needs prayer “that we have the means to do that.”

The “means” can be provided at TheChosen.tv by either donations or purchase of materials.

The binging is up to you.