unfoldingWord equips churches to translate Scripture

By December 21, 2021

International (MNN) — The supply chain crisis demonstrates how problems in one area can trigger a massive ripple effect worldwide. Similarly, problems in one area of Bible translation can affect the entire process.

unfoldingWord’s David Reeves describes a critical aspect of the typical Bible translation process: “Someone has gone in and done a translation over the years. Along the way, they’ll have a translation consultant, who has deeper expertise in linguistics, step in and do spot checks.”

These checks are essential because they ensure accuracy. However, “there’s a serious shortage of people qualified as translation consultants globally. There are way more projects than there are consultants available to help check them,” Reeves says.

“There’s no criticism of that methodology, but the system cannot keep up with the pace of what’s happening.”

As a result of this shortage, people have to wait even longer to get God’s Word in their heart language.

“The Church has stepped up and said they’re tired of waiting; they’re going to move ahead. They’re doing this (Bible translation) themselves.”

Changing focus

unfoldingWord empowers church networks by providing the tools and training needed to do Bible translation. “The church networks have everything that a translation consultant would bring to the table,” Reeves says.

“They would know the list of every key term, every metaphor, every idiom. We have software tools with machine learning built in to help that process.”

“People who wanted to make a translation, without a theological education, were able to achieve their goal due to the fact that the tools were prepared by unfoldingWord specialists and their employees who speak Russian.”
–Pastor Ivan K.
(Photo, caption courtesy of unfoldingWord)

Unlike traditional models, unfoldingWord’s end goal is not to produce a Bible alone.

“Lots of Bibles are needed in lots of languages; there’s nothing wrong with that (approach), it’s a great thing. We need to do more of it,” Reeves says, describing what he calls a “Bible-centric” approach to Bible translation.

“We’re focused on equipping the church to produce a Bible or help others produce a Bible.”

A new approach

Church-Centric Bible Translation (CCBT) provides believers with a sense of ownership. “They’re empowered to correct and improve [draft translations] just like we do in our English texts all the time, and they’re using it as they’re translating it,” Reeves says.

This approach functions well when paired with a network of believers resembling the first-century church. “When we say ‘church,’ it’s large-scale church planting movements: very dynamic, growing, moving the Gospel into places where Jesus is not known,” Reeves says. More about that here.

Church-Centric Bible Translation (CCBT) follows the example of early Bible translators. “The translation consultant model is only a fairly recent thing in history,” Reeves says.

“That wasn’t the way it was done when Luther translated, or Tyndale or Wycliffe or Jerome; they didn’t have a translation consultant come along and check them. They were theologians themselves.”

Join us tomorrow for “part two” to find your place in the story. Until then, learn more about unfoldingWord’s approach to Bible translation.



Graphic used in header image is courtesy of unfoldingWord.

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