Turning Points, Chapter 13, Bible Translation


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The founding of Wycliffe Bible Translators (1934) is a major turning point in Church History according to Mark Noll, author of "Turning Points".

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Turning Points, Chapter 13, Bible Translation

  1. 1. Bible Translation Further Turning Points (20th Century) Decisive Moments in the History of ChristianityBrian M. Sandifer 1
  2. 2. Turning Points in Christian History1. Fall of Jerusalem (70) 8. English Act of Supremacy2. Council of Nicaea (325) (1534)3. Council of Chalcedon (451) 9. Founding of Jesuits (1540)4. Benedict’s Rule (530) 10. Conversion of Wesleys5. Coronation of Charlemagne (1738) (800) 11. French Revolution (1789)6. Great Schism (1054) 12. Edinburgh Missionary Conference (1910)7. Diet of Worms (1521) 13. Further Turning Points (1900s) 2
  3. 3. Historically Significant Bible Translations In the 20th century there have been 6 major English translations published (and ~88 minor translations!)  ASV (1901); RSV (1952); NASB (1971); NIV (1978); NKJV (1982); NRSV (1990) But English-speaking Christians already had many Bibles in their language for centuries  GNV (1599); KJV (1611); YLT (1862); DBY (1884); ERV (1885); DRA (1899) Many (most?) cultures did not have access to the Bible in their vernacular tongue Based on this fact, from a worldwide perspective of God’s Kingdom, the publication of the first Bible translation in a language is therefore historically significant compared to a new translation for a language “already covered”. 3
  4. 4. Christianity’s Southern Shift One of the crucial developments of the 20 th century has been the shift of Christianity’s center of gravity from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere Although the percentage of Christians in the global south has been slowly rising since 1500, percentage growth since 1900 has been precipitous 4
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  6. 6. Worldwide Christian Demographics Worldwide pop. growth (1900-2000): 3.6x Worldwide Christian pop. growth (1900- 2000)  Europe: 1.4x  North America: 3.4x  Pacific Islands: 5.0x  Asia: 15.0x  Africa: 34.4x 6
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  8. 8. World Christian Demographics: Trends Africa  1900. 9 million identifiable Christians  2000. 310 million Christians  2030. Number of Christians 3x number in North America  2030. Number of Christians more than number in Europe Asia  2030. Number of Christians more than number in Europe 8
  9. 9. 2010 data 9
  10. 10. The Turning Point? William Townsend’s Moment of Crisis Mission trip to Guatemala  In 1917 Christian missionary William Cameron Townsend traveled to Guatemala to distribute Spanish-language Bibles  A native Guatemalan, upon being handed a Spanish Bible, asked Townsend, “If your God is so smart, why doesn’t he speak Cakchiquel?” Townsend eventually settled in a Cakchiquel- speaking community for 14 years, learning the language so as to translate the Bible in Cakchiquel 10
  11. 11. Symbolic Turning Point: Spread of Bible Translations 1934. Founding of Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT)  Founded by William Townsend (1896-1982) after he returned to USA from Guatemala  WBT is the most vigorous promoter of foreign Bible translation and distribution  Draws most of its workers from North American & Europe 11
  12. 12. Significance of a Vernacular Bible for a Culture  Western Europe  Jerome’s Bible translation into Latin immensely impacted the Middle Ages  Luther’s Bible translation shaped German language and literature  KJV and other English Bible translations shaped the faith and life of Britain in its colonies  Vernacular Bible translations in other European countries significantly shaped the culture 12
  13. 13. What Does the Future Hold? In the 20th century, the Bible has been translated into the vernacular for these language groups (among others):  isiZulu (Africa)  Hausa (Africa)  KingyaRwanda (Africa)  Tibetan (Asia)  Vietnamese (Asia)  Tagalog (Philippines)  Various languages (China) 13
  14. 14. Magnitude of Translation Efforts Full vernacular translations of the Bible  As of 1989. There were 289 separate languages with a version. Of these, 170 (59%) were published in the 20th century. Partial vernacular translations of the Bible  1900. Portions of the Bible were available in approximately 537 different languages.  1980. Portions of the Bible were available in approximately 1811 different languages. Far more individual language groups, and the cultures that these languages define, have received the Bible during the 20th century than in the preceding 1900 years of church history! 14
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  16. 16. Implications of Massive Bible Translation Efforts The message of Christ (the gospel) that missionaries brought is eclipsed by the message they left (the vernacular Bible) The drama of Pentecost and Church History continues  As at Pentecost, people are hearing the message of the Bible in their own tongues  The gospel message of the universality of salvation becomes more real when it arises from within a culture rather than outside a culture The possession of the Bible in the vernacular language often begins to effect a process of Christianization of the culture 16
  17. 17. Importance of Vernacular ScripturesThere is a radical pluralism implied in vernacular translation wherein all languages and cultures are, in principle, equal in expressing the word of God…Two general ideas stem from this analysis. First is the inclusive principle whereby no culture is excluded from the Christian dispensation or even judged solely or ultimately by Western cultural criteria. (cont’d) 17
  18. 18. Importance of Vernacular ScripturesSecond is the ethical principle of change as a check to cultural self-absolutization. Both of these ideas are rooted in what missionaries understood by God’s universal truth as this was revealed in Jesus Christ, with the need and duty to work out this fact in the vernacular medium rather than in the uniform framework of cultural homogeneity.* Gambian mission historian Lamin Sanneh 18
  19. 19. William C.Townsend 19
  20. 20. Questions for Discussion What factors would contribute to worldwide distribution of vernacular Bible translations becoming a significant turning point in church history? What factors would be hindrances? The USA is increasingly becoming less culturally homogeneous due (among other things) to immigration of non-English speakers. How might vernacular Bible versions foster unity in America? How might they encourage multicultural fragmentation? 20
  21. 21. Application for Today’s Church How ought the church use vernacular Bible versions in ministry to speakers of other languages? Discuss some inherent dangers in the process of translating and distributing the Bible into vernacular languages. Discuss strategies to overcome these dangers. 21
  22. 22. Seeking Converts in “Christian” AmericaPastor Daniel Ajayi-Adeniran leads a prayer service at the Chapel ofRestoration in the Bronx, NYC, a branch of the Redeemed ChristianChurch of God, which is based in Nigeria. In addition to his spiritual duties,Pastor Ajayi-Adeniran coordinates the church’s missionary activities in 22North America.