Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Hello. Welcome to episode 23 of Missions on Point. I want to take two episodes and talk about the importance of Bible translation. Bible translation is essential to our understanding of God through his word, and it's a very important part of the whole process of church planting and evangelism. Let's face it, the Bible is how we know God and know what he expects of us. It is our singular final authority for all things in faith and practice. It is sufficient for our life and godliness. It is living and powerful. The Bible is our source of truth for the church, for Christian living, for dealing with sin, for fellowship, and for our joy in the Savior, for now and for the future, until Jesus comes again.

Every non-believer needs to come in contact with proclamation of the gospel as explained in the scriptures. Every Christian needs the scriptures to grow in grace. We need to read it, to hear it, to study it, to meditate on it, in order to grow in our Christian life. While there is appropriate growing concern for morality in many people groups who are basically an oral culture, that doesn't mean that we should deny them the needed access to scriptures written in their language in order to grow and mature in their Christian life. Storytelling through morality may be one of the greatest ways to introduce an oral culture to Jesus Christ and the gospel. However, for their long-term spiritual benefit in the formation of the church, they need to be able to read and study the scripture in their own heart language in order for it to really stick and be indigenous through multiple generations. Ultimately, some people in the target culture need to be able to read, presumably that would be church leaders, so that they can read it to those who are not able to read. And because we believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture, we need to treat it with great respect and make sure that we have high integrity in the translation and it conveys accurately what God intended.

Now, we're not going to have time to go in depth in bibliology; that is, the study of the doctrine of the Bible. However, I do want to spend some time talking about Bible translation in particular. There are hundreds of stories documented in periodicals, in journals, in books, and in videos about the joy that a people group has when they receive the printed word of God, usually the New Testament in their heart language. Most of those groups grew up in multi-generations as an oral culture, not even understanding that their language could be written down into a readable form. So to have the Bible, at least the New Testament, in their own language is such a joyful thing. It is a point of great pride to know that God speaks their language, as it were. Hearing and reading God's word in their own heart language has an immense impact and transformative effect on the people who receive it in their hands.

Just imagine how much content frames our lives and traditions because of the truths, the wisdom, the grace, the stories, the illusions, the law that is found in the Bible that is traced back through our traditions for hundreds and hundreds of years. Now, think of a culture receiving this Bible, the word of God in their own heart language for the first time and reading with such eagerness the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and God's plans for man, and how a person can come into right relationship with a loving, holy, just, gracious, almighty creator God. So we really must begin in our consideration trying to talk a little bit about what translations are out there and what does the translation need around the world.

According to the most recent statistics that I can dig up, there are 704 languages that have the complete Bible. There's 1500 plus New Testaments in the language of those people, and there's about another 1100 more languages that have at least some portion of scripture in their language. So that's a total of 3,400 languages with some scripture in it. There are approximately 7.8 billion people on our planet, comprising almost 7,400 language groups around the world. Do you realize that we have 450 English translations and yet there are almost 4,000 languages in the world with no scripture? Some of those have languages that have some work in progress in translation, but over 3,000 language groups are either too small to have a translation of their own or have not had enough preparatory work to even begin a translation. Most of those have no active program in place to have a translation in the first language of those people.

It's so sad, and spiritually a desperate situation to have people live out their whole lives without ever hearing or being able to read or come in contact with the Bible in their own language. We need workers who will train to be solid Bible translators to help translate and bring the Bible into these language groups for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is such an essential component to evangelism and church planting. How can the church continue on unless we have this bridge over the first language to connect a Bible that they understand in their heart language to continue to grow and fellowship and worship Christ in their own language, in their own churches. It's almost impossible to describe how joyful believers are when they receive the New Testament in their own language. It represents years of work and possibly decades of work for the linguists to produce that printed Bible that they hold in their hands, but they are absolutely overjoyed to get it.

Romans 10 tells us clearly that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Isaiah 55 tells us that God's word will produce the results that he intends and it will not return void. It is so important to understand the importance of the word of God. When we proclaim the gospel, it's because we have it in objective revelation written down for us to clearly understand and pass to other people, to other generations, to other families, to neighbors, friends in our language. When we have the Bible in our language, we have such a treasure of resource of God speaking to us through His word in this special revelation of the Bible. While it is important to understand the practicality of oral tradition and orality in speaking the gospel and the teachings of God to people who are an oral culture, most pre-literate or pret translation cultures have that kind of culture. They communicate orally. But to sustain an ongoing worshiping church where the leaders are able to teach God's word on a regular basis, it requires that they have a written word that they can examine, meditate on, read and study to present God's word in practical ways to God's people.

I commend you to do a little research and look at the videos of Biblica, the International Bible Society, Wycliffe and New Tribe's Mission, now known as Ethnos360, to see some of the videos, records and stories of people that have received God's word in their language, how deep and impactful and important it is to them to be able to hold God's word in their own language. Our own tribal group that we ministered among rejoiced when the Bible was dedicated in the summer of 1982, but they rejoiced even more when through much of their own effort over a period of 15 years, they insisted that they have the whole Bible in their language. They did the hard work of translation using outside expert consultants to check their translation. Then they dedicated their whole Bible with a revised and improved New Testament in it. It was such a joyful celebration and occasion it reverberated through their whole province and area, and even through neighboring language groups that did not have the whole Bible, our people were proud that they did the work to have the whole Bible in their own dialect.

To be a Bible translator is not an easy task. It is not for the weak-willed. It is something that requires a tremendous amount of dedication and linguistic ability just to understand the language and culture well enough to begin translation. May take years of intense study and dialogue and connection with the people. A lot of time alone comparing your notes on vocabulary and linguistic analysis. It requires familiarity and expertise in use of translation tools, including nowadays software. It means having some familiarity with the original language of the Bible in the New Testament. That's Greek. We trust that the Bible translator has such a commitment to the integrity and sufficiency of God's word that they want to translate it extremely accurately with a high degree of accuracy with respect to use of biblical terms and doctrine and intent of the original authors of scripture. We need to offer our best and brightest men and women committed to God's word to translate the scriptures accurately for original heart languages that still don't have it.

There are trends in Bible translation which concern us. In recent years, there have been trends of translators and consultants that wish to water down terms in the word of God to not be offensive in the target culture, even in some cases adding to God's word or leaving out terms that are potentially unacceptable to the target people group. The apostle Paul said that God's word in the message of the gospel would be offensive to people. Certainly the messenger needs to take care to not be offensive by their own delivery, but I like what Spurgeon says to the effect, "We don't need to defend the Bible. We just need to let the lion loose." God promises to use his word to fulfill his purposes. There are also trends to somehow make translation a lot easier by using native speakers who may not know Christ as Lord and Savior at all. And sometimes these translations by committee fail to convey with accuracy the original intent of the scripture. That's why it is of supreme importance that we who believe and hold dear the integrity and sufficiency of scripture, produce translation consultants who will be the checkers to make sure that the translations are actually accurate and have faithful integrity to the text.

So I would commend to you to look up Bible translation Fellowship as a source for understanding these issues. If you want to dig a little deeper, I would point you to Google Arlington Statement on Bible Translation. It is both a statement which explains some of the disheartening trends in Bible translation and the correctives to fix those issues as well as frequently asked questions about translation and some of the things going on, which would be helpful to your understanding. In case you didn't catch it, I want you to look up and the Arlington Statement on Bible translation to get a better feel for all of these issues. I also recommended you look up videos from Wycliffe Bible Translators, Ethnos360 and Biblica, the International Bible Society.

If you're a church leader, I would suggest that you make Bible translation one of your priorities for missions, ministry, and support. Particularly, ask God to help raise up Bible translators that have a high level of commitment to the integrity and sufficiency of God's word in their translation efforts, and ask God to raise up Bible translation consultants that will be the checkers to assure that the translations hold to this high standard. Stay tuned for the next episode of Missions on Point where we will go into a little bit more detail of some of the issues we're facing today, those issues that are addressed in the Arlington Statement on Bible Translation. 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, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever, amen.

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