A Treatise on Translation

God preserved his perfect Word in many languages throughout the centuries, but his Word has always been under attack by those that would do the will of satan. Persecution has come to those who have translated God’s Word out of a desire for it to be spread abroad to the far reaches of the world out of love and liberty. However, there are also those wicked who translate for filthy lucre’s sake and tend to produce translations of a redundant nature. These may be referred to as redundancy translators. The correlation between the persecution of Christians and their good works shows God’s Word is not bound (Authorized Version, 2 Tim. 2.9), yet those that have attempted to persecute and domineer over the Word of God have always found support and defense in the attempt to bind it. God said that he will look at a man that is poor and of a contrite spirit that trembles at his word (Isa. 66.5), but rejects the proud in heart. The faithful, martyred, translators of old were such men that trembled, so God looked at them and gave unto them the ability to create languages. Access to God’s Word was the purpose of translation explored in the examples of these Christians, referred to as trembling translators, and their translations have impacted the world’s languages and cultures permanently.

John Wycliffe translated God’s Word for the first time into English in the midst of Catholic persecution. Wycliffe was a man known for his preaching on the importance of adherence to the Word of God and it was especially egregious to Wycliffe that the friars who became rich in the world did not give lost souls the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, only fables. While the Catholics preached in Latin and grew fat in their riches, Wycliffe instead had a burden to feed these hungry souls the Word of God in their own tongue. His conviction brought him to sponsor the translation of God’s Word. In 1378, Pope Gregory XI condemned Wycliffe’s teachings as heresy, causing Oxford University to expel him (Cangelosi 189). Wycliffe was not killed by the Catholics as a result of the Papal Schism, and he died of natural causes in 1384 (189). The Catholics, displaying incredible hatred, later exhumed his bones, burned them, scattered them across a river, and declared it heresy to have any of his Bibles or to speak God’s Word in English. Through Wycliffe’s followers his translation was disseminated throughout England and was key in solidifying the English vernacular of the people.

Jan Hus, a contemporary of Wycliffe’s, was very influential in the development of the Bohemian language, but was put to death for his work. Hus began to read John Wycliffe’s sermons and writings around the turn of the 15th century and agreed with Wycliffe entirely. He incorporated much of Wycliffe’s ideals into the sermons he preached to the poor peoples of Bohemia. He too desired to see a true translation of God’s Word in the Bohemian language and undertook it in the early 1400s. In 1412 the Catholics started selling the salvation of Jesus through indulgences, which Hus called blasphemous in his writings (Liguš 52). When he was arrested in 1414 the Catholics attempted to make him confess to his writings as heresies, but he said that unless they could prove his perceived inaccuracies using God’s Word that he would do no such thing (53). So, they burned him alive in 1415 (53). Hus had a profound impact on the vernacular of the people of Bohemia. Today, high schools in Czechoslovakia (modern Bohemia) focus teaching on Hus’s “linguistic contributions to the improvement of the Czech language” (49-50).

The Waldenses were afforded the most Catholic cruelty over any other group in history, yet through their trial of faith they were involved with original Bible translation in four different languages. French historian, Jean Leger, wrote in his history of the Waldenses that, “since the time of the apostles, or their immediate successors, the torch of the gospel has been lit among the Vaudois, and has never since been extinguished” (qtd. in Wilkinson 21). The Vaudois thrived in a society that believed in the inerrancy of God’s Word and rejected wholesale the hierarchy of the Catholic church. In Palatine hill, where they resided initially, they had two great libraries that contained manuscripts copied from the original letters and writings of the Apostles (22). This society was all but destroyed in 600 AD by pope Gregory I and the Vaudois fled into the mountains (22). Using the manuscripts that had been passed down from those libraries at Palatine Hill, they translated God’s Word into no less than three separate languages including the Waldensian vernacular, French, and modern Greek. They were also known to distribute the first Italian translation of the Bible. The Waldensian scholar, Pierre Robert Olivetan, used the manuscripts for the first translation of God’s Word into French. The last Bible the Waldenses translated was into a German Bohemian vernacular, the Tepl Bible. The Tepl Bible was a Bible that Martin Luther heavily consulted in his translation. The Italian translation by Giovanni Diodati, which was the first in that language, was used and distributed by the Waldenses.

Unfortunately, as history records, the Waldenses were attacked constantly by the Catholics and were finally put to almost permanent ruin by them in 1655 by the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel II (24). Yet, the Waldenses had a tremendous impact on the world. Olivetan’s French was the base of the Geneva Bible that was taken to America on the Mayflower. The Luther Bible unified all vernaculars of the German speaking people. And it is said in Italy that what William Tyndale did for English, Diodati did for Italian.
When William Tyndale was a fugitive from Catholic justice he translated God’s Word into English; for this work he is called the father of modern English. He began to write against the clergy of the Catholics in the 16th century and opposed their condemnation of Wycliffe’s Bible. Wycliffe’s version was written in too outdated of an English to be completely understood, so Tyndale’s efforts were necessary to preserve God’s Word. Also, since the advent of Wycliffe’s Bible, the Catholics were trying to find all copies of it, the owners, and anyone who quoted from it, and burn them. So, the Wycliffe Bibles that survived are few. The Catholics claimed that only the clergy could give the understanding of God’s Word to the people, whereas Tyndale, led by his faith in the Lord, desired for even the ploughboy to have a knowledge of God’s Word.

For his preaching against the Catholics and translating, Tyndale was condemned as a heretic and hunted down. His translation was printed in Germany in 1526 and smuggled into England, but the Catholics burned him at the stake in 1536 (Werrel 213). His translation has been described as the greatest of all English translations, and when King James I commanded a standard English translation when he ascended to the throne, Tyndale’s translation became the bulk of it. He was the inventor of many English words still in use and has been called the originator of English prose.

The trembling translators wrote abundantly about Jesus Christ as the Savior of the sinful human race, and that they had faith in the promises of God’s Word. They believed the second Epistle of Peter that says, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Pet. 1.19). They believed that as long as a man is led by God to work a translation for him then it can expected to be perfectly preserved, as evidenced by a verse in the same Epistle that says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1.21). The way the Catholic institution has veered away from the scripture of God can be described as “false teachers” bringing in “damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2.1). The sermons of Wycliffe, Hus, and Tyndale explain this in great detail. When the very institution that claims God as their own denies him outright, the world sees an idolatrous and hypocritical religion that seeks only to steal from the people. For this reason the “way of truth” has been “evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2.2). Moreover, God’s Word is not of any “private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20), yet not only does the Catholic institution presume to interpret it, they also unduly exercise control over it.

The new age Bible translations are those that are borne out of a desire for control, conformity in false doctrine, and diversity because of culture. The author of “Welcoming the ‘Other’: Translating Truth for the Post-truth World” discusses a new age of translation during which translations can finally become adequate and accepted by all Christian denominations. The article does not have an ounce of respect for God’s Word and instead treats its translation as a science. Its conclusion of the matter is, “Translation, of sacred or profane texts, is a technical process which follows certain steps, its goal being to transfer the message contained in the source-language text into the target-language text” (Matiu 89). By putting God’s Word on the same level as any profane text they have reduced it in their own eyes to the clay of this dead earth, able to be molded as they see fit. The author goes as far to say that, “The translator is the mediator who challenges the sacredness of the mother tongue, in an attempt to connect the author and the reader, by bringing them both in the same, common place” (89). By conveying that the translator is the key to bringing God’s Word to the people the author has removed God from the equation and set the standard for man’s will being the governing aspect instead. Faith is not needed in the translation process of men who subscribe to the “new age” of Bible translation. They deny the Lord in their translations and believe that a perfect translation of God’s Word does not and cannot exist, which belief they spread abroad through scholarly articles which necessitate the imagined need for redundancy translators. Would not God be the mediator between languages, as Christ not only is the creator of the lingual divide, but is also the mediator between God the Father, and man? Yet, according to this author, man is the mediator.

Juan de Valdés believed that Christ is the mediator, and that God’s Holy Spirit, rather than the talents of man, directs translation. He said while translating God’s Word that language cannot be regulated according to rules of grammar, as these are man’s rules. Valdés pointed out that language is not reduced to grammar when spoken, which hearkens back to Peter observing that, “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1.21). Wherefore, Valdés is correct that God’s Word cannot be bound by grammar, as grammar is a man-made thing, but words were made by our Holy God. Valdés said, he “would rather betray the target language before breaking with the original text” (Schmid 361) which is undoubtedly out of the reverence he had for God’s Word, as he also stated that he wanted to make sure the difference was understood between the words of men (himself) and the words of the Holy Spirit. The approach to God’s Holy Word that Valdés took was therefore much nobler than that of the modern redundancy translators, for in his translation he submitted himself to the ways of God as the literary Master. Valdés died in exile imposed by the Catholics, and his translation work was taken up by Cassiodoro de la Reina, to be partially completed in 1569 (Pérez and Luis 495). Reina would have finished his work if it had could have been uninterrupted, but he had to do his work as a fugitive from the Catholic powers. As he was nearing death, and because the work was not yet complete, Reina prayed to God:

Oh that it would please God that by His infinite mercy He inspire in the heart of the King to mandate throughout his coasts the gathering of pious and learned men in the Hebrew and Greek tongues that they would view and review this translation of the Bible; whom with a sincere and pious desire, that desire to serve God and do good to their nation, that they compare and challenge it with the Hebrew text that God dictated to his holy Prophets before the coming of Christ, and with the Greek text that He Himself dictated to his holy Apostles and Evangelists after the coming of Christ in the flesh.

(Turk 6)

His friend, Cipriano de Valera, took upon himself this burden in 1589 (5) and finished the work out of a desire to give his country God’s Word in their own tongue. Their translation was a faithful milestone as the first Spanish version of the complete Bible, and “it established linguistic and hermeneutic canons that are inserted in the humanist translation tradition and also endorsed by most of the reformers of exile of the sixteenth century” (497). This is God’s Word in Spanish, perfectly preserved by the fires of faith through persecution.

Under the persecution of his estranged Catholic kin, Martin Luther translated God’s Word for the people of Germany in 1522 and his work gave him the title “the father of the modern German literary language” (494). In the mid-1400s Johannes Gutenberg invented the revolutionary printing press and the first book printed was the Holy Bible. Luther’s Bible, printed on the native press of Germany, became a highly desired item, the purchase of which elevated the poor immediately to the middle class, which is to say that Luther’s Bible had an enormous impact on the culture of the German people. God used each of these contemporary translators to translate his Word, illegally, into the vernaculars of the common people almost immediately after the mass production of Gutenberg’s invention which led to the mass printing of these first editions in each language, printed one after the other and solidifying their work in the mouths, minds, cultures, and hearts of the people. Wherefore, understanding that there is an abundance of great witnesses to the successes and lasting impacts of non-redundant translations of God’s Word, if the doctrine of secular translation must still be taken as the truth of Bible translation, that is, if the scientific approach must be utilized, where is God’s place in it? Will he be involved in any future translations? God’s Word has opened doors in cultures around the world without the rules of secular translation.

Rochunga Pudaite was faced with creating an entirely new written language for a people without script, yet accomplished it through God’s goodness. In the mountains of Northeast India, the land of Manipur, a missionary named Robert Watkins gave the gospel to the Hmar people that resided there. In time, one of the Christian converts, Chawnga, made it clear to his son that for their people to thrive and be made alive they must have God’s Word to read and teach. Rochunga trekked over mountains to find the education needed and traveled to America for education at Wheaton College, learned Greek and Hebrew, and was able to translate God’s Word into his language, using romanic letters to create a written language for his people. In 1961 his people had a language, and God’s Word in it (Hefley 119).

Philip Pope has been a missionary to Thailand since 1978 and has seen many redundant translations of God’s Word appear through the years, which he said have only one purpose, which is to make money. During his first mission in Thailand there were two Bibles published. The first was called the 1971 Bible, the second was printed in 1984 and is comparable to the American Standard Version (Pope, Philip). As he recounts, he would form his sermons by consulting the English Authorized Version, then use the Thai to preach. He said he would constantly find verses and verse portions missing in both Thai versions (Pope, Philip). Pope used the 1971 Bible until in 1982, while at home on furlough in the United States, he had a burden to translate God’s Word into a Thai Bible that would not contain missing verses or verses with missing portions (Pope, Philip). He said that the translation must be done on a “spiritual level” and that the men have to be “supplied by God” in order to translate it correctly (Pope, Philip). He sees the Authorized Version as the “complete Word of God” and wanted the Thai people to have access to the completely free message of salvation (Pope, Philip). He also believes that a poor translation would inhibit spiritual growth in new Christians. He said that there was a display of the 1940 Bible at the Thailand Bible Society (which is considered close to the Authorized Version but was phased out) and asked them for permission to read it. They denied his request. His Thai Authorized Version was completed and printed without their help in 2003 and he has continued printing since (Pope, Philip). Inside the cover of Pope’s translation reads “THIS BIBLE IS NOT TO BE SOLD”. The Thailand Bible Society, which is part of the United Bible Society, has printed a new Bible almost every year since 1992. In an interview with Philip Pope, he was asked if he has faced any persecution because of his Thai translation. He said:

As far as any persecution, the only other persecution I’m getting recently is from the Thailand Bible Society, because initially when the Thai King James came out they just sort of looked at it like an off-brand translation. And now it’s really catching on, a lot of people are using it and it’s hurting their sales. So, they have tried on one occasion to shut us down.

(Pope, Philip)

Herein lies the true reason for the abundance of Bible translation today, spoken of by the Apostle Peter, and that is covetousness, merchandise, and perniciousness.

The United Bible Society agreed to and co-signed the Guidelines for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the Bible, which are a set of standardized rules to regulate how a Bible must be translated or published, what books can or cannot be a part of those Bible canons, and the qualifications necessary for a translator to do this work. It was published by the Vatican in 1987 (Guiding). They compiled these guidelines, in their own words, because it “reflects the experience gained in producing scores of Bible translations” (Guiding). This results in no glory for God, and only to man’s experience. The guidelines restrict translators from using any manuscripts other than those provided by the United Bible Society, allow for changing meanings to fit cultural differences (which is, in essence, changing God’s ways to fit the ways of man), and restrict any explanations to the differences between Vatican and Protestant beliefs and prefers to remain ambiguous, which would allow a one-sided history or explanation of passages of scripture, as this is a Catholic set of guidelines. The vision of these guidelines is to “provide a high measure of assurance that the work of the translators will be accepted by the constituencies whose leaders have agreed on and accepted these principles” (Guiding), which shows to whom this institution pledges its allegiance to, not to God, but to these constituencies. Finally, the guidelines claim copyright on the work they translate, which is the very definition of attempting to bind God’s Word and is in counter-distinction to Peter’s Epistle that said that God’s Word did not come by the will of man.

According to the Voice of the Martyrs, the president of China, Xi Jinping, plans on sinicizing Christianity in China, which is the process of making every aspect of China one culture (6). The plan includes retranslating God’s Word to add Buddhist and Confucian teachings into the Old Testament and socialist parallels in the New Testament. Would the China Bible Society help with this translation based on the Vatican guidelines? Theres no reason for them not to, it would be the Chinese culture after all.

The traditions of the Catholic church do not adhere to scripture and should not be placed on the same pedestal as the Word of God. In its “Dei Verbum,” the Vatican outlined its reasons for their translation science being relevant by explaining that the apostles handed the Word of God down to them, and that the “holy fathers” of the Catholic church have been stewards of it through the centuries (Pope Paul VI). These same “fathers” killed Tyndale, Hus, persecuted Wycliffe, Reina, Luther, and so many more. In the article “Welcoming the ‘other’” the author defends the Catholic’s guidelines by stating, “project management is just part of the process, the first and, probably, the most important step towards achieving a unique version of the Word of God in each language spoken today on earth for all Christians” (85). Do we speak modern English because of project management? Do the Germans? The Spanish? The Italian? Do the Hmar people have a written language because of project management? Is God’s work fueled by project management? Apparently God’s role in translation of his word has been superseded by project management.

The reason for the modern Catholic guidelines are simple, they want to continue to control the dissemination of God’s Word as they did in the past. There is no difference between these modern guidelines and their past belief that only the clergy could translate God’s Word. In those days they sold counterfeit salvation, now they sell counterfeit Bibles. In those days the indulgences would not last forever, the priests would come back to resell the indulgences in order to make themselves richer. Today, Bibles are reprinted and advertised as better iterations than the previous. Anyone who attempts to provide God’s Word freely among the people is persecuted today just as they were before, only now it is kinder because the eyes of the world are upon the persecutors. Satan was trying to suppress God’s Word in ancient times and has never ceased in his efforts.

If God’s Word is not approached in humility and reverence then God will reject him that approacheth. Jesus had said that God’s word can be made to have none effect through man’s tradition, but God’s Word out of his own mouth will prosper and change hearts and minds. The secular ways of the world will always be laid bare if one looks deep enough, as these evil men do their deeds in the dark because their deeds are evil. The trembling translators believed in the authority of scripture and had a desire to see God’s Word in the language of their respective peoples so that their minds might be free from lies. These convictions led them to usurp the tyrannical powers that led their nation’s people astray by selling them untruths, forcing them to follow unscriptural doctrines, and destroying any attempt at distributing the truth of God. And as the translation of God’s Word must be tried with fire, as silver is tried in a furnace, these men were attacked while they attempted to help the lost come to God. These attacks continue to this day through the efforts of redundancy translators.

Works Cited

  • “A Church No Longer Afraid.” The Voice of the Martyrs, Mar. 2020, pp. 4-10.
  • Cangelosi, Caleb. “The Mouth of the Morningstar: John Wycliffe’s Preaching and the Protestant Reformation.” Puritan Reformed Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 187-215. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.regent.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=12&sid=0bdc2e12-462d-428e-bad5-186e1987c0fe%40sdc-v-sessmgr01. Accessed 21 Jun 2020.
  • “Guiding Principles for Interconfessional Cooperation in Translating the Bible.” Vatican, 16 Nov. 1987, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/general-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19871116_guidelines-bible_en.html. Accessed 28 Jun. 2020.
  • Hefley, James, and Hefley, Marti. God’s Tribesman: The Rochunga Pudaite Story. Holman, 1974.
  • Liguš, Ján. “Master Jan Hus — Obedience or Resistance.” European Journal of Theology, vol. 24, no. 1, Apr. 2015, pp. 49–56. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=102222878&site=ehost-live.
  • Matiu, Ovidiu. “Welcoming the “Other”: Translating Truth for the Post-truth World.” Ecumenical Review Sibiu, vol. 10, no. 1, Apr. 2018, pp. 77-89. doi:10.2478/ress-2018-0005.
  • Pérez, Monreal, & Luis, Juan. “Influencia Del Reformismo Religioso En El Uso De La Lengua Vulgar.” Carthaginensia, vol. 32, no. 62, July 2016, pp. 479–499. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=128461704&site=ehost-live.
  • Pope Paul VI, “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation DEI VERBUM.” Vatican, 18 Nov. 1965, https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html. Accessed 28 Jun. 2020.
  • Pope, Phillip. Personal Interview. 25 Jun. 2020.
    Schmid, Todd J. “The Linguistic and Translation Theory of Juan de Valdés.” Romance Notes, Volume 48, Number 3, 2008, pp. 355-363
  • The Holy Bible. The Authorized Version, Cambridge UP, 1909.
  • Turk, Louis A. “A Line in the Sand.” Firman Elohim.org, https://www.firmanelohim.org/docs/a-
    line-in-the-sand-plus-proof.pdf. Accessed 21 June 2020.
  • Werrell, Ralph S. “William Tyndale.” The Expository Times, vol. 126, no. 5, Feb. 2015, pp. 209–220, doi:10.1177/0014524614550945.
  • Wilkinson, Benjamin G. (1930) Our Authorized Bible Vindicated. Takoma Park, Washington Missionary College, 1930.
  • Zecher, Henry. “The Bible Translation That Rocked the World.” Christian History, vol. 11, no. 2, May 1992, p. 35. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9604291030&site=ehost-live.

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