Why would a old, white, North American, evangelical male be interested in the Africa Study Bible? I’ll get to that in a minute. First, a bit of introduction to this remarkable volume.
excellent, readable text of the New Living Translation is augmented by hundreds of notes and articles in several categories which are rooted in the African context on every page. “Proverbs and Stories,” for example, introduce a saying or fable from an African country or culture, tying it to the passage being read. Given the prominence of wisdom literature in the Bible, this is a natural. The notes affirm when the story or proverb falls in line with a Scriptural perspective, and explain when it does not.
Notes headed “African Touch Points” may draw from contemporary African demographics or culture, highlight when an African person or place is mentioned in the Bible, or let us hear the voices of prominent African Christians of the past. The introductions to each biblical book as well as the application notes bring out topics and issues that are of particular relevance to Africa.
So we might read about how shame and reputation factor into African families and cultures, how people protect their property with walls, the millions of orphans in Africa due to warfare and disease, the continued influence of taboos and traditional religions, how so much of Scripture does not affirm the widespread prosperity teach in Africa, and so forth.
The notes are written by hundreds of contributors from fifty African countries. The writers are not reproducing what they might have learned in a Western institution or from Western teachers. They are speaking clearly from and about their own context. The editors of the volume are to be commended for their perseverance in gathering these notes and for letting the contributors speak from their own perspectives.
So far I have only read through one Old and one New Testament book–the Psalms and the gospel of Mark. But I look forward to going through the rest, which brings me back to my original question–why would I, with zero African roots, find this valuable?
I can gain a new perspective on my own faith and my own culture by comparing it to another culture. I don’t normally think in categories of taboos in my culture, but I might find it helpful if I did. I may not be focused on building a wall to protect my property, but how do I focus on safety instead of the kingdom? When minor troubles come my way, what hope can I take from African brothers and sisters who sometimes face more severe trials? Living in a culture where Christianity is stagnant or diminishing, what can I learn from a place where it is exploding?
Many other issues and resources fill this important volume. Highly recommended.