Thursday, February 1, 2018

Engan Proverbs

The first time that I visited the Enga Cultural Center, I was fascinated as I read some of the traditional Engan proverbs on display. The short, pithy sayings communicate truths not only about traditional life in Enga, but also about life in general. Let me give you some examples. The proverb, “With words alone nothing is done,” communicates the reality that “talk is cheap,” and action is required to actually get anything accomplished. The proverb, “When an opossum is sitting in the tree, don’t say that you are going to eat it,” is similar to our saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” and communicates that it is not wise to make plans that are based on something that hasn’t actually happened yet. The proverb, “Pigs are bound with rope; men are bound with words,” reminds me of the saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and communicates that words can be more powerful than brute strength when it comes to dealing with people. 
Some Engan proverbs on display at the Enga Cultural Center
While I am always interested to ponder these proverbs whenever I am in the cultural center, there are two proverbs that I am drawn to more than all the others. The first is, “The small tongue kindles a big fire.” What is fascinating about this proverb is its similarity to James 3:5, which says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” The second proverb is equally fascinating; it says, “What you do for someone else; that also he does to you.” This sounds like a paraphrase of the golden rule in Matthew 7:12, which states, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” It seems that even before missionaries ever arrived in Enga, God was already revealing His truth to the people. And just as Jesus came to bring fulfillment to the Law and the Prophets, my prayer is that the people of Enga will see that that traditional wisdom and sayings that God gave them in the past also find their fulfillment in Jesus and the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

More Engan Proverbs
Since I have whet your appetite for traditional Engan proverbs, let me share a few more with you. Like many Enga proverbs, the saying, “When you see the sun, don’t put out the fire,” has a surface-level meaning as well as a hidden meaning. The surface-level meaning is this: just because the sun has risen in the morning doesn’t mean that you won’t still need a fire to cook with and to keep warm by at night. The hidden meaning is similar to our expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and basically means, “When you see something that appears better than what you have, don’t underestimate what you have and leave it for what appears to be better.”

Another proverb states, “Once you have split a taro, you cannot put it back together.” Often when people share food like a taro, they do so by splitting it in half and handing a portion to someone else. But once you have split the taro apart, you obviously cannot put it back together. The hidden meaning of this proverb speaks to relationships and suggests that once a relationship is broken, it cannot be mended. Sharing food is indicative of good relationships, and so this proverb is particularly apropos.

Another proverb communicates a similar message; it states, “You can put an ax back, but you can’t put words back.” The idea is that a person can always return an ax to his belt, where he normally keeps it, but once he has spoken words, he cannot take the words and put them back in his mouth. This proverb reminds people of the importance of thinking before they speak.

The proverb, “Don’t try to knock down a hawk while looking at its shadow,” communicates the necessity of looking at the heart of a matter and not just the surface. The proverb, “An earthworm that crawls around is destined to die,” indicates that a person should not wander around aimlessly. And the proverb, “A sprouting bean seed will always climb a bean stick,” is a hidden way to say, “If you incite trouble, it will always stay with you.” 

An earthworm that crawls around is destined to die
God created the entire world as an expression of his personality, and as we study creation we learn about God’s character. As Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world.” How thankful we are that God has prepared the Enga people in advance to receive the one who is the exact imprint of God’s very nature!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Lead Us Not Into Mistranslation

Recently Pope Francis suggested on Italian television that the English translation of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” (Mat 6:13; Luk 11:4) “is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.” He went on to say that, “It is Satan who leads us into temptation; that is his department.” As a result, Pope Francis suggested changing the English translation of the Lord’s Prayer to “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

The problem with the Pope’s suggestion is that the Greek text of Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4 is quite clear, and the traditional rendering “lead us not into temptation” is a faithful and literal translation of the text. “Lead us not into temptation” is exactly what the Greek text says. It is a request to God on the part of the one praying that God not lead us into temptation. Interestingly, the Greek word translated as ‘temptation’ can also be translated as ‘test’ or ‘trial’.

Pope Francis’s comments highlight a common question that we Bible translators ask ourselves—do we translate what the text actually says, or do we translate what we think the text should say? The temptation is great to translate what we think the text should say rather than translating what the text actually says. But there is great danger in doing so, because we begin to insert our own ideas and interpretations into the text, obscuring what the text actually says and promoting our own particular brand of theology. Now, it is impossible to avoid all interpretation in the process of translation, but interpretation should generally be avoided if at all possible.

Incidentally, a couple of years ago before Pope Francis made his comments about the Lord’s Prayer, someone suggested to me that we should do the exact same thing in Enga. The Enga translation of the Lord’s Prayer says, “Do not bring us and go into the tempations to do bad.” That is a very literal translation that captures well the meaning of the Greek text. But someone suggested that we should change our translation to “Don’t abandon us, telling us to go into the temptations to do bad.” The person who made this suggestion, like Pope Francis, wished to defend God’s character as someone who does not tempt to sin. However, after considering the suggested translation, we decided to stick with our more literal translation.

The problem is that we often do not have the perspective that we need to see the bigger picture of the biblical narrative and the nuances of the text. Pope Francis is correct that God himself does not tempt us to sin, and that temptation is the devil’s department. However, the Lord’s Prayer does not suggest that God himself tempts us. Rather it suggests that God can lead us into temptation, just like the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The Spirit did not do the tempting, He just did the leading. God can lead us into a time of temptation, but He Himself doesn’t tempt us.

The point is that we should not seek out opportunities to be tempted. We should avoid temptation and actively ask God not to lead us into temptation. Yet we must also recognize that God, in His sovereignty, may at times choose to lead into temptation, just as the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.

No, the Lord’s Prayer does not need to be corrected. And that is the lesson we Bible translators must learn: When the Scripture seems like it needs to be corrected, it is a good indicator that it is actually our understanding of God that needs to be corrected.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Newbreak Missions Team 2

In September, we were privileged to host a team of five from Newbreak Church. In November, we were privileged to host another team of five from the same church. It was a busy week of travel, open air preaching, and showing the Enga Jesus Film.

The Second Newbreak Missions Team
The Wild West
After the team got settled in, we took a trip to what is called The Wild West, which is the western part of Enga Province. Upon our arrival in the village of Mulitaka, we discovered that the back, right tire of my truck had a puncture from a piece of metal and was slowly deflating. Fortunately, there was a tire service in the village, so Pastor Duane from Newbreak Church and I went to get the tire repaired. In the two hours while we waited for the repairs, a crowd of about two hundred people gathered around us in a perfect semi-circle to meet us and listen to "the white man speaking in Enga." We had good interactions with the crowd and invited them all to watch the Enga Jesus Film that night at the local high school, just a short walk from the tire service. About 6:45 PM I got the film started and then asked Van Hooper from Newbreak Church to look after the equipment while I went to eat dinner in the house where we all were staying. Some time afterward, Van came running up to the house a little out of sorts, saying that there were men with machetes who were causing a disturbance. I went down to see what the problem was, and it turns out that so many people showed up to see the film that there was no longer space for anybody else in the room where we were showing it. The men with bush knives were demanding that we move the projector and screen outside so that everyone could see the film. I told them that we would show the film a second time once the first showing ended, and everyone was happy with that. It is a good problem when people are demanding that space be made so that they too can see the Jesus Film in Enga!

The venue where we showed the Jesus Film in Mulitaka
The next morning we traveled to the check point at a village called Maipya, which is the last village where the people speak Enga rather than Ipili (the next language bordering Enga). We set up a small speaker in the market area. As people gathered around, I introduced the team members from Newbreak Church who shared greetings and short testimonies. I then shared my own testimony and the gospel message in the Enga language and gave people an opportunity to repent from their sin and put their faith in Jesus. Afterwards people were invited to buy Audibibles and memory cards with the Enga recordings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the Abraham story from Genesis. We did the same in the villages of Tumandan and Mulitaka. By the end of the day we had preached the gospel to over 500 people and sold a handful of Audibibles and memory cards. It is difficult to gauge response to the gospel messages that were preached, but we trust that some seeds were planted in good soil and will bear fruit.
Preaching the gospel in the village of Maipya
After returning from The Wild West, we spent a day at our home in Immi village, where the team helped us with many home improvement projects, which was a great blessing. The next morning we headed out to Kompiam, which is quite literally the end of the road in the northeastern part of Enga Province. A local pastor in Kompiam had set up a grand stand in the main field outside of the government station, and we shared greetings, testimonies, and the gospel message just as we had in The Wild West. The people in Kompiam were particularly receptive, and one older man shared in tears about how much it meant to him that I was speaking in Enga and translating God's Word so that they could understand it in their own language. Afterwards many people bought Audibibles and memory cards containing the Enga Bible recordings. At night we showed the Enga Jesus Film in a local church, and despite a torrential downpour, sixty people showed up to see the film.

People gathering to buy Enga Audibibles in Kompiam
Thank You
We wish to express our appreciation to Dan Lamborn, Duane Flewelling, Van Hooper, Mike Kuypers, and Susana Leung for taking time out of their busy schedules to minister to us and the people of Enga. Along with your help and the help of the first team from Newbreak Church, we preached the gospel to over one thousand people and showed the Enga Jesus film to about six hundred people. We may not know the fruit of our labors until we get to heaven, but let's pray that God will move in the lives of those who heard the good news and bring them to repentance and faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Review of the American Literary Version of the Bible

The American Literary Version (ALV) is an update to the American Standard Version (ASV) that was published in 2016 as a part of the Bibliotheca multi-volume set of the Bible. Bibliotheca broke new ground by producing a Bible without any chapter numbers, verse numbers, section headings, or footnotes. It is stunningly beautiful in its radical simplicity. Many other reviewers have focused on the physical beauty of the Bibliotheca Bible, and so I will focus on reviewing the American Literary Version translation, which was produced by Bibliotheca.

What began as a light revision of the ASV (i.e. updating thee and thou) turned into a more in-depth revision as the funding for Bibliotheca increased. The resulting translation is more literal than the ASV, while still maintaining a relatively high degree of readability for those who are well-versed in the Scriptures and who don’t mind looking up an occasional word in the dictionary.

While many modern translations such as the NASB, NKJV, and ESV claim a high degree of literalness, they are not as literal as one might expect. Often these translations make changes to the text to increase the readability for modern readers. However, while the translation becomes more readable, the literal meaning of the actual Greek or Hebrew source is obscured. The ALV more consistently provides a truly literal rendering of the Greek and Hebrew source text.

Consider, for example, 2 Peter 2:4. The NASB reads, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell…” The Greek word translated as cast into hell is ταρταρόω, which is a verb that means ‘consign to Tartarus’. In Greek thought, Tartarus is a place of punishment and torment located below Hades. Tartarus is different from the word γέεννα, which is usually translated as ‘hell’. The ESV and NKJV follow the NASB in translating ταρταρόω with the word ‘hell’ instead of ‘Tartarus’. The ALV is more literal in translating the underlying Greek of 2 Peter 2:4. It reads, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus…” In addition to rendering ταρταρόω more literally, the ALV also translates γέεννα as ‘Gehenna’ rather than ‘hell’, which preserves the imagery of the Valley of Hinnom, the city dump of Jerusalem where trash was burned.

Philippians 1:27 is another example in which the ALV is more literal than even the most literal of modern translations. The NASB and NKJV translate Philippians 1:27 as “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” The ESV translates it as, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” The underlying Greek word for the bolded text is πολιτεύομαι, which literally means ‘live as a citizen’. Philippians is written to Christians living in a Roman colony, where there are many retired soldiers. The people of Philippi were known for their patriotic nationalism. In such an environment, the Christians in Philippi may have been tempted to see their citizenship as being in Rome rather than in heaven. But Philippians 1:27 specifically encourages the Philippians to view their citizenship in terms of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the gospel of the Kingdom of God. But this talk of citizenship is obscured in the NASB, NKJV, and ESV. The ALV, on the other hand, translates Philippians 1:27 as, “Only behave worthily as citizens of the good tidings of the Christ…” This more literal translation highlights Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom rather than as citizens of Rome.

Another example of how the ALV exceeds other translations in literalness is Matthew 5:3. The NASB, NKJV, and ESV all translate Matthew 5:3 as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The ALV translates it as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” The underlying Greek word is plural and so the ALV renders the source text more literally. It may sound awkward at first to say “the kingdom of the heavens,” but that is only because we are used to hearing “the kingdom of heaven.”  The plural form ‘heavens’ is actually quite natural in English. For example, we don’t have any problem with Genesis 1:1, which states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Neither are we disturbed by Psalm 19:1, which says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

In its quest for preserving the literary nature of the biblical texts, the ALV preserves idioms that modern translations alter. For example, the NASB and ESV translate Genesis 29:1 as, “Then Jacob went on his journey…” (The NKJV is similar.) However, the ALV preserves the Hebrew idiom and translates it as, “And Jacob lifted up his feet…” In another example, the NASB translates 1 Samuel 25:22 as, “May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.” The ESV and NKJV similarly employ the words one male. However, the actual Hebrew text does not say one male. It says, “one who pisses against the wall,” which is a rich idiom denoting a male. The ALV preserves this idiom and the strong imagery it evokes.

In all of these cases, the ALV is not only more literal than the NASB, NKJV, and ESV, it is more literal than the ASV as well. In at least one instance, however, the decision of the ALV translators to retain the ASV rendering results in a translation that is less literal than the NASB, NKJV, and ESV. That is the translation of the word ἀνομία. The NASB, NKJV, and ESV all translate this word with its literal meaning 'lawlessness'. The ALV, however, retains the ASV rendering of 'iniquity', which means 'immoral or grossly unfair behavior'. While immoral behavior is often contrary to the law, such is not always the case, and so 'lawlessness' is a more literal translation.

Regarding textual basis, the ALV translates from the Masoretic text in the Old Testament and the critical text in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the ALV is less likely to follow the Septuagint (and other ancient versions) than the ASV, NASB, NKJV, or ESV. For example, in Exodus 8:23, the ASV, NASB, NKJV, and ESV all follow the Septuagint text with translations like, “I will make a distinction” or “I will put a division.” The ALV follows the Hebrew text and renders Exodus 8:23 as “I will set a ransom.” There is good reason to believe that the Septuagint preserves the original reading in this case, but the ALV seeks to be a faithful translation of the Masoretic text.

Regarding style, the ALV retains much of the archaic vocabulary of the ASV. Personally, I don’t mind this as, in my opinion, it adds to the literary beauty of the translation. It also constantly reminds me that the Bible was not written in modern English. I just keep my dictionary handy so that I can look up words that are unfamiliar. Those who are accustomed to the King James Version probably won’t have much trouble. The ALV does, however, update the words thee, thou, thy, and thine to their modern equivalents and also drops archaic verb endings like -eth and -est. Similarly shalt and wilt are rendered as shall and will.

There is, however, one update introduced by the ALV that does take some getting used to. The Hebrew interjection נָא is used to indicate earnestness and humility and is usually translated in the ASV with the words ‘now’ or ‘I pray thee/you’. For example, in Genesis 18:3-4 the ASV reads,

My lord, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let now a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:

The ALV prefers to translate נָא with the word ‘pray’ in every occurrence. (The only time I have ever heard the word ‘pray’ used in this way is in the expression, “Pray tell!”) This often results in awkward English phrasing as seen, for example, in the ALV rendering of Genesis 18:3-4,

My lord, if, pray, I have found favor in your eyes, do not pass away, pray, from your servant. Pray, let a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest under the tree.

This does not make for smooth flowing English. Nevertheless, after spending some time with the ALV, I have gotten used to this idiosyncrasy. In fact, it makes me take notice of speech patterns that I might otherwise have missed. For example, in the story of the ten plagues in Exodus, I noticed that Pharaoh eventually shows more humility in his requests to Moses as indicated by the word ‘pray’. In Exodus 10:11, Pharaoh says, “Go, pray, you who are men.” And in Exodus 10:17, Pharaoh says, “And now forgive, pray, my sin.” Without this somewhat awkward occurrence of the word ‘pray’, I don’t think I would have taken note of this change in Pharaoh's tone. Nevertheless, I think I prefer the ASV’s use of ‘I pray you’ and ‘now’ for translating the Hebrew interjection נָא.

One final note of interest is the rendering of the proper name of God, known as the Tetragrammaton. The proper name of God consists of the four Hebrew letters יהוה roughly equivalent to YHWH. We don’t know for sure how this name was pronounced because the associated vowels are the vowels for the word adonai and not YHWH. Most scholars, however, believe that the name is pronounced Yahweh. The Tetragrammaton has traditionally been rendered in English as ‘the Lord’. The ASV, however, sought a more direct translation and rendered the name as ‘Jehovah’, combining the vowels for adonai with the consonants for YHWH. The ALV simply renders the Tetragrammaton as YHWH. While it might seem that a name with no vowels and all capital letters would be a stumbling block to reading, I find that my mind naturally reads YHWH as ‘Yahweh’, and so it is not an issue for me.

In conclusion, the ALV is the most literal modern translation of the Bible available today. And despite its literal renderings, it has a relatively high degree of readability. It is certainly much easier to read than Young’s Literal Translation, from which it draws some of its translation choices. The awkward use of the word ‘pray’ does detract a bit from readability, but one quickly gets used to it and finds that it becomes less of a distraction over time. I highly recommend the American Literary Version to anyone who has a relatively high level of biblical literacy and who wants to know what the underlying Greek and Hebrew text actually says. And for those who read the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books of the Bible, you will be interested to know that Bibliotheca makes them available as a separate volume in the ALV translation.

Regarding the format, I find that reading the Bible without chapter and verse divisions, footnote, or section headings is incredibly refreshing. The beautiful layout of the American Literary Version in the Bibliotheca Bible is unparalleled by any other Bible I know of. I can't put it down!

I will leave you with some sample passages from the American Literary Version so that you can get a feel for the translation.

The Beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake
     of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in the heavens,
your name be hallowed,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And bring us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Psalm 23
YHWH is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides me in the paths or righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my foes.
You have anointed my head with oil;
my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of YHWH
for length of days.

The Gospel of John Prologue
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
This one was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him,
and without him was nothing made that has been made.
In him was life,
and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not apprehend it.

There came a man,
sent from God,
whose name was John.
This one came for witness,
that he might bear witness of the light,
that all might believe through him.
That one was not the light,
but came that he might bear witness of the light.

There was the true light,
which lights every man,
coming into the world.
In the world he was,
and the world through him was made,
and the world did not know him.

To his own he came,
and those who were his own did not receive him.
But as many as received him,
to them he gave the right to become children of God,
to those who believe on his name,
who were born not of blood,
nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man,
but of God.
And the Word became flesh,
and tabernacled among us,
and we beheld his glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John bore witness of him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘He who comes after me has become before me,
for he was before me.’”
For of his fullness we all received,
and grace for grace.
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No man has seen God at any time;
the only begotten Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father,
he has declared him.

Romans 8:31-39
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Is is Christ Jesus who died, yea rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of the Christ? Shall tribulation or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? Even as it is written,

     “For your sake we are killed all the day long;
     we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Take My Pyakende Upon You

“Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:29-30 are some of the most difficult to translate into the Enga language. From the time that I became a Christian, I was taught that a yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to a plough or cart that they are to pull. This is an easy enough concept to understand for people who come from societies that make use of beasts of burden, but in Papua New Guinea, there are no beasts of burden. Consequently the concept of a yoke placed on animals is completely foreign. Thus, we have struggled greatly in our attempt to translate Matthew 11:29-30.

Recently, however, I came to learn that a yoke can also refer to a wooden frame that a person places on his neck or shoulders to make it easier to carry a heavy load. Indeed, the Bible often makes figurative use of the word ‘yoke’ as it refers to people and not to beasts of burden (see 1 Kings 12:4-14). As I was pondering that idea, I began to notice that when Engan men carry heavy logs on one shoulder, they often balance the load by supporting it with a small stick placed across the other shoulder. A few weeks ago, it clicked in my mind that the small stick they use to make it easier to carry a heavy log is like a yoke. Excited by this realization, I quickly asked my friend Benjamin if the stick that men use to make it easier to carry a heavy log has a name in Enga. Sure enough it does. It is called a pyakende. With great anticipation, I asked the translation team if we could use the word pyakende to translate the word ‘yoke’. After wrestling with the phrasing for a little while, we came up with the following translation: “In order to remove the heaviness from your shoulders, take my pyakende. When you have taken it, you will receive rest. As my pyakende helps you, what I give you to carry is not heavy and you will carry it without struggling.”

Lightening the load with a pyakende
My Heart Will Go Thud
One of the things I love about Enga is the rich metaphors it employs. Sometimes, however, these metaphors can be difficult to grasp at first. There is one particular metaphor that I have struggled to understand precisely: mona lyuu lenge. I knew that the entire phrase meant something like ‘to be at peace in your heart’. I also knew that mona meant ‘heart’ and that lenge meant ‘produce a sound’, but I really struggled to know what lyuu meant. Usually a word that comes before lenge is some sort of sound or speech, but what sound is produced when your heart is at peace? As we were translating Philippians 2:19, the team used this phrase to describe how Paul would feel when he received news of how the Philippians were doing. So I asked the team what exactly mona lyuu lenge meant. Often it is hard to get a straightforward answer to such questions, but the team explained that the literal meaning of lyuu lenge is the sound that is made when a large object hits the ground. For example, when a cluster of pandanus nuts hits the ground, it makes such a sound. Finally I realized that the word lyuu literally means ‘thud’ and that lyuu lenge means ‘go thud’ or ‘make a thud sound’. Well, I was happy to figure out the literal meaning of the word lyuu, but I still couldn’t see what it had to do with being at peace in your heart. The team then further explained that when you feel anxious about something, it is like your heart is hung up on whatever it is that you are anxious about. But when your anxiety is relieved, your heart falls back into place. And when your heart falls back into place, metaphorically speaking, it makes a thud sound just like a cluster of pandanus nuts when it falls to the ground. So, in the Enga translation of Philippians 2:19, Paul literally writes, “When [Timothy] tells me how you are doing, I will hear and then my heart will go thud.” I think my own heart went thud when I finally realized the meaning of this rich metaphor!

A cluster of pandanus nuts
Translation Progress
Since August, the Enga translation team has completed drafts of 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, James, and Philippians. We are currently working on drafting 1 Peter. As God enables us, we are covering much ground each day, even through the more difficult books of the Bible that we are now translating. We have now drafted 73.5% of the New Testament. Please pray that God would enable us to finish drafting the entire New Testament by 2019.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Newbreak Missions Team

We have been so very blessed over the past week to have a team of five join us from Newbreak Church in San Diego. After an overnight in the capital city of Port Moresby, the team hit the ground running. Due to a flight cancellation, the team flew into Mt Hagen (two hours away) instead of Wapenamanda (20 minutes away), and so the team crowded into our Toyota Hilux for the longer, but beautiful drive to our house.

The Newbreak Missions Team
Just an hour and a half after their arrival at our home in the village of Immi, we went off to a Seventh Day Adventist Church camp meeting, where we had the opportunity to share the good news with the people and sell a few Audibibles. The next morning was Sunday and so we went to a Catholic church at the invitation of one of the translation team members. After the service, we headed to the local Assemblies of God church for a traditional style mumu, which consists of pork meat, chicken, bananas, sweet potatoes, and vegetables cooked by stones that are heated in an earthen oven (similar to a Hawaiian luau).

Eating a traditional style Enga mumu
On Monday morning, the team went on a walk in the village of Immi, and one of the team members shared the gospel with three young men that he had met on the road. Later in the morning we visited the Enga Bible translation center in Wabag town and got just a small taste of what translation work is like. After seeing just a few minutes of the translation work, one of the team members, Pastor Steve Bombaci, said, "All I can say is, I have a whole new respect for Bible translators!" Around lunch time we headed to the village of Sakarip for a public event to share the good news and raise awareness of the Enga Bible translation work, selling a handful of memory cards and Audibibles.

Visiting the people of Sakarip village
On Tuesday, we traveled to the town of Wapenamanda to play the Enga Bible on a loud speaker and preach the gospel in the open market area. We ended up speaking to about fifty people who gathered around. We then traveled to a Foursquare school to train community health workers. There we shared stories with the students of how God has worked in our lives, and we encouraged them to be lights in the remote parts of Enga where people have no access to healthcare. We shared the Enga Bible and Enga Jesus Film with some of the Engan students; many of the students were from different parts of the country and expressed interest in receiving audio recordings of the Bible in their own language.

James Jaurez sharing the gospel with people in the open market of Wapenamanda
On Wednesday, we visited the headquarters of the Catholic Church to dedicate the book of Luke along with the other Scripture portions that we have completed in the Enga language. This was the highlight of the team's time in Enga, as the Catholic Church welcomed us and the Bible in Enga with singing and dancing and much celebration. Adam had an opportunity to share his testimony and the good news in the Enga language, which the people warmly received. The missions team members were blessed with what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as they were welcomed with beautiful songs written particularly for the occasion. At the end of the four-hour long event, we sold many Audibibles and a few memory cards.

Listening to the Bible in Enga
On Thursday, we took the morning off after what had been a very busy few days and went swimming in the river by our house, and then into town to the cultural center. At night we showed the Enga Jesus film in the big field in front of our house. Despite the fact that it was pouring rain, there were about 150 people huddled under a tarp watching the film. The vast majority of the people were not believers. At the conclusion of the film, we had the opportunity to share the gospel with many. On Friday, we took a hike up the mountain across the river to a village called Napotesa to present the gospel and share some personal testimonies. On Saturday, the team prepared for their return to America, and they are traveling back to America now as this update is being posted.

Preaching the gospel in the village of Napotesa
We would like to express our deepest appreciation to Pastor Steve Bombaci, Karen Adams, James Jaurez, Derrick Watkins, and Dan Mudd for taking time out of their busy lives and flying halfway around the world to share God's love not only with the people of Enga but with us as well. We were truly blessed by the love that they showered upon our family and particularly upon our children. Their time with us went better than I could have imagined, and I told them not to underestimate the value of what they have done to encourage us as a family. Thank you, Newbreak Church, for sending this wonderful team to bless the people of Enga and to bless our family.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Translation Style

One of the biggest questions that Bible translators must ask themselves is, “What translation style should we use?” There are two main styles in use today: formal equivalence (also known as word-for-word) and dynamic equivalence (also known as thought-for-thought). We will look at the differences of these two approaches using Matthew 5:3.

Although many state that they prefer a word-for-word translation of the Bible, there is virtually no Bible in any language that follows a strict word-for-word translation. To illustrate why that is the case, I have made a strict word-for-word translation of the Greek text of Matthew 5:3 below.

Blessed the poor the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom the heavens.

In the strict word-for-word translation above, the word ‘the’ appears four times. In Greek, the word ‘the’ has a different form in each of the four occurrences. But because English only has one form of the word ‘the’, the nuances of each form of the Greek are hidden. As is the case with strict word-for-word translations, the result is not grammatically acceptable, nor is it understandable to the average reader. Such translations appear only in specialized reference works called interlinears.

Formal Equivalence
Translations in the formal equivalence style seek to follow the actual words and structure of the source text as closely as possible while keeping in mind the rules of English grammar and style. In English, most of the formal equivalent translations flow out of the Tyndale-King James tradition. Three of the best known formal equivalent translations in English today are the English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and New King James Version (NKJV). Not surprisingly, all three produce the exact same translation of Matthew 5:3.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When compared to the strict word-for-word translation, you can see that the changes are quite minor, basically making the translation conform to rules of English grammar and style and giving the nuance of each occurrence of the word ‘the’. The only other changes are the addition of the word ‘are’ and the adjustment of ‘heavens’ to ‘heaven’ because in English we don’t refer to ‘heaven’ in the plural.

Dynamic Equivalence
Translations in the dynamic equivalence style seek to recreate the meaning of the source text for modern readers by using moden ways of speaking. In other words, such translations look at the underlying meaning of the source text and then ask the question, "How would we say that today?" There are a wide variety of dynamic equivalent translations for Matthew 5:3.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (NLT)

Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (CEB)

God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! (CEV)

Great blessings belong to those who know they are spiritually in need. God’s kingdom belongs to them. (ERV)

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (MESSAGE)

A quick survey of the dynamic equivalent translations above reveals the concerns of the translators. It is evident that the translators do not think that the phrase ‘poor in spirit’ is easily understandable to modern readers. In fact, of the five translations, only one makes reference to ‘spirit’ (ERV) and only one makes reference to ‘poor’ (NLT). Two of the translations make it clear that God is the one doing the blessing, and two of the translations change ‘kingdom of heaven’ in an attempt to make it more understandable. One translation considers the word ‘happy’ to be more understandable to the modern reader than the word ‘blessed’.

Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantage of formal equivalent translations is that the reader has a very good understanding of what the source text actually says. The disadvantage is that it usually takes more work to come to an understanding of what that text actually means. The advantage of dynamic equivalent translations, is that the text is more easily understandable. The disadvantage is that the reader often has little idea of what the source text actually says, and he or she is more limited by the interpretive decisions made by the translators. As a rule, formal equivalent translations vary little from one another, while dynamic equivalent translations vary greatly from one another. When a language already has a formal equivalent translation that gives access to what the source text actually says, dynamic equivalent translations can help the reader to consider possible interpretations or to hear the text in a fresh way. However, I would be concerned if there was only one English translation of the Bible and it was done in the dynamic equivalent style, because I would have no way of knowing what the source text actually said (apart from learning Greek and Hebrew).

How This Affects Enga
These issues of translation style are relevant for Enga as well. The current translation of Matthew 5:3 in Enga is written below (in an English back-translation).

God blesses the people who are poor in spirit and want him to help them. Those blessed ones will be in his kingdom.

As the Enga translation now stands, we have added the phrase ‘and want him to help them’ to clarify what is meant by the term ‘poor in spirit’. We have also changed ‘kingdom of heaven’ to ‘his kingdom’. In addition, instead of saying ‘the kingdom is theirs’, we say that they ‘will be in his kingdom’. Finally, we have made it clear that God is the one doing the blessing. (Adding ‘people’ and ‘those blessed ones’ is not so much an addition to the text as it is a requirement of Enga style.) Thus, the Enga translation as it now stands is clearly in the camp of dynamic equivalence.

However, as time goes on, and I reflect more and more on decisions like this that we made early on in the translation process, I am inclined to move more towards the camp of formal equivalence. For example, I am going to recommend to the team that we drop the explanatory phrase that says ‘and want him to help them’. Additionally, because the Kingdom of God/Heaven is a present reality now and not just a future hope, I am going to recommend that we change ‘will be in his kingdom’ to ‘his kingdom is theirs’. In addition, I will explore whether it is feasible to say ‘the kingdom of heaven’ instead of ‘his kingdom’. It may be that it is acceptable to be more literal in this case, but it may be that this is an issue similar to the issue in English in which ‘heavens’ needs to be changed to ‘heaven’. In Enga it may not be possible to talk about ‘the kingdom of heaven’ without making it sound like the kingdom is physically located in heaven. (This is an important distinction since we know from the proclamation of Jesus that the kingdom is at hand and that it is in our midst.) So I hope that we can adjust the Enga to read as follows:

God blesses the people who are poor in spirit. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.

You will notice that I am not recommending removing the fact that God is the one doing the blessing. That is because the rules of Enga grammar usually require the one doing an action to be identified. You can’t just say that people are blessed. You have to say who is blessing them. Similarly, you will notice that I am not advocating for the addition of the word ‘For’ at the start of the second sentence. That is because such an addition would be extremely awkward in the Enga language. What is listed above is probably the closest that Enga can get to the source text while still following basic rules of Enga grammar and style.

Why Shift Toward Formal Equivalence?
There are three reasons why I am inclined to shift toward formal equivalence in Enga: (1) Many Enga pastors also speak English and they will compare our translation to formal equivalent translations like the ESV. If our translation is significantly different, they might consider it inaccurate and reject it; (2) Many Enga pastors have completed Bible school and have basic training in biblical interpretation. As a result, they are more equipped to wrestle with a more literal translation; and (3) Enga does not already have a formal equivalent translation that people can use to find out, more or less, what the source text actually says. While it is impossible for Enga to achieve the level of formal equivalence of translations like the NASB, ESV, and NKJV, it seems wise to move more in that direction.

While shifting our style will require us to revisit our translations of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the majority of verses are fairly straightforward and do not contain the difficulties of Matthew 5:3. However, this is the reality of the translation process. A translation is never really done, but it must constantly be revised and updated. Even a translation such as the ESV has been revised three times since its initial publication in 2001. And don’t forget that the ESV itself was a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1971), which was a revision of the American Standard Version (1901), which was a revision of the English Revised Version (1885), which was a revision of the King James Version (1611), which was a revision of the Bishop’s Bible (1568), which was a revision of the Great Bible (1539). And although the Great Bible was the first authorized translation of the Bible in English, it drew heavily from both the Matthew Bible (1537) and William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible, which was not yet completed when he was burned at the stake in 1536. (Incidentally, in that long line of revisions over 490 years, Matthew 5:3 has remained unchanged apart from minor modifications to spelling and punctuation!)

All that to say, Bible translation requires constant revision. Please keep us in your prayers so that we can be as faithful as possible to the original source text, while communicating clearly in the Enga language. It is not an easy task.

William Tyndale translating the Bible into English