on Bible Translation

According to the latest Mission Frontiers magazine, a publication of the US Center for World Mission

2252 languages groups have not one verse of Scripture, and no one is working on translations for these groups (pg 11)

My question is this: should we continue advocating Bible translations for these groups or should we just advocate these groups learn a similar language to theirs that does have some or all the Bible translated or promote more English teaching and just give them a good ol NLT Bible?    For example if one of these groups is in N. Asia should they just learn Manderin and save work for translators or should it be encouraged they have a translation in their own language?

What say you?

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26 responses to “on Bible Translation

  1. Agree with Nick and Mike. I’m actually considering going to serve with Wycliffe doing just that – getting scripture into these people’s hands in their own language. At base level the question becomes, “If you had been forced to learn another language in order to hear the gospel, would you have done do so? Would it be as impacting to your walk with Christ?” It should be more than conversion. You are speaking to a culture and individuals at their very core, through the language they know. That’s pretty powerful.

    And often there are cultural reasons for the minority group NOT to take on the more dominant language, or to treat it with disdain.

  2. Whoa Whoa whoa! Force another people group to learn another language other than their native tongue? That sounds quite imperialist to be frank. Who are we to compel a tribe or community to learn words and phrases outside their context and religious framework just so we can call ourselves “evangelizing” to them. Let’s actually try living in relationship with these persons, learn their culture and language and then try to share the Gospel with them. Otherwise, we are just preaching colonization rather than Christ.

  3. Nobody said force.
    Besides becoming bilingual doesn’t mean you have to lose your whole culture and way of life.
    Also, if you teach a few of the people from one of these cultures another language that the Bible has already been translated to then they can translate the Bible themselves if they really want to.

    Either way I don’t think it makes much of a difference.

    • So how are these other cultures going to exactly obtain the knowledge of another language? Quite tricky. Things get lost in translation, both linguistically and culturally. To believe in the Incarnation, is to believe that God’s word came to speak human language, and Pentecost, as David said, is all about the Gospel being spoken in all languages, and not just a select few. Christ meets us where we are.

  4. It is an affront the gospel and to Pentecost to ever ask someone to leave their socio-linguistic background. It is not taking the act of penetecost serious. Part of being sent forth and being a missionary is be willing to imesh yourself into the language and the culture of the people. Christ meets us where we are and that means within our socio linguistic context.

    And if your going to teach a language to a people to read scripture. We sure as hell better be teaching them Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek so they made read and translate.

    In my view you shouldn’t be a missionary if you are not going to learn the language of the people.

  5. I don’t think it is an affront to the gospel to make somebody leave their background, necessarily. If so, then we should all decry anyone who would seek to learn Hebrew or Greek. But there is a time and place for everything. And we don’t make converts learn Greek to become Christians, but we rightly encourage it for deeper study.

    And As you mention El Bryan Libre, getting the people to translate the Bible for themselves is a powerful way of speeding things up – and Wycliffe is building that into their process. Basically you have missionaries on the field learning the language, beginning the work of translation and cultural exchange, sharing their faith as they learn concepts. And once a cadre have come to faith and taken on the role, they become the primary agents in translation, with the help of more seasoned translators and editors – and more to the point, those of more mainstream language groups (not always English!).

    • Why should they be made to leave their background at all? We are not talking about the learning of the original languages of the biblical text, we are discussing the mission work involved in translation. Two quite different subjects.

      • I was actually agreeing with you and trying to make the point that we did not have to be forced into a Greek language and cultural mold before we could learn about Jesus.

        But to say that we should take pains to reach people in their language is not the same thing as asserting that this is the only way to share the gospel. ESL programs in the US are a great example of where a more dominant language has very compelling rewards that can be combined with biblical instruction. Many of the languages in question will not be addressed in this fashion, to my understanding.

        While I agree with getting Scripture into these people’s languages, I don’t think there is a scriptural mandate against teaching a more dominant language as a tool to sharing the gospel. Using Acts prescriptively like that seems a stretch (IMO). It even fails to recognize that none of those who spoke in other tongues made the hard slog of learning another language. They just spoke and God made it intelligible. A quite different proposition altogether!

  6. My position is more practical than anything else. Do whatever is easier. Now that I think about it, it might actually be faster to teach people a language that the Bible appears in than it would be to teach translators that language and have them produce a faithful translation, but since I’ve never done it so I can’t know for sure.

    • The “some overthinking this” see that it is far more beneficial for a people group to have their own translation rather than having them learn another language (outside the original biblical text’s greek, hebrew, aramaic). I mean who is to determine which language from “North Asia” should a people group study? Are we to assume all “North Asians” are essentially the same? I don’t think so. Should they have to learn Mandarin (as an example) because its the language of a growing super power? Isn’t that aiding and abetting the empire from afar? It seems more sufficient and far more beneficial for persons to have the gospel in their own language, because language and culture is a blessing from God, especially in light of the stories of the Tower of Babel and Pentecost in Scripture.

  7. Pingback: Theology without Words « Rightly Dividing the Word…

  8. Teaching people another language is a LOT of work. African countries have spent a good portion of their education budget for 60 years trying to get everyone to speak English, French or Portugese, with almost universal failure. The cost of doing translations into all those African languages is many multiple times less.

  9. making people learn English and giving them the KJV, now that would be imperialistic! lol!

    i still support getting as many first language translations out there as possible.

  10. This dicussion reminded me of the movie, “Beyond the Next Mountain” (I think that was the title) about a tribal boy from northern India who started going to English village schools in the next province to learn English, then went to university, and finally ended up in seminary in Chicago studying Greek and Hebrew, which together with English translations he used to produce a Bible in his tribe’s native language. Inspiring film.

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