Archive for February, 2014

The Lord gave me an encouraging time at Bethel Baptist Church in Schaumburg, IL, this past weekend. It was fun to hang out with the singles SS class for the weekend. It was also a blessing to see my friends there, both old and new.

I have one more week to finish up preparations for my trip to Africa, that begins on Saturday. The preparations have been going well, so things seem to be falling into place smoothly. My trip will take me first to Mali (via France) where I will meet up with the Songhai NT team to work through 1 and 2 Peter and Revelation. Then I will travel with the missionary coordinator overseeing this project to Niger where I will probably meet up with people interested in a revision to our Zarma Bible. After just a day or two there, I will continue on to Benin where I will meet with the Dendi  OT team to work through Esther, Jonah, and Obadiah. I’ve been home for 6 weeks straight, and I’m ready to hit the road again!

I’m basically finished with Moisés Silva’s Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics. Even though he wrote this in 1983, it’s still a very valuable work on how to think through various issues concerning how to define words correctly. Here are his suggestions for “determining meaning and the proper English equivalents of specific words in specifics contexts” (pp. 176-177):

  1. First, the student should determine, insofar as this is possible, to what extent the term is or is not referential.
  2. Using standard lexicons, determine the attested semantic range of the term, paying special attention to the distinction between acceptations and translation equivalents.
  3. Consider the paradigmatic relations of the term. (synonyms, antonymns, etc.)
  4. Consider the synagmatic combination and broader contextual levels in which the term is found. (moving from smaller contextual circles to larger ones, with a preference for the former)
  5. Consider the historical (diachronic) dimension.
  6. A final decision should focus on the consciousness and intention of the writer.

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It is extremely difficult to estimate the level of illiteracy in the world. UNESCO asserts that around half the world is illiterate. But their method of determining this has certain weaknesses (which are hard to avoid because of the political, logistic, and linguistic complexities involved). I’ve read that the number may be as high as 70%. Even the USA’s illiteracy rate seems to be increasing, based on my own unscientific study. My cell phone bill now comes as a “video bill”, and video and other image media are pervading our culture in other ways as well. Due to the significant levels of illiteracy, it is imperative that Bible societies take that into account as we try to get God’s Word into people’s hands so that it might get into their hearts.

Agencies like Faith Comes By Hearing have already been well-informed about this situation and have been working hard to overcome it. They are even trying innovative ways to overcome the barrier of illiteracy in the translation process itself. They have developed an oral process in which the translators listen to an audio version of the source text and then produce their own translation by recording it orally. In the end only audio Scriptures exist in that language. Quite innovative, but I’m not comfortable with going that route, because I strongly believe in the importance of the written text. God has given us a book, and He intends for it to be distributed by means of a book!

However, clearly many will live and die without ever learning how to read. We must help them! FCBH has throughout their history been producing audio Scriptures, and we at BI hope to use them even more to help us get our translations into audio form. FCBH typically sends a recording team to the country of the translation and works with the people to produce audio Scriptures. They have recently developed a means of “virtual recording,” by which all the work can take place through the internet. The speakers of the language record themselves on their computer and upload it to the FCBH site for review. FCBH personnel review it and work with the speakers to eventually produce audio Scriptures. Fascinating!

This emphasis on oral means as a way to reach illiterate people has opened the door for innovative thinking, much of which is quite good, but some of which are concerning. The Bible society world has been reevaluating how our task should be done and have even rethought how the original texts were given. Usually there is a strong emphasis on functional equivalent translations. There may also be a desire to go beyond the divinely ordained task of the translator–to preserve the biblical text in the target language. Thus, we can applaud some of the developments on this issue, but we should also be wary of some of the ideas. But in general, we can praise the Lord for moving in powerful ways to get God’s Word into more and more hands–or should I say, into their ears!

On a personal note, I look forward to going to Bethel Baptist Church in Schaumburg, IL, next weekend to spend time with their Singles Sunday School class, a class that has adopted me as one of their missionaries.

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Esther 7:3

Now that I’m going through Esther for the Dendi workshop in Benin, I am finally understanding what Esther 7:3 means. It’s by reading the French translations that the meaning became clear to me. Here are how the English translations that I am familiar with it translate this verse:

(KJV) Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:

(NKJ) Then Queen Esther answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request.

(NAU) Then Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request;

(ESV) Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request.

For some reason the meaning of Esther’s words wasn’t apparent to me by these translations. But when I read the French, I saw what Esther was saying, and then I also saw what the English versions were saying. Here are some French versions:

(LSG) La reine Esther répondit: Si j’ai trouvé grâce à tes yeux, ô roi, et si le roi le trouve bon, accorde -moi la vie, voilà ma demande, et sauve mon peuple, voilà mon désir !

(COL) La reine Esther répondit : Si j’ai obtenu ta faveur, ô roi, et s’il plaît au roi, voici ma demande : avoir la vie sauve ; voici ma requête : (la vie) de mon peuple.

(TOB) En réponse Esther, la reine, déclara: «Si j’ai rencontré ta bienveillance, ô roi, et s’il plaît au roi, que me soient accordées ma propre vie, telle est ma demande – et celle de mon peuple, telle est ma requête.

The last one gives a good way of punctuating this complex sentence. In English, it reads, “May my own life be given to me, such is my petition– and that of my people, such is my request” (the Hebrew text has just “–my people, by my request”). The section keeps repeating “petition” and “request” (5:6,7,8; 7:2), so Esther uses those words once again, linking “my life” up with the first and “that of my people” in the second. Her words are succinct but get right to the point: she wants her life and the lives of her people to be saved!

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In October 2013, I and a few co-workers were able to attend the Bible Translation conference in Dallas, TX. The plenary speaker, Lourens de Vries, was at one time a missionary Bible translator in Indonesia before becoming the chair of the linguistics department at the Free University of Amsterdam. In Indonesia, he worked among the Korowai people in Kombai.

He noted that when he first arrived, the people had no universal term for “humans.” Instead, they segregated people (in their very limited scope of existence) into three types: persons, demons, and witches. The word for persons was “yanop” and applied only to the Korowai people (and presumably other dark-skinned people who looked like them). White people were identified with the “demon” word, because we resembled the demons who the Korowai saw haunting people at night. These night visitors had putrified, whitish flesh falling off their bones. When the white missionaries arrived, they seemed to resemble those demons. How flattering! And if you weren’t in these two categories, then you must be a witch, someone who helped chase away the demons.

It wasn’t until the gospel began to do a work that people’s thinking was transformed (which is what always happens when the gospel powerfully enters hearts!). The people’s thinking began to adjust to the Scripture’s understanding of humankind. No longer were only the Korowai “yanop,” but now the foreigners were too. Of course, this paved the way for Bible translation, making it much easier to translate verses that speak of God’s love for all people and of Christ’s death to make provision for everyone’s salvation. De Vries commented on the importance of church planting making Bible translation much easier. This is not the ministry philosophy that other organizations always follow, but it is the one that Bibles International always adheres to. Either church planting work must precede our Bible translation work, or it must go alongside it.

On another note, Ken Ham will be debating Bill Nye “the Science Guy” this evening. Live streaming can be found here: http://debatelive.org/. Though I doubt Dr. Ham will change Dr. Nye’s thinking or cause the deception of evolution to crumble, this debate may cause believers and unbelievers to question the premises of evolution and be pointed to the truths of Scripture regarding God’s creation. Evolution has a strong hold upon the minds of the majority of people, and it’s presence is even evident among believers who incorrectly hold to theistic evolution. Let’s pray for God to exalt Truth this evening!

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