Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Jamaican Bible - A Waste of Money?

Many persons have taken issue with the amount of money the Bible Society and its partners are willing to spend on translating the Bible into Jamaican Creole - $60 million JMD. Not a few persons have deemed the venture a reckless stewardship of money and have joyfully volunteered their financial expertise to the Society. Use the funds to remedy the temporary needs of our poor and needy, some have argued. This is exemplified in an interesting letter addressed to the editor of the Jamaican Gleaner by one Joan Davis. The letter is entitled "Patois Bible? How about these priorities!"

Indeed, this is not a critique new to Bible translation organizations. Why is this? Wycliffe Bible Translator, Dr Margaret Hill, in her article “Speaking to the Heart: Translation as Mission” lists several reasons why some people believe the present day effort to translate the Bible is an unwise venture / an unwise investment of mission resources: 1) the over 4,000 remaining languages which are in need of Scripture represent only 3 or 4% of the world’s population (196 million out of 6.5 billion people); 2) it is predicted (though unsubstantiated by data) that 50 – 90% of the world’s languages will die out in this century; 3) English, or perhaps Chinese will soon be spoken by everyone; 4) Bible translation into non-national languages threaten national and church unity (I've been told the former is one of the fears of Burmise government); 5) the development of local languages is a retrograde step as it locks people in their past furthermore it makes them unable to engage and benefit from the wider world.

So far in the Jamaican Bible debate, I’ve heard the many of these concerns over and over again. One could add issues relating to orthography and literacy.

I’ll come back to this issue later… For now, it's only worth recognising that the critique reminds us there is "nothing new under the sun."

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