When your read stories or books, do you find characters whom you identify with?
Do you ever wonder why a particular character draws you in so tightly?
Do you do this with Bible characters?
One of the genres in which I write is historical fiction of Biblical characters. I work hard to make the stories Biblically accurate, do all kinds of historical research to paint on-target setting and culture, and to try to develop characters based on Biblical understanding. I want to learn to know the people on the Bible’s pages and identify with them as I read so that my understanding can grow deeper. To do this, I must understand each character on the basis of the entire Bible–where is is he mentioned, in what way is she remembered, how is he listed in the family genealogy, and in what way is this person used as an example. It is amazing how many clues about the personality of Bible characters are included in each paragraph of the Bible.
I’d like to take you on some in-depth character studies with me. Here’s the general plan:
- Set the Scene: historical and cultural info, maps, artist renditions, etc
- Scripture: the passage for this week
- Chart the Facts: the specific things scripture tells us about what a character thinks, says, and does
- Getting to Know You: I will ask questions about the character that occurred to me as I read the passage. You add any questions you might have about what we might infer about the person’s character from what we read.
- Research Nuggets:
- A synopsis of relevant cultural and historical info, citing references in case you want to know more
- Biblical and extra-Biblical stories, for example, Jewish rabbinical writings, citing references
- Observations from commentaries or other sources
- Coming Alive: starting to develop our own character sketches on the people in our Bible stories. These will be working hypotheses based on what we know now. We will watch for growth and change in these characters (physical, spiritual, and emotional).
Note: Because these sketches go through the filters of who each one of us is, we will find that our characters show a reflection of our experiences and personalities. And that’s okay because, For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope (Romans 15:4, NLT).
Jesus used parables–stories–to teach, to present ideas in ways that are real and relevant to us. If we can relate to historical characters and experience life through their eyes, we will develop a deeper understanding of the life lessons they learned, which they pass on to us.
Next week, we will begin in Genesis 12 with Abram as God calls him to leave his comfortable and affluent life and travel to…well, God doesn’t give any specific destination besides, “I’ll let you know when you get there.”
So, let’s make this journey with Abraham and his household. We’ll see where it takes us.