Revisit Dallas Jenkins’ “The Chosen” TV series through a new novel by best-selling author Jerry B. Jenkins
What would it be like to live in Jesus’ time? To actually meet Him and interact with the apostles? How would that experience shape your feelings about Scripture and the power of the Gospel? Focus on the Family wants to help readers answer some of these questions with the release of the first book in a new series titled “The Chosen.”
If this title sounds familiar, it’s because the book project expands on a successful television show by the same name, created by Dallas Jenkins, the son of bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins, who is authoring the book series. Similar to the TV series, Jerry takes readers back to the first century, to the land of ancient Israel, to experience the life of Jesus through the eyes of the men and women who knew Him best. Some of the main characters include Mary Magdalene, initially introduced as Lilith; Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin; Matthew, a tax collector and eventual disciple; and Simon, one of the apostles.
Called by Name
The first book, I Have Called You by Name, is a novelization of season one of “The Chosen” television series. Jesus meets several different people along His earthly journey. In addition to familiar Bible characters, the series introduced a few fictional characters, including Shimon, who tended sheep on the night of Jesus’ birth, and Abigail, a young girl who befriended the Savior before He begins His ministry. Abigail and her friends pepper Jesus with various questions, which He dutifully and gently answers, making each response an opportunity to teach them more about His Father.
“Our goal is to see people dig into the Scriptures for themselves,” Jerry says. “But neither the TV series nor the novels should substitute for the Word of God.”
Both the TV series and Jerry’s book project draw from existing passages of the Gospels, bringing stories in the Bible to life in new and unique ways. This required some imagination, Jerry says, “But each decision was based on a story directly from the Bible.”
A Family Project
To do this effectively, Jerry had to understand the culture of the Holy Land, the way people interacted during ancient times, their customs, and, of course, the geography surrounding each story. Fortunately, he didn’t have to start from ground zero.
“I have studied the manners and customs and geographical logistics of the Holy Land for many years for some of my other novels,” he says.
“The Chosen” is in many ways a family project. The popular television series was created by his son Dallas and a team of co-writers. His team had already selected the framing of the scenes to best tell each story.
“I had the easy part,” says Jerry, “because Dallas and his co-writers
had already made those choices [regarding which characters to focus on].” As Jerry wrote, he says his respect grew for his son and the show’s creative team.
“It’s a privilege to work with their creation and make it work as novels.”
Still, Jerry had to dig into each and every scene as he researched his part of the project. “In writing the novel, I probably watched each episode 22 times.” Fortunately, he never grew tired of watching, and he continued to learn more each time he viewed an episode.
Picturing the People
One of Jerry’s goals was to imagine how Jesus might have interacted with children and others in His day so that he could help readers picture not only the settings but also the emotions, tensions and smiles that passed between people. The book engages and encourages readers to consider the Scriptures in a new light, while at the same time, he doesn’t compromise biblical truths.
Jerry says his hope is that this series will prompt people to do something simple: open a Bible.
In the 21st century, the Bible has never been more readily available, from our phones and tablets to the printed page. Yet the vast majority of the American public remains biblically illiterate.
According to a 2019 study completed by LifeWay Research, only about 32% of all Protestant churchgoers open the Bible every day.
That figure is slightly higher among
evangelical Protestants, at 36%.
“Having served for many years on the boards of Moody Bible Institute and Colorado Christian University, I have been alarmed to see that decline,” Jerry says. A previous study had more churchgoers and evangelicals opening their Bibles. “So, yes, our hope is to see an enthusiastic return to biblical scholarship on the part of laypeople.”
Jerry has written nearly 200 books that have sold more than 71 million copies combined, a total that includes the “Left Behind” series he co-wrote with Tim LaHaye. Jerry has spent his whole life writing to a Christian audience.
This new series, though, has helped him. He says, “No longer do I try to imagine what these people from the New Testament looked like.
“For too many decades, my imagination was clouded with images of ancient paintings of such heroes and heroines and saints. It was hard to view them as real people. The TV series offers that, and I’ve tried to capture it in the novel.” •
Brittany Raymer is an issues analyst for Focus on the Family.
The TV Series
Debuting in 2019, “The Chosen” was the first multi-episode television program to focus on the life of Jesus Christ as experienced by the men and women who knew Him. It was the largest crowdfunded production at the time, with more than 19,000 people donating. Since its release, the series has been translated into more than 50 languages.
“Thousands of people have shared with us that their lives have dramatically changed as a result of watching ‘The Chosen,’ ” says series creator Dallas Jenkins. His hope is that audiences will not only be able to relate to the characters who encounter the Son of God but also be drawn deeper into each Bible story.
Through the series, Dallas discovered that even he has become more focused on his relationship with Jesus. He says, “I love theology, debate and spiritual philosophy, but ultimately, by focusing on Jesus and His message, I’ve seen a change in my heart and in my approach to life.” He finds his priorities are different now. His career is focused on telling authentic stories about Jesus.