CONCORDIA, MO – The Bible is the number one best-selling book of all time. About 20 million are sold in the United States annually. Ninety percent of all U.S. households possess at least one Bible. It is not uncommon for a Christian family to own three or four or more Bibles.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the world. An estimated one billion people do not have access to an entire Bible in a language they can understand. About 165 million people do not even own a page or a single verse of Scripture.
One missionary working with Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) noted that many among these people “are willing to buy even a tattered, termite-damaged copy – if one can be found.” That’s why Bible translation is so important. There are places in the world where people are willing to die because they have a Bible. There are other places where people are desperate to have one.
Why does Bible translation work take so long?
When we comprehend how many people are still without access to a copy of the Bible in a language they understand, urgency may appear to be the most pressing objective.
While organizations like Lutheran Bible Translators deeply understand the urgency, the best translators are unwilling to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. The need for accuracy must take a preeminent position in the process.
The message of God’s Word cannot be compromised by a relaxed approach to the translation process. Like other reputable Bible translators, LBT painstakingly and patiently includes several rounds of examination to ensure that not only is the translation of the prior wording correct but also that the words in the new translation best convey the meaning and intent of the original.
What is the real goal of Bible translation?
The real goal of Bible translation is not urgency.
Evangelistic marketing is almost always designed to create a sense of urgency. A Lutheran Bible Translator reminds us that “our goal is impact, not production.”
People’s lives don’t change because they own a Bible. Nor do they change unless that Bible is translated into their native language.
People’s lives change when reading the Bible has an impact on their lives. Where people are illiterate, they must also be taught how to read their own language. That, too, is a component that must be coordinated with translation.
Translation work and literacy training must be continual in order to have maximum impact. For that reason, organizations like LBT collaborate with other like-minded agencies staffed by Christ-followers who will persist in all aspects of the discipleship process.
What’s the rush?
Lutheran Bible Translators put it this way.
Sometimes it’s tempting to hurry just to get finished. But the important work of Bible translation requires an investment of time sufficient to produce a relevant, accurate Bible that will speak to the hearts and minds of the language community for which it is intended.
The Kalanga people of Botswana tell a story about what happens when we try to rush things along.
One day all the animals went to the ‘painter’ to get their coats painted. This was a difficult job, and care needed to be taken to get the colors just right. All the animals were waiting patiently. However, when the hyena’s turn came, he saw cows going by. He was all excited and told the painter to hurry up because he needed to chase after the cows. The painter quickly applied the paint, and that’s why the hyena’s coat looks so bedraggled.
The Kalanga are thankful for Lutheran Bible Translators and their field partners because they were not presented with a “hyena translation.” They now possess a translation in the design best suited for them.
Learn more about Lutheran Bible Translators at their website.