Working Through Matthew While on Furlough

Very recently, one of my colleagues from Pioneer Bible Translators has taken a furlough leave from Papua New Guinea to come back to the States to visit with family and friends and her supporting churches.  As she mentions below, often when a missionary leaves the field for an extended period of time, the work of translation being done by the national people can come to a grinding halt.

This furlough break has been different this time as we have found an effective way for others to help with the project who then send electronic updates of the changes, and there is a means by which Comments, Notes and Questions can be sent back and forth by Internet connection.  It isn’t quite a “real time” event, but close to it.  Thank goodness for the electronic age in which we live.

Below is a little snapshot of what can come up during a Bible translation checking session.  What you will note as you read her story about the checking of the translation is that there are often many little changes that are made to help a story flow along more smoothly and to make logically coherent and understandable.  But there are still those few times when significant changes are also needed to be made.  Enjoy her story.

                                

“Why did they do that?  Was that change really necessary?”  I thought to myself as I looked at the revised text of Matthew 3:4.  The more I looked, the more I began to see the possibilities and soon I was chuckling at the image of John the Baptist in the rough draft.  The poor guy was eating one grasshopper and one bee egg [the cultural equivalent of honey in our language] – or at least the text didn’t specifically say that he was filling up on grasshoppers and bee eggs. 

The national translators had noticed this and decided that John probably would have eaten lots of grasshoppers and bee eggs to keep from starving and so they added little words that indicate that the items were both plural.  A minor change, but a good one since John’s diet was strange enough without being limited to one of each item.

    

In Mat 3:12, the poor thresher of lots of grain was left putting only one seed into the house for storing grain.  The national translators could not imagine someone doing all that work for one seed, so they changed it to putting seeds (plural) into the house for storing grain – again a wise choice.  

In a similar way, in Mat 6:30, the national translators caught the fact that Jesus was telling the people not to think about one set of clothing – that would have definitely been a bad scene with everyone fighting to get one thing.  Instead he was telling all of them not to think about all kinds of clothing – definitely better when a plural marker is used on the object. 

In Mat 7:17, however, they had changed a plural verb form to a singular and I wanted to say, “Why did they do that?” but I knew that I would find a logical reason – Jesus was just using one tree as the example and not talking about all kinds of trees.

    

I was relieved to see that there was finally a real content change in Mat 7:15 (changing “hair” to “skin”) rather than changing a singular to a plural or a plural to a singular.  The change from “pig sheep hair (singular)” to “pig sheep skin (singular)”, however, made me want to ask, “Why did you do that?”  

After further analysis (trying to envision what it would look like), however, I quickly decided that a wolf would be much better disguised by putting on the full skin of a sheep than by putting on one hair of a sheep or even a handful of wool and trying to disguise himself with it – picture a wolf in a little tutu of wool. 

After trying to envision things from their perspective, I decided to accept that change and many other changes they had made.  I did, though, reject some of the revisions as inaccurate and sent them back to the drawing board to “try, try again” on those passages.

    

Normally when I am back here in the USA, all translation and literacy work comes to a grinding halt, but this time has been different.  One of our other PBT translators just completed a 3 week work session with the our  translation team in which we shared the data regularly via a computer program that allows us to send and receive changes easily.  

I would write questions to her and she would write answers and more questions to me that I would then try to answer.  It generally worked well because while they were working, I was sleeping and vice-versa.  It still feels like “magic” to me because I remember the days of typewriters and carbon paper.  Praise God with me for technology that allows us to interact with work sessions on the other side of the world.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Advertisements