19th May 2013

Translations 

“’ej chaHvaD jatlh: peghoS ’ej qo’ naQDaq De’ QaQ yImaq. chenpu’bogh Hoch yImaq.”
Mark 16:15 (with acknowledgement to The Klingon Bible Translation Project)

Don’t worry—I’m not speaking in tongues. I’m just reading this well-known passage where Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel—in Klingon, the language of a warrior race from the StarTrek universe. They don’t really exist, of course. But you’d better not say that to dedicated Trekkers. They take these things pretty seriously, seriously enough to have invented an entire language for the Klingons. Not just a few words, but a complete language with grammar and syntax. And yes, someone has even begun to translate the Bible into Klingon.

Of course, it’s not likely that many people will become students of the Klingon translation of the Bible, but translating the ancient text of the Bible into spoken languages has long been important work. 2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the Authorised Version as it’s known in Great Britain. I know the King James Version seems old fashioned to us now but, when it was originally published, it was intended as a translation that could easily be understood by ordinary people.

As you probably know, what we call the Old Testament originates from a text written in the Hebrew language. Parts of the New Testament originate from Greek and other parts in Aramaic. The Old Testament itself also had been translated from Hebrew to Greek long before Jesus was born, and it was the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was most common in Jesus’ day.

To translate these ancient languages into English—or any other language for that matter—is a complex task. The men who laboured to produce the King James Version 400 years ago did a pretty good job—considering the limited number of ancient texts they had available.

Today, we have discovered older and more reliable ancient texts to work from. In addition, archaeological discoveries and research have allowed us to know so much more about how those ancient languages were used than was known 400 years ago. As a result, in comparison, modern versions of the Scriptures are more accurate. There are literally dozens of versions easily available now. We are almost spoiled for choice and I’m often asked which is the ‘best’ translation. But, I must say, I am hesitant to answer that question. It often depends on personal preference or intended use. The serious Bible student is probably going to make use of several different versions—although I’m not sure where the Klingon version might fit in.

It’s a blessing to have such a variety of good translations, and to have the freedom of choice between them. It hasn’t always been that way. There have been times when even to possess a Bible in your native language would have meant a death sentence. Tragically, there are places in the world where that is still true.

And of the world’s 6,900 known languages, there are still 2,100 that don’t have a Bible translation. There are also millions of people living in poverty that would find it a rare treasure to own a Bible.

For us, this book may no longer be rare, but it’s still a treasure, and we can thank God for the expertise and devotion of all those who have laboured so hard through the centuries, often risking their lives, to make it possible for us to read the Bible in our own languages.

Prayer
Thank you, holy Father, that you have preserved for us your Word. We live in an age where there have probably never been more translations of the Bible, but fewer understand it, or even read it. Yet it is your handbook, Father, for our future. Help us to treasure its contents, rather than its presence. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen

Study by Joseph Tkach

*Note: The Klingon version is not yet published but parts are available on line from the Klingon Bible Translation Project.

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joeandtammyAbout the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA.

You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK.  For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

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Email:  admin@daybyday.org.uk

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