A new study Bible with a distinctly African voice has been launched to equip and disciple the churches in Africa, which is growing exponentially. An estimated 20,000 are coming to Christ every day.
Gathered before hundreds of students, faculty, and guests at Moody Bible Institute earlier this year, the Africa Study Bible was unveiled. This is the first-ever study Bible developed exclusively by African scholars and ministers containing thousands of study notes by 350 contributors from over 50 countries. The launch of this Bible in Chicago was part of a three-day African Voices Conference hosted by Oasis International in partnership with Urban Ministries, Inc. and Tyndale House Publishers.
The African social and economic contexts "are far closer to the biblical context than what we have in the West," said Paul Nyquist, president of Moody Bible Institute, in a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post.
"And yet all they read are study Bibles that have a very modern first-world experience so this new one brings the Bible down to their experience in a way that nothing else does. I am so excited what this is going to do for the church in Africa," he said, highlighting that the church is growing rapidly in Africa, with around 20,000 becoming believers in Jesus every day.
He explained that Westerners tend to think that their particular understanding of the Scriptures is infallible.
"When in reality, I think that every people group with the Spirit of God is going to be able to understand the Word of God as it relates to them in an appropriate way," he said.
For example, he noted, throughout the whole of Scripture, witchcraft and polygamy are mentioned as part of the culture, and those are realities with which Africans are very familiar. By contrast, Westerners largely do not have a frame of reference for those things.
And Africa's approximately 400 million Christians are extraordinarily diverse geographically, ethnically, socially and economically; the life of an African Christian residing in the Kenyan bush will be vastly different compared to someone who lives in an upscale neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa. Nevertheless, because of the broad diversity of the scholars who contributed to the project and the extensive editorial work they did to weave it all together, the ASB is an accurate representation of the African experience and way of thinking.
John Jusu, editor of the ASB and dean of the School of Professional Studies at Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya, shared at the April conference in Chicago that when the idea for such a study Bible was hatched, he said "Hallelujah, this is our time. We are going to make it different," according to a press release obtained by The Christian Post.
"The greatest injustice you can do to anybody is to deny that person education," Jusu said.
"The worst injustice you can do to anybody is to deny that person the Word of God because the Word of God is light, is food. You deny people, you have denied them their livelihood, you've denied them food for life here on earth and over there."
African Christians have few discipleship materials that speak directly to their experiences and this new study Bible is designed to both build their faith and teach them to apply biblical truth to every sphere of their societies and cultures.
The ASB employs the New Living Translation and has over 2,600 features, including application notes, relevant articles, African proverbs and stories, and touchpoints that connect Africa to the Bible. For curious non-African readers, the ASB is sure to provide a better understanding of the Word of God as seen through African eyes.
Every contributing scholar to the ASB is from Africa and lives in Africa now. Most have doctorate degrees and most are teaching in schools or actively ministering in churches, Nyquist told CP.
"I think this [Bible] shows the fruit of missionary activity in Africa for the last 200 years ... and the maturation of the African church," he said, describing this as "truly a watershed moment" in history.
"In centuries to come, if the Lord tarries, we are going to be able to look back at this time as a very significant moment in the growth of the church around the world," he commented.
He added that he hopes one day to see a Latin American Study Bible and an Asian Study Bible come to pass, Bibles that reflect the culture and shared experiences of those regions of the globe.
Paul Mouw, director of strategic projects with Oasis International who was instrumental in assembling the team to launch the ASB, agreed that its release is a spiritually significant moment in history.
"One of the elements that the African [contributors] wanted to be sure that everybody understands is that Christianity is not just the white man's religion," Mouw said in a CP interview Tuesday.
"130 of our writers were Francophone," he said, "and 20 percent [of the all the contributing writers] were women."
Many of the writers now dwell in African urban areas like Kampala, Uganda or Nairobi, Kenya, but all are in touch with African village life. At Christmas time, it is a tradition for many Kenyans to return to their home village, Mouw explained.
So while all kinds of diversity abounds, the African patterns of thinking that are prevalent on the continent unify the whole volume, particularly the use of proverbs and stories. The theological distinctives that matter a lot to Africans, such as the necessity of caring for orphans and widows and the importance of traditional marriage as opposed to polygamy, are also emphasized in the study notes and articles.
As much as they could, they believe they have produced a "pan-African" volume, Mouw said.
"Time after time, God sends the right people at the right time," he said of the project and how it all came together. "I could really sense the Lord's hand in this." He is excited to see what all this accomplishes in the Kingdom of God now that African Christians have such excellent discipleship materials of their own.
Together with several major Christian organizations, Oasis International is now nearing the end of a series of celebratory events launching the ASB across Africa.
In April, the Africa Study Bible was unveiled in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra, Ghana. In early June, events were held in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. From June 29 to July 1, the ASB will be launched in Nigeria's largest cities — Abuja and Lagos.