Above: Reverend Riad Kassis and Pieter Kwant of Langham Partnership, with a copy of the new Arabic Contemporary Bible Commentary.
It will be a historic moment for Sydney’s Middle Eastern community on Sunday night, when Arabic-speaking Christians gather in Merrylands to celebrate the launch of the Arabic Contemporary Bible Commentary.
The event, at Merrylands East Presbyterian Church, will bring together believers from diverse Christian backgrounds, including Anglican, Coptic Orthodox, Catholic and Maronite traditions.
To the average Aussie born, English-speaking Christian – who has more Bible resources available to them than they can possibly ever read – the launch of a Bible commentary may not sound like a big deal. That all changes, though, once you learn that there hasn’t been a new book produced like this one for 1000 years – yes, a whole millennium.
While most of the early church fathers were from the Middle East and North Africa, and wrote ancient texts that have been referenced for centuries, the Arabic Contemporary Bible Commentary is the first modern one of its kind: written by Arabs, for Arabs, in their own language.
The book (pictured) was 10 years in the making, and was partly funded by Langham Partnership (formerly known as John Stott Ministries). It contains the writing of 48 different scholars, representing a broad spectrum of the Arabic Christian community in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Kuwait.
A Symbol of Powerful Unity Among Arab Christians
Reverend Riad Kassis, director of Langham Scholars and one of the book’s seven editors, said the book represented a new level of unity among Arab Christians. Their common thread is their love of God and the application of His word to everyday life.
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“This is the first time Christian scholars – Protestant, Catholic, Maronite and Orthodox – have come together to produce a commentary that addresses the needs and challenges of the region,” Rev Kassis said.
“It’s a landmark in the history of the church. For Arab Christians to work together on the Arabic commentary is a way of demonstrating unity. This becomes crucial in a context where violent acts of division on religious grounds destroy the social mosaic of the region.”
Leaders in the Arabic community are expecting the commentary to have a big impact, by helping Christians grow in their faith and live out their everyday lives and relationships in Godly ways, as well as helping pastors and teachers to lead people with greater wisdom.
Gillean Smiley, a representative of Langham Partnership, said the book is designed primarily to equip pastors, preachers, and theological students, but is also made to be accessible to everyday believers for reading in their own homes.
Australian supporters of Langham Partnership contributed the money needed for printing the commentary, so the celebration this Sunday night is also a chance for Langham to say thank you.
The Sydney launch begins at 7pm on Sunday March 17 at the Arabic Presbyterian Church, while Melbourne will have its own celebration on Easter Sunday from 1:30pm at Belgrave Heights Convention Centre. All are welcome.