Archive for March, 2011

King James Bible: The Film

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

As publicity of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible goes from strength to strength, it’s not surprising that a film has been made to mark the date.  KJB: The Book that Changed the World is part documentary, part drama, going through the origins of the translation.

The role of the narrator is performed by renowned actor John Rhys-Davis (of Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones fame). As he introduces the film, he tells us that this book has had an impact all around the world.

Certainly the Authorised Version’s impact has been intense. High among its many influences is its ability to continue to foster and inspire new English Bible translations, such as the RSV and the ESV. So even if you don’t read the KJB, it’s a great cause for celebration.

But there are factors that might lead us to doubt the claim that the KJB translation was ‘the book that changed the world’.  Because, actually, the celebrations of this milestone translation — so apparent to us — have not reached millions around the world.

Millions have not even celebrated the first anniversary of the Bible in their language, because millions are still without a single verse of Scripture.

Surely the KJB’s continuing legacy should be not only the continued publication of English Bible translations, but also translations for those who do not have God’s message of love in their language at all– that would really change the world!

The Public Reading of Scripture

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

A normal Sunday at church.  A member of your congregation gets up to do the first reading:

“Bala, Woso lemim bɩ mɩsɩr an nɩ paŋŋa m. A lɛ ta ʋ an cam hɛɛnm lɛhɩɩyazaa han. Aɩ gasʋm gʋaa ʋ an nɩ tam lɛɛ kʋ wɔɔ nyi kɩ nɩ kʋ zɛŋ ʋ b’ʋ, an nɩ tam lɛɛ kʋ wɔɔ yaarɔ kan a hɩnɔ kɩ nɩ kʋ zɛŋ ʋ b’ʋ. Aɩ gʋaa lɛtaamarɔ kan a hɔɔndarɛrɔ kʋ ŋ n’a heer ʋ kɩ dʋdɔ kam.”

The passage, when translated, is familiar to many of us. The writer of Hebrews is reminding us of the power of God’s living and active word (Heb 4.12).  But read to you in the Bissa Lebir language, the experience you have is the same that of many people around the world: when they go to church, they can’t understand when God’s word is read out.

Biblefresh* is dedicated to supporting translation among the Bissa Lebir people, who are still without the Old Testament in their language.  They are also supporting translation with the neighbouring Bissa Barka people, who still don’t even have the New Testament.

There are many Biblefresh resources available to help raise awareness and support for Bible translation. They include suggestions of church activities like the one above.  Find more resources here.

If you want to find out more about people from the Bissa Lebir and Bissa Barka language groups, you can read stories and facts on our website.

*Biblefresh: a movement of churches, agencies, colleges and festivals seeking to encourage and inspire churches across the UK to a greater confidence and appetite for the Word of God.

Mary Gardner 1955 – 2011

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Born in Nairobi, Mary was the eldest of 5 children.  She started her education at the Kenya High School in 1967.  The family moved to Scotland when she was 15, where she continued her studies in Aberdeen and then at St Andrews University, graduating in 1977 with an MA hons in English/French.

Mary Gardner on her way back from JerichoShe then worked for 2 years with CMS teaching in Kenya, returning to spend a season at Lee Abbey Community in 1980.  From 1981, she continued teaching in Orkney as an itinerant French teacher, travelling between schools by plane and boat.  In 1986 she commenced further training at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, joining Wycliffe Bible Translators in August 1988 stating at the time, ‘The Bible has always been important to me and played a large part in my own conversion.  I am convinced of the value of the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and that other aspects of mission such as evangelism and church planting are greatly strengthened by having the Scriptures in the language people know best.’

Embarking upon specialised linguistics training with Wycliffe’s British training programme, her preparations for life overseas accelerated.  After a valedictory service at St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Stromness in January 1990, she headed off to Cameroon for her orientation course, and then arrived in Togo in April 1990, the country that was to become her home for the next 20 years.

She was involved in a language called Ifè, developing the orthography (writing systems), working on a dictionary, holding literacy classes, and preparing materials including graded reading primers and maths books.  Bible translation began in 1994 leading to the Scriptures in print and on cassette, and the production of the Jesus film.  She became the leader of translation team, and trained national translators, working in a mixed team of expatriates and nationals.

At one point, whilst checking part of the translation of Romans, the group she was working with came upon ‘Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another…’ (Romans 13:8).  She relates, ‘The small Bible study group was struck forcibly by this verse.  Debt is a way of life in Africa.  Almost everybody owes money to someone, whether for goods bought on credit.  The Christian teaching that debts should be repaid as soon as possible was what challenged this little group as they read God’s word in their own language.  It was so applicable to their own experience, and reading it in Ifè gave it a new impact and a new determination to put it into practice.’

By 2000 the Ifè/French dictionary had been published; Mary was one of the two editors, and 17 October 2009 was the cause of great celebration as the Ifè New Testament was dedicated, nearly 30 years after the project first began.

She was training as a translation consultant, which requires a good grasp of Biblical studies, in order to help with Old Testament translation.  Thus she travelled to The Home For Bible Translators in Jerusalem in early 2011.  Those who studied with her can testify to her keen interest in hillwalking, and her appreciation of wild flowers. Halvor Ronning, (Director) says, “Mary was really enjoying the camaraderie and fellowship she had found in Jerusalem. She told us that until she got here she did not realise how alone and isolated she had been living for years in a remote village in Togo, the only European for miles around.”

Eddie Arthur, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, said: “I cannot tell you how highly regarded she was. She was an extremely gutsy person, highly intelligent, with huge drive and the ability to stick with the project for 20 years in far from comfortable conditions. It must have been incredibly isolating at times. But she was completely dedicated to her work, and to the Ifè people.”

Mary had shared in one of her newletters, ‘When a person hears clearly what God is saying, it changes lives.  And so we persevere in translating the Bible into Ifè, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book.  We continue to teach people to read in their own language.  We hold courses for church leaders to help them use the Ifè Scriptures in the life of the church.  Why?  Because we long to see changed lives that glorify God.’

Mary’s own life was one that was changed by the Scriptures and which glorified God.  Tragically killed in a terrorist explosion in Jerusalem on 23 March 2011 aged 55, she is survived by her parents and siblings.

E100: A Review

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Reading the Bible is incredibly exciting.  But wading through the overwhelming number of Bible-reading plans available can put a dampener on that joy. How do we know which to choose? And what if we want to read the Bible with a group or with our church?

Adrian Hancock and his church in County Durham have been using the E100 (or the Essential 100) plan, made up of 100 ‘essential’ passages, 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New. He talks here about how it’s been going:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

E100 aims to lead the reader — in short, quick-to-read chunks — through the whole story of the Bible. Already over 250 churches in the UK have got involved!

If you want to be involved with E100, it couldn’t be easier:


Worker dies in terrorist explosion – Jerusalem

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Wycliffe Bible Translators are sad to announce the death of their member Mary Gardner in a terrorist explosion in Jerusalem on 23 March 2011 where she was studying Hebrew at The Home for Bible Translators.

Further photos are available with the press release.

More on Mary’s life and work in this later blog post.

Check IT Out

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

A couple of weeks ago The Wycliffe Centre was host to a day event, Check IT Out, exploring the role of technology in Bible translation. Magesh, one of the participants, is from India and is currently working as an intern at The Wycliffe Centre. Here are some of his reflections on the day:

“Check IT Out helped me to understand the basics and the roles and responsibility of IT staff in Bible translation. I learned a lot about useful connections between modern technology and Bible translation, which is wonderful.

I learned about computing and sign language which is really great. Then we looked at writing scripts of different languages (complicated!); I began to understand how translators put their effort into learning and understanding scripts in different languages which is exceptional.

Hats off to the translators!  I am really inspired and impressed by the work that translators do after attending the Check IT Out course. I encourage you to give your time and talent to doing the work of God because support is needed to fulfil Vision 2025* – to have the Bible in all the languages of the world [that need it].”

Support is needed in many aspects of the work of Bible translation, so that everyone can have God’s word in the language they understand best.

*”By 2025, together with partners worldwide, we aim to see a Bible translation programme begun in all the remaining languages that need one.”

Songs in our Heart Language

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

This week, the first copies of the newly translated Bible in the Dogon Toro So language have arrived in Mali.  The language is spoken by over 50,000 people.  The completed translation comes over 50 years after the beginning of New Testament translation work!

Rob Baker, who works with Wycliffe as an ethnomusicologist, recently visited the Dogon people. His role includes helping people groups to write songs which incorporate both the Scriptures in their language, and the instruments and musical style which is traditional to people groups.

Some photos of Dogon music-making from Rob Baker

Rob has recently been working with people in West Africa, including the Dogon people. During a workshop a few months ago, they wrote three songs together for the celebration of this newly translated Bible.

So when the Bible is launched early next year, the Dogon people will celebrate the Bible in their language with songs that come from their culture.  You can read more about the Dogon Bible and the song workshop on Rob’s blog.

The continuing work of Bible translation also needs people who can support communities as they learn to engage with the Scriptures for the first time.  Along with gifts like Rob’s passion for music, skills with technology, drama, art and anthropology could all be useful to help people engage with the Bible in their language.

Coffee or the Cross?

Monday, March 14th, 2011

There are 130 known sign languages used around the world.  Of these, none have a completed Bible in their language; in fact, only one  even has a complete New Testament.  But work is going on so that the Deaf will have the word of God in their language.

Many mistakenly think of sign languages as selections of actions which correspond to words in the spoken majority language.  But actually, sign languages contain the same nuanced and often unrelated word-meaning connections as spoken languages.

This means that the work of Bible translation is just as difficult as in a spoken language.  Take this example:

“The Deaf groups from the community in Tanzania made a clear distinction between signing “worship” with your hands palm together, fingers straight and aimed towards the ceiling, versus signing it with the fingers of your left hand covering your right hand, which is in a fist.

The sign with fingers straight and aiming towards the ceiling is how you worship the one true God; the other one with closed fist is how you worship idols.”

In cases like this, getting the right distinction is very important! Another story from the Tanzanian Sign Language project appeared in our prayer diary Call to Prayer* today:

“What did the crowd shout to Pilate?” the consultant asked. “I didn’t understand, but I think they wanted coffee,” one ventured. The TSL signs for “coffee” and “crucify” are similar. He didn’t know the Bible, nor the sign “crucify”, so he guessed “coffee.”

You can find out more about sign language translation from DOOR International.

*Call to Prayer is available by both e-mail and post.

Many Roles: Transport

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

It’s not easy getting to Walagu.  It’s in a remote area in Papua New Guinea.  A local man claims it takes him a two day hike, with early mornings and late nights, through the jungle to reach the nearest road.

Imagine this journey for new arrivals, backs packed with Bibles and study materials, as well as all the other resources needed for living in this remote community! But the Onubasulu people, a people group of around 1,000 living in Walagu, want God’s word in their language – so Beverly committed to go.

The Runway at Walagu

In these situations, the benefits of the work of JAARS are obvious: JAARS provide transport and travel subsidies to people working in remote locations such as these.  Their work not only enables many more people to hear God’s story, but they also provide for immediate physical needs, providing access to resources and medical transport.

Read what Beverly has to say about the benefit of the work of JAARS:

Being able to fly the men and their work materials there in just a couple of hours instead of taking an all-day ride in the back of an open truck and then a two-day walk is such a help and blessing. And the material arrives in better shape, too. Believe me, you would not want to try walking with your study Bible, or a stack of literacy materials, for a couple of days through the rainforest. More.

The continuing work of translating the Bible for people speaking every language needs a huge variety of people and skills.  Whatever your skills, you can be involved.

The Place of the Old Testament

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

This month, the Biblefresh* Understanding the Scriptures evening classes will be addressing the question, ‘Does the Old Testament have anything to say to today’s church?’  The lecture is sure to be as challenging as it is informative, as we grapple with how we ordinarily tend to approach God’s word.

Our speaker is Katy Barnwell. Katy currently works with The Seed Company, one of Wycliffe’s partner organisations.  Her role is based in Nigeria, where there are currently 15 Old Testament translation projects underway.

The evening class will be taking place on 16 March, at the Wycliffe Centre. Find out more and sign up for Understanding the Scriptures classes.

*Biblefresh: a movement of churches, agencies, colleges and festivals seeking to encourage and inspire churches across the UK to a greater confidence and appetite for the Word of God.