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Archive for the ‘translation’ Category

On my last day of this short vacation, I wanted to post something about some viewing I’ve been doing recently. I’ve found that I can double up on time by listening/viewing material while getting ready for the day and doing other mundane household activities. I’ve been asked to speak on textual criticism at BI’s Asia Consultant Seminar in January 2019 and on the English version issue at a supporting church in eastern PA next summer, so I wanted to learn more about both issues.

Some of you may be familiar with Steven Anderson’s attack on BI (and on me personally) a few years ago. If you know nothing about this, then you are better off. In fact, if you have never heard of Steven Anderson, consider yourself blessed in your ignorance. Anderson seems to love stirring up controversy and is basically a conspiracy theorist when it comes to English versions. He attacked Dr. James White, a pastor and an apologist who has debated various KJVO advocates (and debated many others on various issues), in March 2014. Dr. White graciously agreed to allow Anderson to interview him in August 2014. It’s 2.5 hours long, so it’s a lot to wade through, but I found it quite revealing of Anderson’s thinking. Clearly, White exposed the irrationality and self-contradictory nature of Anderson’s thinking. But what was particularly instructive was when Anderson explained how he arrived at his KJV-only position (starting around 26:00 into the video). He basically had a subjective, feeling-oriented experience in which he “heard the voice of God” in the KJV. He didn’t hear God’s voice in any other version. Though he would deny that a person can get saved only through the KJV (in the attack on White in March, he said people of other languages need to read the Bible in their own language), it’s actually the only logical conclusion to his position. At numerous places, White tried to show Anderson the self-contradictory nature of his positions, but Anderson always found a way to slither out from under the intense scrutiny.

Another KJVO advocate is Gail Ripplinger. She has even stranger views about the KJV. I had heard of her and her book, New Age Bible Versions, but had never actually read the book or heard her speak. So, I listened to a 1993 debate between her and Dr. White, that R.C. Apologist posted on YouTube in 2015. Ripplinger’s view is even more dangerous than Anderson’s, because she claims to have received a “word from God” in which He gave her “acrostic algebra,” which is a means by which you can supposedly find hidden meaning behind various letter combinations. White exposes the many errors of Ripplinger’s views and book, including numerous egregious misrepresentations of many good men. Sadly, Dr. Kent Hovind actually defended Ripplinger after this debate. It’s amazing to hear Hovind and Ripplinger (through his reading of a letter she wrote) claiming that what they are experiencing is persecution for the sake of the Lord. Surely, the Lord is not in illogical, divisive views or any claims of new revelations!

Because I had been viewing these videos about the KJV debate, it pulled up a debate between Dr. White and Dr. D.A. Waite. I have to admit that Waite was probably the most moderate in his demeanor. However, he was also like Anderson and Ripplinger in refusing to be backed into a corner by logical argumentation. Instead of answering questions about conclusions to which his self-contradictory views took him, he would dodge them and spout out more of his views.

After that overdose of KJVO advocates, I decided to turn my attention to an actual study of the facts of textual criticism. Dr. Mark Ward, a good friend and a Faithlife writer, helped me know about some free lectures by Dr. Daniel Wallace at credohouse.org on textual criticism. Since I studied this information in my doctoral studies, I found much of it to be review, but it was good to be reminded of the facts and to learn many other things that I didn’t know. I’m not quite halfway through the lectures but have found Wallace’s presentation of the issue to be quite fascinating. Since Wallace has extensive personal experience with the NT manuscripts, being the executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, he has a unique insider perspective on the issues. While I don’t fully agree with Wallace’s view on a developing “canon consciousness” (in various places like 2 Pet. 3:16, Peter indicates his consciousness of actually writing Scriptures), I am finding his lectures to be extremely valuable.

Anyone familiar with the issues of textual criticism knows that even the KJV translators wrestled with textual variants, as one of Dr. Ward’s friend’s noted. I really appreciate Ward’s blog, because he’s a deep thinker, an engaging writer, and most importantly, a committed Christian. He’s trying to help Christians see the real issues behind the KJV issue. In fact, he wrote a book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, to help with the issue, and he has developed a website, KJVParallelBible.org, to show English speakers in Elizabethan English the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text, the latter being the basis for most modern versions of the NT. I highly recommend Dr. Ward and his works!

I also highly recommend Dr. James White. I found his kind, patient spirit toward the KJVO advocates to be quite commendable. His ministry is called Alpha & Omega Ministries. Though I haven’t read or listened to everything he’s put out there, I found what I’ve read or listened to so far to at least lead me to give a positive recommendation.

One interesting observation that I read on CAnswersTV‘s video description of the White-Waite debate is that the KJV-only position actually began among the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1930. A book was written then and then another by a different SDA guy in 1955. But it wasn’t until Rev. David Ottis Fuller, a Baptist pastor, wrote Which Bible? in 1970 that the position became popular among certain fundamental Baptists. Apparently, Fuller removed the SDA connnections and baptized it, so to speak, to make it more palatable for Baptists. I’ll have to do more study on that idea, because I had never heard of it. Fuller was quite a big name in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live. He helped establish children’s radio ministry and Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College, which is now Cornerstone University.

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When the summer began, the work was piling up faster than I could keep up. I wondered how in the world I’d have time to take a short vacation (4 days) here in Ukraine. I had to save all of my workshop preparation for this week. I hate procrastinating, but I had no choice. I knew it would be intense to spend almost all day every day checking the translation with the Greek for John 1-7, but I knew God would give grace.

What ended up happening is that almost every day as I did the work, I finished much quicker than I thought. In fact, these past two days, I finished with 3 hours still remaining in the day. Instead of jumping into the next chapter in the afternoon, I would set the work aside to catch up on emails and other projects. I actually got my urgent emails down to almost 0, and I took care of many other less urgent emails as well. I even made good progress on another lecture for the Bible translation course, after taking advantage of some quiet moments in travel from the US.

So, having come to the end of this week, I can feel good about setting work aside for 4 days to enjoy family and friends in Ukraine, before diving back into the work in a week. We’ve already been able to enjoy some nice evenings together, especially since the weather is absolutely beautiful. If you could only hear Eliyas’ excitement when the playground we are walking to is finally in sight, you’d also agree that he finds it quite enjoyable! (The picture below was actually just a quick moment between Sunday morning church services and Sunday lunch.)

2018.06.03--Ukraine

Praise God for how abundantly He answered prayer! And to top it all off, it was such a joy to read through John 1-7 in Greek. I love this statement from the officers of the Jewish leaders: “No one ever spoke like this man!” (Joh 7:46 ESV) Such statements almost brought tears to my eyes. What a glorious Lord!

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Though we are very thankful for “our Enola home,” we are excited about relocating our PA headquarters to Kittanning, where we’ll be through Mother’s Day weekend. We will be speaking in 5 more churches during this last week and a half of furlough ministry. We’ll also get to see individual supporters all along the way.

We are thankful for the very encouraging time we had at Community Baptist in Fleetwood and then at Calvary Baptist in York. Both churches were very encouraging and receptive to us. We’ve also enjoyed welcoming spring into this area. This past week was finally a week of consistently warm temperatures. We will definitely miss getting to take evening walks along the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg.

2018.05.01-HarrisburgPA

After doing a lot of reading about translation philosophy, I finally cranked out a rough draft of a lecture on it for the Bible translation course. Though scholarship is moving beyond functional equivalence (formerly called dynamic equivalence), this is still the prevalent philosophy in textbooks and the majority of the last translations. So, my lecture focuses on essentially a comparison of BI’s philosophy and functional equivalence. I really appreciated the critical analyses that are available to help me think through the issues, but probably my favorite analysis was done by Vern Poythress in Translating Truth. His article is called “Truth and Fullness of Meaning.” His main point is that functional equivalence has essentially reduced the translation process to a scientific process. This is evident even in the title of his first book, Toward a Science of Translation. He took the advances in linguistics, especially in regard to grammar studies (e.g., generative grammar by Noam Chomsky), and applied them to the task of Bible translation. The process he proposed is one of analysis, transfer, and restructuring, by means of kernel analysis and transformations, in order to produce the proper reader response to the resulting translation. As Poythress explains, this process is too reductionistic, even though Nida does give some explanation of the artistic aspects as well. Like Poythress, I am thankful for the analytical tools that Nida has provided in the theory he advanced, and I also recognize that Nida cannot be held responsible for those who have taken his theory further than he intended it to go. But I really appreciate Poythress helping me to see that translation is much more than a scientific process; it’s an art and a science. Also, the meaning of the biblical texts cannot be discovered simply by linguistic analysis. The transfer to other languages is much more than the transformation of underlying kernels into new forms in the target language. We also depend upon God’s Spirit to guide us, and we bow in humble recognition that some passages elude even our best efforts at trying to discover the meaning.

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On Friday a consultant submitted to me the Falam Chin Bible for final approval. This Bible is for the Falam Chin people who are in mainly in northern Myanmar, but whose diaspora is all over the globe. The translator, our new director for the Myanmar office, is an extremely hard worker (along with his team). He began his NT in 2002 and finished that in 2009. We quickly adopted the OT project in 2010, and he’s just about got it done. Only 15 years to translate an entire Bible! That may seem like a long time to you, but for those of us who do this work every day, that’s an incredibly fast pace. Our current average for finishing a NT is just under 15 years, and then just under 18 years for the OT. So, that would be an average of about 33 years to complete the Bible. In comparison, the Falam Chin Bible took less than half as long as our average. What an amazing feat that God enabled the Falam Chin translation team to accomplish. Praise God!

The prayer request, though, is that we would be able to complete funding, which has to be done before we can send it to the printer. We still need around $40,000. Pray that God would provide these remaining funds soon!

Last week I exchanged a number of emails with our Metanoia NT team and with linguistics consultants with another organization, and we had a Skype conversation or two. We are trying to figure out what letters to use for the velar and uvular sounds–e.g., like our English “k” and “q.” Metanoia has aspirated sounds and ejective sounds in this area of the mouth, and it can be quite difficult to tell the difference. As my wife was speaking in Russian to the translator, he was giving her examples of words with these sounds, and then she was trying to reproduce them for me to hear. Since Russian and Ukrainian don’t have the same exact sounds, it was almost impossible for me to hear a distinction. Needless to say, we need to wait until we see them in June to hear the sounds in person. Pray for us to have wisdom to know how to help them! We want to get this settled soon so that we don’t have to keep correcting the spelling of words in the NT translation. Pray also for wisdom for us in helping them decide whether to use words based on the language of a neighboring country (which most believers in their area know) or words based on their current country (which most unbelievers would know). That’s another issue we have to tackle in June.

Since I couldn’t go on any trips because of the possibility of a Pente research trip (which hasn’t happened yet) for the first three months of the year, I was stuck at home (which I loved!). That gave me the opportunity to get caught up on emails and projects. Some emails, which I call my “backburner” emails, went back to 2010. I had 62 of them waiting for me! But as of today, there are only 10 more! Of course, the craziness is going to get started up again on Friday, when we go on furlough for 2 months, and I don’t know when things will calm down again, though December looks pretty promising. May God give grace!

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We at BI praise the Lord that the BMM General Council ratified the new BI constitution yesterday. We haven’t had a constitution since 1981 when BI was created. Since then, there have been many complex discussions about how BI should best relate to its parent organization, Baptist Mid-Missions. The new BMM president, Dr. Vernon Rosenau, determined that we should be considered a ministry team, just like the other ministry teams at BMM (no longer called “fields” since some teams are not tied to any particular location). Then, it was a matter of writing a constitution. That process began almost a year ago, and now it’s finished. What a relief! What a blessing!

I’m also thankful for the 7 volunteers, whom the Lord has provided, to help us develop materials for our projects. It’s such a blessing to see how the Lord leads people to us to help with the work! Plus, on Sunday I met a Mexican lady who has a PhD in exegesis, is a professional writer, and has a heart for Bible translation. She can help me determine what Spanish terminology to use for our technical documents. And then today, an adjunct consultant in Asia, who said he couldn’t help this year, changed his mind and said he is available to help. We really need his experience to work alongside a new consultant in Myanmar, so I’m very thankful for his willingness to help!

So many blessings to be thankful for!

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2017 in Review

I’ve gotten in the habit of reviewing the past year at the beginning of a new year in order to remember God’s powerful working in my life. I did that in my devotional journal, and I want to share some of those highlights here.

  • The biggest highlight of last year was that my wife and I became parents of a cute little boy named Eliyas, born on May 19. Considering that we lost our first child after a month or so of pregnancy, the delivery of a healthy child was especially sweet to us. What joy he’s brought into our lives!

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  • This year I traveled less domestically and more internationally: Eurasia (2x), Ukraine (2x), India (2x), Myanmar, Bangladesh, Singapore, Canada, and Chad.
  • Eliyas’ first international trip was to Quebec in June-July, but his first international trip that required a passport was to Eurasia and Ukraine in Nov-Dec.
  • In Jan-Feb we went to Eurasia for a Metanoia NT workshop and then to Ukraine.
  • In March we visited supporting churches. I lost my voice in IN, so Oksana had to help me more at a missions conference in MD. I got my voice back just in time to go to Myanmar and Singapore.
  • In late March I was in Myanmar for the Asia Consultant Seminar, and I spent two weekends in Singapore, while going to India between the two weekends. I really wanted Oksana to join me for the trip, but it was too close to the delivery date.
  • The rest of April and May was spent getting ready for Eliyas. I led a Haitian Creole OT workshop at the office during the time of his birth.
  • In late June and throughout July we went to Quebec and then down to ME and MD.
  • In August I flew to WV for a Bible Faculty Summit, and then upon returning back home, we had our annual BI events: consultant seminar and retreat.
  • In September we were supposed to go to Charleston, SC, for a meeting, but Hurricane Irma prevented that, so we had a free weekend. We ended up treating my mom to a birthday trip to Shipshewana, IN.
  • In late September I flew to India, and I got to tour the Taj Mahal. Later I flew to Bangladesh to visit a supporting church, and then back to India.
  • In early October I had one of the happiest moments of my life–the dedication of the Inner Seraji NT. What a blessed event to be part of! They received the New Testament for the first time in their language!
  • Later a group of us spent a few days strategizing about how to get more projects and personnel in Asia.
  • In mid-October I got some Paratext training, which would be very useful for the training I would lead in December.
  • In early November we flew as a family for the first time, to Eurasia. After two weeks there we headed to Ukraine, so Eliyas could meet his family and our friends for the first time. He was dedicated there on Nov. 19.
  • After two weeks there I flew by myself to Chad, Africa, where I trained 5 translation teams on computers and Paratext.
  • Some major BI events during the year: a co-worker’s grand-daughter died and their parents didn’t seek medical help to prevent the death, sparking all sorts of legal battles; another co-worker died in August; and I headed up the committee to write a constitution for BI (still ongoing).
  • We started the year at 83% and finished the year at 100%. Praise God!
  • I spoke 41 times in 22 different churches in 7 countries. Only 6 were deputation meetings, and 8 were first-time opportunities.
  • I had a new year’s resolution to read 12 books, but I ended up reading 14:
    • Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp
    • Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron
    • Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 67.3
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 68.1
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 68.2
    • Fundamentalism and American Culture, George Marsden
    • Your Family God’s Way, Wayne Mack
    • Fidelity, Douglas Wilson
    • Fatal Illusions, Adam Blumer
    • Tenth Plague, Adam Blumer
    • Men of the Word, Nathan Busenitz, ed
    • New Heart, New Spirit, New Song, Doug Bachorik
    • Les Pers√©cutions au Tchad, Takia Nissi Yondo
  • I also resolved to memorize 12 verses, and I was able to do 13.
  • Another resolution was to witness to 12 people, and God led me to 13.

Praise God for all that He did in my life in 2017! I’m thankful for a sweet, godly, beautiful wife, and a cute, energetic son. God has been so gracious!

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My assignment in early December was to introduce our Chad translators to computers and show them how to use Paratext, a powerful Bible translation program developed by two other Bible societies. We were finally bringing these translators into the 21st century! Why didn’t we do it sooner? Two main reasons: 1) they didn’t have any electricity in their villages, 2) we didn’t have a translation software with a French interface to give them. The first problem was solved by the advent of solar power, and the second problem was solved when Paratext, which now has a French interface, began to be distributed for free. Thus, these translators, who had been using simple electronic keyboards, could now gain access to powerful resources that would improve the quality of their work and reduce the time needed to complete the translation (one of our NT’s has taken 4 years to get it ready for printing, but many of the errors being caught in this last stage could be identified automatically by Paratext).

As I prepared for this assignment, I grew to understand how little the translators knew about computers. I have been exposed to them and have been using them since the 90’s (or even before), but they probably haven’t seen them too much in their lives, nor have they hardly ever used them. I remember working with one team in 2013, using a new computer that our supporting church in Singapore, had provided. The translator moved the mouse as if it were stuck in molasses–very slowly. How could I not only introduce them to computers but also teach them how to use Paratext in only two weeks? And how would I be able to do so in French?

I quickly realized I needed to keep a database of computer terms in French. I ended up collecting 177 terms! In addition, I knew I needed to write a manual so that the translators could refer back to it after I left Chad. At first, I thought I could find something that had already been developed. A co-worker trained translators in Central African Republic, so I thought her material would fit my need. But as I reviewed it, I realized it wasn’t basic enough, and it didn’t fit my style of teaching. Also, it wasn’t as comprehensive as I wanted it to be. I asked a Paratext expert in another organization, who trained a group of us at BI in Paratext in September, and he sent over a set of manuals all translated into French. But as I reviewed that material, I realized it fit their organization’s translation process, but not ours. So, the conclusion was that I needed to write my own manual! That presented quite a burden for me!

But at that point I felt like I hardly knew Paratext well. I had been using it with two different projects, but I was only using the basic tools. Thankfully, a co-worker gave us some training in August, and then in God’s wonderful providence, He connected us to an expert, who lives basically just down the street from BI. We gathered 9-10 of us at the office so he could give us two days of advanced training. I still didn’t know some of the basic tools, but at least I was no longer intimidated by the program. By God’s grace, I put together a 40-page manual in French, with everything checked by a native French speaker (who so wonderfully made himself available to help me throughout the writing process). I also wrote 10 pages of material about basic computer skills. Thank God, He helped my prep time in Ukraine to be quite productive! I was ready to go to Chad!

I arrived in Chad on Nov 30, but Dec 1 was their independence day holiday. The complication there was that I had to register my arrival at the police station, but they were closed that Friday because of the holiday. We tried on Saturday but to no avail. I just had to be content with spending the weekend at the capital, and with the training starting one day late. I actually welcomed the opportunity to rest and to get a little more work done. When I talked on the phone to a co-worker (Anna Beth Wivell), who would help me with the training, it became apparent that I needed to write more material to add to the manual. She had experienced some serious challenges with a team, who had already started using Paratext, so I realized I needed to write material to help the other teams avoid the same challenges (thank God that one team went through these things first and not all 5 teams together!). So, I wrote 5 more pages, and got those checked by my friend in France. I sent it down to Anna Beth, and she got the manuals printed on Monday.

While in the capital that weekend, I got to meet three key individuals, so clearly God had other reasons to keep me up there. I met a language assessment specialist, who can help us find new projects. At church Sunday, I met a linguistics professor, and after church a group of us got to know a medical doctor who has a heart to revive the Tumag situation (this group has stalled in their OT translation work). I also got to preach to almost 700 people at that church, which has three of my former students from my Cameroon days as pastors. I’m also thankful that I got to see a fourth student too, and the son of a fifth student helped me greatly by taking me around to restaurants on his motorcycle (and loaned me his router for my stay in Chad).

We finally got to head south on the bus at 10:30 am on Monday. It was an arduous 16-hour bus ride. The bus is actually pretty comfortable, but spending that many hours bouncing down a deteriorating paved road while listening to Arabic music is not too much fun. Plus, they make only very brief stops, so we end up being hungry most of the trip (not common for Americans but quite common for Chadians).

I got a few hours of sleep that night, and then started into the training at 10 am the next morning. God gave strength to get through the whole day even without taking a nap, but that evening a sickness started setting in. I had very little appetite. By the next day¬† diarrhea started. I’m not sure if it was the food we ate at the church on Sunday, or what we had at the roadside cafe on Monday, or what I ate with the translators on Tuesday. But something got me! But thankfully, though it made me feel pretty miserable, it didn’t keep me from teaching each day. And since I had already done the prep work before the training, I could just focus on resting each evening (but also preparing a devotional each night for the next day).

2017.12 Paratext training (17)

There were 5 teams present–the team’s typist and a the main translator. The BI Chad administrator was also there to learn. The typist, as I said above, was familiar with the electronic keyboard they have been using, so that was helpful. But they weren’t using the French keyboard or the Chadian keyboard (which require special key mappings to go with the English keyboard on the computers). I wish the keyboard was in French! I also wish a co-worker had put the French version of Windows and other software on the computers. Somehow he misunderstood the situation in Chad, so on 4 of the computers, there was only English interfaces and programs. That was an unavoidable complexity that added to the challenge! (Sometime next year, they’ll get French programs to fix this problem.)

2017.12 Paratext training (9)

I’m thankful that the translators were ready with great interest! They were eager to enter into the 21st century! They showed no signs of frustration or despair, but they were quite slow in learning the tasks. There were 3 of us (Anna Beth and a translator who’s already been using Paratext) who would have to help each team step by step as I taught new tasks. But it seems that they were picking up on the training–I hope! And we finished in 8 days! They were quite thankful to be able to go home one day early, and I was glad to have one day to write my reports and to get caught up on work before my vacation started on the following Monday.

2017.12 Paratext training (1)

The translators are rarely able to gather into one room like that (the last time was in 2012 when they got additional translator training), so I hope the two weeks was an encouraging time for them. I tried to encourage them through the devotions each morning.

While I was there, the Lord also helped me through some administrative challenges involving sensitive personnel issues. I met with the administrative council of BI’s Chad affiliate the Saturday during my stay there, and we successfully worked through 4 challenging issues: redirecting one candidate for translation consultant toward literacy coordinator (a more urgent need), redirecting our considerations away from another man who is not qualified for the literacy coordinator position, thinking through complex issues regarding a second candidate for translation consultant, and charting out end goals for bringing our 5 OT projects to completion. Oh, and I may have found a good solution to our literacy needs in Central African Republic.

What a productive trip I had, even in spite of the sickness! Thankfully, the sickness went away by the second Tuesday, thanks to the help of a fellow missionary and her antibiotics. Praise God for strength, wisdom, and grace throughout the trip!

Back in Ukraine, my wife had her struggles with Eliyas, who doesn’t know how to sleep through the night. Plus, she couldn’t rely on others to help, since they had to work most days. So, she was almost totally occupied with baby duties–but since he brings her (and me) so much joy, she wasn’t struggling terribly. She shared some of her joys with me through texting, and once we were even able to talk on the phone through Skype. But otherwise, we had to limit our communication, since Internet in Chad is so expensive. But I got to see pictures of him, including his sitting on his own for the first time.

2017.12 Ukraine (7)

 

 

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