A Change in Perspective

Role-playing questions can give you new insight into the Scriptures. One creative way to interact with Scripture is to ask questions about it. The questions we’re about to introduce you to, however, are probably unlike most of those you’ve used before. These questions invite you to assume a variety of identities ranging from an artist to an explorer to an anthropologist. From the vantage point of those professions, you’ll consider open-ended questions that we hope lead you or your Bible study class to a fresh perspective.

Role-playing 101 

This exercise is designed to be used in conjunction with your regular Scripture reading or study. Simply choose one or more of the roles below, and apply the questions for each of the biblical texts you’re reading.

Be a detective. Detectives investigate by asking lots of questions. They try to find out “whodunit.” If you could ask the author or a character in this passage one or two questions, what would you ask? How do you think they would respond?

Be a novelist. Novelists create stories around big ideas or themes. They develop plots, characters, and locations. What is the central theme of this passage? Who are the key characters, and how do they affect the passage’s big idea?

Be a philosopher. Philosophers look for deeper meanings by asking why questions. For example:

  1. Why does God emphasize this?
  2. Why does God use these words?
  3. Why does this truth appear now? What other why questions could you ask?

Be an anthropologist. Anthropologists study history and culture to understand people. What can you discover by answering these questions:

  1. Are there any unique biblical customs I need to know about?
  2. How does geography play a role in this passage?
  3. Are there important people or historical issues that affect this passage?

Be a tech-support person. Tech-support people help customers understand new software. If this passage were a software manual, what definitions would you want readers to understand?

Be a professor. Professors help people understand information by explaining important ideas and terms. Imagine you are talking to (pick one)

  1. Oprah Winfrey
  2. a truck driver
  3. a rock star
  4. a junior high school student

How would you explain the passage to that person?

Be a police officer. Police officers often make people stop. With the passage you’re reading, stop and reflect on what you’re learning. How would you summarize what you’ve discovered?

Be a lawyer. Lawyers develop arguments to de­fend a position. If you were to defend the teaching of this passage, what would you say?

Be a poet. Poets rely on similes—word comparisons that convey meanings. For example, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” (Matt. 13:31, NKJV, emphasis ours). Complete this sentence for the passage you are reading: (Key Word)____ is like _______________ .

Be a children’s author. Writers of children’s books often paraphrase complex ideas to make them understandable. How would you write this passage in your own words using contemporary language?

Be a dreamer. Dreamers imagine future potentialities and possibilities. Find the key thought in the passage and ask, ‘What if _______ were:

  1. the most compelling truth ever discovered?
  2. outlawed?
  3. obeyed by everyone in your workplace or neighborhood?”

Be a gourmet food connoisseur. Gourmet connoisseurs use many of their senses when they sample fine food. Imagine using all your senses with this passage. What would you smell, taste, touch, hear, and see?

Be an artist. Artists craft visual images to convey meaning. To communicate the meaning of this pas­sage, how would you

  1. draw it?
  2. paint it?
  3. animate it?
  4. sculpt it?

Be an explorer. Explorers are trained to make discoveries through observations. What observations can you make about this passage? List them. Consider key words or phrases, nouns, verbs, promises, commands, etc.

Be a networker. Networkers make connections. Are there any other Bible passages, characters, or themes that relate to this passage?

Psalm 23 Revisited 

Recently, I (Randy) have been using some of these role-playing questions to help me see a familiar chapter, Psalm 23, from new perspectives. Here are some of my observations using two of the roles above.

Children’s author. I considered the first four verses in light of this question: How would I write this passage in my own words, using contemporary language? Here’s what I wrote:

“The Lord watches over me with the same care and diligence that a shepherd has for his flock. So I have all I need. I want to keep rushing around, but He slows me down. Just when I need rest, He makes sure that I get it. He surrounds me with beauty. He escorts me to a place where I am reminded of His calming nature by the soothing sounds of slow-moving water. The meadow by the brook gives me new life, and the weaknesses of my soul are replaced with strength of heart. The shepherd has made me courageous. He now takes me by the hand (hoof?) and instead of telling me where to go, He escorts me down the path He designed for me. When it seems as if darkness and death hang over me, I won’t cower. He’ll use just the right tools to shatter that darkness.”

Gourmet food connoisseur. Next, I thought about Psalm 23:1-4 by using all my senses with the passage.

Smell. How do the green pastures and waters smell? Sweet, lush, and alive! What a contrast these are with the stench of death in verse four.

Taste. To a sheep green pastures are moist and tasty. Water can be alkaline or sweet. I am sure this water is not only life-sustaining but delicious too.

Touch. As a sheep lying down in green pastures, I’ll bet the grass is so full it almost feels like lying on a cushion. The shepherd’s rod and staff must have been made of hard wood and polished smooth by years of use.

Hearing. If I were physically present in this passage, I could hear two things: the shepherd’s voice and the quiet waters.

Sight. I can imagine this scene in my mind. It extends in front of me in a wide panorama. I see a strong, watchful shepherd, lush pastures, a muffled creek, and a straight, well-worn path. In the distance, dark clouds lurk over a Yosemite-like valley. I stand in the shadows yet am unaffected by the foreboding thunderheads because a shepherd with staff in hand wraps His arms around me.

Roles-R-Us 

We hope these examples help you see how creative questions can inject some new zest into your regular time in God’s Word. After you’ve used these roles for a while, feel free to add your own. You could approach the text as a

  1. parent
  2. child
  3. teacher
  4. photographer
  5. psychologist
  6. carpenter

Each role offers a unique perspective on the Word of God. As you look at Scripture from so many different frames of reference, you’ll be amazed at what you see.


Randy Raysbrook and Bill Mowry

Adapted from MeditationWorks, a new tool for medi­tating on the Scriptures, copyright 2001, Bill Mowry and Randy Raysbrook. Used by permission. No part may be reproduced in any form other than single cop­ies without written permission of the authors.

© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists