Leviticus may seem like an odd Bible book to use in evangelism. But not in West Africa, where in April 2005 the first ten chapters were read to the Lobia people of subsistence farmers, animistic mask-makers, and poison-arrow warriors in Burkina Fasoin their own language.
Many in the listening crowd were struck by the similarities between the sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus and those of the Lobi religion. This infuriated the son of a Lobi priest, who forbade the reading to continue, because it is taboo to speak of Lobi religious practices in public. But another listener shouted, "Well, it means that we, too, are descendants of this High Priest. Aren't we?"
Such comments gave the Lobi translators an open door to share the gospel. They also validated the growing trend among Bible translators to bring the Old Testament to more of the world's nearly 7,000 language groups.
Something was Missing
Doming Lucasi, a native Balangao translator from the rice-terraced slopes of the northern Philippines, worked on the New Testament as a young man. He has now launched an OT translation project. In a culture that contains similarities to the Old Testament's sacrificial and legal systems, he said, "Having the New Testament without the Old is like having a sword without the handle."
The Old and New Testaments, separated by a chronological gap of about 400 years, have in modern times also developed a translation gap. Of the 2,400 language groups with portions of the Bible, roughly 1,115 have the New Testament. Only 426 have a full Bible, including the Old Testament.
Christians have long upheld the value and interconnectedness of both testaments, at least since Marcion's denial of the Hebrew Scriptures was rejected as heresy in the second ...