Bible Translation Day

The United States Senate requested that President Lyndon Johnson declare September 30, 1966 to be Bible Translation Day.  Another Bible Translation Day was held in 1967 and the tradition has been carried on by Wycliffe Bible Translators.  For more information about Bible Translation Day visit this page.

In keeping with the festivities, I will be reflecting on Bible translation today.  My passion for Bible translation flows from the necessity and importance of the undertaking.  My life has been transformed by God’s Word, and I want to do my part to help the Bible become available to every person in the world in their heart language, the language they know best.  The organization at the forefront of the worldwide Bible translation effort is Wycliffe Bible Translators.  Much of the information in this article comes from the Wycliffe website.

There are approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world today.  Of those languages, approximately 1,800 do not have a Bible translation project started.  Those languages represent 180 million people.  Some of those speakers are Christians who are struggling to grow spiritually without the opportunity to read God’s Word in their own language.  Many others do not yet have any knowledge of Jesus Christ.

With each passing day, people around the world die without having had the opportunity to hear God’s plan of salvation in their own language.  The staggering need for Bible translation has prompted Wycliffe to adopt Vision 2025.  Vision 2025 is a plan to see Bible translation begun in every language that still needs it by the year 2025.  Wycliffe is seeking to accomplish Vision 2025 through their Last Languages Campaign.  The Last Languages Campaign seeks to raise the funds that are needed for this thrust to complete the worldwide Bible translation effort.

Of the approximately 7,000 languages in the world today, approximately 550 have access to the entire Bible.  That means that only about 13% of the world’s languages have the entire Bible.  1,300 languages have the entire New Testament.  I am prompted to reflect on Revelation 5:9, which says “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (ESV, emphasis mine).  Since Jesus died for every tribe, language, people, and nation, we should seek to give them the opportunity to hear about Him.  Sharing God’s Word with the world is both a staggering responsibility and an incredible privilege.

 

http://www.wycliffe.org/About/Statistics.aspx

 

A number of other organizations that are committed to Bible translation:

All-Nations Bible Translation

Evangel Bible Translators

Pioneer Bible Translators

 

A Bible Study Method

It has been a blessing for me to teach a Biblical interpretation class here at Elnora Bible Institute.  The basic method of Bible study that I teach involves three steps: 1) Observation; 2) Interpretation; and 3) Application.

Psalm 119, a lengthy poem written in praise of God’s Word, mentions those three aspects of Bible study.

We must ask for God’s help in observing Scripture: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18, ESV)

We must ask for God’s help in interpreting Scripture: “Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!” (Psalm 119:12, ESV)

We must ask for God’s help in applying Scripture: “Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” (Psalm 119:5, ESV)

 

Dare to Think

Dare to think, tho’ bigots frown;
Dare in words your thoughts express,
Dare to rise, though oft cast down;
Dare the wronged and scorned to bless.

Dare from custom to depart;
Dare the priceless pearl possess;
Dare to wear it next your heart;
Dare, when sinners curse, to bless.

Dare forsake what you deem wrong;
Dare to walk in wisdom’s way;
Dare to give where gifts belong;
Dare God’s precepts to obey.

Do what conscience says is right;
Do what reason says is best;
Do with willing mind and heart;
Do your duty and be blest.

(Hymn # 427 in the 1901 Brethren Hymnal)

These Inward Trails

I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith, in love, in every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this?” I tremblingly cried,
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in Me.”

(Written by John Newton)

Two Approaches to Scripture

In my understanding, the allegorical interpretation of Scripture developed particularly in the early church. Early Christians such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Origen recognized (correctly) that the New Testament considered the Old Testament to be a foreshadowing of the person and work of Jesus Christ. They therefore desired to find Christ in the Old Testament. Their intentions appear to be sincere, although their methods are somewhat questionable. In their efforts to find Christ, they at times developed novel interpretations of parts of the Old Testament. At that time, allegorical interpretation was an accepted principle to apply to Greek sacred literature, and that helps us understand why at least some of the early Christians accepted such a practice in regard to their sacred literature.

The work of Origen is particularly important in understanding the allegorical approach to Scripture. In his view, the Bible contains hidden secrets. He also thought that Scripture should be interpreted according to its nature. He did not think that every passage has a literal meaning, but he did think that every passage has a spiritual meaning. His approach to Scripture was often a quest to determine its spiritual meaning. An example of that approach in action can be seen in Augustine’s understanding of the door of Noah’s ark being the wound in Christ’s side. That interpretation is not found in the original account or in the New Testament, and yet Augustine was led to that spiritual conclusion. My position on allegorical interpretation is that we should be quite cautious in employing this technique. Unless a passage is clearly given an allegorical interpretation in its original context or elsewhere in Scripture, I think we have no warrant to interpret it allegorically.

The grammatical-historical-theological hermeneutic adopts a completely different approach to interpretation than the allegorical method. As I understand it, the goal of this hermeneutic is not to uncover the spiritual meaning, but rather the goal is to recover the author’s original meaning, whether or not that meaning could be considered spiritual. The grammatical aspect of this approach acknowledges that words and phrases have meaning. For that reason, the meaning of individual words must be understood. Additionally, the grammatical construction of the words must be evaluated. The author communicates through his choice of words, and it is worth studying the individual words that he uses. Grammar can also carry meaning. For example, word order can be used to convey emphasis. Special forms of grammar, such as figures of speech and idioms, must also be understood by the reader if he is to understand the original meaning of the text.

The grammatical aspect of interpretation also extends to the literary context and the genre of the passage. It must be considered how an individual passage relates to the rest of the book in which it is found, and even to the Bible as a whole. Genre is of significance because different genres are to be interpreted differently. For example, it should be obvious that history and predictive prophecy are not to be read the same way. The historical aspect of this approach considers the original culture of the passage. Closely related to that is the historical context. The interpreter asks questions such as, “What was going on in world history or Biblical history at the time this passage was written? What elements of the culture at that time will help me more fully understand this passage?”

In the theological aspect of biblical interpretation, we are called to faithfully move from what the text meant to what it means today. We must consider how the text transcends the original setting. For example, the prophecies of the Old Testament may have found fulfillment in Christ. If we miss that fulfillment, we will not correctly understand the passage. The Bible must be understood as a theological unity. The overarching theme of the Bible is the redemptive work of Christ, and if that is not acknowledged then the story of Scripture will be misunderstood. God’s plan of redemption is initially revealed in Genesis 3, and the remainder of Scripture unfolds the development of that plan. Each passage of Scripture must be understood in light of where it stands in redemptive history.

I consider the grammatical-historical-theological hermeneutic to be a much safer approach to biblical interpretation than the allegorical method. If a passage is to be interpreted correctly, the grammar, history, and theology of the text should all be thoughtfully considered. My view is that each portion of the Bible should be given its most natural reading. The most natural reading may be literal, metaphorical, or some other option. Ultimately, the Bible can only be rightly understood by those who are directed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will aid those who are truly seeking to understand his Word rightly.