If All the World's a Stage, the Bible is Our Script
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Lights up on a simple living room set. A teenage girl enters, dropping her bag on the floor.
These are stage directions from a play. Stage directions are the instructions in the text. They may describe movement, tone, special effects, or any other note the playwright needed to include. I imagine we could get five people to read them and come up with five different interpretations of this very simple text.
In our view of faith through the metaphor of theatre, the Bible is our script because it is the base of our story and requires interpretation to be lived out on stage. Also the word play – script, scripture – is fun.
The Foundation of Our Story
The script is the first spark of the story. A director or producer will read a script, or have one commissioned, because they decide the story is worth telling. From there designers, technicians, and eventually actors are called in to bring the words on the page to life. It’s not a strict rule book. It’s not even a how-to-guide. A script is simply the foundation of the story. Scripts are meant to be read, yes. But they are much better when they are staged – heard, seen, and experienced.
The Bible is God’s revelation of himself and his plan for humanity. Its sixty-six books were written by more than forty different authors, employing a variety of literary styles (pic), and inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has been preserved and translated into more than six hundred languages. It is our story, played out over the ages. It is meant to be read and internalized, yes. But more than that it is meant to be lived out, experienced by the world.
Scripts Must Be Interpreted
Think back to the stage directions I shared at the beginning of this post. What is a “simple living room set”? What furniture is included? How is it arranged? Is the light bright, coming from a window, or dim, maybe from a lamp on the table? A teenage girl enters, dropping her bag. What era is she from? 1950? 2019? 1800? 3032? Is she defeated, dropping her bag because she is tired and done with the day? Or is she upbeat, in a flurry of excitement? Does she drop her bag by mistake?
We come to a script with unique backgrounds and ideas about how things should be played. That is the beauty of theatre. The script is the foundation but there is room for our interpretation. The truth of the story transcends the details, which can be reimagined for new audiences over time.
We do this by first looking into the original time and place where the piece was written. Knowing where the playwright is coming from, seeing the world as he sees it, informs our interpretation.
So too with the Bible. We each come to the Bible with unique backgrounds, understandings, and desires which will naturally color our interpretation. But like an actor working to stay true to the playwright’s intentions, we too must work to understand the cultural and historical context so we can correctly apply the Bible to our modern audiences. That is called Bible study.
Studying is not easy. Whether you're memorizing your lines for The Importance of Being Earnest or trying to understand what the author of Hebrews meant when he said, "The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word." (Hebrews 1:3).
But the work you put into understanding your script pays off, making a richer character, a more interesting show, a more meaningful life.