Biblio-Drama A Method for Spiritual Reflection


Tamar Pelleg

Since then, a lot of water has flowed in the river of my life. Today, apart from my everyday writing in my “Morning  Diary”, I write regularly on topics related to the Hebrew Bible’s portion of the week, from a psycho-spiritual perspective and on topics  related to relationships that I post on  Facebook, blog, digital story collections and recently I am engaged in writing a  book and my  dream begins to come true.


Bibliodrama was developed in the 1980s by Dr. Peter Pitzele of the United States, a psycho-dramist and a PhD. of literature, as a method that investigates Biblical stories using psycho-dramatic techniques. (Scripture windows / Peter Pitzele, PhD)

Bibliodrama can be text oriented, thus referring to the story as the “protagonist” and exploring it by psychodynamic means.  This kind of exploration creates relevant and breathes what Pitzele calls “contemporary midrash” to the old text. Personal insights that are gained can be part of the process for the participants.

Bibliodrama can also be person-oriented, putting the focus on the participants and what the text brings up for them.

In this case the Bibliodrama serves as a warm-up for psychodrama. (To the best of my knowledge this kind of “Bibliodrama with a twist of psychodrama” is my own development).

In Israel, Bibliodrama is not commonly known and due to extensive tension between secular and orthodox people regarding the Bible, it is lost to popular awareness. (Orthodox people do not wish for secular people “messing” with the holy text, and secular people are suspicious of anything that reminds them of religion. Thus, improvised drama based on Biblical texts fall in this category.

Also, psychodrama studies in Israel are mainly academically-oriented and the aim is to provide the students with clinical tools—tools for doing psychotherapy. Therefore psychodrama in Israel is mainly used as a therapeutic method in private clinics and mental institutions.

While living in the United States (of America) I used to conduct   a group called “Bibliodrama with a twist of Psychodrama.”  In that group I facilitated text-oriented sessions and thereafter moved into a full personal psychodrama session, drawing from what the Bibliodrama brought up for a protagonist.

 I found this very rewarding for both the text and the participants.

The text as a whole remain un-touched, with only the gaps in the text filled with feelings and thoughts. 

Our sages  coined the term “Black fire” to the Biblical story that is actually written with black ink on the while scroll, and Pitzele’s develop of Bibliodrama follows their method of interpretation (Midrash), by not interfering with the “black fire: i.e. not changing the facts of the Biblical story. However, we do have freedom to  play with the “white fire”, the “between the lines”, by adding voices of feelings and thoughts that are missing from the text.( In this regard Bibliodrama is different from Drama therapy, that allows more freedom in changing the story itself.)

Participants get their own needed healing by gaining personal insights via stepping into the shoes of Biblical figures. They find relevance to their own issues in a safe way, drawing from what Pitzele called “the wells of our fathers.” 

In “Bibliodrama with a twist of psychodrama” the group members receive an opportunity to focus on their own personal issues at the psychodrama session followed the Bibliodrama.

I find it extremely important to work with the Biblical text — especially the Genesis stories.

J.L Morano, the founder of psychodrama, was a very spiritual person and according to his own testimony, the first seed in the development of psychodrama sprouted when he first played God.

The Torah stories in my spiritual experience are kind of a “Jewish mythology,” and the characters in it are archetypes seeking to be redeemed from the oblivion of our collective unconscious. The stories of the Torah in general (i.e., the first five books of what is known as The Holy Bible); and the stories of the Book of Genesis in particular, make up the stories of the beginnings of our human kind, and present to us, as in a capsule, life questions and conflicts that concern us today, such as: parent-child relations, sibling relations, coping with separation and death. They give us a mirror that reflects important aspects of our lives and provides a key to our personal and collective memories.

The “Warm-Up” in Bibliodrama

The structure of the Bibliodrama session is the same as the psychodrama and consists of the following three stages: warming-up, the action phase, and then the sharing. Before the first Bibliodrama meeting, the facilitator asks himself what is important for him to know about the participants in the group and accordingly builds the warm-up, which is also composed (but not only) of sociometric exercises. Here are some examples:

The director places an empty chair in the middle of the circle, and places a Bible on it. Then the participants are asked to stand at a distance from the chair in a manner that will express the relationship of closeness / distance between them and the Bible in their lives—a sociometric, intuitive perception.  Each protagonist is asked to produce a soliloquy, to speak about his or her own reactions to the Bible.

Another version to this exercise is to put on the chair the specific story which the group will explore (for example: Joseph and his multi colored tunic) and stand in a distance from the chair in a way that reflects how close the story is to me, how “close to home” it is, and deliver Soliloquy. Nearing the end of the session the exercises can be repeated to check “before” and “after”. (This is important because attitudes change sometimes in the course of the process!)

Introductory Exercises

Early on, to reveal both to the director and to the rest of the group how many participants have already experienced Bibliodrama, use a “spectrogram.” Make a line of participants, at one end “this is my first time” and at the other end “I have a lot of experience.”  Instruct the participants to talk among themselves in order to put themselves on the continuum.

To the question “What brought me to this meeting?”  use a loco-gram. Place on the ground a number of scarves, each of which will provide a different answer to a question such as: 1. I’m curious to see what this Biblioderma. 2. My girlfriend dragged me here and told me it would be interesting.  3. I like to learn in action. 4. I love the stories of the Torah. 5. Other. (Open option) 

After a few sociometric exercises one can take another step from the periphery to the center and focus on questions that refer to the story itself.

Other Warm-Ups

Ask the participants to walk in the room and show in body language something that is characteristic of the role chosen and situation that will be investigated. For example, in a Bibliodrama on the Book of Ruth, ask participants to walk in Naomi’s shoes and to show in body language how Naomi lived in Bethlehem before her move to Moab, and how her body language looked when she returned from Moab and entered the gates of the city.

Each participant is invited to think quickly and spontaneously about a character from a biblical story, whether from the story we are about to explore or from a different story. After the characters were chosen each participant is invited to “change roles” In the body language, physical or other characteristics of the character, the facilitator interviews the character about herself and asks her to introduce the participant who invited her, and finally asks, “Do you have a message for him?” The group repeats the message to the participant.

Walk around the room and instruct the participants to put a hand on the shoulder of the participant they would choose to play the main character as well as the antagonist figure in the story. 

These exercises, which were just a small sample, serve the various purposes of the warm-up phase:

  1. Breaking the ice between participants who haven’t met before, helped find common grounds among the members of the group (finding commonality reduces the tension and raises spontaneity and creativity)
  2. Warm-up for a successful transition to the phase of action when the dynamic of the exercises was gradually built from the periphery to the center.
  3. Paying attention to hidden strings that pulls under the surface and connects them to the Biblical figures (bypassing their defenses).
  4. Providing equal opportunities for all participants (strengthening the sociometric status).
  5. Presenting some of the psychodramatic techniques to be used in the action stage.
  6. Giving important information to the facilitator about the participants he meets for the first time.

The entire Bibliodramatic encounter, at all three stages, can serve as a deep warm-up of the psycho-drama session. 

In this article, I focused on techniques for the warm-up phase only.

According to the contract the facilitator has with the group, one can continue to a psychodramatic investigation of the personal story of a participant who “warmed up”. 

Today, when therapist’s attention is diverted to a broader therapeutic aspect called “Transgenerational healing ” it is even more important to consider the stories of the Torah and the intergenerational patterns that affect our social unconscious (Earl Hooper and Haim Weinberg)

Bibliodrama transforms the “cultural conserve” that is called the Torah scroll into a living, kick-ing, relevant piece of art that is connected with hidden threads of the stories of our lives here and now. 


Pitzele Peter, Ph.d. “Scripture Windows Toward a practice of Bibliodrama”1998, Torah Aura Production,USA

Hopper, Earl & Weinberg, Haim , The social unconscious in persons, groups and societies, Volume 2, 2016, Karnac Books Ltd. London

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *