How the Africa Bible Commentary changes lives

“Though your sins are scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool.” — Isaiah 1:18

Hearing God’s Word speak to you in your own language and culture is life-changing. And it can be as simple as understanding the phrase “white as snow” for the first time.

In some parts of the African continent, including Côte d’Ivoire, many people have never seen snow. Without that context, how do you understand a Bible verse like Isaiah 1:18?

Answering the need

That’s why resources like the Africa Bible Commentary are so important. The commentary, created with Langham Partnership’s support, was written by Africans for Africans. It compares snow with cotton, something people actually know. And just like that, parts of the Bible open up in ways they never have before.

Now, almost two decades after the African Bible Commentary was first published, it’s being revised and updated.

We talked with Yacouba Sanon, a professor at West Africa Alliance Theological Seminary and one of the commentary’s editors, about why this update is so exciting.

Yacouba Sanon.

Q: What makes the Africa Bible Commentary a necessary resource?

A: There are many preachers in Africa, in many places, who still don’t have proper training to oversee, to run, or to lead a church, let alone to preach the Word of God. They use whatever is available to them, but they use their own experiences as templates to what God should or must do in the lives of the church or others. So the result is we have Christians who are not really solidly anchored in the Scripture, and the Africa Bible Commentary is an answer to this lack of training.

Q: The commentary includes articles that speak directly to issues believers in Africa face. What are those issues?

A: We have issues like witchcraft. We have issues like widowhood. We have issues like raising children or street children. We have so many issues covered in the first Africa Bible Commentary and in the revision one as well.

[Meet Langham Scholar Havilah Dharamaraj and learn about her work]

Q: What’s being added in this new, revised edition?

A: We have articles on diaspora, on witchcraft, reconciliation, Zionism and many others, like tribalism, prosperity, traditional cultures and many more.

Q: Why is this important?

A: It’s like John Stott’s vision, really, that I’m making mine, to see preachers preaching the Word of God faithfully and strengthening the people of God. We can only do this when our preaching is made contextual. That is when our preachers take into account people’s reality that they live every day. When the Word of God is disconnected from people’s experience and everyday reality, it doesn’t bring changes in their lives.

Q: What’s your prayer for the revised commentary?

A: My prayer is that, with the second edition, people will use it more and more in classrooms and on the pulpits to help the church to grow, to nourish the people of God and to strengthen and further the Kingdom of God in Africa.

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