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“Their literature does not meet the demands of Kyrgyz grammar or aesthetics.” Salijan Jigitov, a well-known literary critic, in an interview in the ‘Asaba’ newspaper, November 30, 2001, in reference to the Christian literature currently being used in Kyrgyz fellowships.


Scripture Translaton Progress in Kyrgyzstan

Literary critics in Kyrgyzstan have not been satisfied with the quality of the translations currently in usage by the Kyrgyz fellowships.We must ask ourselves why such opinions exist, and what we can do to improve the situation.The reasons are complex, but one clear issue is the distinction between “church” language and traditional Kyrgyz literary forms.Christian literature here has been most frequently translated from Russian, and often incorporates Russian writing styles.This results in rejection from most Kyrgyz literary critics.This factor can result in a translation being called “poor” or “bad”. Such criticism usually doesn’t come from church members, who are accustomed to using the literature, but from outside the churches. In short, the translation in current usage has significant problems for use outside the churches, ie: for evangelism.

Another reason is in the absence of the passion for giving the Word to people as soon as possible from side of some members of well known institutions as SIL, UBS, Wicliff who are not interested in the completion of the project in a short time in fear that they may loose their jobs and have to return to their countries.

As is well known, each translation of the Word in a language can make a significant contribution for the foundation of a future church. There are several kinds of translations and each may have a unique and irreplaceable role in the development of the Gospel. One cannot, for example, suggest word-for-word translation to a uninitiated reader, who has no idea about the Greek or Hebrew concepts, grammar or and terms. Such a literal translation, for that person, is like higher mathematics for first-grade student. Literal translations are intended for scholars, researchers, translators, preachers, etc: i.e. to a particular group of specialists.Ultimately a variety of translations will be produced that allow for various sectors of the populace to read the word of God without hindrances and in a style they can fully accept and understand.

Usually, the first translations become the "Church Scriptures". Long time usage of such translations results in what can be termed “church language”. For example the well-known King James translation was the trusted version of many, and even still is today, in spite of it’s use of obsolete language that the average English speaker hardly understands. The same situation occurs with the Russian Synodal translation currently in use in the Post Soviet countries. More than 100 years ago when this translation was first brought to the attention of the Church, it was ignored and labeled an “inaccurate” translation. Today we have many wonderful versions of the Scriptures in Russian, translated using latest achievements of science in areas such as: linguistics, theology, theory of translation, etc. One example is the recent publication of the “Central Asian Russian Language Scriptures” which utilizes key spiritual terms and names in styles that are more appropriate for Muslim background believers. However, even today the Synodal translation still being used in many Churches as the most trustworthy translation, in spite of its numerous inaccuracies. This reminds me Jesus' words: “no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” This tendency of the church towards “standardizing” translations results in translations that utilize “classical” language as opposed to the living language. The fact that the New Testament was penned in Koine Greek as opposed to the traditional Greek literary style is evidence of the direction that we need to go.

It is clear that in spite of church acceptance of a “standard” translation, that the work of producing new translations should continue. This is especially true in terms of producing translations geared towards evangelism and use outside the church. There is a great need for ‘new wine’ outside the Church, i.e. for people to receive the Message in their own language, so that they can be saved. Those, who are outside the Church, need to receive the Word of God without the linguistic baggage of “church language”. This is especially true towards countries that do not have a Judeo-Christian background.

Scripture Translation For Reading and Evangelism

Some translations are suitable for use in churches, while others are oriented towards sharing the Gospel.In Kyrgyzstan, I have been involved in 2 different translation projects. The first is completed and is basically a translation from Russian Synodal Version. This translation, up to now, is the one most frequently used in Churches. The second translation project is in progress. I have drafted about 80 percent of the NT and Genesis and gave them to United Bible Societies for the further development. This second translation project is scheduled to be finished in 2003. Both of these translations are oriented towards use in Churches.

The Need For A Scripture For Evangelism

There is a third version of the Word in Kyrgyz in progress, oriented exclusively towards evangelism. However, it can be used for reading, learning or memorizing, just as the other translations. The text is presented in paragraph form instead of verse by verse. This allows for using pure Kyrgyz sentence order even when the sentence spans multiple verses.The translation utilizes natural Kyrgyz language preserving the meaning as much as possible. It would be classed as a retelling of the Scriptures in a usual Kyrgyz style. Thus, the Kyrgyz reader is able to understand the message in it with minimal external assistance.This version will be quite different from existing translations, because I don't want repeat the work that I have already done for UBS. This version reads as usual Kyrgyz literature, concentrating reader's attention to the meaning of the text, not being drown away by unusual or foreign elements in the passage. Moreover, since the main aim of the translation is to lighten understanding of readers, the Hebrew or Greek idioms, ideas, metaphors, religious terms, and etc. unknown parts of speech are often given either in their Kyrgyz equivalents or in an explanatory form. The effect is a more clear conveyance of the meaning. Of course, scholars and researchers can always refer to one of the other translations for a closer match to the original language metaphors and grammar structures. In this translation, however, a concerted effort was made to avoid “church language” which is not understandable to the ordinary Kyrgyz reader outside the Church. The response so far to what has been completed has been positive.

The Progress of the translation for Evangelism

This translation began about 5 years ago, and has been for the most part a personal project. Today about 50 % of the OT, and 70% of the NT are ready for publication. All of those books have been checked by several people, including some brothers from America who helped financially in the checking, formatting and completion of those books. Recently, I have published them on the Internet. (http://kutbilim.narod.ru) . The effectiveness for evangelism is already apparent, as a number of people have already come to faith. Additionally 20 copies were produced in hard cover book form. Plans. The current plan is to complete the remainder of the NT. Several drafts exist of the books which were not involved in the first publication. The remaining work is relatively close to being completed, and would require only about 6 months, and a small budget. For the most part those who are involved in the various stages of checking the translation work on a volunteer basis or for a nominal sum. Details on the actual checking process are available.

Conclusion

The benefit from publication of a translation for evangelism is obvious and logical - the more the text is easy to understand the more people who are outside the Church will read it. By publishing a Message for evangelism, we are taking away many serious obstacles that block the readers’ path to God. Is not removing such obstacles a primary goal for effective evangelism?


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