Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

New Testament study group forming

September 7, 2006

Last Spring, Ulysses Castillo made a challenge to those attending Eudora United Methodist Church's "The Bible From Scratch: The Old Testament for Beginners."

The challenge wasn't spoken, but it cut to the core of the group he hosted with Marcia Bagby. He maintained normal people could understand the Bible, even if it was written for a first century culture.

"We were looking for something that was relatively short. Sometimes Bible studies get too long," Castillo said. "You want something that could be done in six to seven weeks and something that someone with virtually no familiarity with the Bible could do."

Castillo and Bagby led the group based on the book "The Bible From Scratch" by Donald Griggs.

In it, Griggs tried to translate the cultural significance of biblical stories and make them accessible to the public at large.

Castillo and Bagby brought the book to a group setting last spring, and are now preparing to do the same thing for a new set of stories.

The duo will host "The Bible From Scratch: The New Testament for Beginners" at 6:30 p.m. Mondays at the home of Marcia Bagby, 1618 Sycamore St., Eudora.

Other classes sessions will be Sept. 18, Oct. 2, 9, 16 and 30 and Nov. 6.

"The hardest part is understanding the first century culture, because we tend to read the stories within our own culture," Castillo said. "We hear words and phrases that don't make sense to us, but if we can somehow help people with how a first century person might hear this story, then it just brings a better understanding."

The sessions will cover the major gospels and look closely at stories people might have heard elsewhere ---- like Christ's sermon on the mount, Castillo said.

"Some of these stories people have surely heard in movies and culture ---- we talk about those," Castillo said. "We also kind of help new people learn how to navigate through the Bible and use Bible dictionaries and use concordance."

While studying the Old Testament last spring, Castillo tried to get people to come up with a modern day equivalent to the ancient Hebrew prophets to illustrate how people at that time would have understood it.

First he banished the view that the prophets in the Old Testament were seers or fortunetellers, Castillo said.

"Really that's not how the prophets worked in the Old Testament. They were really doing something called 'forthtelling,' which is to tell the people the reality of a situation right then," Castillo said. "They were less interested in what was going to happen in the future as they were in trying to help people understand the current situation."

To fit that mold, the group came up with Jimmy Carter.

"One of the things we talked about was that the prophets tried to imagine a world that is different from the one we're in, so it's usually counter cultural ---- so we came up with Jimmy Carter as the great prophet of our time."

In discussion, the group cited Carter's work with Habitat for Humanity, Castillo said.

"He imagined a world where everyone has a home," Castillo said.

The group hovered around 10 people for the spring session and half of those will be back to learn about the New Testament, Castillo said.

Karen Rush ---- a secretary for Eudora United Methodist Church ---- took part in the class last spring.

"It made me look at the prophets and some of the people that had come before in a more human light," Rush said. "It made me realize that they are actual living people battling with the same things we battle with."

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