Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and missions. Welcome to episode 24 of Missions on Point. In this episode, we're going to continue on the thought of Bible translation as an essential key to missions, particularly to pioneering missions in church planting. We've already seen how the Bible is essential to our understanding of God. It's God's objective revelation to us. It's how we know God and what he expects of us. Jesus says that we keep his commandments. That's how we know we are in Him, abiding in him.
Romans 10 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. Hebrews 12 tells us that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. We know that the word is what the Spirit uses to convict people of sin and judgment. We know that we are to obey Christ. That's part of how we know we are His and His words. The apostles used and referred to the word of God throughout the New Testament in their preaching, teaching, and writings. The word of God is just that foundational essential element that's needed for people to live and grow as Christians.
So we come to the word of God and we think about Bible translation with a high reverence for the integrity and sufficiency and inspiration of scripture. In the previous episode, we dealt a little bit with the importance and the statistical need for Bible translation around the world. In this episode, I want to talk a little bit about the problem issues that have arisen, particularly in recent years with regard to Bible translation. The concept of dynamic Bible translation and contextualization, particularly among historic Hindu and Muslim communities and their indigenous languages has created quite a rift among conservative Bible believing Christians in recent years. This can easily happen if the Bible translator does not have the same high regard for the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture from the beginning.
It's also possible, we have known some like this, Bible translators that were probably not actually biblical believers. They were doing the task from an intellectual and academic standpoint as a challenge. And it is that, but it is far more than that, but it is far more important than that. Without going into details about names and movements that have gone too far in error in Bible translation concerns, I'm going to focus on the Arlington Statement as a fresh new look and a corrective to some of the issues that have taken place. You can find this at arlingtonstatement.org. It's a great simple guide to helping your understanding.
It starts out like this. "We affirm that the 66 canonical books of the Bible, which were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, are the written word of God. As such, they are without error in the original manuscripts and infallible in all that they affirm." This beginning statement is incredibly important and creates the foundation for understanding the respect we have for the word of God, and it's inerrancy.
It goes on to point out that God has used languages to communicate his truth. It affirms that the original grammatical structures and semantic range of words and phrases were important to communicating what God wanted to communicate to men through the authors and cultures in which they were given. The Arlington Statement also affirms the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit as essential to understanding God's word correctly, so it really takes a regenerate heart to understand God's word.
God has also made the church the pillar and foundation of the truth. Therefore, God has given the church responsibility to ensure fidelity of the translation of his word. Both global and local expressions of the church have valuable relevant knowledge which is beneficial in producing faithful translations.
So here are some of the principles that are put forward in this statement that help correct some of the problems that have been experienced in recent years. First, translators should not translate in a way that explicitly or implicitly affirms the theology of other religions at the expense of the meaning, context, and theological implications of the original language texts. The first example of this is using some form of the Islamic profession of faith, "There is no God but Allah" used in Bible translation. Unfortunately, there have been translators not only doing this but encouraged to do this so that it might find an easier audience among the target Muslim people group.
The problem with adding or changing the translation to accommodate such language is that Muslims naturally call to mind the second half of that affirmation that has to do with Mohamed as the messenger of Allah. It carries with it a lot of loaded meaning from Islam that explicitly denies the Trinity and makes it difficult then to connect Jehovah, Yahweh, God of the Old Testament with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the teaching of the Trinity in the Bible.
The second principle is that Bible translations should not avoid confronting sin or falsehood that the original language texts confront, whether among believers or unbelievers. And the examples here are pretty simple. For instance, throughout the scripture is the concept of sacrifice, animal sacrifice, and then ultimately the one unique godman substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Hindus are offended by these references to killing of animals. To soften or remove such references in favor of acceptance among Hindus just isn't right. What you do is you explain it to the Hindu listener and explain it in terms that the Bible uses all the way from Genesis through to Revelation. Likewise, idle worship is condemned throughout the Bible. Hindus and others may take offense at those kind of references. You don't soften what the scripture says or change what the scripture says in order to accommodate that audience. You explain it to them in the right way, but if they're offended because of God's word and God's law, they're going to be offended.
The third principle has to do with retaining key terms in the Bible, connected with multiple passages and meanings together. For example, the Greek word kurios or Lord should not be translated differently based on whether or not the translator determines it refers to God the Father or God the Sun, and changing the way it's translated to refer to something that's more familiar to the Muslim or the Hindu culture or whatever culture they're trying to reach with the Bible translation.
One of those terms that has received a lot of press in recent controversies has been the term Son of God. Translators sometimes have been encouraged to use another term than Son of God, particularly because Muslim audiences take offense and reach wrong conclusions about what that means. It's true that it's a challenging concept for Muslims, but it's not impossible, otherwise we would never have Muslim background believers. There are a lot of connotations that are used through scripture with regard to the Son of God and references to this from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, but it also helps us understand adoption as children of God, and Abraham's offering up of his son Isaac, and the parable of the wicked tenants, and the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, and many other connections through scripture. You can't avoid the fact that scripture, as it is given, has some things that need to be correctly understood and explained to the hearers in order for them to get the right ideas.
Now, some of the organizations that have been involved in Bible translating that don't hold to these concepts have been challenged, in some degree, have backpedaled a bit on that. However, these concepts and practices still exist out there in the Bible translation world. And the Arlington Statement along with some really solid academic expertise has grouped together a bunch of signers to say, "No, no, no. We draw the line here. We want Bible translation to be actually Bible translation and not super imposition of other ideas on top of the scripture. The scripture is our judge, not we judging the scripture and changing it to suit our situation."
What does it take to be a Bible translator? Well, let's start at the beginning. It takes someone who has a great respect and reverence for the word of God. Someone that makes the Bible an essential part of their daily life. Someone that loves God's word. And that person has to have the right kind of gifting and academic inclination to work hard in the study of languages, language acquisition, grammar, language structure, and those kinds of things. Usually it takes a master's degree to be a Bible translator.
Then it takes a solid commitment to the target people that the Bible is going to be translated for. If the translation is a dialect adaptation, it can be done more quickly than a full translation that is unrelated to languages that have already had translations completed. It's the difference between using one translation as a stepping stone to a related language translation versus a true pioneering work in a language that has never been studied before. The translator is going to take years to learn the language, learn the culture that the language resides in so that he can understand some of the nuances of the grammar and larger structure.
Certainly has to have familiarity with the tools of language translation, which includes some pretty sophisticated software nowadays, both written and digital record keeping, that kind of thing. It's very possible that the Bible translator would have to construct a legitimate alphabet for that group. Which kinds of symbols and terms they use for expressing that language has a lot to do with wise decisions in translation.
Getting first language speakers as language helpers and translation assistants is essential in the process, whether that is just a few or a larger committee or team. Of course, our desire is to see a body of believers arise out of the Bible translation process that will be users of the Bible translation, even as it is being constructed before it gets finished and printed. We really would love to see groups of churches of that language meeting together regularly using God's word, then receiving the dedicated completed New Testament to use it more thoroughly and more regularly, then expand the gospel witness through the use of the Bible to their whole language group and see other churches rise up as well.
This is our prayer and our appeal, that sound Bible believing, Bible loving churches would raise up Bible translators to go ahead of or along with church planters to see local churches planted, developed, grown. Have biblically qualified leaders leading those churches and those churches multiplying to reach their entire people group with the gospel for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Would you please pray that way with me? Lord, please raise up Bible translators who love you with all their heart, who love and honor your word and are willing to risk everything to see your word delivered in faithfulness, integrity, to people that have never had the Bible in their language. May you raise up believers and local churches among those groups for your glory. We know this is your will. It is certainly the intent of the Great Commission. We're asking you to do it for your glory. Thrust out workers into the harvest field. In Jesus' name, amen.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com.
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