Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What Kind of Animal is the Beast?

Have you ever considered what the “beast” in the book of Revelation looks like? Have you ever considered what kind of animal the “beast” is? Do you even think of the “beast” as an animal, or do you associate the “beast” with a person? And when you think of the “beast,” do you forget, as I do, that Revelation 13 actually describes two beasts?

If you are like me, you have probably never given any consideration to what kind of animal the “beast” is, and you have probably considered the “beast” to be more of a man than an animal. After all, in English we can use the word “beast” to describe a person. For example, we might describe a cruel and inhumane person by saying, “He is such a beast.”

However, the Greek word for “beast,” which is θηρίον (thērion), refers very definitely to animals, particularly wild animals. These animals were created on the sixth day along with the domesticated animals and the things that creep upon the ground. But unlike the domesticated animals such as cows and sheep, and the small animals that creep along the ground such as mice and lizards, the beasts are large, dangerous animals that live in the wild, such as lions and bears. So the word “beast” simply means “wild animal.” 

An artist's rendition of the first beast in Revelation 13
A great advantage of the English language is that it has words like “beast” and “animal” that describe large categories of things. However, languages like Enga do not have large category words like that. When they describe an “animal,” they use the specific word to describe the specific animal that they are talking about. Sometimes such categorical words can be created, by saying things like “things that have four legs” or “things that move” or “things that are alive,” but often such created categorical words do not work well in translation.

Although Enga does not have large categorical words like “animal” or “beast,” words such as “pig” and “dog” do cover smaller categories of animals. For example, the word “pig” describes any four-legged animal that has hoofs of any kind. So when animals such as cows, sheep, and horses where first introduced into Enga, the Enga people called them “pig cows” and “pig sheep” and “pig horses,” with the word “pig” describing what type of animal it was. Similarly, the word “dog” describes not just dogs but also cats, because both animals are similar in that they have four legs and claws and hunt for food. Similarly animals like lions and bears could be described as “dog lions” and “dog bears.”

A fascinating component of language learning is the discovery of how different languages and cultures classify things differently. English speakers would never describe a cat or a lion or a bear as a type of dog, nor would they describe a cow or a sheep or a horse as a type of pig. Nor would English speakers classify mice and lizards in the same category as did speakers of classical Hebrew. The words that we use shape how we see the world and what categories we put things in.

So as I was reviewing the translation team’s draft of the book of Revelation, I was eager to find out what sort of “animal” they would envision the beast to be. Now, different members of the team translated different chapters of Revelation, and so I found out that some of the translators were calling the beast a “wild pig,” while others were calling it a “wild dog.” In researching the “beast” more closely, I discovered that the first beast is described in Revelation 13:2 as being like a leopard and having feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. That solved the problem right there. According to the Enga system of animal classification, leopards, bears, and lions all fall into the “dog” category, so the beast is obviously a “wild dog.” In English, something that resembles a leopard and bear and a lion defies specific categorization, but in Enga such an animal is clearly a type of dog.

So beware of receiving the mark of the wild dog on your foreheads or your right hands. Actually, since Enga has no word for “hand,” but simply classifies the hand as part of the arm, you should be careful not to get the mark of the wild dog anywhere on your arm at all. And since Enga has no word for “forehead” but simply uses the word “head,” you should also be careful not to get the mark of the wild dog anywhere on your head at all.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Literacy Graduation

In November, I (Adam) was invited to be the keynote speaker at the literacy graduation ceremony for one of the local church denominations. I was pleased to see forty students from three different congregations gathered together to receive a certificate acknowledging their progress in Enga literacy. I was also encouraged by the fact that most of the people who were graduating had little, if any, prior exposure to reading in any language. Before the literacy course, they were mostly illiterate. And so it was joyful to see people, many of whom were middle-aged or older, learning how to read for the first time in their lives.

Some of the literacy graduates and people in attendance at the ceremony
Often people in Papua New Guinea need encouragement to try to read in their own language. They just assume that they will not be able to do so, and so they either never learn how to read in their own language or they settle for reading Scripture in English or Tok Pisin, neither of which they understand as well as they understand their own language. To help people grasp the beauty of receiving Scripture in their own language, I shared from Psalm 119:103, which, in Enga translation, sounds like this:

The sweetness that happens when I heard your word, surpasses the sweetness that happens when I taste honey.

Applying this Scripture for the graduates I then said to them,

The sweetness that happens when you read God's Word in the Enga language surpasses the sweetness that happens when you read God's Word in other languages. Why? Other languages are not yours. The Enga language is yours.

I then told the graduates that when Israelite boys first started learning the Hebrew Scriptures, the rabbis would gave them a taste of honey to remind them that the Word of God is sweeter than honey. After that, I had the graduates come forward for a taste of honey to reinforce to them just how sweet the Word of God is when they read it and hear it in the Enga language. 

Tasting honey, which is not as sweet as God's Word in Enga
Please pray for these graduates as they have only just begun the long road toward becoming fully literate. We in America often take literacy for granted, and we forget how long it took us as children to learn how to read. It is harder for adults to learn how to read, especially when literacy is not a value of the surrounding culture and when there is little access to books or libraries! To promote an ongoing interest in reading, we gave each of the graduates a free copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Enga. Please pray that they will read it each and every day and improve in their newfound literacy skills.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reading the Printed Gospel

When we decided to allocate to the Enga Bible translation project, we knew that we would need the help of local churches to promote literacy. With over 300,000 Enga speakers, there was no way that we could teach them all how to read. As excitement for the Enga Bible has grown, churches have begun literacy programs to prepare for reading the New Testament in their own language. What is most exciting about this development is that we ourselves did not start these.

Local Church Literacy School
To meet the demand for the growing interest in literacy, we decided to print 250 copies of the Gospel of Matthew so that those who are pursuing literacy will have something to read. Rather than selling these books, we are strategically distributing them as promotional copies to drum up further interest in Enga literacy. A couple of weeks ago, I gave copies to four pastors in town, and they each immediately began reading aloud. One of the pastors, Pastor Joe, was so impressive in his ability to read fluently that I quickly pulled out my phone and took a short video of him for you all to see.

Around the same time, our friend Jenny (not her real name) stopped by our house. You may recall that Jenny was the lady who was accused of witchcraft and was nearly tortured to death in the village across the river from us. While we were away in Ukarumpa, Jenny took it upon herself to take a short two-week course in Enga literacy. We wanted to see how much she had learned, and so we gave her a copy of the Gospel of Matthew, and she immediately began reading it. She wasn’t quite as fluent as Pastor Joe, but we were still highly impressed that a woman who had gone through such difficult trials had taken it upon herself to learn how to read. She is now teaching ten other women how to read. To see a video of Pastor Joe and Jenny reading, please go to (https://vimeo.com/296242115).

Translation Progress
We continue to make excellent progress toward the completion of the New Testament in Enga. During our current two-month stay in the village, we will complete the advisor check for Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, Revelation, and perhaps even 1-2 Timothy and Titus. After returning from the village at the end of November, I will begin working on preparing the Pauline Epistles for advisor check. Preparation for advisor check involves reading the Enga draft translation and meticulously comparing it with the original Greek, making notes and drafting suggested changes. This is very tedious work. For example, in the book of Revelation alone, I have 891 notes to review with the team. Please pray for strength and endurance for me to complete advisor checking. While our work is challenging and tedious, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Enga New Testament and hope to have the entire New Testament completed within three years time.

Bird’s Eye View
A few months ago our friend and fellow missionary Anton Lutz brought his drone to our village house in Enga and took video footage of our house, village, and the surrounding area. We’ve made this footage into a short video along with commentary from the family so that you can get a better idea of where we live. You can view the video at the following link: (https://vimeo.com/296260973).

Drone footage of our house in Immi village
Jacob in the Hostel
Our oldest son, Jacob, decided to stay in the hostel during our current visit in Enga. He is now in eighth grade and very busy in school with many activities. There are many other boys and girls his age in the hostel, which is overseen by hostel parents. While we are sad that he is not with us, he seems to be thriving and enjoying a bit of independence. But please keep him (and us) in your prayers.

Upcoming Furlough
We our planning to begin our next furlough in late June 2019. We will begin our furlough in Western Pennsylvania, where we will be staying with my (Adam’s) parents. During this time we hope to visit friends and relatives in the East Coast area. In December, we will drive cross-country to Los Angeles and spend the remainder of our furlough there before returning to Papua New Guinea in June 2020. We hope to see you then.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Perfect Bible

As a Bible translator, I have spent much time (probably far too much time) searching for the perfect Bible. And although I haven’t found it yet, the following five Bibles come the closest for me.

1. Bibliotheca

Bibliotheca presents the Bible in five volumes without chapter numbers, verse numbers, section headings, footnotes, or any other such “helps.” No other presentation of Scripture draws you into the text itself more than Bibliotheca. For this unique Bible, Bibliotheca produced the American Literary Version, which is a light revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. It is the most literal translation available today that still maintains the literary beauty of Scripture in English.

2. The Early Church Bible
Much like Bibliotheca above, the Early Church Bible presents Scripture without chapter numbers, verse numbers, etc. This Bible combines Sir Lancelot Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint with the American Standard Version New Testament. The Septuagint is the Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament that was made before the time of Christ. It was THE BIBLE of the Early Church. If you have ever wondered why quotations in the New Testament don’t always match up with the Old Testament, it is because the apostles were quoting from the Greek Septuagint and not the Hebrew text. This Bible is available only in Kindle format.

3. My Grandfather’s ASV
I was fortunate to inherit my grandfather’s pristine edition of the American Standard Version, which he received from his Sunday School teacher in 1922 at the age of eleven. They do not make Bibles like this anymore. The traditional beauty of the red goatskin leather matches perfectly the classical beauty of the ASV translation, which will probably never be surpassed in its translational integrity. If I could only ever have one Bible, it would probably be this one. It is long out of print, but a high quality replica is still available.

4. Cambridge Clarion ESV
This is the modern-day equivalent of my grandfather’s ASV. Of all the English translations of the Bible that are popular today, the ESV is my favorite (with the NKJV a close second). And while I prefer formats like Bibliotheca’s for reading, nothing beats the layout of the Cambridge Clarion for more in-depth study. This is the Bible I read with my family each night.

5. UBS Greek Reader’s New Testament
In my mind, the only thing better than reading from a well-executed English translation of Scripture, is reading the original Greek of the New Testament itself. But Greek can be hard to read without a little help. The UBS Greek Reader’s Edition of the New Testament puts the definitions of infrequent words right at the bottom of the page, so that you don’t have to constantly flip through a lexicon. I am also eagerly anticipating the release of the Septuagint Reader’s Edition this fall, which presents the Greek Septuagint in the same format. (My Hebrew isn't as good as my Greek.)

The Perfect Bible

Thinking about this list makes me realize that we English reader’s certainly are spoiled when it comes to all the choices we have as we seek after the perfect Bible. In fact, this powerful video from our coworker Todd Lindley puts into perspective the embarrassing amount of choices available to us as English speakers. But the people in Enga (not to mention thousands of other languages around the world) do not even have a complete Bible in their language at all. Any Bible in their language would be the perfect Bible for them. And so while we have the luxury to pick and choose between various translations, formats, bindings, etc., many others around the world remain ignorant of what Scripture says. But thanks to your support, we are working together to change that! Please pray that the Engans will soon have what will be, in their eyes, the perfect Bible!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Yes and No

Although most English speakers are completely unaware of it, the way that we respond to questions formulated in the negative is very strange indeed. Let’s say Martha is going to the store and says to me, “Honey, I am going to the store,” but five minutes later she returns to the house. At that point I ask her, “You didn’t go to the store?” (a question formulated in the negative). Now, if Martha did not go to the store, she would reply, “No, I didn’t go to the store.” But if she did go to the store, she would reply, “No, I went to the store.” So whether she went to the store or not, she would answer with the word “No.” (Although the way she says the word “No” will probably be different in each case.) Nevertheless, if I were to ask Martha and say, “You didn’t go to the store?” and she were to reply with the word “Yes,” I would be thoroughly confused! As English speakers, our brains don’t know how to handle it when someone replies with the word “Yes” to a question formulated in the negative.

In Tok Pisin and many other languages of the world, people give the literal, logical answer to the negative question. So, in Tok Pisin, Martha would either reply, “Yes, I didn’t go to the store,” or “No, I did go to the store.” Again, as English speakers our brains cannot handle these types of responses. And I have found it best to avoid asking negatively formulated questions at all, because everytime I do ask one, I regret it. (Interestingly, our children have gravitated toward the Papua New Guinean way of replying to negative questions. It is not uncommon for one of them to answer negative questions in English the way a Papua New Guineans would answer a negative question in Tok Pisin. Again, this makes our brains hurt.) 

In Enga, it is even more complex because there is no word for “Yes”; there is only a word for “No.” So, to say “Yes,” Engans restate the action of the verb in the affirmative. For example, if I were to ask Martha in Enga, “Did you go to the store?” she would reply, “I went.” If she wanted to reply, “No,” she could either say “I didn’t go,” or “No, I didn’t go.” Engans also have shortcuts for the word “Yes.” One shortcut is to utter something in between a grunt and a sigh; the other is to raise one’s eyebrows. I still have trouble with the raising of the eyebrows. Often I find myself repeating a question over and over again when I forget that raised eyebrows means “Yes.” Instead, I think that people have just misunderstood me or perhaps did not hear me.

This makes things difficult when translating Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:37, “Let your word be ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no.’” This is further complicated by the fact that the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:37 is his command not to swear any oaths at all. Not only does Enga have no word for “Yes,” but Enga also has no proper word for “Oath.” At first, we translated the idea of swearing an oath as “say that you are speaking very truly,” but we soon discovered that such a translation would not work as Jesus himself frequently says, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” So after much consideration, we translated “swear an oath” as “say the name of something and then say very truly that you will do something.” We found this to be an acceptable translation because swearing an oath usually requires invoking the name of God or something else (such as the saying, “I swear on my mother’s grave”). Having solved the problem of translating “swear an oath,” we were then able to translate Jesus’ words, “Let your word be ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no,'” as “When you say that you will do something, just say that you will do it. When you say that you will not do something, just say that you will not do it.”

Who would ever have thought that the words “Yes” and “No” could cause so many problems in translation work⁈

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First Draft of Enga NT Complete!

On June 1, when Reverend Maniosa Yakasa of the Enga Bible Translation team completed his draft of the last nine verses of Ephesians, our first draft of the Enga New Testament was complete. We began drafting the Enga New Testament on October 21, 2013, and so the drafting process took us four years, seven months, and eleven days.

We started out drafting together as a team, working only part-time when I (Adam) was with the team in Enga. However, as the translators developed their translation skills, the team of six began working together full-time, even when I was not present with them. And the last few books the team drafted individually, sitting together at the translation table, but working to draft the books independently.

Although our first draft of the New Testament is now complete, there is still much work to be done to check our translation and prepare it for publication. Because the translators are now equipped to draft the translation independently, I am free to focus my efforts on the checking of the translation, which is just as time-consuming as drafting, if not more so. Nevertheless, we are nearly halfway through the checking process, and our goal is to publish the New Testament within the next three or four years. In the meantime, the translation team has begun drafting the Old Testament. They have nearly completed their first draft of Genesis, while also making significant progress on their first draft of the book of Exodus.

In the journey of ministry (and life), it is important to celebrate important milestones that we encounter along the way. While there is still much work yet to be done before we publish the Enga New Testament (not to mention the Old Testament), we invite you to join with us in celebrating this important milestone, because you have played an important role through your prayers and giving to help us reach this point. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your faithful support!

Presenting the gospels in Enga at a recent Scripture dedication ceremony
There Are No Words
To understand the difficulty of translating Scripture into a language like Enga, I want to give you a little exercise. Try retelling the following story without using any of the bolded words.

A man had two dogs. The first was named Spot and the second was named Fido. He liked Spot more than he liked Fido. One day the man needed to buy dog food, and so he went to the store and bought some. When he had returned home from the store, he wanted to put on his slippers, but he saw that Fido had chewed them up. And he said to Fido, “From now on, when I leave the house, I will lock you in a cage, until you learn not to chew up my slippers.”

You probably encountered some difficulties in trying to retell that story without using the words in bold, even though the story is quite simple. Enga does not have any of the words that are in bold, and so we would tell the story like this:

Two dogs of a man existed. The first was named Spot and the second was named Fido. He liked Spot. He really liked Fido. One day the potentiality for the man to buy dog food existed, and so he went to the store and bought some. When he had stood at the store and returned home, he was thinking, saying, “I shall put on my slippers,” but he saw that Fido had chewed them up. And he said to Fido, “Sitting at this time, when I leave the house, I will continue to lock you in a cage; when you learn not to chew up my slippers, I will not lock you in a cage again.”

This short exercise illustrates that when we translate even relatively basic stories from the Bible into Enga, we often encounter difficulties because of the differences in basic vocabulary. I am always surprised at the types of things that take a long time to translate, and I am often sitting there wondering why something that is so clear and obvious to me causes such challenges to the translation team. It is easy to forget about all the “bolded” words that they don’t have. (And of course, they have many “bolded” words that English does not have, which can make even basic speech difficult for me.)

By the way, in this brief example, I don’t even touch on the cultural background that most people in America would understand immediately, such as the fact that Spot and Fido are traditional names for dogs and that dogs chewing up slippers is a traditional problem of owning a pet dog. Of course, in Enga culture, a dog would never be permitted inside the house, and “slippers” would refer to what we would call “flip-flops.” And the idea that anybody would buy food for a dog would be considered ludicrous, as would the idea of keeping a dog in a cage when the owner is away from home. While finding the right words to use in translation is difficult, accounting for cultural assumptions in the biblical text can often be just as difficult

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Being a Missionary Kid in PNG

During our last stay in Enga Province, the kids put together a short video about life as a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea. They did such a good job, that we decided to let the video stand alone as our update for July. Enjoy!