Thursday, August 12, 2021

Translating the Bible without writing anything

 "We are hoping to translate the Bible into 1000 languages worldwide."  

We sat in a circle under the mango trees behind the SIL office.  If I hadn't already heard about this vision,  my jaw would have dropped.  One thousand languages in just four years?  I knew seventy to one hundred of those were supposed to be in Nigeria.  Starting seven new Bible translation projects would be crazy in this time frame, but seventy?  It seemed impossible.

They shared a little more of their plan with us.  These translations would not be written down.  The whole process would be done orally, with audio recordings of drafts and audio recordings for consultant reviews, and audio recordings for community checking all the way up to the final professional audio recordings of the translated Scripture.  This removes the need for developing and finalizing a good alphabet before getting started.

It is not a new idea.  I have been hearing about Oral Bible Translation (OBT) for several years now.  What is new is that in the last four months, I have had three or four different new organizations contact me saying they want to start OBT in Nigeria and want to know which languages they should work with.  With over two hundred languages still left, new ideas, approached with care, are certainly welcome.

I was grateful for the others gathered around the circle representing six different organizations.  Seasoned Bible Translation partners asked critical questions in a respectful way.  Individuals introduced each other with honor, even though we were as different as could be: our organization so focused on detailed academic care of handling languages and the Bible, their organization willing to do anything (yes, pretty much anything) that would glorify God and advance his purposes.  It felt like a little picture of heaven for a moment, with each part of the body doing what they do best.  Thank God with us and pray for even better partnership!


The mango trees behind our office.  A beautiful place to meet, pray and celebrate! Photo credit: Jay Abai.

Translating the Bible without writing anything

 "We are hoping to translate the Bible into 1000 languages worldwide."   We sat in a circle under the mango trees behind the SIL o...