More About Cool Computer Programs & Bible Translation

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Technology & Bible Translation – Pt. 2

Last week I gave you some of the interesting background of how the advance of technology and the computer age we live in has helped the cause of Bible translation work.  Isn’t it incredible to think that only a few decades ago, translators had to write all of their language data on 3″ x 5″ recipe cards and file them in their appropriate shoebox.  Read about that here.

Now it is impossible to think that we can do language learning and translation work without the use of a computer.  Even by 1997, when I started learning the village language in that remote location in Papua New Guinea, we had brought along with us solar panels and deep cell batteries to run my computer in the village.  Thank goodness for the advance technology of laptops though, because that first IBM desktop was a real bear to get to and set up in our village.

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Back to the present now, I had started to tell you in the last article about a very cool program called “Paratext”.  Remember all those windows that were open in the one program?  I had Greek or Hebrew in two windows, English Bibles and commentary helps in a few more.  I would look at the Tok Pisin (PNG trade language) in another, and then a few more held the vernacular village language of the text I was going to do the consultant check on.  I’ll show you again what it looks like:

Paratext Windows (800x450)

So at any given time, I usually have about four languages going on inside all these windows.  It would take a lot of time (or sentences) to explain everything that I can do with this program.  But let me give you a peek into one corner, and show you what I do.  I will open up the Hebrew language corner where I am working on the Psalms.

The first thing I want to show you, even though you probably don’t know Hebrew, is what amazing things you can learn when you can read the Bible in the original language that it was written in.  (The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek.)  I will paste the blown up picture of the Hebrew-English Interlinear text.  It looks like this:

Psalm 121 in Paratext Hebrew (800x427)

Underneath the Hebrew text you get a grammatical breakdown of the words in green, and then an English word gloss for the Hebrew word in the light purple.  I highlighted one word in yellow.  One of the interesting things about Hebrew is that most of its vocabulary is based on a three consonantal root form.  This particular root (שׁמר) has the basic meaning of “to guard, to watch over, to protect” .

This passage is from Psalm 121 which starts with a statement and then a question in verse one, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains.  Where does my help come from?”  That was a good question back in the time of the Israelite kings, because there was a great deal of worshipping of idols and false gods going on back then.  And many of them had shrines up on top of the mountains.

Do you see the answer in the next line, which is the first purple line above?  (Remember to read Hebrew from right to left.)  The psalmist was very confident that his help would come from the LORD, the One who made the heavens and the earth.  He goes on to write further about his God, and he used this Hebrew root of (שׁמר) three times in verses 3, 4, and 5.  (Can you see them?)

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This verbal form is called a “participle”, which is often used to help describe someone or something.  The literal translation for this Hebrew root in the participle form would be “the One who protects”.  The psalmist was confident that YHWH was the One true God, above all other gods, who could protect him.  This is good, but it gets better.

It is one thing to believe that God is capable of protecting those who trust in Him.  It is another thing to state emphatically that He will indeed protect you in times of trouble.  And this is what the psalmist does in verses 7 and 8.  He again used the same Hebrew verbal root, but in these verses (and three times) he put it in a future tense, what is called the “Imperfect” form.

You can see this twice in the picture above in verse 7.  It looks like this:  יִשְׁמָר.  There is an extra consonant on front, and it can be translated as “He will protect/watch over”.  No longer is the LORD simply described as the One who is able to protect, but now with bold confidence, the psalmist tells his readers, Yes, in fact He WILL protect those who trust in Him.

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Isn’t that so cool what you can learn about God when you are able to read the Scriptures in its original language?  I’m glad that I do know a lot about basic biblical Hebrew.  But imagine if I didn’t know that much about it, but still had a program like Paratext that is able to analyze a lot of the language for me.  A whole world of meaning is opened up when we have great computer programs like these to help us to read and understand the Bible.

I wish that I could let all of you who read this to be able to have this program I use.  But a program like Paratext is given out primarily to those involved in active Bible translation projects.  If you are really interested in this though, you can do an internet search for Greek-English Interlinear or Hebrew-English Interlinear Bibles online and find lots of helps.

One good site is http://interlinearbible.org/ which will allow you to choose either the Hebrew Old Testament, or the Greek New Testament.  We are so very fortunate to have so much available to us electronically.  I will have more to say in the future.

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Prayer, Praise & Heading To Texas

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PROVIDING HIS STORY

A Ministry Update of
Norm & Jill Weatherhead

To the Bible-less People Groups of the World

Exodus 6:2     וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

This verse is perhaps one of the most important ones in the entire Bible.  In it, the Creator God (Elohim) reveals His personal name (YHWH) to Moses.  He goes on in the next verse to explain that He did not reveal His personal name to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.  But from now on, the people of God would come to know Him in a personal and powerfully intimate way, as the Israelites (and now us) became His people, and He truly became their God.

During the summer months, Norm spent many hours studying the “Basic of Biblical Hebrew” to be able to once again read the Old Testament in its original language.  It had been 18 years since he last took a Hebrew course, and he is so glad to be able to get back into the OT text again.

The reason that Norm first studied the basics, and then now is working at understanding the various discourse features of Hebrew (such as narrative, instructional and hortatory discourse and poetic style), is so that he can be ready to do consultant checking of Old Testament books for various translation projects.

In our next trip to Papua New Guinea (Jan – May 2013), Norm will work with one language team as they do the final checking and the revising of Exodus 1-24, and Psalms 101-150.  Pray for everyone involved in this translation project that they will be able to find the right words and sentences to be able to express these OT portions well in the language of the people.

Heading To Dallas Again

In just a few weeks, Norm will be spending two months (Oct. 25 – Dec. 18)in Dallas to work on the various translation projects from there, instead of back in Calgary.

While in Dallas, Norm will do much of the initial checking of Exodus 1-24 as mentioned above.  He will also work on preparation questions for the books of James, 1 & 2 Peter for the Tay translation in PNG and James and Jude for the Mborena Kam project, also in PNG, which is being done by national translators.

Please pray for us as Norm goes south and Jill stays in Calgary and continues to work at the Foothills hospital.  We thank God that Jill has been able to get many overtime shifts which she then banks as hours into the future so that she will be able to be with Norm longer in PNG.

We are also so grateful for the prayers of so many people for God to bring healing to Norm.  It was especially moving when the churches which we have just visited called us up and prayed over us.  We see some great improvement, so keep on praying.

Our Family Is Doing Well

We praise God that all of our children are doing well.  Our older son was not only was able to stay on working full-time with H & R Block after the regular tax season at their Call Center,  he was also asked to become part of a special team that would totally rework the interface and the graphics for the website of their company.  His wife is continuing to get good praise reports at her job, and has moved from being cashier to working in the Flooring Dept.

Our second son, on the other hand, has been on the move a lot this year.  He finished his Army Basic Training in Quebec back in February.  Next he went to a base in Borden, Ontario for a few weeks before doing his Soldier Qualification course in Gagetown, New Brunswick.  Now he is back in Borden for his last long course to get trained in his area of being a Vehicle Technician for the Army.

It was wonderful then when he was able to come home to Calgary on a two-week leave period in September.  We packed in as much family activities that we could: a zoo day, movie outings, a few family BBQ’s, pizza and movie nights and lots of good visiting.  We are proud of all of our kids who are maturing well in life and in their faith in God.  Please continue to lift them up in prayer as they seek to make an impact for the Lord in their world around them.

Sharing The Ministry Work Through Media

Many of you know that for almost two years now, Norm has been writing articles in a devotional blog site called “The Listening Post”.  This has been so therapeutic for him over the past two years.  In his articles, he shares a lot about the ministry work that he has done, and is still doing in the area of Bible translation.  He also shares insights into spiritual topics that are based on a couple of Christian books, one of them by Max Lucado.  And currently, he is doing a weekly Bible study as he goes through the Gospel of John.  Click on the title above, or on the words “Sermon” or “Trailer” below to link to the stories.

While in PEI, Norm preached a sermon that gave an excellent overview of what all is involved in Bible translation work.  That sermon was recorded and put online and can be viewed by clicking here (“Sermon).  And then we were very pleased to have two other sources pick up on Norm’s blog site.  A Korean editor of the Christian magazine “”Guideposts” did an interview of Norm and wrote an article in their magazine about him and his work with PBT.  Most recently, a friend of ours produced a Christian movie called “Remember” and did a trailer interview of Norm.  (“Trailer”)

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So this is what is happening for us.  We would ask you to please keep our family in your prayers as we all seek to serve God in our various ways.  Please pry for the time of separation that is coming up for me and my wife that we will be okay while I’m gone.  Pray I get much done in my preparation work while in Dallas so that I will be fully ready to do the consultant checking of 6 New Testament books and 2 Old Testament books for people of three different language projects.  May God bless you richly as you remember us and our work in your prayers.

God Restores My Passion For Missions

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Who Am I?  Part 17

It was during those months of cleaning floors and stairwells on my knees, while I asked God to show me what He wanted me to do with my life, that He used a friend of mine to redirect me.  There had been three significant people in my teens years that had planted and germinated the idea of me becoming a Bible translator.  But it was a college friend of mine who asked me at age 32, “Didn’t you want to be a missionary?” that began the process of me finding my true path and calling in life.  (Read that story here.)

What my friend helped to do was to stir up the embers in my heart of wanting to serve God, and specifically to do so in a cross-cultural way.  It was another college friend who also was living in Prince Edward Island at the time that wondered if I was going to do something about my love and ability to handle languages, and especially the original languages of the Bible, Greek and Hebrew.

In further discussion with my friend, he suggested that I look into Lincoln Christian Seminary (now called Lincoln Christian University).  He knew that there were excellent teachers of Greek and Hebrew there, and he had heard that they sometimes hired language assistants, and suggested that I look into that.  So after a few phone calls, suddenly things were looking up as I began to enroll in LCS, and there was a tentative offer to let me be a Teaching Assistant in the undergraduate Greek class.

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So once again, Jill and I loaded up the kids (now age 2 and 4) and all of our stuff into a U-Haul and headed down to Illinois.  We had fun tenting with our boys as we made our way through the northeastern States.  And Jill passed a nursing exam while we passed through Vermont which would open the door for her to do nursing while we were in Illinois.

We arrived in the middle of summer and got situated in the married student housing complex.  It was less than a 10 minute walk to get to the Seminary.   The difference between getting there in six minutes versus ten minutes was the choice of whether to go through or around the cornfield.  It certainly was interesting to walk through corn stalks that were taller than you were.  By late Fall though, the harvest was in and you could run straight across the dirt field.

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Within days of arriving in Lincoln, I had made contact with the professors of Greek and Hebrew.  I was very disappointed at first to learn that they had already filled the spot of TA’s for the undergraduate Greek class.  But then they asked if I would be interested to help be a TA in the first year Greek class for the Seminary.  Wow!  I couldn’t believe they would give me that opportunity.  Of course I said yes, and I loved being a tutor for my fellow seminarians.

Then I inquired about the Hebrew courses.  It had been 7 years since I’d taken Beginning Hebrew, so I assumed that I would have to repeat the course.  Well, the professor suggested that I take the three weeks or so that I had before classes started and review my Hebrew and try to pass a proficiency test.  So…rather than playing in the park with my boys, or sun tanning with Jill, I dug into some Hebrew text books.

A few weeks later, I took the proficiency test, and to my amazement, I scored very well and was recommended to take a 2nd year-level Hebrew course.  My fascination with the language grew.  I took the Hebrew Readings course in the Fall, and I was ready for more in the Winter.  But they had no 3rd year-level Hebrew.  So I asked to do a one-on-one study with the professor and we met weekly to go through a giant Hebrew grammar.  (Am I a glutton for punishment, or what?)

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Getting back into biblical languages was not the best thing that happened to me while in seminary in Illinois.  Something else even more life changing happened.  Shortly after we started the Fall courses, I had been talking to some other people on campus about my love for the biblical languages and my passion that I had always had to become a career missionary.

Well one person suggested that I needed to meet a certain faculty member, because this man was known to be a Board member of a mission group that specialized in Bible translation.  And so I did go over and meet this man and he told me that he was part of a group called Pioneer Bible Translators.  He told me how it did much of the same work as Wycliffe Bible Translators, but was associated primarily with the church background I had come from.

He then told me that he would be driving down to Texas in November to sit in on the semi-annual Board meeting and asked if I wanted to come for the drive and meet these people.  Jill and I thought this was a great idea.  I had a wonderful time in Dallas at the international office of PBT, and was so impressed with what I saw and heard.  And when I got back to Jill in Illinois (who had been praying and wondering the whole time I was gone), she asked me, “So….what did you think?”  And my answer was, “Start packing!”