God’s Word for Arabic-Speaking Countries: The Arabic Contemporary Commentary on the Bible
When we first introduced you to Joseph Louis, he was studying for his M. Div at a seminary in Cairo, Egypt. Pictured here in the seminary library, he’s holding a copy of John Stott’s The Incomparable Christ. He told us that books, particularly books that explore the relationship between faith and science, have been important to his studies—especially as ideas about atheism are becoming more prevalent in Egypt.
Bahaa Labib, a leader in the Hadayek Qubbah Evangelical Church in Cairo, says “I can’t imagine any growing without books. It’s really impossible.”
And yet, as Dr. Riad Kassis, the Director of Langham Scholars, himself an Arab Christian, says, “If you go into a Christian bookstore in the Middle East, in Egypt or in Lebanon or in Jordan, you’ll be amazed because we have very few Christian books written in Arabic by Arabs.”
“While translated books are of course very important,” Dr. Kassis says, “We need books written from our own context. This is what Langham Literature has been doing. In fact, there is a unique project that Langham Literature and Langham Scholars are working on: The Arabic Contemporary Commentary on the Bible (ACCB).”
The commentary is the first of its kind in the Arab world: a commentary on the whole Bible written by Arab theologians for Arabic-speaking churches in the Middle East and North Africa. Riad calls it a “landmark in the history of the church in the region” that will help readers biblically address issues facing the region, like Arab Christians and citizenship, secularism and pluralism.
Langham Scholar Dr. Andrea Zaki Stephanous, managing editor of the ACCB and president of the Protestant churches of Egypt, notes that this is the first project to bring together Arab Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical biblical scholars—an important step toward Christian unity—and that they have come together with a “commitment to the Lausanne Covenant and a Middle Eastern context.”
Dr. Kassis underscores the importance of this biblical unity: “The so called Arab spring is in reality becoming a cold winter for the Arab Christian community. It’s threating the very existence of Christians who survived for more than 2000 years in the Middle East. In such a context the matter of Christian unity is not a leisurely academic exercise or even a choice to be made. It is becoming a matter of life and death. . . For Arab Christians to work together in any project, including the Arabic Contemporary Commentary project, is one way of demonstrating such unity. This becomes more crucial in a context where violent acts of divisions on religious grounds amount and destroy the social mosaic of the region.”
Since the project started in 2008, there have been a number of challenges that have delayed the work, including political unrest and instability in many of the Arab countries. Though timelines and project plans have had to be revised, the team is pressing on with an expected book launch by early 2018. Dar El Thaqafa, the publishing house run by the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, is publishing the commentary. Our prayer is that this commentary will be a light in the region, where future leaders like Joseph can encounter and apply God’s Word in their Middle Eastern context.
Today, Joseph has graduated from seminary and is helping to pastor a church in upper Egypt. He recently shared with us, “I’m excited about my ordination in the next few months. I’m facing a lot of challenges like adapting to ministry, house visits. . . preparing a lot of sermons, counseling, and social ministries. But I’m so happy I have the chance to practice every thing I learned. I hope the [Arabic Contemporary Commentary on the Bible] will help me in preparing my sermons and understanding the context of the biblical text, and how it applies to daily life.”
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