Written by Sherry
Thursday, 06 August 2009 20:02
I have been lazy about blogging. Not for lack of material but because there was so much and I had many others thing to think about.
First of all, check out this very nifty website, sponsored by the Forum of Bible Agencies, where you can find the source for Bibles in any language into which it has been translated. For grins and giggles, pick a letter like "A" and then pick a continent and contemplate the incredible number of languages there are in the world about which most of us know nothing!
"A" brings me to a tongue, San Pedro Amuzgos, in which the Old Testament only became available in 1993. Or Northern Azerbijani in which the New Testament was finally made available just last year (and which you can download from the internet!)
The website also lays out the realities: the 6.5 billion people in our world speak 6,909 different languages.
As of 2007, 438 language groups (6.3% ) have an adequate Bible; 1,168 (another 16.9%) have an adequate New Testament; and 848 (12.3%) have only Scripture portions. 35.5% of all the language groups in the world have a portion of Scripture in their own language.
Strange, isn't it? How easy it is for us in the west who speak a major European language and are the heirs of Christendom to assume that everyone has access to Scripture in their own language? I have several versions on my bookshelf along with concordances and a fat volume that contains the text of all the Scriptural and magisterial references in the universal catechism. And I can always whip over to the US Bishop's website to see how the New American words a particular passage. In this, as in so much else, we are spoiled the heirs of centuries of Christian civilization. But the Scriptures and the Lord they speak of belongs just as much to those who have never heard as much as it does to us.
The good news is that the situation is changing rapidly. There are currently translation projects underway in nearly 2,000 additional languages. The vast majority done by evangelical Protestant, of course.
But 2,251 languages spoken by 193 million people are still awaiting translation of any portion of the Bible at all.
For someone who grows up in a culture where Christianity is not known, encountering Scripture in your own tongue can be absolutely life-changing.
Here's one story from the Kalmyk people, who number about 200 000. They live in the Republic of Kalmykia in southern Russia. The Kalmyk language belongs to the Mongolian language family. The Kalmyks are Buddhists.
"Nina gathers elderly Kalmyk women and reads to them from the Kalmyk NT. “Often they say ‘You speak about a Russian God – we are Buddhists, we have our own belief.’ But when I speak to them in Kalmyk and read from the New Testament, they listen with interest. A woman, 99 years old, said ‘If Jesus Christ is a God who forgives sins, then I want to become a Christian!’ The Kalmyks need to hear God’s Word in their mother tongue in order to understand that God is also their God and not only the God of the Russians.”
“When we distribute the Kalymk New Testament in villages we read out the most important passages about the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and also from Revelation where it states that peoples of every country and language shall one day pray to the Lord,” Nina says. “Most of the Kalymyk people know Russian, but they say: ‘When we read in our language we receive God as our own, but when we read in Russian then Jesus Christ is a Russian God.’”
“Twice a month we travel to a man and read the New Testament with him. Once when we arrived he was waiting impatiently for us. He pointed to the Gospel of Luke that lay open on the table. ‘Look, here it says that a man should not hate his enemy but should love him.’ He told us that it had been a shock to discover this. He had thought about it for several days and then finally decided that if it was in the Holy Scriptures then it had to be right. He was to go to a wedding where he knew that he would meet a bitter enemy with whom he had intended to settle an account. He went to the wedding and after some inner struggles he approached his enemy and offered him his hand. It felt as if a great weight had been lifted from the old man’s heart.”
"The Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than a two edged sword, piercing even unto the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" - or so Hebrews 4:12 went in the version that I memorized as a child and heard quoted literally thousands of times by the time I was a young adult.
Let us handle our Bibles with reverence and awe. For knowledge of Scripture is knowledge of Christ.