By Rebecca Harrison
JOHANNESBURG- African scholars have launched a pioneering Bible commentary which tackles issues like female circumcision, HIV/AIDS and ethnic violence and is meant to make the scriptures more relevant for Africans. The African Bible Comme
ntary — produced by an umbrella group of African evangelical churches — was launched this week in Kenya and aims to interpret the Bible for Africans by using local proverbs and by applying its teaching to contemporary problems on the poorest continent.
“(It is) an explanation of the whole Bible as seen through the eyes of African scholars who respect the integrity of the text and use African proverbs, metaphors and stories to make it speak to African believers,” says General Editor Tokunboh Adeyemo in the book’s introduction.
As church-going dwindles in increasingly secular Europe, Christianity is booming in Africa, where giant evangelical churches frequently draw tens of thousands to all-night prayer vigils.
The African Bible Commentary, compiled by the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, includes contributions from some 70 theologians belonging to a broad range of Protestant churches including Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran.
It has been published in English and French and African language translations are in the works.
As well as verse-by-verse explanation of biblical text, the book includes 70 articles on how Christians should respond to thorny issues like HIV/AIDS, tribalism, race, homosexuality, witchcraft and lobola — or bride money.
Alongside a passage in the book of Genesis which talks about male circumcision, for example, the commentary condemns female genital mutilation — widely practised in some parts of Africa — as a “scourge which dehumanises women”.
The commentary confesses African churches have sinned by stigmatising those with HIV/AIDS and urges leaders to “break its silence” and help tackle the epidemic that has infected some 26 million Africans.
The commentary is more conservative on homosexuality, which it says is “a sin… abnormal, unnatural and a perversion”, reflecting the views of most African Christians — both Protestant and Roman Catholic.
Questions over how to interpret the Bible are at the root of a row over homosexuality that threatens to split the worldwide Anglican Communion, with conservative African bishops pitted against more liberal primates in North America.
“The younger church in Africa has stayed closer to biblical ethics and is therefore more conservative than the western church,” Adeyemo told Reuters in a recent interview. — Reuter