World Ministry: Translation and Training for the Two-Thirds World -- By: Rodney J. Decker
JMAT 9:1 (Spring 2005) p. 72
Translation and Training for the Two-Thirds World1
Associate Professor of New Testament
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania
Perhaps the most basic prerequisite for any form of missions or evangelism (however those terms may be defined) is that the missionary/evangelist be able to communicate with the target audience in a language that both can understand. To be most effective, this should be a heart language2 of that target audience; we would be foolish to expect them to learn our language so that we can evangelize them. Using an intermediate mode of communication (such as a functional lingua franca) is often clumsy for both parties and can become inefficient and frustrating. This is especially true if that intermediary mode employs a translator.3
Twentieth-century missions sometimes assumed this prerequisite in cross-cultural settings by expecting the missionary to spend
JMAT 9:1 (Spring 2005) p. 73
adequate time in language study to become sufficiently proficient to communicate the gospel clearly and to teach converts adequately. Where this was not the case (which, unfortunately, was/is not uncommon), the results were disastrous as well as wasteful of resources.4 All too frequently the proficiency attained was only a minimal functional level that did not enable serious discussion at the abstract level. This was (and is) a major problem in missions.
Only slightly less basic than the ability to communicate in the language of the target audience is the need for a translation of the Bible in a fluency language of the audience. Although this is less of a problem today than it was 200 years ago in that much translation work has been done,5 there may still be situations in which some-
JMAT 9:1 (Spring 2005) p. 74
one must first reduce a language to writing and produce a translation of at least some portion of the Bible before evangelism is possible.6 There are several reasons for the necessity of fluency-language translations.
First, Christianity is a religion of the Book. It is impossible to conceive of Christianity apart from the Bible. Although our faith is placed in a personal God and in Jesus Christ as Savior, that faith is predicated on objective, revealed information. Apart from the Bible we would have ...
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