One of the most difficult aspects of Bible study is understanding the text in the way that a person living at the time the Bible was written would understand it. We can use the model of a stage play to teach us how to better interpret the Bible.
Let’s say we travel to England to see Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, played, not in American English with modern phrases and modern adaptations, but right in Stratford-on-Avon with the jargon used when Shakespeare wrote. When you are watching the play, there are three distinct aspects or concept areas to consider.
The first aspect is what has gone on, and what is going on, “behind the scenes” of the play. This includes the preparation of the actors and the building of the set, but it also includes the culture, customs, vocabulary, experiences, thought processes, etc. that was part of the world at the time the play portrays.
For example, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo” does not mean, “Romeo, Romeo, where are you, Romeo?” Rather it means, “Why are you Romeo?” i.e., why do you have to be from a forbidden, enemy family, and not from an acceptable family?
The second aspect is what is happening on the stage, which includes everything we see and hear there.
The third aspect is what is happening to us, the audience, watching from the seats. This includes our emotions, ideas, etc., which are conditioned by the cultural background we live in, and which we are partly aware of and partly not.
If we do not properly understand the “behind the scenes” ideas and attitudes, we will not properly understand what is happening on stage, and if we do not understand what is “behind the scenes” of the biblical text, we will not understand the Bible when we read it.