The single-volume hardback, Comentario Biblico Contemporaneo (CBC), is the work of more than 100 writers, representing most of the 16 Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America.
The commentary, with an initial print run of 5,000, has been published jointly by Certeza Unida, the editorial branch of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) and Ediciones Kairós in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Meeting a need
In South and Central America, most evangelical church pastors have to support themselves with full-time secular work. Though well-educated and with a mind to read, they have probably had no formal theological training. Their personal study is restricted, since most of the few theological books currently available in Spanish are expensive, and are translations of works originally published in the USA or Europe and written in a context remote from the daily experience of Latin Americans.
These deficiencies have inevitably limited the depth of preaching in the average church and helped to sustain the jibe that evangel-icalism in Latin America was ‘3,000 miles wide but only an inch deep’.
Written by authors familiar with the culture and contexts of their readers, the new commentary is intended to give pastors a greater depth of biblical understanding, applied to the Latin American life experience, typically defined by violence, corruption, and poverty.
Church in retreat
Fabian Santiago, a church-planter in Puebla, Mexico, has vividly described the harshness of daily life there and the inadequacy of the church’s present response: ‘Not a day goes by when we don’t hear or read another tale of death, shameless greed, or exploitation. It is perhaps no surprise that, just as many ordinary Mexicans choose to retreat into their walled secure neighbourhoods, the church here has mostly retreated into a gospel detached from reality that emphasises prosperity, happy families, and the world to come.
‘The truth is that the big problems of our context can only be faced with the big truths of Scripture, and the big truths of Scripture need to be studied and taught, learned, and preached.’
According to the CBC ’s general editor, Dr René Padilla, one of the aims is ‘helping readers to connect biblical principles with the ethical issues of today’s Latin America’. He welcomed the completion of the commentary as ‘a dream come true’.
In addition to substantial theological commentaries on all the books of the Bible, CBC includes 100 articles applying Bible teaching to social and political issues particularly relevant in Latin America. These include prison ministry, domestic violence, care of orphans, concern for people with disabilities, magic, secret societies, and political violence.
The commentary’s three editors are from different South American countries. Dr Padilla, born in Ecuador and brought up in Colombia, has lived in Argentina since 1967. Old Testament editor Dr Milton Acosta was born in Colombia, and is a professor at the Bible Seminary in Medellin. Rosalee Velloso, New Testament editor, is from Brazil, where she has taught at the South American Theological Seminary in Londrina.
In a territory as vast as Latin America, evangelical groups and churches are bound to have different perspectives on some potentially divisive issues. The editors have ensured that the CBC sensitively handles these, carefully explaining the differences.
In the 12 years of its preparation, the project has suffered numerous setbacks and delays, including the deaths of three contributors. From its inception, the project has been co-ordinated by Ian Darke, an English missionary who has worked with Latin Link in South and Central America for 34 years.
The printed version of the CBC will be supported by a freely-available website, providing additional resources and information.
A Portuguese translation of the commentary is being prepared for use in Brazil, by far the largest country in South America, with a population of more than 200 million.