BLUE HILL — A group devoted to the study of sacred texts will delve into the Quran beginning Sunday, April 29, at First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, 22 Tenney Hill.
“Open Mind: An Ongoing Group Study of the Sacred Scriptures from Around the World” meets from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sundays. Sonia Turanski, who has a master’s degree in theology with a focus on comparative world religions from Bangor Theological Seminary, will facilitate the discussions.
Over the past year, participants have read: the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most well-known Hindu scriptures; the Dhammapada, a collection of the sayings of the Buddha; the Hadith, a commentary on the Quran; and selections from the Book of Mormon.
“We just finished reading sayings attributed to the Buddha,” Turanski said Thursday. “We had four to five different translations for each one. We could really see how the translation changed the interpretation of each saying.”
Seeing how different translations changed those interpretations helped members of the group understand the impact different translations of the Bible may have on how it is interpreted, she said.
Turanski said one of her roles as the group’s facilitator is explaining the historical context in which a sacred text was revealed or written. Another is to point out when “we are looking at a religion through our own worldview and impose our culture on the scriptures of other faiths.”
“My hope is to give the study of Islam and the Quran a neutral and informative background, especially because of the political situation,” she said. “There are a lot of preconceived notions about Islam and the Quran.”
Because the Quran was revealed during Muhammed’s lifetime, what was happening at the time historically is very well known, according to Turanski.
“One of the biggest challenges in a predominantly Christian community is that we think the Christian concept of God is what other people mean,” she said. “We are inclined to interpret other people’s scripture through that lens. Part of my job is to let there be a little bit more of mystery to it and to open up the cultural history.”