Last night, I went to see a performance at Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford, of From Eden To Eternity, a play by Saltmine Trust in support of Wycliffe Bible Translators, whose Bible translation work in Nigeria was movingly featured. It is on a national tour, but played locally as part of this year’s Chelmsford Christian Festival. The acting was first class, and the script was full of humour, pathos and pain – just as an attempt to retell the highlights of the whole Bible should be. For me, the scene depicting Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac almost matched the agony of the crucifixion: it ripped my heart open.
Covering the main themes of the Bible is, of course, an ambitious aim, and it must have been a near impossible task for the playwright to decide what to include and what to omit. Whatever choices s/he made, not everyone would agree. (It might as well have been Fabio Capello choosing an England football team.)
What interested me was that the choices seemed to follow standard traditional evangelical priorities. We got a fairly literal Adam and Eve. There was no exile and return (Tom Wright, where are you when we need you?). There was little or no obvious connection between the Old Testament before the interval and the New Testament afterwards. We had no Incarnation (maybe Christmas is just a necessary prelude to Easter).
Having said that, what would I have dropped in order to make space for what I consider to be other important themes? I wouldn’t have liked to have faced that question. Maybe the extended dialogues between Simon Peter and Andrew could have been cut, but I’m sure they were in to bring some important connections between biblical characters and ordinary twenty-first century people.
So – two questions:
1. Has anyone else seen this production, or are you planning to? If you have seen it, what particularly struck you?
2. If you had the unenviable task of the playwright, what would you have included or excluded, and why? (Sorry if that sounds like an exam question! But I’m interested in your thoughts.)
Meanwhile, here’s a video trailer: