By Kevin O’Brien, Th.M. Bible and Reference Brand Manager
Let’s face it, there are a lot of Bibles available today. There are a lot of study Bibles available today. IT’s easy to get overwhelmed by the choices and to pass by those that don’t seem to be created with you in mind. For most people reading this blog, the Africa Study Bible probably falls in that category. But I hope a second look will change your mind.
Where did the Africa Study Bible Come From?
Believe it or not, the Africa Stud Bible was conceived right here at Tyndale in a meeting with Tyndale board member and founder of Oasis International Ed Elliot. It really got legs in 2010 when Oasis conducted an African tour to explore the idea. The overwhelmingly positive response led to a meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2011 that included Christian leaders from every region of Africa, representing 11 countries and the major languages of literacy in Africa – English, French, Portuguese and Arabic.
Most bibles, especially most study Bibles are written and produced by westerners. Not the Africa Study Bible. The contributors are mostly African and its diversity is hard to overstate. 350 contributors. 50 countries. Tyndale CEO Mark Taylor, Oasis’s President (and son of founder Ed) Matthew Elliot, UMI’s president Jeff Wright and Life Application Study Bible author and Livingstone founder Bruce Barton served as Bible editorial consultants, but all of the major decisions including the final project mandate were made by African leaders.
It’s easy to forget just how big, just how diverse Africa is. The 2015 Scientific American article “Africa is Way Bigger Than You Think” includes an amazing infographic: Africa is larger than China, India, the contiguous US, Japan and most of Europe—combined. And that’s just geography.
There are 1.26 BILLION people in Africa—nearly four times the 320 million in the US. Think about all the different cultures, languages and ethnic groups in Europe, a relatively small space. We know that there are great differences, but do we think that way about Africa? There are 23 officially recognized languages in Europe. Another 60 or so regional/minority yet indigenous languages. Africa is estimated to have 1500-2000 languages.
So the need for an African Study Bible is obvious, but not just for Africans living in Africa.
Here’s something that may surprise you. The African immigrant population in the US has roughly doubled every decade since 1970, with the total being 2.1 million in 2015. And that number doesn’t include the children of those immigrants.
In addition to the African Immigrant population, there are almost 43 million African Americans in the US. If just 1% were interested in both their faith (overwhelmingly Christian of some variety) and their African heritage – that’s almost 430,000 people. Or, how many of us go to a church which has sponsored a mission trip to Africa? What if every person who went on that trip had an Africa Study Bible before they went and in so doing learned a bit more about the thinking of the people to who they are going to minister?
Gaining A New Perspective
One of the things that Matthew Elliot told me about the discussions with the African leaders was that they rejected one of the early recommended taglines- “For Africans by Africans”. And so the tag line became “God’s Word through African Eyes”. The reason was simple, they viewed the Africa Study Bible as Africa’s gift to the global church. The difference is crucial, and one that is all too easy for us, as western Christians to overlook, ignore or otherwise dismiss. We send missionaries to Africa after all, so it can be hard to think of Africa as a source of spiritual wisdom and teaching. But the more I think about it, the more I have come to believe that it is a crucial source for us in the west.
The Africa Study Bible can be of great service to those of us in the west if for no other reason than it forces us to confront the cultural expectations that we bring to our reading of the Bible. And sometimes viewing something from a decidedly different angle helps us to see things in an entirely new light.
In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus gives his famous “Sermon on the Mount”. Verses 13-16 are the well-known instructions for Christians to be salt and light. If you are like me, you have probably heard sermons talking about the preservative and medicinal properties of salt in addition to its taste. The African Touch Point note at this passage offers an interesting, and challenging insight unlike any I had ever seen.
Drought is common in the Kalahari Desert region of southern Africa. Some residents there use salt to their advantage. The monkeys always know where the water is but they don’t let the humans know. People trap a monkey and feed it salt until it is extremely thirsty, then it is released. It runs straight to the water and the people follow, finding water. When Christians are salty we make others thirsty for the living water that is Jesus.
The Africa Study Bible is a very unique study Bible. It is different than any other Bible on the market. When you see the tagline “God’s Word Through African Eyes” you can be sure that this is not hype, not spin or exaggeration, and it has something to teach all of us. I know that I have learned a great deal from it already and I’m sure you will too if you take a second look.
Get your copy here – click here.