Welcome to the first in a series where we answer your questions about the nitty-gritty of what we do. Gilles Gravelle, our resident director of research and innovation, is on deck to answer the first one.
The Seed Company does not have a pre-determined order for translating Bible books. Instead, we assist our field partners (local translators and church leaders) in considering which books of the Bible they need most at the start of the translation project. Most people desire to eventually have the full New Testament in their language, but they have good reasons to begin with certain books that do not follow the order of books given in the Bible.
Examples of Local Communities’ Decisions
For example, some teams choose to translate Genesis, even before translating any New Testament books, because their people have no historical understanding of the Bible. Genesis, of course, provides that important background information needed to make sense of the New Testament for these people.
Others have such pressing needs in their communities that they choose to translate books or Scripture portions that address those needs, such as trauma counseling, diaspora, civil war, and social disintegration.
Still others desire a combination of books from the Old Testament and the New Testament to provide a rapid understanding of the overarching themes found in the Bible.
Interestingly, one group decided to translate the Corinthian Letters before any other New Testament book. Because of long-term missionary teaching, they had a basic understanding of the Gospels, enough so that they realized their church urgently needed the same sorts of corrections that Paul taught in his letters to the Corinthian Church.
And would you believe that one group wanted to translate Leviticus first? Being a cattle herding culture, they used blood in many of their rituals, so Leviticus made great sense to them. The concept of blood sacrifice for atonement held the key to their understanding of Christ’s self-sacrifice and atonement for sin.
The Key: Holistic Community Development Through Bible Translation
Most people eventually go on to translate the full New Testament with significant portions of the Old Testament, if not the entire collection of books. The important thing to remember is that the order of translation will be different from group to group because of their cultural and religious background and their more pressing spiritual needs. ◊
Now it’s your turn. Let’s say the Bible didn’t exist where you live, work, and go to school. What book or portion of the Bible would you translate first to meet the most pressing needs in your community?