Form And Function In Bible Translation: Where Theory Meets Practice -- By: Dave Brunn

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 12:1 (Spring 2015)
Article: Form And Function In Bible Translation: Where Theory Meets Practice
Author: Dave Brunn

Form And Function In Bible Translation:
Where Theory Meets Practice

Dave Brunn

Dave Brunn is an International Translation Consultant and teaches Bible translation at the New Tribes Missions (NTM) Missionary Training Centers in the USA, Canada, and Australia.

Editor’s Note: Below is a transcript of a presentation by Dave Brunn at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on October 20, 2014. The transcript maintains the colloquial speech, including the use of contractions. The original presentation, with a Q & A session, can be viewed at:

My wife and I serve with New Tribes Mission. We do Bible translation, but with New Tribes Mission our primary focus is church planting among Unreached People Groups, which means giving them the Scriptures in their language. So there is a lot of translation taking place in today’s world, and some of you have probably seen these examples. They were published a number of years ago in Bible Translator. When Coke and Pepsi started marketing their products in China, they made some mistakes. With Coca-Cola, you can’t really translate the name. Rather, you have to transliterate it, which means that they tried to find a way that was fairly easy to pronounce in Chinese. The problem initially was that it meant something. At least in one dialect it meant, “Bite the wax tadpole.” So you can image that this was not quite the effect that they would have hoped. Pepsi didn’t do a whole lot better. At that time, Pepsi had a slogan that most of you don’t remember because you’re too young: “Come alive with the Pepsi generation!” Pepsi’s first attempt at translating that into Chinese meant, “Pepsi will raise your ancestors from the dead!” I’d imagine that did something to spike sales until people realized that it didn’t really work.

So, in 1980, my wife and I went to Papua New Guinea. We moved in among the Lamogai people who lived very, very isolated—no Gospel witness, no Scripture in their language, no churches. So we started by learning their language. This was a language that had never been written down before. We broke it down into writings—I was trained in linguistics—and we taught them how to read and write in their language for the very first time. My wife, Nancy, served as a literacy teacher, and we were a team of missionaries. My main role on the team was to work with the mother-tongue speakers and produce a translation of the New Testament and Old Testament portions in the Lamogai language. Now in case you’re not very familiar with New Tribes Mission and translation, we currently have over one hundred translation projects going on around the world, and that doesn’t include projects like mine, which is not ongoing. We work in ...

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