The Best Bible Translator of All Time
Updated: Dec 19, 2018
If we are to make a translation project of the Bible, who are the persons that we should get in our team? There is so much going on today in Bible Translations - there's a bunch of committees, a lot of courses in Linguistics, a bunch of scholastic achievements, very complex software tools, and, of course, a lot of expenses involved. Are these all necessary? Not really, these people think highly of technology now more than the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of His people.
Mark 16:15-17 KJV/PureCE
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
Acts 2:4-12 KJV/PureCE
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia,
and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt,
saying one to another, What meaneth this?
It's unimaginable that the Lord Jesus would command His disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world without any special kind of assistance, yet that assistance didn't come from learned secular men though they already existed during the first century. God designed the communication of His Words be empowered "not by enticing words of man's wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit... (1 Corinthians 2:5). We have an example of how the Holy Spirit can empower His people to speak to other nations with a different language and don't miss a thing of what He wants to communicate, though these instruments were not experts in linguistics, yet they are holy people, committed in reaching their Christ-given mandate to "preach the gospel to every creature..."
One good example of a person whom God used in spreading the Gospel using a foreign tongue was Saul of Tarsus. At that time there may not be courses relating to linguistics of the Greek people, no courses in Hebrew language, if there was one they were not available to our not so rich brother's - Jesus and the apostles. Yet why was it that the Gospel moved so swiftly in the Roman Empire? God didn't need any of those expensive and man-made tools because He got Saul.
Acts 9:11-15 AmKJV
"And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays, And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem: And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on your name. But the Lord said to him, Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel to me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:"
Saul grew up in Tarsus, a prominent Roman City outside Israel, but was raised as a Jew. He knows Greek and Hebrew well. Probably, Greek was his first language, Hebrew, second. Fast forward to the life of Saul, we see him preaching the gospel to Gentile cities and even debating with Jewish and Gentile scholars of his day. Paul didn't translate the Bible, he taught and interpreted its substance to a Greek speaking world. He provided us most of the books of the New Testament Bible in Greek. The question is how was Paul able to write such inspiring letters? Three things: He grew up learning the Hebrew Bible (substance), grew up with the people of the language in Roman world (Greek native speaker) and was converted to Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel (inspiration, Acts 9:17, 1 Cor. 2:5). As point of fact, all writers of the Old and New Testament books were inspired by the same Holy Spirit,
Knowing this first, that no prophecy
of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man:
but holy men of God spake as they were moved
by the Holy Ghost.
2 Peter 1:20-21
And the people whom God the Spirit used to speak His words didn't need to learn new languages by mere education. They grew up with the people of that language and spoke them everyday - it's already in them! Therefore, language courses and linguistic specialty learning can be helpful but not necessary. There is a saying, "Language is caught, not taught."
Another good example of this was Jerome who Translated the Hebrew Bible into Latin. But what did he do to accomplish such a great work? This is what he did. He migrated to Jerusalem and lived there for the rest of his life. That's no complex algorithm. That's a very good example of "common sense". But why live among the people and not just learn the language abroad? Well, language is spoken by people who have thoughts, attitudes and emotions, especially the image of God. We don't learn language to speak the language, but instead we live with the people and learn the language as a result. Then you become a good speaker of that language because you lived with the people of the language, not just studied it. And you're not just learning words, but the heart and soul of those words spoken by its people. It's hard to express to people with a language that you just learned intellectually, but if you speak to them both in your mother tongue, it becomes very dynamic and life changing for both of you.
As a conclusion, let us not emphasize man's own ability, but God's ability in man in everything we do. Let us not merely rely on machines and algorithms to teach us our own language, especially to translate God's Holy Word. But let's learn our language by using them and by using them not just in our everyday conversation, but in communicating the Word of God to our people through the preaching of the Word and Translating our Bible in the vernacular.