Joseph and His Brothers

Northwestern College Presents

Description of the project from Jeff Barker, Professor of Theatre (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.):

Joseph and His Brothers is verbatim from the Bible: Genesis 34 – 50 and a few verses from the start of Exodus. Only the genealogy of Esau is missing. Everything else is included in this thought for thought translation. We have added only a few repeated words, character ad libs, sounds, and songs. This is one of the oldest, most expansive dramas in recorded history, much older than Greek dramas. Portions of this story have been presented many, many times on stage and screen. But seldom in modern times has this drama been enacted precisely as the ancient writer gave it to us. We do not believe we are being clever in presenting this text as a play. We believe its form as a play (character, plot, dialogue, emotion, image, action) is thousands of years old and natural to the pre-literate, oral culture from which the Bible arose. This text always was a play. We are restoring it to its home on the stage. There are parts of this ancient play that you perhaps never noticed before. Some of the passages that are obscure, bizarre, or wordy might easily be skipped over in private reading. We hope you’ll make some discoveries as you finally experience this ancient play in a form closer to its original. Joseph and His Brothers is our fourth fully-produced ancient Hebrew drama at Northwestern College. Previously we have produced David and Goliath, the musicals And God Said and Terror Texts, and dozens of short Bible plays.


The performance ensemble translated the text using a large collection of existing Bible translations, looking carefully at the Hebrew/English interlinear and attempting to capture a clear “thought for thought” translation of each phrase. We admit to paraphrasing when an obscure word was translated a variety of ways. We opted for clarity within imagery and metaphors. You’ll also notice that we chose mostly present tense verbs, which is in keeping with Hebrew as well as typical dramaturgical practices for narrative theatre. We call our version “devotedly abridged.” In other words, we hope that when you go back and read it, you’ll find our work to be respectful and faithful to the original.

The following ensemble all contributed to the final acting text: Jeff Barker (director/editor), Liz Meier (stage manager), Megan Cole, Warren Duncan, Reghan Harms, Carolyn Hopkins, Goose (Derrick) Jansen, Michael Johnson, Nicole Montgomery, Anthony Reno, Maverick Risley, Lucas Sander, Kate Staab, and Abigail J. Stoscher.

The Mission of the Ancient Hebrew Drama Project: helping the world experience the ancient dramas of the Hebrew people.