This week I am to start the consultant checking of Mborena Kam books of James and Jude. These happen to be a couple of the hardest books in the New Testament to translate, as there are many places where we really do not know what exactly they are talking about. That is where commentaries are so helpful.
These two books will be the last books of the NT to check for the Mborena Kam. Praise God for that. I think it should only take us about 3 days or so to check the 108 verses. Then I want to work with the team to help them start to pick maps for the back of the Bible, such as Paul’s three missionary journeys, and a map of the Middle East during the time of Jesus. Then I want them to choose Bible illustrations for culturally difficult passages.
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Take Mark 1:6 as an example, where someone might ask “What is a camel?” This is important, because John clothed himself in the “hairs of the camel” and so we put a picture of a camel in the text. Then the team needs to choose a phrase in the Tok Ples (their village language) that helps to describe what the picture is all about.
Another task that I hope to do with the Mborena Kam in this two week period is to work with them on running all of the Scriptural “Checking Tools” which we have. We are so fortunate to live in this day and age where we have so many powerful computer programs which can assist us in our work in tremendous ways.
I will ask the team to “Run the Basic Checks”. These checks look at such things as “Are quotation marks being used consistently throughout the NT.” Often they will find the errors where there is an opening quotation, but they cannot find a closed quotation marker. And so the verse is marked with a “Missing Component” mark. Other basic checks are the use of punctuation, Capitalization, paired words, etc. You’d be amazed at how many times there was an extra space put between the last word of a sentence and the punctuation that closes the sentence.
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In addition to spending many hours reading the book verse by verse, holding discussions as to whether something has been added in that should not have been, or something has been left out that needs to be put back in, we often need to do what is called comprehension checking. This is where the consultant (me for example) writes up hundreds of notes and questions to ask the team, and waits then to find out what kind of response they will get to the consultant’s question.
Some questions are usually simple ones, comprehension questions, like “Where did Jesus go, was it upstream or downstream.” (This directional sense is very important in many language groups.) Some questions simply deal with missing information. It is not that difficult while one does translation work that your eyes get tired, and they can skip ahead in a verse and leave something out. These errors are easy to find and fix.
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There are other more complex issues to deal with, such as when some extra-biblical material has been added to the text. Does this material get deleted, simply because we do not find that these words are not found in the original Greek documents. What we have to realize though, is that these documents of the Bible were written by men from within one ancient cultural world and world view that many of the people to whom they were written, already shared the same culture and worldview.
That leaves the Scriptures to be wide open with misunderstanding for people today, since the understood, implicit information that the 1st Century Jews and Christian would have, is not understood by us. And so there are many places where we take this culturally understood implicit information and we bring it up to the surface and make it explicitly clear for any reader of any time or culture.
We also check for consistency among verses with similar wording, and we also look at how consistently the people are using special Key Terms, like priest, Sabbath, temple, prophet, etc. In many cases, these key terms can be translated in identical ways. But this will not be the case in many times, since context and work usage is so important.
When the word is used as a subject of the sentence, or the object of the sentence, or has some aspect of possession of another item, then many languages use special suffixes or prefixes to show how the work is being used grammatically. We need to keep an eye on sentence syntax and grammar to know if the word is spelled right, and is fulfilling its purpose within the sentence.
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There are just so many aspects involved in trying to produce the very best translation that is accurate to the original languages of the Bible (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic), that has gone through translation principles to make it flow in natural village language style, and most importantly, that the message is clear to all those who hear it in their own mother-tongue language.
So please be praying for me and the Mborena Kam team as we finish the last official consultant checked books for their New Testament. But we are not done yet. Pray for us as we work through all of the other tools and checks to make sure no Scriptural errors have made it into the final form of their Bible.