Apostle Paul And The Earliest Churches, by Vision Video
[Note: This video was provided free of charge by FishFlix in exchange for an honest review.]
There is a lot to praise about this video, produced in 2003 with a largely Mediterranean crew, and distributed by Fishflix in order to provide for Turkish Action Bibles for young people there. The video consists largely of voice-over narration over maps, archeological remains, and dramatizations of Paul’s journeys, with a special focus on his involvement in the area of Anatolia, or what is now Turkey. Particular praise must be given to the fine work of the filmmakers in traveling to the cities of Paul’s journeys and showing excellent Roman-era archeological remains, and in providing the historical context for these remains, including references to Paul and Sergius Paulus along the route taken by Paul and Barnabas during their first journey. Additionally, the filmmakers are to be praised for grounding their exploration of Paul’s journeys in a firm geographical and historical understanding that provides a sense of place and time for the propagation of the Gospel message undertaken by Paul after his conversion to Christianity. In many ways, this is the kind of video  that would happily be shown the homes of many professed Christians, and at 48 minutes it is not too lengthy to preclude extensive discussion among those who watch the movie.
In terms of its structure and contents, the film is straightforward and direct. The film focuses mostly on the trajectory of Paul’s missionary journeys, from his Damascus road conversion to his death at Rome. Just as important as Paul to the video though is Anatolia. The aspects of Paul’s journeys that the film chooses to focus on are those parts that take place in Turkey. The film lingers long on the sites of obscure cities like Perga, Patara, Lystra, and Derbe, not just for what biblical events happen in them but as a way of demonstrating the sites themselves, and brushes away years of Paul’s life in a single sentence or two, such as the years of Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea. When the film digresses from Paul’s own missionary journeys, it does so largely in order to show off some aspect of the history and archeology of Turkey itself, whether Peter’s writings to brethren in Cappadocia being an excuse to show off Byzantine era remains of iconophilic rock churches, or Paul’s journeys themselves being an excuse to show off Byzantine churches in cities like Lystra and Tarsus, for example, or even the lingering in Ephesus to show off pagan statuary of Artimis of the Ephesians.
Viewers of the film who do not appreciate the display of icons, pagan or Christian, or extravagant display of the cross will find much to criticize in this particular video. The narration is a bit repetitive, and the visuals include many a lonely walk along a dusty or sandy Turkish path with the actor portraying Paul carrying only a slender walking stick. Additionally, the narrator lets seemingly no opportunity pass to make some kind of metaphor, whether between the winds of the supposed founder of one coastal town and the winds that carried Paul on his way, or between the fire that torched the temple of Artemis and the fire of the gospel that Paul helped spread throughout the region. While this can get a bit repetitive after a while, more problematic is the way that the author not only quotes lengthy passages of scripture, but also editorializes as if he was speaking from scripture, as in his dubious chronology of the death of Paul as occurring during the first imprisonment at Rome, and in his supposal that the journey from Cyprus to Asia Minor during Paul & Barnabas’ first journey was rough, which led John Mark to depart the party, itself a rather dubious speculation. There is a great deal about this video to appreciate, especially the good it seeks to do in helping to provide Bibles to Turkish youth, but there is also a great deal to critique about the video as well.
 See, for example: