Developed by Hanna-Barbera from 1985 to 1993, The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible was a 13-episode direct-to-video series that featured three young explorers, Derek, Margo, and Moki, traveling through time via unexplained Doorways of Time, which allow them to witness some of the major events recorded in The Bible. Often even within the same episode, they would stumble across one of the Doorways, allowing them to witness events from the same story that took place years later.
Similar to Superbook and The Flying House, the series tried to focus on making the characters from the biblical stories relatable and believable. Surprisingly, it also adhered as closely to the original stories as possible, keeping many of the elements that most Moral Guardians quietly edit out to make the stories "appropriate" for children, editing only the relative closeness of events in order to keep within the 30-minute time frame.
The series was a personal effort from Joe Barbera, a lifelong and devout Catholic. Because of the close adherence, the series took the biblical stories very seriously; it was usually the side adventures of the time travelers that featured any comedy, although they often overlapped with the main story as the heroes tried to help the Biblical figures out in whatever way they could.
These cartoons are still often shown to kids in Sunday School.
It also shares an art style with Captain Planet and the Planeteers, as Ted Turner helped fund the project.
This video series provides examples of:
- Adventures in the Bible: An entire series based on this trope.
- Anachronic Order: While the videos do not have any sort of overarching narrative, there is a chronological order, and they weren't made in this order.
- Artistic License Engineering / Anachronism Stew: While the exact shape that was given to the Ark, assuming a real historical Ark, varies constantly amongst scholars, modern naval engineers now argue that it would most likely have resembled an oversized Babylonian/Sumerian cargo vessel. Such a model would have been most adept to the Ark's purpose: to float around aimlessly on an ocean for 40 days and 40 nights amidst massive geological activity under the ocean causing violent waves. The popular "box model" by Henry Morris would have also worked, but made for a much-less-comfortable ride. However, everything from the shape to the lumbering and planking of Greatest Adventure and its version of the Ark does not appear like it would have been very seaworthy at all. Even at several points in the episode itself, the writers reveal the Ark to have design weaknesses that would have been more consistent with 18th-century English naval engineering.
- The BBC eventually proved that English naval engineering's planking system would not have produced an Ark strong enough to support its own weight. By contrast, the Answers in Genesis video Noah's Ark: Thinking Outside the Box demonstrated that Sumerian planking was more labor-intensive; and involved more complex steps that yielded much-tighter vessels. English engineering for wooden ships was done cheaply, so that merchants could get good bargains on vessels and trade them in for improved models in a few years' time. Since Noah didn't have to worry about the value of a ship being downgraded by the risks of piracy, he would have had no reason to build the Ark according to cheaper, more English methods that would not have existed in his day anyway.
- Artistic License Biology: Since these videos were made for children, it was assumed that they wouldn't question the animals that were placed in the Garden. However, baraminologists and taxonomists would agree that placing modern species and sub-species in the garden when Genesis clearly states "created kinds" is a bit of a problem. Especially since it increases several thousandfold how many animals Adam would have had to name. It also complicates things for the Noah episode, an issue ignored by that episode as well.
- Animation Bump: Compared to the usual stuff by Hanna Barbera. In all fairness, these were made in the 1980s and the 1990s.
- Bible Times: Well, duh!
- Big Eater: A Running Gag seems to be Moki complaining all the time that he's hungry
- Butt-Monkey: Moki
- Captain Obvious: It's Hanna-Barbera. What do you expect? At least one Lampshade Hanging:Margo: [upon arriving in Ancient Egypt] A real Egyptian!
Moki: You were expecting an Eskimo?
- Censor Shadow: In "The Easter Story," the flogging of Jesus is depicted in shadow to hide the gore.
- Clip Show: A very brief one at the start of "The Miracles of Jesus". For about a minute and a half, Benjamin describes the history of the Hebrews with the help of Stock Footage from previous episodes.
- Fanservice: Delilah from "Samson and Delilah" and the belly dancers from the infamous party in "Daniel and the Lion's Den".
- Fish out of Temporal Water: The time travelers are out of place in the distant past.
- Flaming Sword: "The Creation" concludes with God's flaming sword blocking the entrance to Eden for eternity.
- Framing Device: In "The Creation", "Jonah", "The Miracles of Jesus", and "The Easter Story", the time-travelers hear about biblical events instead of witnessing them firsthand.
- Godiva Hair: In the creation story. Also has some clever scenery placement.
- Improbable Age: According to the "Queen Esther" episode, Margo is still in high school. Presumably, Derek and Moki are around the same age.
- Large Ham: Most of the actors playing major religious figures were very big and bombastic. In the retelling of Exodus, Moses and the Pharaoh particularly engage in some delicious Ham-to-Ham Combat.
- Least Common Skin Tone: While the magi in the nativity scene make sure to depict Balthasar as darker skinned (which he is often depicted as) and plenty of extras and characters are depicted as being a tan colour, most people in Bible Times are white.
- No Ending: There's no Grand Finale in which the time-travelers return to the present. For all we know, they live out the rest of their lives in the biblical era. In fact, they seem curiously unconcerned about returning to their own time.
- Off-Model: It's still a Hanna-Barbera cartoon - so this is bound to happen:
- Margo's hand visibly vanishes during the Moses episode.
- At the end of the Nativity, Derek's eyes are crossed.
- Our Time Travel Is Different: Our 20th-century heroes travel through time not so much by any device, as because they keep finding holes in the Space-Time Continuum.
- Politically Correct History: Lucky for Margo, there was no sexism during the biblical era. Averted in "Queen Esther", which is explicitly about such things.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The "Nativity" episode shows the Magi walking into the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus was born - rather than arriving several years after the fact (either at his baptism or not) not on his actual birthday but on Epiphany. This was done to avoid plotholes and to give a conclusion to their 'story'.
- Quicksand Sucks: Rather than drowning our heroes, it behaves as a Portal to the Past-specifically bible times.
- Shout-Out: Moses wears the same outfit worn by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. Also, the scene where Egypt's water is turned to blood is a nearly shot-for-shot copy of the same scene from The Ten Commandments.
- The Creation of Earth bears some resemblance to Fantasia, with all the volcanoes and such.
- Standard Snippet: "The Easter Story" ends triumphantly with the "Hallelujah" chorus from George Frederic Handel's Messiah.
- Take a Third Option: The show has done this a couple times with Biblical controversies:
- Traditionally, Vashti is seen as a wicked Straw Feminist while Esther is praised for being a properly submissive wife. Since the 19th century, there has been a feminist Alternative Character Interpretation that views Vashti as an independent-minded heroine and Esther as a worthless pushover. In the Greatest Adventure version, both women are portrayed sympathetically, with the apparent reasoning that Vashti only had herself to be concerned about whereas Esther did what she had to do to save her people. This third interpretation is probably more common in contemporary Judaism and Christianity than either of the first two.
- "The Easter Story" dodges the whole issue of responsibility for the death of Christ. When Derek, Margo, and Moki start to go down that path, Mark puts the issue aside by saying that it doesn't really matter since Christ was fated to die for humanity's sins anyway.
- Tim Curry: Played the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Very well at that.
- Title Sequence Replacement: There are two subtly different versions of the intro. In the first, the writing on the Doorway of Time is in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Perhaps associating a magic time door with the Ancient Egyptians was too pagany, because subsequent episodes (and re-releases of earlier episodes) replace it with a generic Middle-Eastern-looking script. It was sort of a moot exercise anyway, as the chamber itself is still clearly Egyptian-themed.
- Weirdness Censor: Only a few episodes have the other characters find Derek, Margo, and Moki's clothing and 20th century mannerisms confusing. Most others just take it in stride.