Bible translation isn't simply a matter of swapping out words. Sometimes words don't exist in another language.
Photos of Gordie and Isnei working on Hebrews.

Sometimes The Words Just Aren't There

Bible translation isn't simply a matter of swapping out words. Sometimes words or even concepts don't exist in another culture and language. That's what Gordie Hunt faced as he tried to put 2 Corinthians into the language of the Manjui people of Paraguay.

It's A Foreign Concept

How, for instance, do you translate "God of all comfort, who comforts us" from Chapter 1, in a culture where each person considers himself the center of his own universe?

“Why would I want to help anyone else to be happy, to feel good, when it’s all about me?" Gordie asked. "The idea of caring for and of helping another brother is foreign.”
After he prayed and asked others to pray, he and his Manjui co-workers decided that the answer was a little-used term: tika'peiliski – a person who feels mercy and helps others.

That Stinks

In Chapter 2, Paul speaks of "the fragrance of Christ," and later, of "the aroma of death" and "the aroma of life." Paul is talking about incense or perhaps perfume -- things the Manjui people have never encountered.

But after praying and asking others to pray with them, "we found that the illustration of a good odor wafting out wasn't a foreign idea at all.
"What would possibly come up in their imagination was the odor of cooking meat or the smell of flowers blooming, rather than perfume, but that is OK.”

You Did What? Where?

And then there's the letter "written in our hearts" in Chapter 3. The Manjuis "had never even seen paper until we came along,” wrote Gordie. So now they could understand what a letter is. But how do you explain a letter written on someone's insides?

It was necessary for Gordie to work closely with Manjuis, especially Sesa, his primary co-worker on translation, and to have a good understanding of not only the Manjui language, but their culture -- their worldview and their way of thinking.

But more importantly, prayer is vital to the humanly impossible task of clearly expressing God's message in another language. It's good to be reminded of our dependence on Him.
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Prayer points for this week

  • Monday: "During this month Rachel Chapman will be working on the translation of the book of Genesis. It is a labor-intensive process and she wants to have 500 verses completed before September. Pray that her helpers will come faithfully and that God will give her wisdom and energy for the task," writes Katie Moore, missionary to the Nahuatl people in Mexico. Read more ...
  • Tuesday: Missionaries Tim and Andrea Ullum, in the Asia-Pacific region, praise the Lord for the translation check of Genesis 1-10. An experienced translator from the USA came for four intense days of working with four village friends, making sure the translation Tim had done was accurate. They ask prayer that those four tribal co-workers would continue to think through the things they heard and be impacted for eternity. Read more ...
  • Wednesday: "A couple weeks ago I started rough drafting the book of Mark," wrote missionary Chris Hostetter, ministering to the Pal people of Papua New Guinea. "I started on a Friday, and though the weekend was quick to follow, I found myself not wanting to stop and break ... for the weekend." Please continue to pray for missionaries like Chris, that they will stay motivated to the task of translating. Read more ...
  • Thursday: "Great news for the Patpatar translation. Madonna [Yates] just completed another final check with the translation consultant of a portion of the Patpatar Old Testament. Now nearly three-quarters of the book of Genesis is finished and ready to be printed," wrote missionaries Aaron and Lori Luse in Papua New Guinea. Read more ...
  • Friday: "A translation team was formed and they invested many months ... learning our language and culture. In the process they became our dear friends. Then, just as the team was ready to start translation ... the husband of one family entered the presence of Jesus when he suffered a massive heart attack. He was only 36 years old. ... Now what will we do?" The Da'an church in the Asia-Pacific region ask prayers for Bible translators. Read more ...

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