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Bible Translaters

BY: Jose Martell | Category: Religion | Submitted: 2012-02-21 12:14:11
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Article Summary: "How a group of men made a difference by making the bible available to people who could not read or write..."


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Like everyone around me I read the King James Version of the bible and swore it was the only version through which God spoke to mankind. I was also very proud that I could understand it and often looked with distaste at anyone who dared read any other version. This had been handed down to me by the people who had taught me about the bible. Until one day I found a mission magazine written about bible translators who lived among the Indians. This captured my imagination with its stories of life in the jungles of Central and South America. The magazine spoke of missionary's eating the same food as the tribes they were helping, which sometimes included bugs, worms, and beetles. This was all done in order to teach them to read and write. But even before that an alphabet had to be invented.
In order to create an alphabet sounds had to be analyzed, and pronunciation understood. Words had to be modified and sometimes things just had no words so words had to be invented for a particular food or work which had to be done. The missionaries were immersed in the culture of the people for decades at a time in order to be accepted and learn the meaning of their particular language. In the beginning it took as much as twenty years to translate the New Testament into one of these unknown languages. Now with the computer as we know it the work has been made much easier and quicker.
All of this was started by William Cameron Townsend who was born in California in 1896. By the age of 21 he had decided to make the bible known to the Indians of Central America and had gone to Guatemala to sell bibles when he noticed that the majority of the people spoke no Spanish. They spoke their own language which was Cakchiquel and the Cakchiquels could not read or write since they had no alphabet. He decide then and there to create an alphabet for them and teach them to read and write so they could someday read the bible in their own language. This was no easy task in those days before the computers. He would have to live with them and become one of them in order to understand this complex language which had never been written.

He not only gave them an alphabet and taught them to read and write but also translated the New Testament into Cakchiquel. This was the beginning of Wycliffe Bible Translators named for John Wycliffe the first English translator of the bible. After more than a decade in Guatemala Townsend was invited to Mexico to try and recreate his work among a native population with as many as 150-200 language variants.

But he was not satisfied with just teaching the Indians to read and write he also taught them how to live in a changing world and was interested in giving them a fuller life, both scientifically, and materialistically. From Mexico he went on to Peru to live among the Indians and settled in the Lake Yarinacoch area where he established a camp. Years later he would move to Colombia where he also worked with the local natives in order to bring them the New Testament in their own language. After this Townsend traveled the world going to Russia, South Africa, Pakistan, and many others places where his work was known.

There are two thousand seven hundred known languages with close to seven thousand dialects in the world today. Of the seven thousand only two thousand two hundred and sixty have a written language the rest are only spoken. Some languages are also disappearing while others are constantly changing making it harder to translate the bible. This brings us back to the King James Bible, which is only one language, in a world with seven thousand languages.

So does God only speak through the old English court language or does he speak to anyone who wants to hear him speak in their own words and their own language? I believe that God wants to speak to all humanity in every nation or language or dialect and they don't all speak English. Some languages are richer than others; some have tens of thousands of words while others have thousands or just hundreds. I believe that Townsend was seeking the Spirit of the Word and not the letter, (for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life). 2 Corinthians 3:6

Today in the United States we have many translations such as the New International Version, The Amplified Bible, The Moffatt, The Living Translation, The New American Standard, The Revised English Bible, and the New King James which is a revision of the original King James. But not everybody is so blessed to live in America and have ten or fifteen versions of God's Word. Some have only The New Testament while others have only the book of John or a few chapters from Matthews or some other book.

After having read all the available versions in English, two versions and Spanish and one in Portuguese, I have come to the conclusion that all are right with the most important message of the age. That only in the name of Jesus and through the cross of Jesus Christ can mankind be saved from his evil and destructive ways.

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