Archive for December, 2012

Every other day or so I get a little more material to work through in preparation for the upcoming workshops in India and Papua New Guinea. For the Kaulong project (PNG) the translator’s wife (she and he are both in California dealing with family matters) has to prepare the back-translation, so she’s trying to pump them out as she has time between family obligations. So far I have received about half of the material. I ran out of Kaulong material on Friday, so I jumped over to the Simte material (India). It was a little slower going in that, maybe mostly because I was in Zephaniah, and not Paul’s familiar epistles. I finished Zephaniah Sat, so I had nothing else to do, until the Kaulong of 1 Timothy came last night. I got through the first 2 chapters today and plan on picking up with chapter 3 on Thursday. I want to enjoy one more day of vacation (besides the three I took last week) before I hit a very busy stretch that begins on Thursday. On Wed I’ll be driving back up to snowy Michigan, so I’d appreciate your prayers for safety in travel and for good fellowship with the Lord.

As I was working through the Kaulong translation of 1 Timothy, I was finally able to understand better what Paul meant in 1:12-13:

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,
13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; (NAU)

I always wondered if Paul truly meant that God put him into the ministry because of his faithfulness. How can his faithfulness be the reason for God’s choosing of him for the ministry? I also wondered if Paul was truly excused and worthy of receiving mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief. Aren’t all sinners acting in ignorance and unbelief? Well, after studying these verses more in-depth, I finally realized what Paul meant. It dawned on me that Paul is talking about God’s perspective on him before his conversion, so clearly Paul didn’t demonstrate faithfulness, thereby earning God’s choosing of him. It was God’s strengthening of Paul that made him faithful, and God’s knowing that He would do that led Him to choose Paul for his strategic ministry.

Also, when Paul speaks of “ignorance”, he is alluding back to the distinction made in the OT between sins of the “high hand” and sins of “ignorance.” Paul wasn’t sinning in defiance against God, as a hardened rebel. In fact, he thought he was serving God by his persecution of the church. So, Paul was saying that his sinning was not in defiance but was “in ignorance.”

As far as figuring out what 1 Tim. 2:15 means, I’m still puzzled about that one. But, it is interesting to note that the antecedent of the “they” in “if they continue” has only one grammatical possibility in Greek: the implied subject of “they shall be saved”–i.e., women. I suppose you could make the argument that there’s a semantic antecedent: “children” in the phrase “the bearing of children” (the Greek word behind this phase is only one compound word). But I prefer to think that those who should continue in faith, love, and sanctity with self-restraint are mothers, not their children, if the mothers hope to experience the deliverance promised in this verse. It sure fits the grammar better!

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I’m thankful the Lord kept me safe as I traveled down to Greenville, SC, on Wed. I’m also thanking the Lord that my trip occurred on Wed, not Thurs. Otherwise, I might have had a tougher time with the weather. But Wed’s trip was rather uneventful! It took me over 13 hours, but it was much easier than the 13-hour trip I took on a public bus in Chad, Africa, in early November!

When Craig Throop, the translator of the Kaulong NT, was in the office a week ago, we planned out what still needs to be checked in the Kaulong NT during the workshops in early 2013. I will need to work through 65 chapters of the NT. We will cover Rom. 9-16, 2 Cor, Phil, Col, 1 & 2 Tim, Phm, Jas, 1 Jo, 2 Jo, 3 Jo, and Heb. My co-worker will do Eph, 1 & 2 Pet, and Jude, and he will do the “quality checks” to get the NT ready for printing. So far, I have worked through Rom. 9-16 and 2 Cor. 1-10 in my preparations. 18 chapters done, and 47 more to go! Needless to say, my Christmas break won’t be extremely restful! But I do look forward to setting aside some time to enjoy family and to reflect on the wonder of the Son of God adding humanity to Himself. Recently preachers have focused my thoughts on how the cross overshadows the manger, in that you cannot think about the birth of Christ without also considering the reason why He came to this earth–born to die! Born to save His people from their sins! What wondrous love!

I don’t often put pictures in my blog posts (most people would probably want one per post), so I’ll add one here while I’m thinking of it. This is what I’ll be doing a lot of when I go to the East–sitting in front of a computer checking a translation with a translation team. In this picture, I’m at the translation office with Ken Beckley, one of the missionary coordinators for the Dendi project in Benin. The two translators are at another table to my left.


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As I mentioned in an earlier post, my trip to the East will have me working with the Simte OT (India), Kaulong NT (PNG), Tok Pisin NT (PNG), and Tedim Chin OT (Myanmar). Working with 4 different language groups means lots of preparation work for me. I’m thankful that all four workshops will be in English, so I won’t have the language barrier to deal with. But I have the challenge of having worked with only one of these (Simte). And I have the challenge of working with the first three back-to-back essentially–i.e., no weeks in between to do more preparations. The week before my Myanmar visit, I’ll spend a week in Singapore, so that will give me time to prepare for that mini workshop (3 days). But even though I can set that one aside for now, I can’t set aside the other three. The work with the Tok Pisin will be mostly translator training, but I’ll also be evaluating the current Tok Pisin translations to gather objective data as to why the translations are not sufficient.

Our missionary couple from PNG was actually at the office this week (and at my house Wed night), so we already began an evaluation of the current Tok Pisin translations. One egregious error is in Luke 1:47 where Mary exclaims, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” This is an excellent verse when dealing with Catholics who worship Mary. Well, you can’t get any help from the Tok Pisins in PNG on this point. One translation calls God her “Helper” (they have a more soteriological word, and they use that for “Savior” in other occurrences of the same word), and the other translation says “Peman,” which the dictionary defines as “the one who pays the workers.” There are other passages that have weaknesses, but this one is surely top on the list.

That missionary couple in PNG, Craig & Linda Throop, have a good bit of linguistics training, so the “back-translation” (English translation of the vernacular translation) is quite technical. It’s also quite complicated, apparently because of the complexity of Kaulong. Here’s how the back-translation of 2 Cor. 1:22 reads in English:

“who give show-thing of his himself down on us-INCL, that non-human 3P give Spirit Holy-NOMZ down be in us-INCL like show-thing a which show eye our-INCL that 3P Non-Human IRREALIS be give things which some that again up to us-INCL after.”

Compare this with the New American Standard rendering of this verse:

“who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.”

Can you make heads or tails from the Kaulong back-translation? I’m having a hard time too! I don’t see the key theological words “seal” and “gaurantee”, so I’ll have to ask about that. I’m sure it’s there in some sort of phrasal way, but I can’t find it. I wouldn’t expect the Kaulong people to have such a technical word in their vocabulary already, so the missionaries had to write it in some sort of explanatory phrase (notice how much longer the back-translation is than the NASB rendering!). The back-translations we receive (usually in the form of interlinears) are usually quite complicated to work through, but this Kaulong one has been the hardest yet!

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A deficient view of love

I’ve been asked a few times at churches if I’ve ever run into a situation where a language group has a deficient view of love. Apparently, that type of situation really sticks in people’s minds when they hear a translator speak of it, so they wonder if it occurs very often. Well, I can now say that I’ve now had my experience with that type of situation. The Sara Madjingaye, the language group I worked with in Chad, seems to have a deficient view of love. We came across it when we were translating this verse:

“Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (1Ki 10:9 NKJ)

The verse states that God loved Israel forever. As we know from Israel’s history, though, there was a time when God cast off His people because of their sins. Because of this disturbance in the relationship, the Sara Madjingaye thought that God’s love had ceased for a time. Therefore, when they had to find a word for “forever”, they used an expression that means “days days”, not the expression that means “always always” (they apparently always duplicate the word in these expressions). The former speaks of a long time but not forever. The latter is forever. Their concept of love is that the person doing loving is always showering the person loved with gifts. If that ever ceases to happen, then that means that the love has ceased. Therefore, they couldn’t accept that God loved Israel forever since there was this disturbance in the relationship.

The other consultant and I explained that it was precisely because of God’s love that He cast them off for a time. Many verses speak of God’s never-ending love for Israel, His people. He is a complex being and can “hate” His people, all the while loving them as well. One of the translators actually seemed to understand that but was more concerned about what Hebrew word was used. The Hebrew word can indeed have the idea of “a long time” but not “forever” (e.g., Deut. 15:17). But the theological concept of God’s love for Israel, taught in various passages, supports taking the Hebrew word here as truly “forever.”

The hymn “Loved with Everlasting Love” is drawn from Jeremiah 31:3. In that verse God assures Israel that they will return after the exile, the time in which God cast them aside, and they will enjoy God’s blessing once again on their own land. They will be prosperous in the future precisely because God’s love for them is forever!

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I didn’t take the opportunity to share anything about my experience with the Sara Madjingaye language in Chad when I worked with them in October. I really don’t have time to delve into my consultant notes to expand on various items, but I can share a few that come to mind right now. I found out that their word for “wisdom” literally means “eyes of an elephant.” Apparently, the elephant is the symbol of wisdom in their culture. The owl definitely isn’t! They dislike greatly the owl. In fact, they think that owls hang around households in order to inflict curses upon people. The translators would be very pleased if we gathered up all owls and brought them to the US, where they are considered symbols of wisdom.

I had difficulty figuring out with the translators how to speak of the multi-storied side rooms for Solomon’s Temple, because the Sara Madjingaye houses are always one story. How do you speak of a second story or stairs going up to that second story? They didn’t have a word for “stairs”, and their word for “ladder” definitely didn’t work (they have that concept since hunters sometimes have to climb a tree to get into their stand). A ladder is not a stairway! We ended up having to speak of one house being built upon another (their word for “house” is the same as the word for “room”) and of a long thing that takes you up.

In the Dendi language in Bénin, they said that the word for “wisdom” contains the idea that the possessor of that wisdom is also over 40. I’m glad I finally achieved the status of being wise when I turned 40 in May! They do have a way to speak of a younger person having wisdom, but that takes a few extra words. I didn’t ask how they describe a person who is over 40 but doesn’t have wisdom. Why would I need to know that bit of information anyway?!

Christmas, of course, is on the horizon. I look forward to spending the last few weeks of the year with family in South Carolina. But just around the corner is a very long trip to the eastern hemisphere. I’ll be going to India, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and Myanmar. I will be gone for around 2.5 months! In India I’ll lead a consultant seminar and do a short workshop on the Simte OT. In PNG I’ll do a 3-week workshop to help complete the Kaulong NT. Then I’ll fly to Goroka to lead a translator training session with around 30 national pastors. I’m passing through Singapore to refuel and discuss my supporting church’s plans to take a missions trip to India later in 2013. In Myanmar I’ll finish the evaluation process of a potential national translation consultant and meet with a few adjunct consultants. I also plan on doing a mini workshop with a language group.

Do you still wonder what I have to do to fill my time these days? I doubt that’s a question in your mind anymore after reading this post. I definitely need your prayers!

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