The 170th Annual Report of the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS) has an interesting section about Bible translation work. The Society believes that it is the responsibility of the Christian churches throughout the world to translate the Scriptures, rather than Bible Societies and other parachurch ministries. The TBS therefore acts as a facilitator and helper in the work. It seeks translators, evaluates the needs of the people who desire an accurate translation, analyses existing translations, answers questions which are posed during the work, assists in checking and proof-reading, and finances various aspects of the project as God provides.
The translators whom they help actually live and work in the country where the language is spoken, daily hear its inflections and idioms, and have firsthand knowledge of the people for whom the translation is being made. Living in that country is not the only requirement for translation. “We need people”, says the Society “who have been saved by God’s grace and are being sanctified as they daily walk with the Lord Jesus.”
The Society states that there are three special characteristics which they seek in their translators. “First is that they must be sound in doctrine. This means that they must agree with the theological stance of the Society as stated in The Constitution of the Society and An Introduction to the Society’s Principles.” Translators are required to sign this statement of Reformed doctrine, which contains the basic elements of Protestant theology.
Second, translators who work for the Society must use formal-equivalence principles of translation. This means that they will take into account all the words of the Greek and Hebrew texts, using idioms, figures of speech, and other devices which are necessary for accurate, faithful and clear translations. “Thus, as has been said many times before, a translation must be ‘as literal as possible and as free as necessary’.” This policy ensures that the translation is of the same nature as the Authorised (or King James) Version rather than a dynamic-equivalence version such as the New International Version.
“Third, translators who carry out work for the Society must agree to use the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus Greek New Testament.” The Society rejects the speculative, ever-changing theories of Old and New Testament textual criticism which are practised by so many of the Bible Societies in the world today and which have resulted in so much confusion in many parts of the Christian Church.
The Society emphasises its need of prayer more than anything else. “We need constant daily prayer not only for the Editorial Department but also for all aspects and ministries of the Society. We acknowledge the Sovereignty of God. We also realise that God works through the prayers of His people.”
The Report adds that once a portion of Scripture has been translated, it must be read by people who can suggest improvements; and once the portion is typeset, it must be proof-read, corrected, and proof-read again to ensure accuracy. “Helpers must be fluent in the language, but they need not live in the country. . . . Nor must helpers have abilities in the original languages of Greek and Hebrew, or have other high academic qualifications. They can be pastors or laymen. Of great importance is that these people know and love the Lord and hold to the sound doctrines of the faith which are taught in the Word of God.”
The Society pleads, “Please consider your place in the world-wide ministry of TBS. . . . Would you be willing to seek the Lord about your place of service in the work of Bible translation? Would you be able to assist TBS in translating the Holy Scriptures? Can you assist by checking and proof-reading work? Most importantly, will you pray for us? The responsibility for providing the Scriptures for the world belongs to the Church. Through this work, you will bring honour and glory to the Lord and copies of His Word to those who need it.”
In 2000 the TBS published and distributed almost three quarters of a million copies of the Bible (including 310 000 copies of the English Authorised Version), plus millions of New Testaments. The total number of Bibles, Testaments, gospels and a wide variety of other Scripture portions distributed last year was more than ten million.
The Report also records the passing away towards the end of last year of the Rev A McPherson, a Vice-President of the Society, and minister of our Perth congregation. The Report states, “As a member of the General Committee, Mr McPherson’s contribution had been very valuable. Although he had suffered ill health for several years, Mr McPherson had maintained a keen and prayerful interest in the work of the Society to the end of his life. May the Lord grant all needed grace and support to his widow.”
The work of the TBS merits our full support. We pray that it may go on from strength to strength, and that the Word of God spread abroad by its dedicated work may have free course and be glorified.