We have been in Italy for a week, and it has already been full of challenges and of good times! We had an uneventful flight, and we have recovered from jet lag fairly well. Jamie is still getting into a routine, but we will get there. She is sleeping as I type, and she got there without tears, which has only happened a few days!
We dove right in to our work, and it has been very interesting. There are three of us doing this training. Our first purpose while we are here is to learn about the process of checking a text as a consultant. The best way to do this is through hands-on experience, so, we are working to check the gospel of John in three different West African languages. Each one of us is assigned a language. We start out by reading the back translation (word for word English gloss) in each language. As we read, we put it into a sentence structure that makes sense in English. Then, we pause to talk about any of the issues in that verse. Brad, the branch director, has studied the languages in this area of West Africa and has already done lots of consulting work, so he helps us to understand any grammatical issues and to know what kinds of questions we should ask about the text.
Here is an example of what we are doing from John 1:27, where John the Baptist is speaking about Jesus. The NIV says, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” The language I am working with says, “He comes me back of, even I am not able him of sandal cord untie.” My first step is to move the words around so they make sense in English. Something like this: “He comes back of me, I am not even able to untie sandal cords of him.” Then we look for possible issues. Do you see one in this verse? It has to do with the word “able”. It is not that John is not able to untie Jesus’ sandals, but that he is unworthy to do so. So, I write a note to the translators that says something like, “Does this convey the idea of John’s physical ability, or of his worthiness? Other languages in this language group use words like “I am too small” or “I am not important enough”. Could you use one of those phrases here?” We want to give the translators space to think about these issues rather than telling them what to write because they are more familiar with their languages than we are.
It takes some time to work through each verse, but it raises lots of interesting issues and questions about the Bible. It is a great privilege to work with God’s word this way! I am so thankful to be here and to receive this training.