Gospel & Culture blog
If William Carey translated 6 Bibles and portions into 29 other languages, how good could those translations have been?
I began wondering about this when I considered debates about the locus of control of Bible translations.
Bible translation organizations face an internal struggle over the role of expatriate translators. Is it desirable for non-native speakers (often from the west) who are highly trained in translation philosophy and exegesis to have a direct role in translation? Or should indigenous communities bear much of the responsibility, and westerners take on a consulting role?
For the first 1800 years of church history, as the gospel came to a new setting, native speakers who converted became inspired to bring scripture to their own people (Smalley, 1991). This method can be traced all the way back to Ulfilas’ translation of the Bible into his childhood Gothic language in the 4th century AD. Smalley (1991) suggests that the Bible translation model is now coming full circle, and the responsibility of Bible translation is now moving back into the hands of the native speakers. Just under 500 translations of scripture had been completed between the first and 18th century; yet in the past 200 years, over 2000 additional translations have been completed. Still, more than 2500 of the world’s 7000 languages do not have a single verse of scripture.
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Associate Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor