Bible Translation Challenge: Part Two
In last week’s post I listed a dozen different situations under which Bible translators work. Each one has its own unique challenge. One challenge all Bible translators have in common, however, is to be supported spiritually, and financially by churches and friends on whose behalf they work at this ministry.
1) Decreasing Interest in Reading the Bible Among Churches and Individual Christians
A recent Angus Reid survey of Canadians shows that Christians of all traditions are reading the Bible much less compared to 18 years ago. Even evangelicals, who most strongly believe that the Bible is the Word of God, are studying the Bible less. Check out the illustrated report or download it from this site. http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/
It appears that churches and individual Christians, including Bible believing evangelicals, are less and less convinced of the reliability, relevance, trustworthiness and divine origin of the Bible. As a result, a smaller percentage of Christians are reading Bible, and even those who are reading God’s Word, are reading it less. If this trend continues it will no doubt have a negative impact worldwide Bible translation. After all, why would a Christian who rarely reads his own Bible, pray for and give money to far away Bible translation projects?
2) Ignorance of the Strategic and Critical Importance of Bible Translation
Many churches simply are not interested in learning about “yet another critical worldwide missions need.” They already have their own denominational mission agencies and are involved through prayer and giving in their own missions programs. They simply can’t fit yet another worthy ministry into their budget.
What such churches do not understand is that providing the Bible in every language spoken on earth is essential to fulfilling God’s plan for world evangelization. How else can Christ’s Church be made up of “some from every tribe and language and nation?” Revelation 7:9
3) Churches Are Happy with 97%: But God Wants 100%
Churches are happy to know that 97% of the world’s population speak languages in which at least some part of the Bible has been translated, or in which translators are currently working. Many churches look at the big picture and feel that 97% is a good “market share.”
They need to remember Jesus’ parable about the ninety-nine sheep safely in the sheepfold and the shepherd’s anxiety about the one lost sheep. Jesus is concerned about the 3% of the world’s people who are lost in cultural gullies, and tangled in linguistic thickets that keep them from hearing His saving Word.
4) Churches Have No Idea How Complex Bible Translation Is.
Pastors and church leaders, in general, have no idea how incredibly complex the Bible translation task is. Not only does it need to be translated into a language which is utterly different from English, Greek or Hebrew, but also into an exotic indigenous culture.
Pastors sometimes translate a passage from biblical Greek into modern English. In comparison to the challenges faced daily by the translators on the field, such an exercise is kindergarten stuff—mere child’s play.
5) Churches Don’t Realize Christianity is a Translated Religion
Most Christians, including pastors and church leaders, do not realize that Christianity is a “translated religion.” That is, historically the Christian faith has only ever spread successfully and healthily where the people had a translation of the Bible in their own language and culture.
In the first three centuries, the North African church flourished, producing great theologians such as Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine. But with the rise of Islam, the Christian Church disappeared completely. Historians tell us the main reason was that the North African Church never translated the Bible into the indigenous, Berber and Punic languages, and their cultures. Instead, Latin language and culture were taught to believers along with the Christian Faith.
In contrast, during that same time, in Egypt and Ethiopia, the Bible was translated into the Coptic and Ethiopian indigenous languages. As a result Christianity survived the rise of Islam.
The worldwide Church still needs to complete the Great Commission to evangelize the world. This can only be done through translating the Good News into every language spoken on earth. Over 1,900 to go.
The Biggest Challenge Translators Face
The biggest challenge facing Bible translators is, therefore, how to get, and keep, the Church in the homeland solidly behind them spiritually and financially.