Langham Literature has been involved in supporting, facilitating and funding landmark literature projects that due to their size and nature require collaboration from multiple partners, be they theological institutions, publishing houses or other Christian ministry organisations. These large, individual projects meet the specific needs of indigenous Christians in different regions of the world.
One of the current exciting projects being developed through Langham Literature is the Central and Eastern European Bible Commentary.
Beginning to develop the commentary
In November 2015 the International Council of Evangelical Theological Education Conference (ICETE) was held in Antalya. At this event, Pieter Kwant, the Director of Langham Literature, and Peter Penner, a member of the Langham Partnership International Council, entered into a conversation about a future commentary for Central and Eastern Europe.
Peter Penner says, “Pieter suggested that the Central and Eastern Europeans should write their own commentary. Romanians could possibly do it all on their own, with the many Christian PhD scholars in the country, but what about bringing scholars from 20 countries together for such a project? With this, I went to Corneliu Constantineanu, and the vision of the Commentary was born.”
Corneliu naturally fit the general editor role, and he and Peter began conversations with Langham and other potential editors and authors. An editorial team with scholars from different countries was formed and scholars from each of the countries were invited to participate.
The need for such a commentary in the 21st century in and for Central Eastern European (CEE) was obvious for everyone. It took about one year to identify the editorial team, to decide whom to invite for contributions, what short articles would best respond to relevant questions in the particular CEE contexts, and to have a Writers’ Manual defining the contextual approach.
Peter says, “It was quite a different enterprise to bring scholars from 20 countries together, to develop a common interpretative approach, and to create a coherent one-volume commentary with such diverse authors.”
The CEE region is very diverse, so an important task for the team was to overcome barriers (cultural and historical) and find ways to serve post-communist CEE Christian communities with a contextual and relevant commentary.
“We spent much time in discussions, wrote and read to each other parts of commentaries in order to discuss the approach in the editorial team so that we would be able to communicate to all other contributors a unified concept of a commentary relevant for contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. It was important to have a good representation from all countries.”
The team was enthusiastic about such a unique project and worked with the hope they could serve the current and developing young generation with the Commentary. However, during the COVID pandemic, it became more difficult to work together, especially when their general editor Corneliu tragically became ill with COVID and passed away.
Peter says, “During the COVID pandemic it became more difficult to work well together, with more strain added when our general editor died. But there was enough strength and perseverance to continue and complete the project as contributors and the editorial team focused on the final goal, the tool that would be of great benefit to the churches.”
Amidst the tragedy of losing Corneliu, Peter stepped into the role of coordinating general editor and worked with the team to finish the final portions of the Commentary.
The importance of the CEE Commentary
Bible commentaries like the Central and Eastern European Bible Commentary are usually used by those involved in practical ministries, in preaching and leading. Peter says, “Commentaries help to read the biblical text deeply, to explain it to others and to show its relevance from the ‘then and there’ to the ‘now and here’.”
Churches in the Majority World have translated commentaries, predominantly from the Western World, that deal with questions from those contexts, as well as concepts relevant to there.
Peter reflects, “So when it comes to the move from ‘there’ to ‘now’ Western commentaries are usually not very helpful. A discussion, for example, on issues of Christology or Trinity in a Western commentary will start with different presuppositions, use argumentation and react to expectations from its own context and look different than in a commentary written in and for a predominantly Buddhist or Muslim context.”
“The Western World, for example, has not experienced Soviet and post-Soviet realities, worldview and context as have the peoples in CEE. How is God’s church after communist persecution dealing now with a certain post-communist mentality where a certain ‘homo sovieticus’ thinking and living is still present?”
These contexts and questions are why these commentaries created through Langham Literature are so important. Scholars from CEE are better equipped to provide guidance on this from the Bible. Contextual commentaries from and for a local context will help to explain the Bible using familiar cultural and contextual aspects, find and address parallels between biblical teaching and local specifics in context and society, and will better help the preacher, teacher, and any kind of minister to understand the contents of the biblical text and how to communicate the biblical message in applicable and contextually relevant ways.
Currently, Peter, the commentary team and Langham Literature are preparing the launch of the Commentary in Prague, the geographical centre of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), to celebrate this great achievement of scholars from 20 CEE countries.