will start with two closely related words: skene (skay NAY) and skenoo (skay NAW oh). The skene was the ancient Greek word for a tent, and skenoo meant “I pitch a tent.” We will watch as these words develop meanings in two specialized areas, then consider what those two areas have in common.
First, the word skene came to be used in classical Greek for the scenery set up for a drama. (In fact, our own word “scene” is just the Greek work spelled with English letters.) Demosthenes once spoke of the legendary Heroes that were portrayed in epic drama as “those of the skene.” Thus, one meaning for “pitching a tent” was preparing the stage for a drama.
Now let’s move away from the Greeks and watch the word develop a specialized meaning for the Jews. In early Jewish history there was a “tent” that had utmost importance. It was the tabernacle set up by Moses and Aaron, the tent inhabited by the very presence of God. Thus, a second meaning for “pitching one’s tent” was to dwell or take up residence.
When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, the translators chose to use skene, the word so often used for drama, as the word for God’s tent. (Centuries later the “drama” element of this word was still found in the writings of the Church Fathers.) I wonder then, if a Greek-speaking person wouldn’t combine these ideas and understand the tabernacle as the place that God stepped into human history to enact a great drama.
When we bring all this into the New Testament, we will do well to ponder John’s statement: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In a Greek way of looking at it, now the stage is set for a great drama to begin. In a Jewish way of seeing it, now the God of heaven has come down to take up residence among His people.
When Jesus stepped onto the stage of human history, a great drama was about to unfold. He was God in human flesh, taking up residence in a very personal way. If it’s true that “all the world’s a stage,” then the greatest role of all history belonged to Jesus.