'That's a wrap': LDS Church's Bible Videos series leaves legacy of history and faith
“We have created some structural elements here that haven’t been seen in construction in 2,000 years,” Smiley said. As an example, he referred to the pillars in the Court of Women, which include a combination of Ionic and Corinthian elements that existed at the time of Christ, but haven’t existed since.
“The set has exceeded our expectations,” Smiley said. “There is no feeling of, ‘We should have done this thing differently.’”
One of those charged with creating and maintaining such strict authenticity in the Bible Videos series is Dr. S. Kent Brown, a professor of ancient scripture and director of ancient studies at Brigham Young University, who has worked as a technical adviser on the video series. Brown’s academic specialties include the New Testament gospels and early Egyptian Christianity, and he has a working knowledge of Greek, Hebrew and Coptic. In fact, he has a Greek translation of the New Testament on his laptop, which he consults on the set from time to time.
“When they want to add certain details to the filming, I check to be sure it is in the text,” Brown said.
Earlier this week, while the cast and crew were preparing to film a scene involving the apostle Paul (the series has been expanded to include a few scenes involving the apostles Peter and Paul from the New Testament's Book of Acts), costumers wondered how to dress some of the actors.
“I pointed out that this scene took place during a festival, and that many of the people who were there had come from great distances to spend the week there,” Brown said. “So that meant they could afford to travel, which indicates they were pretty well off, so they probably dressed pretty well.”
“Little things like that make a difference,” Smiley said.
Being on the set and watching the videos being made has also made a difference for Brown, who is currently writing a commentary on the Gospel of Luke.
“It has been thrilling to watch these scenes played out before me,” Brown said. “I’m watching all of these things that I’m studying come to life, to see little details manifest themselves that I’d never before considered. For a scholar, it’s a rare and unique opportunity.”
And now, that opportunity is coming to a close. Smiley said the final scenes will be shot Friday, and after that who knows?
“Right now, we’re not sure what will be next out here,” he said. “We could do Old Testament stories or Book of Mormon stories with just a few tweaks here and there.”
There has also been some interest expressed by outside production companies in using the set. In fact, actress Roma Downey, who was both a producer and a star in the History Channel’s “The Bible,” inquired about the use of the set for that miniseries. "We decided that before we start renting it out to other folks we want to be sure we’re done with it," Smiley said.
But for those who have been involved with the project, the Bible Videos series and its landmark set in Goshen will remain a meaningful experience in their lives. “One actress told me that for the rest of her career, this will be her ‘happy place,’” Smiley said. “She said whenever things got tough on another set, she will remember this place and how we all felt here.”
Alex Greenfield, who plays Joseph in the Bible Videos series, put it more simply.
“This set,” he said, “has been blessed.”
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