Free access to IJFM journal issue on Bible translation

Thanks to Scripture Engagement for the heads up. The July-September 2011 issue of the free-to-access and tremendously helpful International Journal of Frontier Missions focused on some crucial issues in Bible and mission.

Here’s an outline of the content:

28:3 – The Terms of Translation
From the Editor’s Desk by Brad Gill
A New Look at Translating Familial Biblical Terms by Rick Brown, Leith Gray and Andrea Gray
A Brief Analysis of Filial and Paternal Terms in the Bible by Rick Brown, Leith Gray, and Andrea Gray
When “Literal” is Inaccurate: A Multi-Dimensional Approach to Translating Scripture Meaningfully by Donna Toulmin
Ideological Challenges for Bible Translators by Roy E. Ciampa
Basic Principles and Procedures for Bible Translation, Forum of Bible Agencies International

Click on the link to access all the articles: IJFM issue 28:3 on The Terms of Translation

Eddie Arthur on The Radical Result of Bible Translation

Words for Life - Summer 2011 issueWords for Life is Wycliffe Bible Translators’ regular magazine. In the Summer 2011 issue Eddie Arthur tackles the subject of  ‘The Radical Result of Bible Translation’. In a short but insightful article he somehow manages to address a whole range of issues, including: the scary nature of giving someone a Bible; mission and coercion; the Bible and politics; language development and dignity; marginalisation, empowerment and identity.

Here’s some of the text of the article to give you a flavour. You can view the whole thing here: Words for Life – Summer 2011

Far from destroying dignity and oppressing them, Bible translation and language development work helps to give people a new sense of their value before God and amongst the nations. Bilingual education programmes give people a sense of value for their own languages and culture while providing them with a bridge to the wider world through the use of national and international languages. For many marginalised groups, who may well be ignored by their national governments, a language and translation programme may represent the only hope for education and development in their area. The work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and its partner organisations isn’t some sort of luxury; it is a vital part of bringing education, development and a sense of identity to some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.

It is hard for English speakers to understand what it is like to belong to a people group whose language is continually ignored or discriminated against, or to have a language so obscure that even God doesn’t seem to speak it.

Eddie has much more to say on these and other important topics, as our MA in Bible and Mission students discover when he comes to Redcliffe to teach half of the module, ‘Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts’.

Check out his blog as well.

Isaiah, Eugene Peterson and turning down Bono

Eugene Peterson on Bono

If Bono asked you to come and spend a couple of days with him, what would you say?

Eugene Peterson is the author of The Message version of the Bible, as well as numerous brilliant books on spirituality, theology and ministry. In an interview at Point Loma Nazarene University he is asked about politely turning down an invitation to hang out with U2’s lead singer, who is a big fan of The Message.

His reason for saying, ‘no’?

EP: “I was pushing a deadline on The Message. I was finishing up the Old Testament at the time… I really couldn’t do it.”

Interviewer (Dean Nelson): “You may be the only person alive who would turn down the opportunity just to make a deadline. I mean, come on, it’s Bono for crying out loud!”

EP: “Dean, it was Isaiah!”

Peterson, of course, gets a rapturous round of applause, which betrays a few things. Our delight that someone like that would turn down a chance most of us would grab at, because he is unfazed by celebrity, for one. But I love the way he implicitly critiques how casually I take my Bible reading. When we engage with the Scriptures we are in the company of remarkable, momentous events and talk, about and of God, that draw us into something bigger than ourselves.

You can see the exchange at about 12:00 mins into the video. It’s worth watching the whole thing for various insights into pastoral ministry and Peterson’s life. But following the Bono conversation they also talk about the whole idea of Bible translation. Well worth a listen.

Here’s a the video and a link if it doesn’t come through on your browser.

A Conversation with Eugene Peterson 2007

How may this text be overheard?

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of questions that might be asked of a text when considering a mission hermeneutic. The question, How may this text be overheard? is deliberately ambiguous in order to suggest two themes, both of which are focused on a person or community who do not (yet) believe in Jesus Christ and, so, would not hold that the text in from of them is inspired, authoritative or authentic. The two themes are these:

1. How might this text be overheard? asks the believing community to consider how the unbelieving community can gain an opportunity to encounter this particular text of the Bible. There may well be different approaches for different texts. This question is being answered in a variety of ways this year in the UK because of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. The best place to look for more on this is the Biblefresh website

And perhaps our main question is not just one of exposure to ‘unbelieving communities’. Maybe it should be broadened to ask, How could this text be engaged with in fresh ways by believers?

2. How might this text be overheard? asks the believing community to consider the ways in which a text may be understood or misunderstood if ‘overheard’ by an unbelieving individual or community. This will certainly evoke different responses for different texts but, of course, the answer will be different even for a single text because different people will respond in different ways according to their own contexts and life experiences.
This is in part a prelude to apologetics but I think it is deeper that that. It asks us to consider what obstacles there might be (humanly speaking) to a clear understanding of a text. What technical words or jargon would need to be explained (e.g., with a text like Romans 4)? What background would they need to know to make sense of it in context (e.g., if it were part-way through a narrative)? What if their worldview radically misinterpreted a key term (e.g., a Muslim reading that Jesus is the Son of God)?
In conclusion, at the very least asking the question, How might this text be overheard? forces us to consider ‘the other’. While we are before God, reading and listening to the text, we are reminded that we do so as God’s missional people, tasked with participating in God’s mission to bring to him those for whom the Bible is not yet seen as the words of life.

And, of course, this brings us back (once again!) to the question of Bible Translation. For 340 million people, the first step to answering the question, How may this text be overheard? is, ‘Begin translating the Bible into their heart language’.

Bedtime stories, Bible Translation and the global church

I’ve posted before on the uncomfortable privilege we English-speaking Bible readers have: numerous versions of the Bible for meditating, studying, reading out loud, and so on. And yet there are around 340 million people who don’t even have a word of the Bible in their heart language.

Bible-availability-wise, we in the English-speaking West are living in corpulent luxury while our brothers and sisters in many parts of the global church have nothing; not a single scrap of the Word of God in their own language. How is this anything other than a scandal?

My three-year-old daughter has more of the Bible written in her ‘language’ than what I can only assume must be at least hundreds of thousands of pastors, if not millions!

Ralph Winter (quoted by John Piper) provides a neat metaphor that might apply in this context. He describes the vessel, The Queen May and how it was used in peace time and war time. In doing so he illustrates what can be done with resources when pushed. I’m not always comfortable with the way the warfare language is used in mission contexts but we might want to consider how his description challenges us in the West in relation to our Bible-wealth: what luxuries would we be willing to do without in order to make sure the rest of the global church has what it so desperately needs?

The Queen Mary, lying in repose in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war. On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peace-time complement of 3000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended on it. The essence of the Great Commission today is that the survival of many millions of people depends on its fulfillment. (quoted in Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life)

Storytelling the gospel

How do you engage people with the Bible when they live in an oral culture? The whole area of literacy, oral culture, Bible translation and ‘storying’ is a crucial one in mission today. After all, as Grant Lovejoy of SIL puts it:

Does the spread of the Gospel depend on literacy? Jesus Christ is the eternal and living Word, after all, as John declares (John 1:1). The timeless message of His saving grace is proclaimed from one generation to the next in the Bible, the written Word of God. Are those who cannot—or will not—read the Word on the printed page essentially cut off from the Good News of salvation?

For one resource, have a look at the Jan/Feb 2008 edition of Momentum, which looks at the whole issue from a variety of perspectives:

Here is the contents

The Gospel’s advance can’t wait for literacy by Grant Lovejoy
Storytelling: frequently asked questions by Karl J. Franklin
A case for the longer-term use of storying by Roy Sloane
Storytelling among the Kao Bu by Tai Kadai
Doing something different by Steve Douglass
Oral approaches to augment a Bible translation process by Jim Stahl
Orality and translation: focusing on images rather than words by Janet Stahl
My journey into the world of narrative by Larry Dinkins

There is also a very helpful page on resources, both in electronic and book form.

New look website for Wycliffe Bible Translators

Wycliffe Bible Translators have just launched their new website. Why not take a few moments to have a look around it and (re)learn about this exciting and crucial ministry.

From the Wycliffe blog:

Welcome to the new look!  We’ve just launched the new website and we hope you enjoy exploring what we have to share here.

The Bible: the Story everybody needs – The Bible contains the amazing story of God’s love for us and how he can be known by all of creation.  For that reason, we want everybody on the planet to have access to God’s word in the language they understand best, to make it possible for them to get to know God for themselves.

We’ve organised the site into three sections:  Live the Story is full of resources to help you, your group or your church to interact with the Bible.  Give the Story shows the variety of ways we can be part of sharing the Story with others, by praying, giving, going or telling others about the need for Bible translation.

The Wycliffe Story includes latest news, blogs and contact information.  It also explains more about us: including the story of how Cameron Townsend’s heart was moved by the Cakchiquel man who asked “If your God is so great, why can’t he speak my language?”

As Wycliffe UK and others worldwide work together to provide God’s word to people in their heart language, more and more individuals, networks, churches and organisations are connecting with us to see this happen by 2025.