The intense work of translation

POSTED ON 2012-05-01
  by Cathy Drobnick

A Bible translator looks at details in the book of Exodus.

Missionaries Dan and Judy Burke say that their work on the book of Exodus includes many intense hours of brain-straining. They are working, together with their Chimane co-workers, on the Chimane Bible translation.

“Seeing the pictures of the tabernacle with all its furnishings and the priestly garments was a tremendous help,” Judy writes. “The descriptions in the Bible are extremely detailed.  It was a challenge to find the words for things that don’t exist in the tribal setting.  As you know, even when you read a very clear translation in your own heart language, it is often difficult to picture in your mind how it would look.”

Judy gives an example of a verse that contained several concepts that were especially challenging to translate: “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord.”  Judy challenges, “Imagine trying to say that mouthful in a tribal language!”

But a picture is worth at least a thousand words.  After seeing the tabernacle pictures, Dan and Judy’s co-workers, Adrian, Rosauro and Sandalio have a much clearer idea of what the tabernacle was and how it functioned.

Judy writes that these men put in eight or nine hours a day, grinding away to find the precise way to word the Chimane translation of Exodus. Translation requires intense concentration and at the end of each day, everyone was exhausted. “When you are dealing with the Word of God, you want to get it right,” she says.

The translation process is one of stringent and exacting standards. After checking the book of Exodus, Dan is re-reading it all again, looking for any possible detail that they might have missed. Judy is starting the huge job of doing the back-to-English translation, so it can be checked by a missionary experienced in translation who does not read Chimane. 

Judy adds, “There is plenty of work to do and no one else is standing in line to do it. We feel privileged to have a part in getting God’s Word out to the Chimane people and we are so thankful for each of you who pray and give to make it all possible.”

Praise God for Dan and Judy Burke and for many other missionaries who are working painstakingly to translate God’s Word into tribal languages. Ask God to give them wisdom and strength for this task. Pray that God will oversee the Chimane Bible translation, especially in the areas of intricate descriptive language and in words that don’t even exist in a tribal language. Pray that God will preserve and mightily use His Word in the hearts and lives of the Chimane people.

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