Scripture revision is a heavy burden with many perils

Whenever one hears of translating the Bible, almost inevitably he thinks of strange words, complicated grammars, queer orthographies, unusual symbols, and exotic idioms. All these are, of course, integral aspects of translating the Word of God. Already in the history of Christendom, at least some portions of the Word of God have been rendered into 1,232 languages, with 236 languages having the entire Bible and 289 others the New Testament. In fact, the Scriptures exist in the languages of at least 97 per cent of the world’s population. Yet the task is far from over, for not only are revisions required in many of these languages but the 3 per cent who as yet have nothing of the Bible in their mother tongue represent more than 1,000 significantly different languages and dialects.

Nevertheless, merely translating the Bible into words is not enough. If the Bible is to be truly the Word of life for people, it must be translated into life. The words must speak to life because they come right out of the people’s lives; they must be “living words.”

Some translators have erroneously thought that they could revise a language and make it significant by looking back into its history and exploiting the rich treasures of archaic language. This is precisely what one translator did in South America; after poring over old seventeenth-century dictionaries, he attempted to enrich his translation with what were really nothing but dead words. As a result, people could not understand the message. Other translators in an attempt to “purify” the language have thought that their translations would be more effective if only they could rid the language of so-called corruptions of borrowing. This is ...

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