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Fall 2003 · Vol. 32 No. 2 · pp. 234–235 

Book Review

Being There: The Bible Through Simulation

ed. Lani Wright. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 2002. 3 books.

Reviewed by Lynn Jost

Biblical simulations offer a creative Bible study method that engages both intellect and emotions. Rooted in biblical narratives, yet different than a role play, simulations assign biblical roles and circumstances to the participants and then turn them loose to experience the issues afresh. The simulations are based on the understanding that “Scripture was born in a vibrant community with various points of view” (4) and are especially effective in alerting persons to tensions within the ancient believing communities. Part drama, part game, and usually quite fun, simulations are community enterprises of learning at the biblical scene.

The series of nine simulations in three booklets under review is a repackaging of selections from two volumes titled Using Biblical Simulations published in the 1970s by Judson Press. The new format is attractive, with options offered to fit a variety of settings. Permission for photocopying originals is purchased with the booklet.

Most simulations may be done with groups as small as a half dozen and as large as three dozen, in a time frame of just over an hour to as much as three hours. Typically, about one-third of the time is spent in small group Bible study and strategizing. Here the group, perhaps in the days or week prior to the event, studies how to assume the character roles which they will play. Small groups then convene in a large-group council for the reenactment of the event (again about one-third of the session). The rest of the time is devoted to introduction and debriefing, often with a suggestion for worship as well as summarizing what has been learned.

Book 1, “Beginnings,” opens with “What Happened in the Garden?” a simulation based on Genesis 2-3. A panel of judges, representing God, decides the fate of Adam and Eve in a case presented by the prosecution and the defense. “The Wise Men” has Herod and the magi characters depending on priests and Herodians, scribes, elders, and Pharisees for information on the career of the Messiah. “The House Church,” based on the book of Philemon, invites four parties to counsel Philemon regarding the returning Onesimus.

Book 2, “Trying Times,” includes “Job and His Friends” in which Job’s counselors challenge him on issues of suffering and sin. “What Shall We Do with Jesus?” (the trial before the Sanhedrin) offers participants the opportunity to exile or punish Jesus rather than crucify him. “The Council of Jerusalem,” based on Acts 15, investigates diversity {235} within the followers of Jesus as they study Scripture to determine what to do with Gentile converts.

Book 3, “Faith Takes Action,” opens with “The Council at Mizpah,” a simulation based on the book of Genesis. Prophets, priests, royalists, neo-Babylonians, and Rechabites meet after 587 B.C.E. to decide which traditions to retain in the Bible’s first book. “The Acceptable Year of the Lord,” based on Luke 4:14-30, asks Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, and Zealots whether to accept Jesus in the synagogue. Based on Acts 19, “The Silversmiths of Ephesus” deals with such issues as pagan acceptance of Christians and Christian use of the arts to represent religious symbols.

My first experience with this study method was in seminary where I remember the disarming power of others humbly yielding pride-of-position. Later, in the congregation, I found the enthusiasm of working together for an evening of learning. More recently, at Tabor College, I’ve experienced the rush of joy with learning breakthroughs as well as the shock of emotions gone raw. We in the Bible department here have found the simulations so effective that we include them in nearly every Bible class. I commend these newly formatted simulations for a variety of older adolescent and adult groups.

Lynn Jost
Assoc. Prof. of Biblical and Religious Studies
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas

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