Friday, 24 April 2009

Word of Life in Jamaican Creole

For some time now, Global Recording Network has made the Jamaican version of Words of Life, some audio gospel messages, available on their website. You’d be pleased to know the files are available for free download! To listen (and download!) go here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

1-2 Timothy & James Are Now Online

I've just published the 2nd draft of 1 & 2 Timothy and of James online. (Go here to view.)

Do let me know if you experience difficulty opening the document.

We want to know what you think, so that we can improve the translation. So, if you care to leave a comment or two about style, translation, etc that would be much appreciated.

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Monday, 20 April 2009

The Greek Text Behind JCTP


It is probable that when the Jamaican Bible is published, Jamaicans will compare it with the Bible version they revere most – the Authorised Version (AV) also known as the King James Version (KJV). The careful listener/reader will notice several textual differences or variances between the translations. In my experience, lack of awareness of the issues involved in textual differences has led well-meaning persons to accuse most modern Bible translators of "taking away" (i.e. deleting words or alas, whole sections!) from the word of God and to warn them [translators] that "God will take away" their "share in the tree of life
and in the holy city" (Rev.22:19)!

This is a charge that must not be taken lightly; therefore our Translation Team needs to be able to respond to it appropriately. Seeing that, for the immediate future, the JCTP is concerned with the New Testament (NT), I shall limit our discussion to the text-form for the NT that BSWI has decided upon.

To illustrate a textual difference between the AV and the JB would look like, let's have a look at the Lukan Temptation Narrative - Luke 4:1-13. Of particular concern to us in this passage is v.4

First, let's parallelise the AV and JB translations of the verse:

AV: "And Jesus answered him, saying, 'It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"

JB: "Jiizas ansa, 'It rait dong iina Gad buk se, man kyaahn liv pan bred wan.'"

Have you noticed a major difference? I'm sure you have! It's the last phrase of the AV rendering – "but by every word of God."

The textual note of the standard Greek text, the United Bible Society's Greek New Testament in its 4th edition (GNT4), indicates that many of the Manuscripts (MSS) available to us, including A (D) Q Y (0102) ¦1, ¦13 33, complete the citation with avllV evpi. panti. r`h,mati qeou/ (all' epi panti rheÒmati theou, "but by every word of God"). The quoted text shared by both translations is: Ouvk evpV a;rtw mo,nw zh,setai o` a;nqrwpoj.

The NET Bible's textual note on the verse concludes: "The shorter reading, on both internal and external grounds, should be considered the original wording in Luke."

But, you might ask – and rightly so - if the adversative phrase is witnessed to by so many MSS, why, then, is it not included in the vast majority of modern translations, including the JB? Well, this is where the science (and art) of Textual Criticism has influenced Bible translators. In the view of most NT textual critics the shorter reading, found in a B L W 1241 syrs copsa, bo, is original and the longer reading is the handy work of copyists who had a tendency to assimilate texts. In the case Luke 4:4, scribes are believed to have assimilated the Matthean parallel (Matthew 4:4) which is a quotation of Deuteronomy 8:3 in the Septuagent, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was widely used in the New Testament period.

I've brought up the issue for this very reason: most Jamaicans are unaware that the text-form underlying the AV is different from that which underlies most modern translations, including the JB!

So, what is the text-form of the AV and most modern translations of the Scriptures? Answer: It is known as the Textus Receptus (TR), a compilation of very few MSS that were copied by scribes no earlier than the 10th century. The TR it is also the underlying text of most translations until the 20th century. The textual basis of the JB and of most modern translations of the Bible is an Eclectic Greek Text (EGT) as is found in GNT4. The EGT is believed to be superior to the TR as it draws on thousands of NT MSS, some of which were in existence from as early as the 2nd century.

Whilst differences between the TR and GNT4 are many, it's worth being reminded that of the disparities are of little theological significance – i.e. "No major doctrine of the Christian faith is affected because of textual differences."


The JCTP's Translation Team does not seek to "take away" from God's word; rather, it endeavours to add nothing to Scripture that, based on its translator's best understanding today as to its original form, should not be there.


  1. Aland, B., Aland, K., etal The Greek New Testament 4th Ed (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2001)
  2. ------------------------------ Nouvum Testamentum Graece 27th Ed (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2001)
  3. Metzger, Bruce M., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament ­2nd Ed (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 1994)
  4. ----------------------- The Text of the New Testament – Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration 2nd Ed (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967).
  5. Omanson, R., (ed) Discover the Bible – A Manual of Biblical Studies (Colombia: United Bible Societies, 2001)
  6. The Sea Island Translation Team in co-operation with Wycliffe Bible Translators, De Nyew Testament (New York: American Bible Society, 2005)
  7. Wegner, Paul D., The Journey from Texts to Translations – The Origin and Development of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999).

Jean Lowrie-Chin now Supports Jamaican Bible!

Dr Faith Linton has recruited a new supporter of a vernacular Bible for the Jamaican people. This time it's Jean Lowrie-Chin, a columnist of one of our leading newspapers, the Jamaican Observer.

Confesses Chin: "So logical and persuasive was she, that I completely changed my initial attitude towards the translation of the Bible into the Jamaican language....

"She describes the tears of older Jamaicans living abroad, when they heard chapters of the Bible being read in patois. And then the penny dropped. I recalled visiting Curaçao, that orderly country, where the citizens wrote and spoke at least three languages: Papiamento, Dutch and English. They speak their mother tongue proudly and with no apology. Giving currency to our mother tongue will, like the Genesis story, help us to accept ourselves as we truly are and lead to new behaviours."

To read Chin's column, follow this link...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Easter Story in Jamaican Creole

The following are videos of the Lukan Passion Narrative produced by the Jamaican Language Unit in collabouration with the Bible Society of the West Indies. The text is taken from the 2nd draft of the Gospel of Luke into Jamaican Creole, and is read by a friend of mine, Joseph Farquharson.

I LOVE the illustrations, howevever, I would change the background music to something more local.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

JCTP: Some Questions & Answers

Below are some questions Vicky Spencer, a P.hD. Candidate student in the UK, posed to the General Secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, Rev'd Courtney Stewart, who, in turn, passed them on to me. My response is in red.

(1) Opposition
-Have you had much resistance in Jamaica or is there generally great support for the translations?

There has been much resistance for the translation here in Jamaica. However, when compared with previous announcements the BSWI’s plans to translate the Bible into Jamaican Creole (JC), it appears that the number of persons in support of such a venture is growing. One could postulate that the growth in support is not surprising seeing that Language Attitude Survey, 2005, revealed that a growing number of Jamaicans are becoming more comfortable at affirming their language.

(2) Questions about standardization of Patois

-The translation into Patois will surely help lead to a standardization of Patois in both spoken and written form. Is there already an ‘established’ form of Patois, or how uniform is Patois in Jamaica?

I’m not sure what is meant by “established.” Nonetheless, I presume you are referring to things such as an approved orthography, standard grammars, etc.

An orthography has been approved by the Jamaican Language Unit, UWI, and has been in use for many years. On the formal level grammars have been written but, unfortunately, for the benefit of academics. Seeing that JC is one of the most researched Creoles in the Caribbean, a linguist could draw on the various aspects of the language, which have been studied and produce grammars for popular usage.

The need remains for a dialect of JC to be chosen as “official.” Most likely, the most prestigious form will be chosen – the Kingston variety (or something close to it).

-What are the perceived effects of standardization on further spoken/ written Patois?

 Preservation and stabilisation of language
 Language development
 Further opportunities for systematic study
 Cultural preservation and enrichment
 Enhancing and sustaining a sense of identity and worth
 Facilitating literacy -information booklets, documenting traditional cultural knowledge...
 Change attitudes – towards language / language users…..justice

Do you expect Jamaicans to start writing and publishing works in the Patois and for it to become the language of education etc?

Yes! (P.S. I’m not sure everyone at BSWI shares this view.)

-Is there an existing wealth of Patois literature (songs/ poems) being used to Feed into the Bible translation or are the translators primarily working from Scratch? (if so please could you attach an example?)

I’m afraid I don’t understand the first question! But let me give it a try. JC is primarily an oral language, as such very little is available in terms of literature – in comparison to English, for example. However, at present more and more of our songs, poems and other genres are being written. Whilst JC has not enjoyed a long or robust life in terms of print media primary to now relatively speaking; audio media has helped in the preservation promotion of our language.

We are working from scratch in that no one has done a translation of the Bible into Jamaican Creole before. (However, had we a long or established literary tradition, we would have had to start our translation from scratch, if there were no previous translations of the Bible into JC.)

-How do you account for diversity in Patois between different communities and How this affects the standardization process?

We find reassurance in the fact that diversity exists in every language and that we are on a journey each “major” literary language has been on before! As I said before: “The need remains for a dialect of JC to be chosen as “official.” Most likely, the most prestigious form will be chosen – the Kingston variety (or something close to it).”

(3) Influence of the King James Bible

-How much do the translators want to echo what is in the English versions into Patois? I.e. Do certain phrases which are renown in the English translation Want to be preserved in Patois? Or is the idea to create a new Patois Bible Directly from the original Greek/ Hebrew without the influence of existing English translations?

(In the attached document, please see the information under the heading “Source Texts.”) Seeing that the issue of acceptability is very important to us, we cannot disregard English translations, particularly the version which Jamaicans revere most – the AV also known as the KJV.

The translators' goal is to produce a Jamaican translation of the Scriptures which is accurate, natural, comprehensible and acceptable; consequently, there will be no hesitation to depart from the syntax of New Testament Greek (or the AV for that matter), but if, on the other hand, it is possible to convey the meaning of the original naturally in Jamaican, by translating more or less literally, they will follow the word order and clause structure of the original (or an English translation, if necessary).

(4) Other general questions

-I was having an interesting discussion with my dissertation supervisor about How, or if, Rastafarian culture and their interpretation of the Bible has an Impact on Jamaican Patois? To what extent does their religious language Influence Patois and how the Bible Society counters that influence?

It is true that Rastafarians have demonstrated creativity in the way in which they invent words which reflect their own ideology and religion. Nonetheless, I’m not sure how much the “dialect” (???) of JC spoken by Rastafarians has affected the form spoken by Jamaicans on a whole.

Certainly, our translators will avoid words and expressions which are deemed distinctively “rasta.”