And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
As we go forth with the gospel we understand the need for translation work will follow among peoples who do not have a bible in their language.
When we happen upon the Great Commission, we find that it is a charge to go and proclaim a great solution to humanities greatest problem, the consequence of sin. Death and Hell have been conquered, Jesus is risen, and at his ascension Jesus left the apostles to fulfill the mission of God with the power of God for the glory of God. Problem solved, right? Yes, but no. The problem of man’s redemption has been solved but it still requires our attention to obedience to the command of God to go forth and make disciples of all nations.
As bible believing Christians we are necessarily energized about getting to the 10-40 window, the least and unreached peoples of the world as well as our neighbors and neighborhoods. There is everything right about that, but when we stop to think it through, the Great Commission cannot be accomplished without translation. Even in our Jerusalem there are language barriers that must be overcome and compensated for. If we desire to sincerely accomplish God’s mission, translation will be employed. In due time that may even result in not only the translation of the gospel into tracts and portions of scripture to help them understand the gospel but a genuine attempt to see God’s word translated in written form into the heart language of our target culture.
As we approach the end of the church age we see that there is much work to be done in regard to reaching every kindred, tongue, people and nation. There has never been a time in human history where our ability to accomplish the Great Commission is more attainable. The technological infrastructure exists to deliver the word to people in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago. As we go forth with the gospel we understand the need for translation work will follow among peoples who do not have a bible in their language.
You don’t need a PHD in Greek and Hebrew to figure out that translation work is necessary to make disciples of all nations.
Bible believers have historically responded well to the call to “go preach” as many of the great mission movements throughout history have been accomplished by a minority of faithful saints who took the call to “go” literally, and at great cost to themselves, see fruit that lasts to this day. In the 1800’s both William Carey and Adoniram Judson, among many others, found that preaching the gospel also included translating the word of God. Both men were used of God to translate the scriptures into the various languages and dialects of their target cultures. This process was not new to them nor is it new to us, it is part of fulfilling God’s will.
Nowhere in the New Testament will we find a command to “Go ye therefore and translate the scripture” but if we go and preach to every nation, the translation process will naturally follow. It is impossible to teach “all things” Jesus has said unto our dear brothers abroad and expect them to perfect the saints, order the church and reproduce disciples and churches without the benefit of God’s word. How shall we teach 1 John 5:13 without trusting God’s providential power to provide his words in their language? Shall we mandate all the world speak English and reverse the curse of Genesis 11? You don’t need a PHD in Greek and Hebrew to figure that out that translation work is necessary to make disciples of all nations.
Carey and Judson both possessed understanding of linguistics as both were either educated or self-educated from their youth in Latin, Greek and Hebrew language. Carey is said to have on his own, mastered, Greek, Hebrew, French and Dutch. This would prove very useful to the great missionary to India as today we enjoy the benefit of his work in many Asian languages and dialects including the Nepali and Orissan bibles, though the modern translations are “critical text” for the most part.
it doesn’t mean much if we don’t go back to the starting point and do the work of an evangelist,
Since the Philadelphian pioneers to modern missionary movements we still build upon today, we have seen a lot of advance in reaching unreached peoples. In the span of history, it has been a relatively short period but there is still a lot of work to do in the area of translation.
So here are the statistics concerning bible translation as they stand today.
The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation:
More than 1,500 languages have access to the New Testament and some portions of Scripture in their language.
More than 650 languages have the complete translated Bible.
About 7,000 languages* are known to be in use today.
At least 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible in their first language. More than 110 million do not have a single verse of Scripture.
More than 2,500 languages across 170 countries have active translation and linguistic development work happening right now.
Approximately 1,600 languages* still need a Bible translation project to begin.
*Does not include sign languages
These statistics are not compiled and collected by people who have a faith based view of preservation of scripture, they are gathered by good hearted Christians who, for the most part, don’t even believe the perfect word of God exists in their own heart language, yet they are endeavoring to get it translated in the heart language of those in the tongues of the peoples of the world. Before we cast a stone, we must realize that God is able to provide a perfect word from imperfect means else we are just as susceptible to the “original manuscript” theory as the critical text scholar. We need look no further than the scripture to see God provided the sinless Son of God through the womb of a sinner, who though a virgin, was not immaculately conceived nor sinless. God in his divine providence can and has provided a perfect Word in the flesh and he promises to do so in the text as well.
There is a unique twist in our missions era that adds an advantage that the Philadelphian pioneers didn’t have. Today many of the peoples of the world, even the least reached peoples, attend university in the United States or Europe. Many have a secondary understanding of English and have access to the preserved word of God in English. Though many American missionaries are much less educated in linguistics than their pioneering predecessors, the target culture is often much more educated in English, foreign languages and culture. This is not always the case, as there are still remote peoples, languages and dialects that have yet to even have a discernable alphabet and written language, but among the largest unreached and least reached populations of the world there is access to people who understand and speak English fluently.
I have personally visited places that are categorized as “unreached” (less than 1% or less gospel witness) who have great ability to communicate in English. While that is not always the case, it lends itself to those of us who have a faith-based view of preservation. We start a process understanding there is a process for inspiration, inscripturation, translation and preservation. Having said that, it doesn’t mean much if we don’t go back to the starting point and do the work of an evangelist, making full proof of our ministry and meeting key people in key cultures God would use to get the word of God where it needs to go on time.
Transmission Includes Translation
there is a principle set forth revealing God’s desire to transmit his word to the heart language of the hearers.
The mission of God mandates transmission. Transmit or transmission is not biblical word, but it is a very good English word to describe a biblical principle.
Transmit: To cause (something) to pass from one person or place to another.
Transmission is a good word to describe “getting the gospel where it needs to go on time.” In a car a transmission distributes power at various ratios from the engine to the wheels, so we can get somewhere. Likewise, God uses the preacher and the pen or press in our case to get the power of the gospel to the hearts of men. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and God has designed two primary ways to deliver the truth of his word to the hearts of man. You might even describe them as two edges of the same sword. The first targets the ear gate as the word of God is verbally spoken or preached it is “inspired” or “quickened” in the heart of the soul who will receive it. The second is eye gate which visually access the truth of God’s word and allows access to the soul (Matthew 6:22-23). When one reads (visually) and hears (audibly) the words of God coupling that with a believing and obedient heart which desires to keep or cleave to what has been planted, there is the assurance of blessing (Joshua 1:8). In Revelation the Spirit of God reveals that there is a blessing to the reading, hearing and keeping of God’s word.
Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
It is high time to read, hear and keep God’s word. God’s word is forever settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89) yet God is sending it forth through ministry of his church to search men’s hearts to see if it will settle in the fertile soil of the heart (1 Thessalonians 2:13, Luke 8:11-16, 1 Peter 1:23, Colossians 1:23). From this we can establish some rules of engagement for a faith-based view of transmission of God’s word from heaven to man’s heart.
Rules of engagement for a faith-based view of transmission of truth.
The word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89
This often requires us to “translate” the word of God so we can deliver or transmit it to the target culture. We see in Acts 2 that those gathered from all nations for Pentecost heard the word of God in their own tongue. (Acts 2:8) It didn’t matter if they spoke Hebrew or not, God delivered the message in their heart language. This is because even though the word of God is settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89) it is not settled in men’s hearts. While that is an exception and not the rule, there is a principle set forth revealing God’s desire to transmit his word to the heart language of the hearers.
That transmission didn’t occur without translation.
When it comes to transmitting the bible to peoples who have no written word of God and perhaps no alphabet to even express their language, we appreciate the difficulty of transmitting the word of God to their heart language. We must begin with inspiration (audible or verbal transmission) and preservation (written transmission) or we will drive the discussion into the ditch. If we don’t believe God’s word is settled in Heaven nor in the volume of a book on earth (Psalm 40:7, Hebrews 10:7, Psalm 112:6-7, Proverbs 22:21) then we are not able to accomplish God’s mission in God’s power for God’s glory because we don’t have God’s words. For more information on that go to lffellowship.org and watch the 2018 Certainty Conference. Today as we faithfully fulfill God’s call to teach all nations we deal with the reality that not everyone will have the benefit of written language, but we should endeavor to make sure to give every soul the blessing of verbal transmission of the perfectly preserved word of God we hold in the Authorized version. As we go about to preach the word of God from our perfectly preserved Authorized Version we must by faith address the barriers of language imposed by God in Genesis 11:7. As we preach God’s word we trust the Spirit of God to work through our interpreter to divinely inspire his word and deliver it to the hearts of those who listen. Translation is often common in our transmission because it is the only way we can accomplish the great commission.
God will use some of us to preach his word and others to translate and inscribe his word. We can see this from the opening pages of Genesis. In Genesis 3 when Adam falls in the garden, we see Jesus walking in the cool of the day, seeking Adam. This is certainly not the first time Adam has seen the voice of the LORD walking in the garden in the cool of the day, but it is the first time Adam and Eve hid from him. As the LORD called unto Adam, “Where art thou?” the knowledge of good and evil revealed to Adam that he was in sin and shame was now is covering because he was willingly disobedient to God’s word.
Adam, Eve and Satan heard the words of God verbally, but we didn’t. How do we even know this monumental event occurred at the genesis of human history? Because God has preserved his word for us in written form, so we can behold them visually in the text of Genesis 3. The word of God inspired (spoken) and it was preserved (written). God spoke in the Garden and it was inspired, Moses wrote in the wilderness and it was inscripturated and preserved to be translated once more and preserved in the Authorized Version many generations after it was spoken. Not having an “original” we have assurance that the written account in our authorized Version is no less perfect than the first copy penned by Moses thousands of years after Jesus spoke to Adam in the garden.
Jeremiah spoke God’s word to Baruch in Jeremiah 36 and it was divinely inscripturated for the benefit of the king yet as the king rejected God’s word so God added more revelation concerning the consequence (a picture of Israel rejecting Christ) and then told Jeremiah to toss the “original manuscript” in the Euphrates. Still today, we have the book of Jeremiah preserved in our English language because God not only saw fit to preserve it in Hebrew, but in due time English as well. That transmission didn’t occur without translation.
Psalms 68:11 The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
God has given us his word, yet it will not get to approximately 4,650 people groups of the world who have no possibility of reading it because the bible has not been translated into their language. Many of these people would be blessed with any translation, even what we could consider to be a “bad translation”. Compounding the difficulty many of these peoples do not have an alphabet or, having an alphabet, the resources to bring a translation (even a bad translation) into fruition as there are no Christians actively working to translate the bible verbally or visually. We should be moved by faith to take his word, speak it and transmit it through the translation process to the souls of those whom God targets.
As we consider the need let’s look at some more compelling statistics. If we wait for people to get hold of scripture that is already provided (even in a poor translation or paraphrase) that would leave 53% of the world without any gospel witness! While there is no doubt the most common language in the world is English, there is still a need to transmit God’s word verbally through preaching and teaching and visually through translating God’s word to the many peoples, nations and tongues of the world. According to Statista, English is the native tongue of only 378 million of the world’s population. That falls behind Spanish at 442 million and Chines at 1.3 billion.
Statistically only 650 languages have a complete translation of God’s word. That statistic does not speak to the quality or accuracy or completeness of the translation, that is any sort of whole translation of God’s word. 1500 more only have a portion or portions such as the New Testament translated in their language. That leaves 4,650 languages and dialects yet to read he word of God in their language. It is possible; however, they have heard it in another language or even their language or dialect through a translator.
Language vs. Literacy
received or rejected, revealed or hidden.
As we consider the command of the Great commission regarding transmission it’s important to consider the incredible strides of literacy regarding language. We in the west take literacy for granted yet it was only a few decades ago that 50% of the world was illiterate. It wouldn’t have mattered if you translated the word of God in their heart language because they couldn’t have read it anyway!
Founder of Bibles for The Word, Rochunga Pudaite (1927-2015), was born in a tribe that before being reached by Welsh missionary Watkin Roberts in 1910, beheaded 500 tea plantation workers and some British soldiers in 1871. Watkin spent five days preaching truth from the gospel of John among the Hmar people and one of the tribal leaders, Rochunga’s father, received the gospel and committed his son, Rochunga would bring the bible to their people. The story is tremendous and as Rochunga did produce a new Testament in 1960 after seeking education in India, Great Britain and the United States. What is amazing is that he had to create an Hmar alphabet before he could even begin a translation work! I had the privilege of meeting Rochunga in 2010 at his ministry headquarters in Colorado, Springs. His belief that the written word of God has the power in itself to do the work of evangelism among unreached and closed nations inspired Randy Foster and me to name the publishing ministry at our church “Word First Bible Publishing”. I mention this example and story because the translation work among the Hmar people not only brought a spiritual revival that started from the preaching of a Welsh missionary from the book of John, but it also brought a great educational movement and upward mobility to the Indo-Burmese population of that region. You can go online and check the demographic information of the region impacted by the three generations from Watkin Roberts, his converts, then Rochunga and see a vast difference in education and economic blessing to the region. My point is literacy often follows or is a biproduct of light. We must first go with the gospel, and the Lord will bless his word among the hearts of the people and thereby the culture as it the word of God is received or rejected, revealed or hidden.
Technology and Transmission
In 1436 the first book off the printing press, was a bible. The printing press allowed the canon of scripture to be fired off like a cannon in the kingdom of God setting the kingdoms of this world on edge as literacy was about to upset the papacy. The invention of Gutenberg’s typeset printing press would forever change the war for the word in this world. After the invention of the Gutenberg press the volume of books produced rose from a few million to over one billion in just four centuries! You might think the dramatic increase in books was because of the incredible literacy rate. You would be right to assume that, but you would be wrong to assume the population of the world was becoming literate at the same rate as the west. It has only been in recent years that literacy has risen to over 80% of the world’s population.
Today it is estimated that 86% of the world’s population is literate. If you think that is low, in 1962 when Brother Don Fraser was stirring Independent Baptists up about the need to be involved in bible publication only 61% of the world’s population was literate! Ten years prior it was estimated that 56% of the world’s population was literate. Today the US ranks 17th in the world for literacy with 99% of the population being literate. In 1960 in many places around the world didn’t have populations who could read their language even if they had a bible available in it. This is still the case among many of the unreached and least reached populations, but language and literacy are as advanced as perhaps they have ever been since the days of Nimrod.
Translation and Transmission From Gutenberg to Google
The bible may have been the first thing off the printing press but the first thing off a movie screen was not the bible and the first thing transmitted across the internet was not the bible, though all those mediums have a great potential to deliver the gospel message and teach people the word of God. As important as Gutenberg was, Google and the technology of today is equal in transmission of the word of God verbally (preaching and teaching) and visually (written word of God). The antichrist will most certainly capture the hearts of many and deceive them with technology, but we must not relent in our use of technology to advance the gospel until the catching away of the church, for it is every bit as revolutionary to communicating God’s word as the Gutenberg press.
Theology Drives Our Methodology
Those who may still be reading have shown a great persistence and perhaps the perseverance necessary to be involved in translation. You should know that theology drives your methodology so take the time to go through the discipleship process in your local New Testament Church. Get all the bible education you can to accentuate and complement your linguistics training. It is important that if you are going to jump off the diving board into translation work, you need to have as good a grasp on the bible as the art of linguistics for inevitably a formal method of translating which we prescribe will bring you to places of decision in determining direct equivalence in grammar and meaning that will leave your stomach in knots and your heart heavy in prayer over the proper transmission of God’s truth. Your discipleship process (all seven stages) will come to bear upon your work so make sure you make full proof of your ministry.
Translation of God’s word is not for everyone in the body of Christ, but transmission is.
There are three general methods for approaching translation work:
Formal method: This is a word for word translation bringing the sense from the preserved word and transmitting it into the target language. The King James gang used this method and showed their work as they revealed a word for word translation from the received text into the English language. The words in italics in the Authorized Version reveal the English words added to give the proper sense in English grammar.
Dynamic equivalence method: This is a thought for thought translation. Instead of holding to a word for word translation the translators take the liberty to communicate the thought they feel is implied by the text.
Free paraphrase method: This would be a transmission of general idea with little no regard to translation or communication of source text. This method would be summarized as redefining content “in your own words”.
A faith-based translation process would follow the pattern of the King James Translators and is often accomplished by a team who helps check and work through difficult passages with the primary translator(s). In today’s world it is very possible to be part of a translation team and never leave your local church or the continental United States. Technology allows people to collaborate all over the world.
Translation of God’s word is not for everyone in the body of Christ, but transmission is. It could be, however, that God is calling some among the Living Faith Fellowship who have a faith-based view of scripture to consider trusting God to equip you in the art of linguistics or an aspect of translation work that would lend itself to accomplishing the mission of God through transmission of literally translating the word of God into another language.
We must not be presumptuous. Translation work is not easy, and it is not met without spiritual resistance from the adversary. A Christian who considers being part of a translating ministry needs to count the cost, prepare their mind and heart and seek counsel from their pastor as the work is laborious and tedious as it is rewarding and eternal.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Like Adam in the garden, man is hiding in sin and shame awaiting the voice of God to penetrate the isolation of his wicked heart with words of life that will lead him to reconciliation through the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus has won the war, so we go forth and proclaim the victory both verbally and visually as we provide the word preached and the word preserved. We have little time to waste arguing too long about the veracity of the English bible that has been delivered to us in the Authorized version when 400 years has proven it to be purified and true. There are many peoples left who are still awaiting to hear the gospel, see a tract, read a portion of scripture and someday, by God’s grace have a bible in their native language. We must go because we know God was not only speaking the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20 but he was speaking to us who are his disciples today.