What ‘Living Biblically’ Will Probably Get Wrong

By Published on March 3, 2018

This week, CBS launched a new sitcom called Living Biblically. The series, which premiered on Monday, is loosely based on A. J. Jacobs’ best-selling book, The Year of Living Biblically.

The show centers on the life of Chip, played by Jay Ferguson. After losing his best friend and finding out his wife is pregnant, Chip decides he wants to be a better man. Quite serendipitously, Chip turns to the Bible for help.

At one point in the promotional video for the show, Chip is in a confessional with his priest friend, Father Gene. Chip declares, “I’ve decided to live my life 100% by the Bible, to the letter.”

I think the concept of the show is a good one, and it will no doubt attract a sizeable audience — believers and unbelievers alike. However, there is a liability to a show based on the premise of living biblically. If you want to live biblically, then you need to understand the Bible.

Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t have a good track record in this area. In fact, the trailer alone raised some serious red flags. Here’s one.

The Bible Says

Near the end of the trailer, Gary, who appears to be one of Chip’s co-workers, says, “Hey Chip, I hooked up with this chick, Josie from CrossFit, last night. Hottest caboose I’ve ever seen.” He then quickly adds, “Aside from my wife, of course.”

Wanting to do his best to live according to the Bible, Chip asks Father Gene, “Biblically, what should I do?”

Gene replies, “The Bible says you’re supposed to stone adulterers. Of course, you’re not going to do that in 2017 because of jail.”

In the next scene, we see Chip at a restaurant throwing a stone at Gary, who is on a date with someone who is not his wife.

If you want to live biblically, you need to think biblically.

Thinking Biblically

A show about living biblically should understand a biblical approach to living. If you want to live biblically, you need to think biblically.

If someone wants to live biblically today, are they obligated to obey the commands given in the Mosaic Law?

Father Gene gets one thing right. The Bible condemns adultery. Furthermore, the punishment under the Old Covenant was death. In fact, the Lord said to Moses, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:10).

This was one of 613 laws that were given to the chosen people of Israel through Moses. It is often referred to as the Mosaic Law. This was part of the Old Covenant, which was a treaty made between God and the nation of Israel. God promised to protect and bless Israel if they kept the terms of the covenant. However, if they didn’t, there would be consequences (Deut. 28). Ultimately, the Israelites were to be set apart to accomplish God’s plan of redemption for the world.

But does the Mosaic Law apply to people today? The short answer is, no. No command in the Mosaic Law is incumbent upon us in virtue of being part of the Mosaic Law.

Some Laws are Like State Laws

Consider this analogy. If you live in the United States, there is nothing in Canadian law that applies to you. The states have their own laws. There is a law in Canada against murder. It is section 222 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Now if you’re living in New York, then you’re not under this law and its punishment. It only applies to people in Canada. Does that mean you are allowed to murder in New York? Of course not! New York has its own law and punishment against murder.

The Mosaic Law is like a state law. It only applied to specific people at a specific time. People living today are no longer living under the Old Covenant because it is “obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). There is a new covenant with new terms. And it includes anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus.

If the Mosaic Law isn’t binding on New Covenant people, does this mean the Bible permits adultery? Not at all! Under the New Covenant, adultery is wrong. In fact, Jesus raises the moral standard. He says,” You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”  (Matt. 5:27–28).

Changing the Consequence, Not the Standard

Even though Jesus raises the moral standard, He removes the prescribed punishment.

Even though Jesus raises the moral standard, He removes the prescribed punishment. In John 8, the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery. They say to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:4–5).

Jesus responds by reminding the Pharisees they are just as sinful as the woman. He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). One by one, the men leave the woman standing before Jesus. 

Jesus shows that we are no longer under the Law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). There is a new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). If the Mosaic Law were still binding, they would have been obligated to stone the adulteress.

But notice how the story ends. Jesus says to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She says, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10–11).

So, who was living biblically in this story? Was it the scribes and Pharisees following the Old Covenant, or Jesus?

Jesus doesn’t ignore her sin, but He is quick to offer her grace. This is consistent with His words in John 3: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

I’m sure Living Biblically will get some things right, but my suspicion is it will get this wrong.

Living Biblically Doesn’t Mean Obeying the Law of Moses

Living biblically does not mean following the Mosaic Law. In fact, if someone were following the Law, it would be evidence that they are not living biblically today. Living biblically entails thinking biblically. If you want to live according to what the Bible teaches, then you need to understand what the Bible teaches. This includes understanding the Old and New Covenants.

Under the Old Covenant and theocracy, adultery was punishable by death. However, under the New Covenant, adultery is still wrong, but there is no commandment for citizens to punish those responsible.

If the past is any indication of the future, Hollywood will fail to make a distinction between the covenants. But if you want to live, as Chip says, “100% by the Bible, to the letter,” then you cannot only read the Old Testament. The Bible doesn’t end at Malachi.

I’m sure Living Biblically will get some things right, but my suspicion is it will get this wrong. Unfortunately, it’s easier to pull a verse out of its historical and theological context than to think hard about what is really going on.

I hope I’m wrong. Time will tell.


Tim Barnett is a traveling speaker with Stand to Reason. He holds a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and serves as an adjunct Bible and Science teacher at Innova Academy, a classical Christian school. He also serves on the pastoral staff at Cedarview Community Church in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

Originally published at str.org. Used by permission.

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  • Patmos

    Jacobs quite obviously did not make a sincere attempt to understand the Bible, that is with fear and humbleness, instead opting to turn it into entertainment. But God is not mocked, he will reap what he has sown.

    • michael

      It was funny .You just have to think of it as what someone who doesn’t know might do.

  • Open Mike Knight

    The author Rachel Evans, who was raised as a Christian and still claims to be a Christian, published the book Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which she claims that “living according to the Bible” is impossible and is not even worth pursuing any more, and she encourages her readers to do what she has done herself, join a very liberal church and promote causes such as homosexual “marriage.” This book was published by Thomas Nelson, one of the largest evangelical publishing houses in the world.

    Now, if an evangelical publisher can publish a book that essentially trashes the notion of “living biblically,” you can bet your boots that CBS is going to do even more trashing of Christianity. We were probably better off in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s when religion was rarely even referred to in TV shows and, on the rare occasions when it was, it was presented with respect. The sitcom All in the Family (produced by Norman Lear, an agnostic Jew) set the pattern for mocking Christianity, and it has only gotten worse.

  • MaxVeritas

    This show at best, is a sardonic representation of Christianity. For one, a main character is accepted as a practicing lesbian which clearly is a sin against God. Every Christian on the planet should dispel this shows practice of sins against God with His truth. I truly hope the show set’s a cancellation record & those sinners who participate in it’s fruition will heed this prayer.
    May the Holy Spirit be allowed to open your minds, hearts & spirits to eternal truth, love & life eternal in Christ, forever in His presence, in Jesus name…..Amen

  • Mike Siroky

    Adultery was thought important enough to include in the 10 commandments. This is because, among other reasons, it has a destructive effect on the basic family unit. So what is the punishment for this most serious sin?

  • Mike Siroky

    The author himself fails to understand the Bible. If the Mosaic Law is like a state law, it can easily be altered at any time. And if the New Covenant draws its authority from the God of Abraham,Isaac, Jacob (and Jesus), its foundation is then weak indeed. More accurately, the Mosaic Law is like our Constitution, a founding document but one that can be amended. Just as the amendments follow after the Constitution, so must the New Testament follow after the Old. In fact, without its foundation in the Old Testament, the New Testament would have no more authority than does the Koran or the Book of Mormon

  • James

    Sola scriptura, while intended to counter corruption in the Catholic Church, was one of the dumbest ideas in history. It dumbs down Christianity by reducing it to a book that was never intended to be used that way.

    People then reason as follows:

    1. The Christian Faith is defined exclusively by the Bible.
    2. The Bible is absurd.
    3. Therefore, the Christian faith is absurd.

    Conservative Christians have countered by insisting the Bible is not absurd or that true Faith involves embracing the absurdity, neither of which is satisfying. Liberal Christians have tried to create a non-absurd faith by downplaying the Bible, but undermining their entire reason for existence in the process.

    • Ken Abbott

      What is your understanding of the meaning of sola Scripture?

  • Trilemma

    If people today are no longer living under the Old Covenant law then Christians and preachers need to stop quoting Malachi 3:10 to claim that Christians are required to tithe.

    • Ken Abbott

      Agreed. The requirement (if you want to use the term) is to be generous, even sacrificially so, but the amount given by any one person or family varies according to conviction and circumstances. Ten percent is now an obsolete standard.

  • suzsez

    I’m stunned the author (of this article) missed the whole point of John 8:2-11, when the adultress was brought before Jesus by the hypocrites with the exact same question, “What do we do with her?”, and He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” So of course, none of them did, and He let her go.

    It is NO MISTAKE that the script writers of this “show” not only had the main character get it wrong, but had the priest he confided in get it wrong, too. No priest in the world would have said to him what they scripted him say. This “show is” INTENTIONAL DISINFORMATION on what the bible says, FOR THE PURPOSE of leading people astray.

  • Mo

    “What ‘Living Biblically’ Will Probably Get Wrong”


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