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Contributions of Olympic Proportions

February 28, 2010

No single author could possibly consider publishing the three “Abrahamic” scriptures together with his or her own background commentary without input, contributions and validation from scholars, commentators and editors of the highest reputation in the three faith communities. Here in Canada the Olympic Games are concluding today, but wait until you see the team we are assembling for the historic challenge of writing in support of Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran! Several scholarly writers who were tentative have now confirmed their participation.

From the beginning we have been supported and guided by three leading Jewish, Christian and Muslim editors, among the most highly regarded anywhere in the world. Ellen Frankel, herself a respected author, is Editor Emerita of the Jewish Publication Society where she was CEO and Editor-in-Chief for nearly 20 years. Henry Carrigan, Senior Editor at Northwestern University Press, is also an author and one of America’s most esteemed critics and reviewers. Laleh Bakhtiar, having edited The Encyclopedia of Islamic Law and other compendia, has authored several books and is the acclaimed interpreter of The Sublime Quran. These three persons will write the Prefaces to Parts One, Two and Three, setting the contexts. They are guiding me on significant aspects of my own work and have shared in the careful selection of appropriate scholars and trusted communicators who will contribute significant Introductions to the three scriptural texts and other material.

First among these is Professor Marc Zvi Brettler of Brandeis University, who will prepare the Introduction to the Torah. As editor of the Oxford Jewish Study Bible he wrote the highly regarded but slightly shorter Introduction to the Torah for it. His appearance in Part One of Three Testaments, at the invitation and urging of Ellen Frankel, definitely lends a certain cachet to our enterprise. Marc made his commitment final only this week, after careful consideration.

The Introduction to the Gospel in Part Two will be presented by David Bruce, best known in Canada as the author of the Jesus 24/7 series from the United Church Publishing House, (2 books published, another appearing later in 2010 and still more commissioned for 2011, etc.). This adult and youth curriculum is filling a long-standing gap in my own Canadian mainstream denomination, and David articulates the Gospel with a “generous orthodoxy” that will be appreciated by our Jewish and Muslim partners. It is important that we get this right and David can do it better than anyone I know.

The Introduction to the Quran will be written by Nevin Reda, who is, like David Bruce, part of a new generation of fine scholars at the University of Toronto. She administers and will teach in a Muslim Studies Certificate program open to Muslims, Jews, Christians and others, with hopes and expectations that a full Masters degree program may soon be developed. Dr. Reda was chosen by Laleh Bakhtiar because she and others have recognized Nevin’s brilliance as a “text expert” who employs the wisdom of the ages together with the freshness required for these times.

Finally, it will be important to engage just the right person to write the overall foreword to the whole book with a credibility that would impress the New York Times. Many of the more promising suggestions were of people with Roman Catholic background, perhaps a fortuitous coincidence since we have been mainly Jewish-Protestant-Muslim in faith affiliations so far. Collaborators with the right connections have extended feelers to Hans Küng in Germany and Gregory Baum in Canada, both highly respected interfaith commentators. We have also considered a former nun, a former Dominican priest and a former Jesuit, (one British and two American) all prominent authors in the interfaith field. If you are guessing their identities, you probably got all three right. We are now having possibly conclusive conversations with one of these persons and hope to have an announcement within days.

With the first six announcements above, we have insured both the high standards of the project and the high standing of the book which will be our finished product. Stay tuned for a final announcement of interest in the March blog, which may come to you before very long.

Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown