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Bible Translation – An Overview of the Need

8 Apr

In 1917, a young man by the name of Cameron Townsend accepted a job selling Spanish Bibles in Guatemala. At first, the task
appeared easy, however it quickly became apparent that 60-70% of his “market” didn’t speak Spanish at all! And from that point forward, an often evident, but unspoken question haunted his work, “If your God loves all people, in all lands and desires them to know Him: why doesn’t He speak our language?” Finally, Cam could take it no more and, resigning his position, committed
himself to learning the Cakchiquel language and translating the Scriptures into the native tongue. From this event, Wycliffe was born.

Today, an estimated 7,000 languages are spoken throughout the world, but of these, only 400 have an adequate Bible translation available to them (Old and New Testament). Perhaps more shockingly, nearly 99% of all funding given towards Scripture distribution is directed towards these 400 tongues, leaving a mere 1% to be divided among the rest! It is Wycliffe’s goal to see this 1% used as effectively as possible.

With God’s guidance, Wycliffe has committed people and resources towards the goal of ensuring that a translation project is in progress for every language in need by 2025. At present, Wycliffe has 1,300 new translations in progress with more waiting in the wings. On average, it takes a team of two translators a total of 12 years to complete a project.

In order to effectively accomplish “Vision 2025″ more than just translators are necessary. For every laborer in the field, there are dozens of staffers behind the scenes providing transport, supplies, IT support, maintenance, and communications services. I have accepted a position as one of these staffers.  As a Writer/Editor for JAARS, a Wycliffe partner organization, I will assist our field workers by communicating their trials and triumphs to those whose support makes their work possible. But just like our field teams, I can’t do the job on my own.

Wycliffe has given me a May 1st deadline for developing the required financial partnership – and I would like to ask you to play a part. If you’re reading this, you already know the impact that can be made by the written word.  Please prayerfully consider whether God is calling you to play a part in supporting this ministry.  If He is, you can express your intentions at : http://www.wycliffe.org/Partnership.aspx?mid=2C51C7

One Little Vowel

9 Sep

Note: The following account is offered courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people?  What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know Who He was and how He wanted to relate to them?

Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”  “Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” “Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?”  Everyone laughed. “Of course not!  If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. “Do you know what this would mean?  This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on Who I am. I love you because of Me and NOT because of you.”

God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, and not a mean and scary spirit, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand.

The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and 29,000 speakers will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25:  “Husbands, ‘dvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘dvu’-d the church…”  I invite you to pray for them as they absorb and seek to model the amazing, unconditional love they have received.

Around the world, community by community, as God’s Word is translated, people are gaining access to this great love story about how God ‘dvu’-d us enough to sacrifice his unique Son for us, so that our relationship with Him can be ordered and oriented correctly. The cross changes everything!  Someday, the last word of the last bit of Scripture for the last community will be done, and everyone will be able to understand the story of God’s unconditional love.

Mission Frontiers – Translating Familial Biblical Terms: An Overview of the Issue

8 Apr

Bible translation can be a sticky business, as you can well imagine!  What do you do if a literal translation of the original Hebrew and Greek actually miscommunicates the message of the original?  What if the message it does communicate is actually blasphemous?  Are there acceptable alternatives to a word-for-word translation?

If you’ve been listening to the dialogue concerning so-called “Muslim-friendly” Bible translations, you’ve probably already asked a few of these questions.  So, in order to help you better understand the controversy (and why there really shouldn’t be one), we’d like to refer you to a great article:  Mission Frontiers – Translating Familial Biblical Terms: An Overview of the Issue.  Here, you’ll learn about the methods commonly used by translators and why those tasked with making God’s Word available to speakers of other languages sometimes shy away from a literal translation of the name “Son of God” (and not just in Arabic)!  We hope that you find the article as useful and informative as we did!

(I’d like to offer a special thanks to my friend, Charles, for providing us with the link!)

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