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We are ending the longest period between classes – not three lessons to cover in three weeks, but two lessons and Unit One review to cover in six weeks. This makes the timing a bit less difficult, as Thanksgiving comes and goes during this time. But, of course, we all develop angst before our first test — dubbed an “Information Retrieval Exercise” – which will begin our next class on Saturday.
I remember feeling stressed last year at this time. It felt like “crunch time” fitting in study and review with Christmas shopping, shipping, and decorating. I’m a bit less stressed this year, being familiar with the test process. But suddenly I feel I’ve run out of time …
Even so, I appreciate how Catholic Biblical School employs different learning styles to engage us in Bible study. We hear excellent lectures preparing us for upcoming lessons. At home we read Scripture passages, refer to footnotes in the study Bible, read relevant sections of commentaries and the Bible dictionary, consult our Bible Lands map book, and study supplemental material in our workbook. Our written lessons involve analyzing the scriptures, looking for themes, and comparing similar passages in different gospels.
We sometimes are asked to write from the point of view of the evangelist or the Old Testament writer. Year 1 assignments I completed included writing a creation myth, imagining I was Eve after the fall, imagining I was an Egyptian reporter after the parting of the Red Sea, and imagining I was Rahab during and after the siege of Jericho. Putting myself at the scene like that really involved me with the storyline and presented insights I otherwise would have missed. Example: The blowing of the trumpets at Jericho and circling the town day after day without attack surely was a form of psychological warfare!
Finally, reviewing our material and taking tests serve to reinforce what we’ve learned, hopefully impressing it in long-term rather than short-term memory.
Overall, the experience gives me the confidence to pick up the Bible spontaneously, look up a passage, mull it over, and embrace its message. And for that, I am most grateful.
Jim Hynes, director of Adult and Elementary Faith Development at St. Thomas More Parish in Chapel Hill, N.C., posts on Year 1 of CBS in his blog, For Catholic Grownups. He also offers podcasts from the two previous times the parish has offered the Denver Catholic Biblical School program.
For the latest post, on the Ark of the Covenant, he includes a picture of a cherub in the Assyrian style, from the British Museum in London. Here’s the link:
Year 1 covers Genesis to Kings, and it’s being presented this year in Monroe, Louisiana, in our Eastern Deanery, by Jim McGill. He and Gene Giuliano, our instructor here in Shreveport for Year 2, drive over from University of Dallas School of Ministry every month to bring us this program. We cover several lessons at a time, instead of one lesson a week. And we’re so grateful to have Gene’s and Jim’s expertise!
With Year 1 of Catholic Biblical School behind us, we have a far greater appreciation of Christianity’s Jewish heritage. I’ve particularly enjoyed reading Old Testament-based fiction. Fellow CBS scholar Kim Long introduced me to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and I introduced her to the commentary I found, Sandra Hack Polaski’s Inside the Red Tent.
Here’s a fascinating multimedia discussion, The Jewish Roots of the Christian Story, which ran on American Public Media radio at Easter 2005. It focuses on New Testament writings. http://being.publicradio.org/programs/jewishroots/links.shtml It’s an hour-long program. With my slow satellite connection, I’ve never been able to hear it all the way through, but what I’ve heard is fascinating.
Try out all the “pages.” There are links to several interesting resources – art (Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion), music, and thoughtful articles. One is a reprint of a 1995 America article, “The Narratives of Jesus’ Passion and Anti-Judaism,” by New Testament scholar Raymond E. Brown (http://artfuljesus.0catch.com/brown.html). You may have studied Brown’s writings in other Bible courses. Time Magazine called him “probably the premier Catholic Scripture scholar in the U.S.” Father Brown, who died in 1998, was a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. We’ll be using his The Gospel and Epistles of John later in Year 2.
Brown’s article outlines the gradual development of anti-Judaism after the time of Christ. It did not spring full-blown from the writings of the gospels, he explains. It appeared with the advent of bad relations between believers in Jesus and those who did not believe in him. “The effect of the hostile feelings became one-sided after the conversion of Constantine to Christ and the gaining of political power by Christians.” I found this very helpful in understanding how anti-Semitism developed.
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Have you noticed how much more engaging are the Sunday readings at Mass since we began Bible study?
The first readings, from the Old Testament, come to life when you recognize the people speaking and understand the context. It’s as if they are cherished stories of friends and acquaintances, even members of the family. Good example: Last week’s passage from Second Kings, Chapter 5, about Elisha curing Naaman the leper, commander of the Syrian army. I could even recall how the chapter ended, with Gehazi, Elisha’s assistant, trying to claim the gift Elisha had refused, then being turned into a leper himself—“a leper as white as snow.”
The second reading this coming Sunday reminds us why we study the Bible at all—not only for wisdom and guidance, but to equip ourselves to better serve God and all his creatures. Here is Paul speaking to his beloved disciple Timothy: “Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known (the) sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Oh, how much we adult Catholics have missed by not being better students of the Scriptures!
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In our beginning study of the gospels, I hear echoes of Year 1’s emphasis on “traditioning”: Bringing the past alive in the present moment. It’s what the Israelites did with the Torah. You shall read this Law aloud in the presence of all Israel… Your children also, who do not know it yet, must hear it and learn it (Deuteronomy 31:10-11, 13). In the Torah tradition, wrote Bernhard W. Anderson, “old memories are endlessly re-presented and reinterpreted, rearticulated and re-imagined in ways that keep the main claims of faith pertinent and authoritative in new circumstances.” Today’s believers, he wrote, may learn from the Jews “the sustaining power of imaginative remembering, the ongoing, lovely process of traditioning.”
It’s a process also known as anamnesis—a recalling to mind, so one never forgets. It’s what we do through study of the Old Testament: Genesis and Exodus are not just the stories of the Israelites; they’re our stories, with applications to our lives today. It’s what the early Christians did with their teaching and preaching about Jesus. And it’s what the evangelists did with the gospels, retelling the stories with applications to the lives of the communities they were addressing.