"Three Testaments" is a revolutionary work, the first time editions of the Torah, the Gospels of the New Testament, and the Quran has been published in one work. Edited by independent scholar and United Church of Christ minister Dr. Brian Arthur Brown, with contributions from a wide range of scholars from across the Abrahamic traditions, "Three Testaments" represents, in the light of how far the Interfaith experience has come in many ways since 9/11, a constructive and daring step forward in the dialogue between these major faiths.
The book launch for "Three Testaments," which took place on Sept. 9 at the historic St. Peter's Catholic Church in downtown New York, near Ground Zero, featured Dr. Brown and many of the main contributors to the project, including Ellen Frankel, author of "The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman's Interpretation of The Torah"; Marc Zvi Brettler, American biblical scholar and the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University; and David Bruce, the author of the best-selling series "Jesus 24/7."
Also included in the panel discussion was author and activist Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, one of the main inspirations behind the Park51 project; his wife and fellow activist Daisy Khan, the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement; and Dr. Donna Schaper, the Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City.
The mood of the discussion was clearly drawn to the revolutionary idea of the book itself, what it means in terms of the historical context of the Abrahamic faiths, and especially what this work means to the always evolving contemporary experience of inter-religious dialogue. Dr. Brown admitted as much in his opening remarks, saying succinctly that "this book represents a moving forward" and that "we've grown a lot, and we still have a lot of growing to do." Literally in the shadow of the new World Trade Center, Dr. Brown expressed that this work was part of a new era of Interfaith relations, developing out of the "necessary catharsis" of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Dr. Brown was careful to declare, as did many of the panel members, that "Three Testaments" does not represent a homogenizing of the Abrahamic faiths, but instead that it represents an opportunity to acknowledge and understand the differences between the faiths through the common bond of divine aspiration. Imam Rauf echoed this as the common aspiration to follow the shared commandments in each tradition to know "how to be the best lover of God."
Central to the work is a exploration of the Zoroastrian tradition, or the "Z factor," as Rev. Kevin Madigan, pastor at St. Peter's and host of the panel discussion, said. Dr. Brown explained that the vision of Zoroastrainism presented in the book as a unifying historical and theological force connecting and deepening the Abrahamic faiths, as the "axis of the Axial Age", is another manifestation of the cutting-edge theology presented in "Three Testaments."
The different esteemed scholars and activists on the panel drew out differing angles of vision on the work. Rev. Madigan warmly suggested that this book was a step forward in the "healing of the Abrahamic family feud." Dr. Schaper remarked that it was great that people of these faiths, and of all faiths in general, "can meet in one book," and that "Three Testaments" was a blessing for those of us who live in typically mixed-up families in terms of religious and spiritual identity.
Ellen Frankel was grateful that "Three Testaments" helped the cultural understanding of the Torah, and of the culture of the Torah itself, to step out of circumstances in which it has had to resist undue assimilation and prejudice. Marc Brettler echoed that sentiment, by saying that the book would also help the Torah to be understood more closely to its original context by Muslim and Christian readers. Mr. Brettler was also eager to show how much it is possible for scholars of each tradition to teach, and also to learn from, "Three Testaments" in academic, scholarly and theological contexts.
Other speakers on the panel, such as David Bruce, Daisy Khan, and Imam Raif highlighted that the benefit of the book, beyond even the academic considerations, is to encourage an active dialogue between these faiths that creates a community of service, as well as a progressive activism toward understanding of such issues as gender identities within generally conservative religious cultures.
Dr. Brown was eager to also share the ecstatic support he had received from the Muslim community in general for "Three Testaments," and he expects that this book will challenge any overtly and negatively orthodox and conservative religious viewpoints that are in enmity to true intra-religious doctrine.