“even to an atheist it was clear this was third-rate religious programming”

BBC NI’s “What the papers say” quotes from some of the reviews of last night’s The Bible: A History as presented by Gerry Adams [£10,000 appearance fee duly registered with the House of Commons]. The Times’ short review notes that “Adams was equally unflinchingly cosy with himself and his faith, responding to challenges with “my own lights”-style vagaries and evango- jargon on “the Jesus message”, coming across more as a smiling member of a Songs of Praise congregation than a man squaring faith with such a bloody history.” And the Independent’s Tom Sutcliff

Like the presenters who have preceded him in this series, Adams discovered that the moment the Gospels touch the historical record they tend to be exposed as all too human, twisted by political considerations or local pragmatism. Wouldn’t it prove awkward to have the Romans as the killers of Christ at the very moment when you were seeking Roman converts? Never mind, you can shift the blame to the Jews instead with the story of Pilate and Barabbas. Unlike all the presenters who have preceded him, Adams had to submit to some cross-questioning from off screen, an acknowledgement that he was always going to be a controversial choice. “Surely you can’t pick and choose?” someone asked, referring back to Christ’s commandments. “Well, you can,” replied Adams. “You mightn’t be right to do it… but we all do it.” Then he sat down with Alan McBride, the husband of a woman killed by an IRA bomb. “I think we need to be more like Jesus and a bit less religious,” McBride said, a penetratingly simple injunction that contrasted pointedly with Adams’s easy self-absolution.

And from The Guardian’s John Crace

This week’s instalment was supposed to be Adams’s mission to uncover the real Jesus. But since all he seemed to find out was that not everything written in the gospels about Jesus is wholly reliable and that much of his ministry took place in the last year of his life – things most of us discovered at primary school – it’s probably fair to say Adams had a rather different agenda. Rather, in what looked like a sombre black cape and backlit to resemble St Francis of Assisi, Adams’s goal was to present himself as a Man of God. All that was missing was a guest appearance from Dan Brown to claim Adams was a direct blood descendant of the Messiah.

So what we got was Jesus as misunderstood freedom-fighter, a man who was prepared to die to lead his people to the kingdom of heaven. A man ­remarkably like Adams. In a limited way, it’s a moderately interesting – if quite familiar – take on Jesus, but the comparisons had become overstretched long before Adams strolled to the top of the Mount of Olives to ­consider the Sermon of the Mount.

In his own mind, Adams is one of the great peacemakers. In one of the few feeble attempts made on screen to confront his past, he was asked about forgiveness. He replied that the Catholics had been badly treated, that conditions in Long Kesh had been brutal but he forgave his oppressors. He didn’t seem to realise that he was being asked if he felt forgiven for his own actions.