the little red cardinal has no hope of the snow camouflaging his presence!
If you are familiar with the Bible, you have probably heard the phrase “white as snow” – although you may not know where it appears in The Bible. Isaiah 1v18 is one place. Below you can read the verse from two translations in English.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1.18 ESV
‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 1.18 NIV UK
Recently Wycliffe friends and colleagues Colin and Dot Suggett, who work in Burkina Faso raised an issue that I have often met before – what if the culture of the language that this phrase is being translated into, has no concept of snow. I first came upon through an Irish colleague who has worked in the Amazon jungle of Brazil and they certainly don’t get snow there!
Colin and Dot sent this back translation from the Turka language of Burkina Faso…
The Eternal-God says, “Come, let us discuss:
though your sins are red like fire, they shall be white as milk;
though they are red like blood, they shall be white like cotton.”
Isaiah 1.18 (Turka back translation)
… and then continued.
Readers familiar with English translations of the above passage will note a change in the colour similes in our Turka translation. That’s because the Turka language does not have a lexical means of distinguishing “scarlet” from “crimson”. (We only have one generic word for the colour “red”.) Now, scarlet is a “brilliant red colour with a tinge of orange”, whereas crimson is a “strong, bright, deep red colour combined with some blue and/or violet, resulting in a tiny degree of purple”. Our solution to this particular translation problem was to insert the simile “red like fire” to correspond with scarlet, and “red like blood” to correspond with crimson.
In addition, the similes “they shall be as white as snow” and “they shall become like wool” in this verse are likewise problematic. It turns out there’s not much call for snow in Burkina Faso (though, on rare occasions, it has been known to hail), and people do not exploit sheep’s hair to make wool. Consequently, we made use of two white commodities which are commonplace among the Turka: milk and cotton.
The above verse is just one of a large selection of key Old Testament passages which will be integrated into a chronological teaching series we are preparing for a radio play. This series provides a sweeping overview of the Old Testament with a view to prepare Muslim-background Turka listeners for a fuller understanding and appreciation of the coming of Jesus Christ into this world. We praise the Lord that this Old Testament translation work is approaching completion and should be wrapped up before the end of this year.
Meanwhile, translation work on the New Testament continues to move forward with first drafts prepared for most of the remaining books.
If you’re someone who prays, please pray for Colin and Dot and their Turka colleagues.
We covet your prayers for health, strength, spiritual vitality, and for healthy and fruitful interactions with our Turka colleagues, Foromine and Jeremy, and the Turka population.