What’s the point in a missional reading of the Bible if you can’t read the Bible?

In his Encounters response Chris Wright’s Bible and Mission lecture, Eddie Arthur (Executive Director of Wycliffe UK) has written a brief but powerful article that for me opened up the discussion in surprising and sobering ways.

there is a fundamental assumption in the lecture that people are able to read what Jeremiah wrote. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, many people quite simply do not have access to Jeremiah…

In a language with the economic capacity of English we have numerous translations of the whole Bible available. For many minority languages, it is often the case that only a selection from the Bible is printed or published. Perhaps a Gospel, or a whole New Testament, maybe with the Psalms or a selection of Old Testament stories. In truth, Jeremiah is likely to be way down the list of things that are published. Does the missional hermeneutic stress on the overarching narrative of the Bible give us any insight into how we should go about making the Scriptures available? Should we perhaps consider concentrating resources so as to translate the whole Bible for one group rather than making selections available to a number of groups? Or could a missional hermeneutic guide us in making more principled decisions about which passages should be seen as essential? On the pages of a mission magazine this might seem a sterile question, but in a world where 200 million people do not have the Scriptures in their own language, some hard choices need to be made and we need a good hermeneutical and theological basis upon which to make them.

At my home group tonight we had four different Bible translations between five people. I am very grateful for the different translations available to us in English; they often help to bring out different facets of the text, or at least facilitate different ways of reading the Bible (study, public reading, devotional, etc.). But it is embarassing, if not outrageous, that we in the West have so many versions, while vast numbers of people cannot read a single word of Scripture in their own langauge.

You can read the whole of Eddie’s article by following this link to the June 2009 edition of Encounters Mission Ezine: Issue 29 – The Bible and Mission

One thought on “Missional hermeneutics and Bible translation

  1. Eddie also inspired me to write a post on my blog about Bible translation. I’ve tried to outline the problem (like 2200+ languages without any verses translated from the Bible) and offer some solutions. I really want this to be a resource post that people can use to motivate people to support Bible translation projects. They can sponsor a verse for $26, support a Bible translator, pray for unreached people groups, etc. I would be interested to hear what you would add to my post:


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