Translation and Scripture Engagement among Oral Communicators


By Dr. Margaret B. Doll, Associate International Media Services Coordinator, SIL International

“Translation organizations simply do not have enough people or money to translate the whole Bible into every language that they work in,” says Wycliffe translator Eddie Arthur. Traditionally, it is the translation of the New Testament that is given a higher priority. Yet, it is the Old Testament that provides the background for understanding of the New Testament. Arthur recalls that one translation consultant said, “trying to translate the New Testament without the Old Testament in place is like trying to build the fourth story of a building without the three lower stories in place.”

Translator Hanni Kuhn suggests that this problem can be addressed by a ‘ramp approach’:—

As for people who have no prior knowledge of the Bible, leading them straight to the New Testament is like asking them to climb or jump to a level that is really out of their reach. They need a sort of ramp to make the ascent gradual, namely, a certain amount of Old Testament background.

Arthur also points out that although the genealogies of the Old Testament are of little interest to Westerners, much of Africa and Asia see great importance and relevance to the record of ancestors and family history. “It makes no sense for a key character such as Jesus to be introduced without an extensive genealogy explaining who he is and where he comes from … it establishes him as a real and credible person. [It] proves that he is a living historical person, not fictitious.”

And Arthur states, “There is one group in particular for whom the Old Testament often has a special resonance; oral learners. For many Christians around the world, the way they engage with the Bible is not by reading it, but by listening as someone else reads out the text. It is well worth remembering that Scripture is addressed to those who have ears to hear!”

Here in International Media Services (IMS),[1] we are packaging our Old Testament Bible Story Video Templates (BSVTs) into ‘ramp’ packages and genealogy groupings, so that translators, Scripture engagement workers, and media field teams do not have to struggle with how and when to use various media tools in their language/translation projects. The packages and explanations, as well as tutorials on using the templates and free recording software, are right there on our Vernacular Media website and accessible when they need them.

We have also created a Video Template on the History of Bible Translation which highlights the missiological relevance of Bible translation. The script and template leave room for each language group or country to customize the end of the video with specifics about how the Bible has been translated or is in the process of being translated in their own context.

The Bible Ramp: Using Old Testament Stories to Highlight New Testament Themes
Seven research-based packages of Old Testament video templates allowing the translator to easily create short Bible story videos.
New Testament Genealogy Package
The Matthew 1:1-16 Genealogy provides a clear account of the lineage of Jesus starting from Abraham and continuing through Jesus.  The stories behind these characters provide a wealth of information about biblical truths which span the whole Bible.  The Genealogy Series  provides another valuable tool to bring a rich understanding of events in the New Testament through a clear understanding of Old Testament character narratives using color illustrations in video form.
The History of Bible Translation
The History of Bible Translation is a great tool to help national, mother-tongue Bible translators understand the missiological basis and context of Bible translation against the backdrop of history.

[1] IMS is a Scripture Access Services domain within SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics)

Wycliffe Bible Translators, USA, a Mission Nexus member, provided this article. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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