The History Channel has scored a mega-hit with its new mini-series, using the Bible as a literally true account of ancient times. 13 million viewers have watched the first episodes, outnumbering the audience for American Idol, and revealing that 0.03% of all Americans are glued to sets tuned to that channel on Sunday evenings.
Episode three has become the center of a tweet storm, for all the wrong reasons. Viewers claim that on the show, Satan looks like what Barack Obama would look like if he died and returned to the White House as a zombie. A serious allegation, that producer Mark Burnett stoutly denies. The actor, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni has many credits portraying the devil, and was an obvious choice for this role.
But their choice for an actor to play the part of Jesus fell to the Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado - who, according to some, looks as if he would be totally at home as a surfer dude in California.
Which leads to a more serious issue than whether Oouzanni was chosen to play Satan simply because he looked like President Obama. It is what might have motivated the History Channel team, in the main, tapping into Western stereotyping that turned the historical characters of the old and new testaments into white Caucasians.
There is a long history of Western classical artists portraying Arabs and Jews as being of typical Aryan blue-eyed, blonde haired men, surrounded by nubile females. If the Sistine Chapel portrayal by Michelangelo can be trusted, both God and Adam look like white men.
The truth is that Europe has always portrayed the good guys in the bible as being white men, and that left the bad guys - being their opposite - be those guys with dark skins.
The History Channel seems to have, perhaps unwittingly, tapped into this traditional veneering of what would otherwise be an uncomfortable fact for most white people: that their Son of God was a Middle-east Jew with dark skin and brown eyes, who probably only spoke in Aramaic.
In their eyes, if Charlton Heston is the archetypical Moses - and Yul Bryner the perfect embodiment of a Pharaoh - then having Oouzanni play Satan and Morgado the part of Jesus makes perfect sense. Good and evil: black and white.
The series supports strong pro-Zionist positions: such as Jerusalem was given to them by their God and they have no need to share their land with the Palestinians. That the series also lends support to other extreme points of view should not come as a surprise. But might be a cause of some concern when what is clear fiction is avowed to be the utter truth.