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Luther’s translation of the Bible into German spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

Following my post yesterday, I want to flag up what Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland have blogged about Luther and his impact on Bible translation.

 

Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546), is most famous for nailing his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg – 500 years ago this year – which many people cite as the primary starting point of the Reformation.

Yet Luther’s later work translating the Bible was also fundamental to the Reformation.

Luther loved the Bible but knew that, at the time, the Bible was not accessible to everyone. So he concluded that a new translation, in the common language of the German people was necessary.

His focus as he worked on the translation was to enable the ‘tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons’ to be able to read God’s word for themselves. Indeed, he was so committed to the ordinariness of the language in the translation, he would take trips into local towns and villages to listen to the way people spoke.

Luther’s translation marked a shift in the church’s approach to the Bible, as Philip Schaff notes:

“The Bible ceased to be a foreign book in a foreign tongue, and became far more clear and dear to the common people. Hereafter the Reformation depended no longer on the works of the Reformers, but on the book of God, which everybody could read for himself as his daily guide in spiritual life.”

It spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

The Bible translation work of people like Luther and Tyndale were crucial in enabling people in many countries to read the Bible in their own languages, not to mention the spread of education and literacy.

Yet now over 1.5 billion people – more than the entire world population when Luther was alive – still do not have the Bible in the language they speak and understand best. Wycliffe Bible Translators is working so that all peoples around the world can engage with the Bible in the language they most understand.

Wycliffe is using messages like the one below to point out the continuing need for Bible translation – click on the image to find out more about #endbiblepoverty today

Go to the Wycliffe UK Blog and read some great stories  – and to the Wycliffe website to watch some videos – about the impact of Bible translation 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door.

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Today marks the 500th anniversary of what is said to be the start of The Reformation – the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg.

So much has been written about this in recent days and weeks.

From just one source Christianity Today I found these headlines:

Martin Luther: Passionate reformer

Changing the Tempo of Worship: For a thousand years of Christian worship, lay people had rarely sung. Then came Luther.

Unstoppable: Even as a sick man, Martin Luther accomplished more than most healthy people.

The Bible Translation That Rocked the World: Luther’s Bible introduced mass media, unified a nation, and set the standard for future translations.

This third one goes on to say:

Martin Luther was many things: preacher, teacher, orator, translator, theologian, composer, and family man. He came to symbolize everything the Protestant Reformation stood for.

But perhaps Luther’s greatest achievement was the German Bible. No other work has had as strong an impact on a nation’s development and heritage as has this Book.

In Luther’s time, the German language consisted of several regional dialects (all similar to the tongue spoken in the courts of the Hapsburg and Luxemburg emperors). How were these scattered dialects united into one modern language? The rise of the middle class, the growth of trade, and the invention of the printing press all played a part. But the key factor was Luther’s Bible.

But my final headline is even more dramatic, more far reaching than the impact on Germany:

The Most Dangerous Thing Luther Did: And other facts about Bible translation that transformed the world.

Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German

It’s worth reading this whole article but here are a few extracts…

At the very beginning of the Reformation, the principal Bible available was the Latin Vulgate, the Bible Jerome had originally produced in Latin in A.D. 380… The Bible was not a book the general public was familiar with. It was not a book most individuals or families could own. There were pulpit Bibles usually chained to the pulpit; there were manuscripts of Bibles in monasteries; there were Bibles owned by kings and the socially elite. But the Bible was not a book possessed by many.

Furthermore, it was rare to find a Bible in the language of the people.

Then the story is widened to translations of the Bible in other languages, like English – and pays a fitting tribute to my early Bible translation hero William Tyndale…

Perhaps the most poignant tale of this era is that of William Tyndale. Tyndale lived from 1494–1536 and was martyred for translating the Bible into English. Tyndale, like Luther, translated directly from the Hebrew and the Greek… He actually only finished the New Testament, completing about half of his Old Testament translation before his death. His was the first mass-produced Bible in English.

Tyndale originally sought permission from Bishop Tunstall of London to produce this work but was told that it was forbidden, indeed heretical, and so Tyndale went to the Continent to get the job done. A partial edition was printed in 1525 (just three years after Luther) in Cologne, but spies betrayed Tyndale to the authorities and, ironically, he fled to Worms, the very city where Luther was brought before a diet and tried.

And martyred!

The Bible translation work of people like Luther and Tyndale were crucial in enabling people in many countries to read the Bible in their own languages, not to mention the spread of education and literacy.

And yet today, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland are using messages like this to point out the continuing need for Bible translation – click on the image to find out more about #endbiblepoverty today

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I have led short term mission trips.

I have coordinated the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland short term mission programme.

I have seen short termers become long term with Wycliffe and other organisations.

I know the value of short term mission.

I also know that short term mission trips can be failures and even harmful to the people being visited.

I have organised a debate in my church with the title…

I like to make people think!

So here’s a video entitled The Honest Mission Trip Leader which is

a. very funny

and

b. too close to the truth!

I would love some reactions to the video…

… and if you want to explore good short term opportunities with Wycliffe UK & Ireland, take a look here!

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… and I’m just talking about translations of the Bible in English.

English translations of the Bible

The question keeps on popping up.

How many translations of the Bible are there in English?

Answers range from 100 to 450 to 900! I’ve just been Googling, so I have.

Do we need them all? Certainly not!

Why do we have so many? Now, that’s a good question.

Ask the translators who keep on producing so many for us Anglophones. Is someone making some money out of it… but let’s not go there.

Especially when we research the other approx 7,000 languages spoken in the world today and see how many of them have a complete Bible – or a New Testament – or even a single verse of Scripture!

Why not do that research for yourself. I’ll even help you. And I’ll probably blog on this again: the new annual stats should be out soon.

However – 1.5 billion people are still waiting for the Bible in their languages… and us Anglophones, we’re spoilt rotten.

So why this blog at this time? Well, it’s all the fault of The Babylon Bee.

They decided to explain the main differences between popular Bible translations. That was their first mistake – they mentioned only translations of the Bible in English.

Then they said: Have you noticed how many Bible translations are available these days? There are so many to choose from that it can get downright overwhelming. That was their second mistake – they mentioned only translations of the Bible in English.

From then on, it was a very entertaining and satirical review of eight Bible translations – they were all, of course, without exception, translations of the Bible in English.

I thoroughly enjoyed their post, but there was one more mistake. They think that the NIV stands for the Nearly Inspired Version. Well now, everyone where I live knows that it’s really the Northern Ireland Version!

PS Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland have a new look, a new logo and a new website. Fancy a wee look

 

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It was always my intention to become a Guest Bible Scholar after retiring from Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland on 31 December 2016. The title sounds very grand – Bible Scholar! Never really saw myself as a bible scholar, never mind one in capital letters. But I’ve started!

Paratext screen

Above is a screenshot without which Guest Bible Scholars like myself couldn’t function. It’s a wonderful tool called Paratext. I can see six windows:

  • the passage that I’m working on in an English translation
  • two French translations
  • the Greek / English interlinear
  • some notes written by experienced translators
  • and of course the back translation into French that the translation team in a francophone African country has provided for me to check

I have recently checked 4 New Testament chapters all by myself, passed them on to a second checker – and then they will go to an experienced translation consultant. Hopefully he will give me some encouraging feedback – or sack me!

Why bother? Wouldn’t it be quicker and better if the experienced translation consultant just did it?

Of course it would! If he or she had the time. The problem is that more translation is being done than there are experienced translation consultants to check. There’s a bottleneck in the process… and that’s why I’ve been trained to be an apprentice low level checker of first drafts of translations – with the grand title of Guest Bible Scholar.

Hopefully there will be more blogs about my life as a Guest Bible Scholar…

With colleagues at GBS training August 2016

Postscript: I’m reading a book by Tony Macaulay who grew up in north Belfast in the 1970s during the “Troubles” in N. Ireland, so I am. It’s called “Bread Boy”, so it is. Tony writes in Belfast English, so he does. And that explains the title of this blog, so it does! Have you got that?

#endbiblepoverty

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… translating the Bible for the Sabaot people of Kenya No.1

Sabaot Bible dedication

Reading Peter Brassington’s blog on the subject of linguistic false friends has prompted me to blog. In the era of fake news and alternative truth (yes, Peter does mention Donald Trump in passing) it is crucial that everyone, from politicians and journalists and pundits to linguists involved in Bible translation, communicates the truth clearly.

Years ago I was part of a multi mission agency tour of N. Ireland university Christian Unions. Our theme for that year was Bible translation. The Sabaot project in Kenya was a very interesting one and inspired me to write a dialogue encapsulating the dangers of assuming that people understood what others thought they understood… if you see what I mean.

Read on..

To be performed by two readers…
ONE: Okay, so what the verse actually said was “Jesus ordered his disciples to enter the boat.”
TWO: … but on Mount Elgon in Kenya there are no boats.
ONE: And because of this…
TWO: (and other linguistic difficulties)
ONE: …most people thought it meant:
TWO: “Jesus Ordered His Teachers To Plant Milk”
ONE: …which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and probably didn’t encourage them to read the rest of the story.
TWO: That was one of the discoveries made in a survey to find out how well the Sabaot people of northern Kenya understood the Swahili New Testament.
ONE: “And we thought that our people knew Swahili well!”
TWO: said a local headmaster involved in the survey.
ONE: Testing a second passage,
TWO: the team realised that the people had no understanding at all of the Swahili words for biblical concepts such as mercy or grace.
ONE: They did know market Swahili,
TWO: but just because you know how to buy a goat using another language
ONE: doesn’t mean you understand sanctification or justification!
TWO: Until there was a written form of Sabaot,
ONE: God only seemed to speak in someone else’s language.
TWO: This made the meaning hard to understand and also raised uncomfortable questions for the Sabaots.
ONE: Was theirs not an important language?
TWO: It was neither a language of education nor of the church.
ONE: Were they an important people?
TWO: Could God understand them when they prayed in Sabaot?
ONE: Did God even listen?

But there’s a good outcome to this story…
Francis Kiboi says, “Before the Scriptures came to my people, Jesus seemed to be distant and foreign. But now that we have the Scriptures in the language, he is walking with us on this mountain. God is with us, and he is Sabaot!”

… and an even better one in a part 2 blog to come!

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Finding work experience for a 16 year old language student seemed a big challenge at first – until my Granny mentioned Wycliffe Bible Translators. I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Having met Marlene Ferguson some years ago at Girl’s Brigade, I had a vague idea about the work of Wycliffe, but I knew my work experience was going to be insightful and inspiring…

This is how Rebekah from Carrickfergus started her guest blog about her three days with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland in the Belfast office a few weeks ago. There is a regular stream of A level languages students looking for related work experience each year. Invariably they find out more than they expected…

Click to find out more

Click to find out more

Nevertheless on the first morning, I was nervous about meeting the staff for the first time. I had no need to worry as I was warmly welcomed from the moment I walked in. After a quick introduction to the office and an information pack, Ricky wasted no time presenting an overview of the work of Wycliffe and why Bible translation is extremely necessary in 2017 and the future. I had a go at some introductory translation exercises, learnt statistics about Bible translation and was shocked to hear that of the 7,000 languages in the world, only 636 have a full Bible.

Before break, I heard about Ricky’s recent trip to Zambia where he attended a translation workshop. It was very interesting to hear what happens at a translation workshop.

One thing that struck me was that at break time every day the staff take time out to pray for the Wycliffe members from Ireland. It reminded me that no matter what we are doing within our day, we should always take time out to thank God for what he has done and ask him to help us with whatever we are doing.

Words for Life - Wycliffe UK's magazine

Wycliffe UK’s magazine

Later I talked to Alf Thompson about Wycliffe’s regional magazine Words for Life. I learnt about the process of putting the magazine together and the importance of being in communication with the rest of the world. Alfred’s job also showed me that lots of different people with lots of different skills play a part in Wycliffe Bible Translators. [You can order Words for Life magazine here. Editor]

Day one introduced me to the process of how a Bible is translated and I learnt about the Jesus Film Project. I knew that Bible translation isn’t an easy task, but I was becoming more aware of all the elements that have to be in place before a translation project can begin.

Day two was research day  [the reader can do some too! Links below. Editor]

  • I completed a back translation of Matthew 20 v 1-16 from Ulster Scots to Modern English.
  • I learned about the Arop people of Papua New Guinea and how Wycliffe members John and Bonnie Nystrom faced challenges and tragedy alongside the Arop people to get to where they are now with the Bible translation project.
  • I learnt some idioms from different African languages and read an article that showed me that one small word can change many people’s lives. [Intrigued? Read about that one little word, in fact, the difference one little vowel made. Editor]
  • One of the biggest things that stood out for me that day is the huge need for sign language translations of the Bible.
  • I completed my research day by watching a video of the New Testament dedication in Kimyal, West Papua, which made me realise how much we can take the Bible for granted at times. [Click Kimyal to see the video for yourself. Editor]

On my final day, I met two Guest Bible Scholars who told me about the volunteer work that they do from home and how that helps projects overseas. It helped make sense of all I had been told previously as I saw things fitting into place. Finally I talked to Kenny about the work of the Uganda and Tanzania Branch and why projects are started in specific areas.

Paratext: screenshot of software used by Guest Bible Scholars volunteers

Paratext: screenshot of software used by Guest Bible Scholars volunteers

My time at Wycliffe was very informative and it has made me think about what I can do with languages in the future. I was challenged by the need to have the Bible in ALL languages and I will be telling people about the work of Wycliffe for many years to come.   Rebekah

A big thank you to Rebekah for writing her guest blog and allowing me to post it here.

If you are reading this and you live in Ireland, you can find out much more about Bible translation this coming Saturday 25 February at the Wycliffe First Steps event in Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church, Glengormley. Click on the link to register or phone Ricky on the Belfast office number 028 9073 5854

events-posters-a5-newtownabbey-fs

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