The first volume, on Genesis, is introduced at Annual Council.
Jacques B. Doukhan, a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, is no stranger to the writing process.
But in serving as general editor for the International Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary — a new series whose first volume was introduced Oct. 9 at the world church’s 2016 Annual Council — the writing and editing processes for a commentary is more exacting than that surrounding a doctoral thesis, something Doukhan has done twice in his life, by the way.
Along with being the series’ top editor, Doukhan is writing volumes as well. His 544-page commentary on Genesis, the book just released, was an education for the author as well, he said.
“The fact that you write an official Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, it’s not a book that you write by yourself and give to a publisher,” he told the Adventist Review. “There is a responsibility in regards to the church, so there will be then a lot of eyes, many eyes that are going to follow the writing. The process is kind of a very demanding process. … Here, I had a dozen people making observations and since it was Genesis, everyone had something to say.”
Doukhan said he and the other writers of commentary volumes are tasked to “squeeze the juice” from the Bible’s book and “make that ‘juice’ palatable, make sure it speaks to everyone.”
When it came to published version of his Genesis commentary, it would appear Doukhan got it right. He drew cheers and applause from the Annual Council delegates as he explained the question posed by Isaac to Abraham, his father, as the two were alone on Mount Moriah. The patriarch had been commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham’s only son, and in Genesis 22:7-8, the son asks the pivotal question of where the lamb for the sacrifice would be found. “God will provide a lamb,” Abraham tells Isaac, and Doukan explained the larger significance of the exchange.
“The lamb that is referred to here is not merely the physical animal, but to God himself, who sees himself as the Lamb,” Doukhan said. “Beyond this sacrifice is seen the sacrifice offered by God of Himself through Jesus Christ.”
That’s just one example of how a new commentary on Genesis, written by Doukhan over a seven-year period, explains the centrality of the Bible’s book of beginnings to Adventist doctrine, for it is in Genesis that so many of the church’s doctrines can be found.
Biblical scholar and philanthropist Ed Zinke, who originated the project and introduced Doukhan at the Annual Council, said that while the current Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary “has served us very well and will continue to serve us … there has been so much that’s been understood from archaeology and languages and literary methods, it was time for a new one to be developed.”
Zinke noted that leaders from the Adventist world church’s Biblical Research Institute and at Andrews University “spent about a year deciding how we would do it, what the requirements would be, how it would be laid out.”
“One of our primary goals was that it would allow the Bible to speak for itself, rather than imposing philosophical systems upon the Bible, and would be both readable and scholarly,” he said.
Introducing the Genesis volume, Doukhan said, “This is the only book of the Bible which is shared by the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is really the book which is most cherished from the Bible by these three traditions.”
He also quoted from the volume’s text: “‘For Seventh-day Adventists, the book of Genesis is of special significance. Not only does it explain and justify the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath, as a people united in a covenant with the God of Israel, it also substantiates the Advent hope when the world will be restored to its historical Genesis state.’”
Doukhan asserted that in Genesis, “nearly all Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are both found in, and founded on” this text. Those beliefs included, he said, “the seventh-day Sabbath, the anthropology of human nature; conditional immortality; the law of God; the Great Controversy; salvation; atonement; the tithe; the acknowledgement of the basic diet; the distinction between clean and unclean meats; the meaning of baptism; the cosmic significance of the Sanctuary doctrine; creation; the trinity; the responsibility of mission to the nations; and the gift of prophecy.”
Speaking after the council event, Doukhan said other volumes in the commentary series are in preparation, with a goal of having everything completed and released by the time of the 2020 General Conference session in Indianapolis, Indiana. Among the other writers are scholars from Africa, Asia, South America, Austria, and Germany, he said. Individual contributors include Adventist Review associate editors Lael Caesar and Gerald A. Klingbeil; and Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary dean Jiří Moskala, associate dean Teresa Reeve, and professors Richard Davidson, Roy Gane, and Thomas Shepherd.
“We tried to have as many people as possible,” he explained. “We tried to bring different people” into the process, he added.
Doukhan presented a copy of the new work to General Conference president Ted N.C. Wilson, who then dedicated the volume in prayer. In the United States, the Genesis commentary is available at Adventist Book Centers and from its online store.