What does the Bible have to say about the specific experiences of people living today in the Arab world? What guidance does it offer to Christians in Arab societies?
These are some of the questions tackled by a unique new Bible commentary whose Cairo launch event was screened recently on SAT-7.
The Arabic Contemporary Commentary on the Bible (ACCB) is the fruit of ten years of collaboration by Bible scholars from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories.
In a region where only a few contemporary Christian books are in Arabic and written by people living in an Arab context, it is also the fulfilment of a dream.
“This commentary is a dream that we had eleven years ago of having a commentary that addresses the contemporary Middle East,” Dr Andrea Zaki, President of the Protestant Churches in Egypt, told a packed gathering at the Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Services (CEOSS) in Cairo.
Among them were representatives of different Christian communities, Muslim guests including Egypt’s former Minister of Culture, and representatives of the project’s international partners.
Zaki explained: “The commentary isn’t about the Bible text only, but the contributors interpreted the Bible text and seek to show how it affects our daily lives towards the different challenges we face.”
Zaki, who was managing editor of the project, said it was also the first Bible commentary to bring together Arab Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Bible scholars. By pooling researchers and theologians from across the churches and from half a dozen countries, the commentary aims to give a richer understanding of the Bible text and to broaden the usefulness of the commentary.
This book is written for anyone who speaks Arabic from any culture or religious background.”
“But the audience of this book isn’t restricted to Christians only,” he stressed. “This book is written for anyone who speaks Arabic from any culture or religious background. It is written in language that is understandable by the average reader.”
For tomorrow and today
The upheaval of the Arab uprisings delayed completion of the project but also drove contributors to return to the text to address the new situations, Zaki said. All along, they were keen to speak to a younger generation of readers and ensure that the book will be “beneficial for tomorrow just as for today”.
Conflict and political change are not the only forces shaping the Arab world today. Scientific knowledge and growing atheism are changing worldviews, while migration and pluralism bring other challenges. These are all areas where the new book seeks to bring biblical help.
Dr Chris Wright, International Ministries Director at the Langham Partnership, which supported the project, was one of the guest speakers at the launch. He began by stressing the debt that European and Western Christians have to Middle Eastern theologians of the first centuries of the Church.
“Even further back,” he continued, “it was here in Egypt, in Alexandria, that Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament scriptures into Greek … and it was Apollos from Alexandria who taught the scriptures in one of the very first churches in Europe, in Corinth.”
Looking to the future, he said, “We want to see the Bible changing the Church so that the Church under God can change society. Our hope and prayer is that this Arabic Contemporary Bible will prove to be an invaluable, trustworthy companion for all those who preach and teach the Bible.”
A wealth of Bible and theological teaching programmes on SAT-7 ARABIC use the TV medium to give thoughtful Christians and lay leaders opportunities to deepen their understanding of the Bible and better equip them for service in the local church. Learn more