While reading the Bible is a great discipline, it is at least equally important that the Bible be understood through the eyes of the characters who are both explicitly and implicitly a part of the story. Many of the characters in the Bible are unnamed, such as the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Jesus.
While it is possible to read the Bible and focus on the main characters, there is a tremendous amount to be learned from a study of the Bible through the eyes of all of those who were actually present at the event.
How can this be accomplished? It is possible to read any number of commentaries, speak with pastors, friends, and read related histories with the goal of accomplishing a complete understanding of the event and the eternal truth that God is trying to teach.
However, there is a superior and much less time consuming way to intimately know the characters of the Bible. That is, to role play, or become them for a time, if you will, for yourself. This miracle can be accomplished by what we call a “Bible Play.”
The Bible Play is to be accomplished in a class or other type of group setting. The teacher or the group will decide which part of the Bible that they are to act for the play. This is usually done by the teacher, but in a smaller group can be done by prayerful consensus.
Once the part of the Bible to be explored has been decided, the teacher is to read the story once through, stopping each time a new character is introduced and acknowledging the character by name to the class. At this point, it is important to mention that characters can include animals and inanimate objects as well.
After the first reading, the teacher calls for a time of prayer, in which everyone, the teacher included, is to choose which character in that they are to become. The Holy Spirit will guide this process, for each person present has something unique to learn and be healed of in this exercise.
During the time of prayer, the Lord may reveal characters which are not explicitly mentioned in the Biblical text as being present as being there. This is completely valid as long as the group unanimously agrees to the inclusion of the up until now unmentioned character.
Once EVERYONE has a character (for none may be simply observers to this exercise), the teacher will identify the physical space in which the play will take place. The characters are to take their initial places in the physical space, collaborating with everyone in the group until there is agreement upon the basic starting places and areas for interactions amongst the characters as called for in the Biblical text. This does not have to be done in exhaustive detail, but there must be agreement as to the areas described to enable the interactions amongst characters in the Biblical text to occur.
If the story calls for two or more physical locations, such as Jonah on the boat, in the belly of the whale, and then in Nineveh, it is important to understand that these physical spaces should be completely separate from each other. You are not simply setting scenes on a stage, the entire Bible play and all involved must become alive.
After the characters and spaces are chosen, the play is to begin. Everyone must participate and there is no rehearsal. In the Bible there were no rehearsals, and to fully understand the character through the activity of the Bible play the events must be encountered naturally, without preparation or prior coordination other than the agreement as to spaces mentioned above.
The teacher or assigned narrator (which is also a valid and required character) begins to read the story and the action begins. If a character is to speak, the narrator may give the line to the character, but the person playing the character must speak it aloud. This detail is powerful and adds much to the play.
Once a character is completely done with their action, they may follow along with the narrator and watch what unfolds unless their character is specifically called to stay with the story. In many cases, the participant may find what their character did after the interaction called for by the Biblical text. This knowledge may be important and cannot be discounted. The participant is to be the character until the reading of the Biblical text is complete.
At this point it is important to mention that no one, not the teacher nor the narrator are to assume the role of a director, for it is the Holy Spirit who directs the play.
After the story is complete, all participants are to share what they learned about their character during the Bible Play. Much healing is accomplished by during this time of reflection.
The Bible Play is the best method by which to know the characters of the Bible, for during the play, they are truly there with us. There is cannot be accomplished any other way. One may read 1,000 books about Hosea but until you have actually seen, heard, or been him, you will never truly know him.