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World News

Bible translator says new approach ‘takes a fraction of the time’ to access the scriptures

by Premier Journalist

Bible translation charity unfoldingWord says a new approach to making the scriptures available to more people groups is quickening the pace of translation.

“It’s been my dream to see people receive God’s word in their heart languages more quickly – and thanks to an innovative new approach to translation, it’s finally happening," says Eric Steggerda, Field Operations Director at unfoldingWord.

Citing the story of Chad, where Christian translation charity ‘SIL’, completed the full Bible in Chadian Arabic after 25 years of work and delivered 21,000 copies in 2021 through partner, MAF, Mr Steggerda says  2 million Chadians still have no access to the Bible, as their heart language is different.

During a recent trip to Chad, Eric Steggerda says he worked to implement a new paradigm of Bible translation called ‘Church-Centric Bible Translation’, which resourced Chad nationals to translate 50 Bible stories into ten minority languages.

“I’m witness to the transformation currently taking place, as Muslims and Christians come together to embark on this translation journey," he wrote. He said it is “a journey which takes a fraction of the time in comparison to traditional approaches.”

Explaining how the system works to Premier Christian News, bible translator with SIL David Gray commented:

“The idea of this is that you recruit people from a church and get them working fairly quickly on producing a first draft of translation, which is then printed out just simply on computers, double spaced so that people can then go along and make edits."

“But it means that they have access to the Bible in their language fairly quickly. Because there are so many people working on it at once.”

With 30 years of experience in Bible translation, David Gray said ‘Church-Centric Bible Translation’ wasn’t the whole answer:

“Of course, it has to be checked against the original manuscripts, so Hebrew and Greek. And so usually, they would call in a consultant, the consultant would usually be trained by our organisation or by United Bible Societies.”

He also explained that software solutions might also speed up translations, but human expertise is still required:

“It's quite exciting what's going on. But you always end up with a draft that is, say, about 80% accurate, and it's always the last 20% or so that takes the time. So how much time you save is a moot point”, he continued.

According to unfoldingWord, Bible translation is currently happening in nearly 300 languages in almost 160 countries.

In 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization produced the Cape Town Commitment which included an aim to “eradicate Bible poverty.” It also pledged to “hasten the translation of the Bible into the languages of peoples who do not yet have any portion of God’s Word.”


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