Bible Translation as Science

Eberhard Werner


Abstract. 1

Introduction. 1

The Science of Bible Translation. 1

Bible Translation: Introspection and Extrospection. 3

Internal evidence in Bible translation. 3

Ecclesiastical codex – internal and external functions. 4

Outer evidence of Bible translation as science. 5

Bible Translation: Translation Studies. 5

Models and principles of communication and translation. 5

History and the incarnational Translation principle. 6

The Mandate for Bible Translation as a Science. 7

Turkish: A Short History of Turkish Bible Translations. 8

Future Prospects. 9

Summary. 10

References. 10



The science of Bible translation develops out of Bible sciences and combines research from the science of translation, anthropology, linguistics, social sciences, and other disciplines. A growing group of scholars is interested to combine these disciplines for the good of Bible translation efforts. The historical development of Bible translation starting shortly after the establishment of the Church and focusing on big language groups moved toward an own movement in the twentieth century, now addressing smaller ethnicities and language groups. Its interdisciplinarity and professionality made it to a global movement reaching out to ethnicities, as well as small social units. The globally gained linguistic, translational, and social experience is increasingly noticed by computational linguistics, neurolinguistics, and modern communication sciences. Exemplary the history of the Turkish Bible translation is included, which reflects a more recent translation attempt.


Bible translation – Linguistics – Translation science – Missiology – Bible translation movement – Computational translation – Social media – Translation theory – Turkish Bible translations – Turkish


The subject of Bible translation covers the entire process of translating the Bible, that is, (1) the communicational procedure during the translating; (2) the product itself, for example, the King James Version (1611), Good News Bible (1976), and New Living Translation (1996); and (3) the function of the translation, with reference to a newly established and promising science that addresses interdisciplinarity, political influences, new translation versus revision, and other similar issues. This tripartition of communication systems was introduced into translation theory by the American linguist James Holmes ([1972] 1988; see also Israeli linguist Gideon Toury 1995, pp. 9–14). When speaking of Bible translation, one may refer to any or all of these concepts.

The Science of Bible Translation

The placing of the science of Bible translation under the heading of the science of translation, which is located under the branch of applied linguistics (more specifically pragmatics), is a recent development (German translation theorists Reiss and Vermeer 1991, p. 1). Translations of the Bible serve as a foundation for personal devotions, Church liturgy, exegesis, hermeneutics, practical theology, and textual criticism of ancient literature, bringing forth a variety of understandings and disciplines in biblical studies. Biblical studies based on a Bible translation as a product necessarily influence what is perceived as theology and missiology by the global and local Church (glocal effect).

Differing from this use of the Bible, the science of Bible translation has not yet been fully appreciated in theological and missiological teaching and practice as an emerging branch of academic work (see German theologian Werner 2011). A few exceptions to this situation may be noted, for example, the writings of Scottish missiologist Andrew Walls ( 1990, 2005) and American theologian Lamin Sanneh ( 1992). However, the influence of Bible translation as a science becomes apparent in the recognition of the continuous “Century of Bible translation” as the current epoch in missiology has been called by Bible translators Harry Orlinsky (confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Good News Bible translator Robert Bratcher (Orlinsky and Bratcher 1991). The academic significance of Bible translation is realized in works like The Cambridge History of the Bible (Ackroyd et al. 1965), A History of Bible Translation and the North American Contribution by Orlinsky and Bratcher ( 1991), and A History of Bible Translation edited by American Bible Society translator Philip Noss ( 2007, pp. 1–25).

The science of Bible translation represents a unique interdisciplinary approach, integrating a variety of disciplines that contribute to the translation process, including linguistics, anthropology, theology, missiology, social sciences, and psychology, as well as cognitive and communication sciences. This demonstrates the multifaceted scope of research involved and the scientific potential of this discipline as an interface among a number of disciplines.

Bible translation effectively contributes to the dynamic growth and development of the global Church through new translations for non-literate or non-Christian cultures as well as through revisions and audience-specific new translations for cultures with existing Bible translations. The orientation of Bible translation toward mother-tongue and homogenous ethnic units, which are closely interrelated, contextualizes the Bible in an increasing number of cultures and cultural units, hence resulting in an ongoing proliferation of Bible translations. Both mother-tongue and homogenous ethnic-unit orientations were introduced by the Indian born missiologist Donald McGavran in the 1960s ([1955] 1968) and later expanded upon by London Centre of South East Asian Studies-based Susan Conway (2002). These approaches were implemented in Bible translation by the American linguist and translation scholar Eugene Nida (1960, 1965). Although the homogenous unity principle is criticized by South African missiologist David Bosch ( 1991, pp. 464–66) who calls it racially motivated, it still forms the best model for the outreach of the Church as summed up by Australian missiologist Michael Frost and South African theologian Alan Hirsch (Frost and Hirsch 2004, pp. 51–52). The combination of both mother-tongue and homogeneous-unity approaches serves as a foundation for the establishment and encouragement of culturally sensitive Churches. However, the focus on microcultures and smaller linguistic units has provoked argument about threatening the Church’s unity because of its lack of a unique liturgical text, as had previously been the case with the Vulgate for the Roman Catholic Church and the King James Version for English-speaking Protestants. As a result of this tendency, ongoing debates frequently arise regarding the “right,” “authorized,” or “inspired” Bible translation as shown by Orlinsky and Bratcher (1991).

The mother-tongue approach and the linguistic adoption of the biblical text for microcultures have proven to be essential for the enculturation of the biblical message in both first translations and revisions. A good historical example is the replacement of the principle of accommodation in the Jesuits’ missionary development practices during the Catholic Counter-Reformation in the 16–17 c. by the methods of contextualization that took hold during the modern development movement of the 19 c. (American Church Historian Latourette 1937, p. xv). This move demonstrates the risk of colonialism or misuse of power as a political factor in Bible translation caused by forms of enculturation that are not directly derived from the indigenous people group. This can be expected mainly with regard to ideological, political, and sociological issues such as minority, racial, and gender discrimination. The modern Church needs to argue against such tendencies and to partner closely and fully with the ethnicities that it is seeking to serve through translation.

Bible Translation: Introspection and Extrospection

The science of Bible translation may be considered through both introspection and extrospection, that is, from an inner and an outer perspective. The former refers to evidence from Bible translation itself, while the latter refers to translation evidence provided by science in general, demonstrating its academic importance. Considering this division, we must keep in mind that the Bible as divine revelation implies both a Christ-centric and an anthropocentric approach. Whereas the first tends toward the theological and missiological, hence internal evidence as in biblical studies, the latter points to external evidence, which is the approach of human understanding of divine communication that is concerned with Bible translation from the outside, as expressed in linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, the sciences of communication and translation, and other human sciences.

Internal evidence in Bible translation

Internal evidence is that evidence given by the Bible itself as an ancient masterpiece of literary genres, including prose, poetry, and narration, among others, and representing a genre in itself because of its uniqueness as a literary work. It was written by more than 20 authors over a period of more than 1000 years. The Bible itself asserts the need for its translation on the basis of

(1) the theological principles of internal Bible translation activities,

(2) the requirement of inspiration, and

(3) the continuous line of the history of salvation as a global message to humanity.

First, the Bible contains rich evidence about translation activities (e.g., Gen 42:23; 2 Kgs 18:26–28; Ezek 4:7, 18; Dan 5:6–7). Second, the Bible asserts its inspiration (Job 32:8; Eccl 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21) and authorization by a divine author (Isa 55:11; Jer 1:12; John 5:24; Rev. 3:8; 22:18–20). Third, the Bible contains a unique history of salvation (Ger. Heilsgeschichte), representing the communicative act of covenant theology linking God and humankind (e.g., Noah in Gen 9:9–17, Abraham in Gen 15:18, David in 2 Sam 7, and the Church in Gal 3:15–29). This is expressed in the concept of the kingdom of God or covenant theology, which motivates the translation task (e.g., the Jewish Diaspora as motivation for the Septuagint (LXX) translations). Such theological understandings led subsequent generations of Bible readers to translate the Hebrew Bible together with the New Testament. One early example of this move was the Bible translated into Latin by Jerome, which contained both Old (OT) and New Testament (NT). The incarnation principle represents a further theological basis for Bible translation. The duality of the spiritual and material world is highlighted best in the person of the Messiah as seen most clearly in the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4:1–11. Bible translation, as the manifestation of the written Word of God as the Bible, intermediates between the spiritual concepts of inspiration and salvation history.

The concepts presented above designate the Bible as sacred literature, similarly to the Qur’an or the Vedas, by the fact that information from and about the metaphysical or transcendental sphere is passed on to human beings by forward- and backward-directed prophecies and becomes reality within them. The creation story (Gen 1–2), the promise of the Messiah (2 Sam 7:8–16; Matt 1:1), and the introduction of the Gospel of John (1:1–4) are examples of this transmission of information (a fact which only counts for the faithful).

Lack of the original manuscripts prevents us from acquiring straightforward insight into the original divine language or communication principles employed by God with the Hebrew Bible patriarchs and prophets or that Jesus used with his apostles. The Hebrew Bible used Hebrew and, in part, Aramaic (2 Kgs 18:26; Isa 36:11; Jer 10:11; Dan 2:4–7, 28; Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12–26), while the NT was recorded in koine Greek, to transmit the divine information from generation to generation.

The languages of daily life were used to write down divine revelations given directly by speech to people (“I am your God,” Exod 3:6; Ezek 34:31), in visions (Ezek 8:5), and in dreams (Gen 40:16). Divine revelation was also given indirectly, for example, through prophets (“the Lord said to me,” Jer 11:6; Heb 1: 1–2), through Scripture (Exod 32:16), or by messengers (Gen 16:9), apostles (1 Pet 1:1), or ordinary human beings (John 4:39).

Ecclesiastical Codex – internal and external Functions

The Bible fulfills both external and internal functions for the Church. Externally, it legitimizes authority granted to the Church by the oral and written traditions about the Messiah whose words and deeds Christians understand to be summarized in the NT. Political, social, and other outward activities of the Church or disciples are warranted by this “constitutional” document. Internally, the whole Bible, including the Hebrew Bible and the NT, represents canonical law for the Church. Therein the structural and ethical codex of the Church is implied, requiring interpretation by the readers. That is why the Church can be seen as constituting the living outcome of the physically transferred, thus translated, divine word represented by the Bible.

Humankind, the Church would assert, is responsible to act within the framework provided by the Bible, interpreted by the Holy Spirit who guards the processes that lead to internal strengthening of the Church, for example, by granting vitality and growth and by providing protection from outside influences such as heresy and radicalism. Even though Bible translators do their best in translation, they and the Church (i.e., the readers) must trust the efficacy of the Holy Spirit – that the Holy Spirit will preserve the translated Scripture as canon and codex in relation to its original meaning and divine intention.

Within this context, the science of Bible translation is asked to take active responsibility for transferring the life and deeds of its divine object from one cultural linguistic background to another, without losing spiritual or implicit information (see Matt 28:18–20, Luke 10:3, and John 20:21). The intuitive work of Bible translation is directed by prayer from outside the human sphere, resulting in human-mediated divine revelation.

Outer evidence of Bible translation as science

As is evident, Bible translation is part of a communicative process, containing a message for communication. The Bible belongs to a category of texts that first came from oral traditions and were later transcribed in written documents. Bible translation is restricted to human language due to the lack of a metalanguage which would be necessary for an objective reflection of human communication, as Wierzbicka calls it (1996, p. 6). Since such a linguistic tool is outside human capacity, the biblical text, its context, and its implications are to be neutrally passed on from language to language. Yet the metaphysical and divine information is transferred in human languages. This contrasts with the Islamic concept of revelation called “inlibration” (“being in a book”) wherein the divine word is directly revealed in Arabic in a written and manifested form from above and therefore does not allow for translation.

Bible Translation: Translation Studies

Translation in general is a cross-cultural, ethnological, social, cognitive, and functional human endeavor, to which are added theological and missiological considerations in the case of Bible translation. It is this close link to translation studies that drives the science of Bible translation to concentrate on the development of translation theories and research paradigms and to emphasize principles and methods for training translators. Looking at it another way, the expertise gained from the history and global experience of Bible translation has contributed significantly to translation studies as recognized by American linguist Eugene Nida and American theologian Charles Taber (Nida and Taber 1969) and American German study scholar Edwin Gentzler (2001). Questions about genre, co-text, context, cohesion, and discourse analysis of texts are fundamental to research in either secular or sacred literature in both oral and written text.

Models and principles of communication and translation

Bible translation makes use of or can be credited with emerging models of communication and translation used by Bible translators. One attitude in this context is the literal model, which is found as far back as the beginning of translation. Defended by American missiologist Charles Turner (2001), this model is represented by the very formal literal rendering of the Darby Bible in 1997. However, this approach’s lack of semantic synonymy and rejection of any concordant way of proceeding led to the development of the dynamic equivalent approach. This translation theory was introduced by Nida (1964), it was extensively expanded to Bible translation with Taber (Nida and Taber 1969), and it was further developed into functional equivalence with Jan de Waard (Waard and Nida 1986). The Good News Bible was edited in light of this new model (Nida 1976). The scope of equivalence within the science of Bible translation was extended and publicized by American Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) translators John Beekman and John Callow (1974) and Mildred Larson (1984).

Since the 1970s, the shortcomings of “equivalence” have been criticized, given that it can never truly be reached in translation and cannot be measured in a convincing way. This led to the skopos approach and derivative functional models carried out by German translation science scholars Katharina Reiss and Hans Vermeer (1991) and Christiane Nord (2003, 2004). Nord as linguist translator, together with German NT theologian Klaus Berger, translated the NT into German (Berger and Nord 1999), using her functional approach. This model has also become popular in South Africa where it has been used to translate the Scriptures into Afrikaans (South African theologian van der Merwe 2003).

The imbalance of translation models toward linguistics, and the rediscovery of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in translation theory, gave rise to cultural models (Katan 1999). Here the respect of the intercultural and cross-cultural approaches of Bible translation came into focus as demonstrated by Robert Bascom ( 2003) and Nida’s ( 1990) earlier three-culture pattern. Other concepts relating to the work of English communication theorist Denis McQuail ( 2007) and Denmark communication specialist Viggo Søgaard (1993) are found in mass communication models, as well as relevance theory representing a cognitive framework for Bible translation based on the insights of French anthropologist Dan Sperber and the English linguist Deirdre Wilson (Sperber and Wilson 1995) and introduced for translation by German Bible translator Ernst-August Gutt (2000).

A recent trend in Bible translation points to the adaptation of mixed translation models based on different theories, singling out basic constituents and adjusting them in theoretical reference frames. English translation specialist Peter Newmark (1988), W. K. Winckler and Christo van der Merwe (1993), American United Bible Societies consultant Timothy Wilt (2003), and American Bible translator Ernst Wendland (2006, 2008) display this. The training of Bible translators as cultural mediators, multicultural and intuitive interpreters, and as exegetes requires a flexible application of these models of communication and translation in Bible translation projects. The translator’s ethical responsibility is not only with respect to the divine text and the divine source behind the text but also to the profession of translation as English-Finnish linguist and translation expert Andrew Chesterman (2001), Christiane Nord (2004), and German translation scientist Paul Kussmaul (2007) remind us. This goes together with the commissioner, that is, the Church and sponsoring Christian translation organizations, as well as the audience of readers/ hearers and their mother-tongue culture.

History and the incarnational Translation principle

Instrumentalized translation studies (Nord 2001, pp. 50–52), as a foundation to intercultural communication, have their roots in ancient high cultures such as Pharaonic Egypt, the Mesopotamian cultures, Chinese culture, and Sumerians, conglomerating many cultures under its roof as shown by English ancient languages scholar Nicholas Ostler (2006), Henry Rogers (2005), and Belgian translation specialist André Lefevre (1998). Passing along important information from one language or cultural system to another existed in the very cradle of human society.

The history of Bible translation as we know it started around 250 bce with the translation of the Jewish Scriptures (Hebrew Bible) into Greek, resulting in a text known as the Septuagint (LXX). This text served both those Jews whose primary language was Greek and the ethnically diverse early Christian Church (see Acts 2:7–11 for evidence of this diversity). Not long after Jesus’s crucifixion, it became important to the Christian community to translate and make a record of the oral traditions circulating about the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus. This was done in the lingua franca of the day, koine Greek. The theological centrality of the incarnation to the NT writings that were being recorded and shared by the Church at this time, comprises an incarnational translation principle and became a standard theological understanding for Christians to the present day. Such includes, e.g., the Word becoming flesh (John 1:1–5, 15–16), the Son’s leaving his place of divine privilege in order to give life (his “condescension,” John 6:33–35), and Christ’s self-emptying (kenosis, Phil 2:7) – would

Through the interfacing of translation studies with Bible translation, the concepts of fidelity, adaptiveness, and intelligibility became points of reference in both disciplines as is clear from Nida and Taber (1969) and Edwin Gentzler (2001). Additionally, following Walls (2006) and Werner (2011), Bible translation developed and encouraged active methods for the global spread of Christian divine communication and thus accrued an immense field of translational experience. This has served to substantiate the production of new Bible translations for non-Christians, nonliterates, the handicapped, and other special audiences, together with revisions of old versions for contemporary audiences (e.g., King James Version > NKJV, New King James Version; ASV, American Standard Version > Revise Standard Version, RSV > New Revised Standard Version, NRSV).

The history of Bible translation also reveals that before the foundation of textual criticism, the Roman Catholic Church established an authorized liturgical text named the Vulgate (“vernacular”), with which Bible translation has had to cope in past centuries. The need for establishing a base Bible text (German Grundtext) led to the development of the UBS Greek New Testament (most recently 28th ed. 2012) and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS 4th ed.). These critical texts are an important part of the beginning of the modern era of Bible translation. Through the establishment of these texts, the static liturgical versions have become secondary for translation because current biblical studies reference Greek New Testament (GNT) and BHS and the still in process, Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ). The incarnational translation principle implemented by the early Church opens the way both to contextualized and communicative Bible translations as well as to literal rendering, but is always focusing on the actually spoken idiom of people groups or microcultures.

The Mandate for Bible Translation as a Science

The internal and external evidence given by the tripartite split of Bible translation as a process, a product, and a scientific function, together with the incarnational translation principle and its interdisciplinary approach, establishes the science of Bible translation as an epistemological and intuitive discipline. The hermeneutical epistemological spiral introduced by the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur (1984–1988) and the German scholar Hans-Georg Gadamer (1989), used in theology as well as in other sciences, serves Bible translation to describe communication processes in a translation project. Starting with a variety of possible translation methods, the relationship between the project manager as a client vis-à-vis the Bible translator and the original audience vis-à-vis the target group, that is, the reader or hearer, leads to reciprocal influence based on linguistic, cultural, and sociological factors. Hence, ownership of a Bible translation as a product moves from the initiator to the target group, e.g., crowdsourced Internet translation projects such as the German Volxbibel.

As the science of Bible translation has evolved, it has clarified its historical basis and refined its epistemological foundation. It has also initiated a clearer position about its placement in pragmatics and the role and training of the Bible translator. This science likewise has recognized the function of the Bible as sacred literature and the need for close interdisciplinary cooperation with translation studies and other supporting disciplines. Such basics support its progressive continuance within science, as well as bearing fruit for the Church globally by relating to the sending act of Jesus (Matt 28:18–20).

We take now a short digression to the history of Turkish Bible translations. Christianity was early on established in the region of today Turkey. Bible translation started with the early Church, but due to the invasion of the Turkish Seljuks and the spread of Islam, Turkey became the center of the Muslim-Christian encounter. The history of Turkish Bible translations reflects this well and as such is an indicator of the Bible translation movement.

Turkish: A Short History of Turkish Bible Translations

Turkish is an Altaic-Turkic language for which the earliest attested records date back to 552 ce and refer to the Kök Türkler(i) (“Heavenly Türks”). Turkic languages, formerly known as Turk Tataric, with a total of 150 million speakers, are the most recently arrived and youngest family in the Near and Middle East. The Turkish language is spoken by about 70 million people. The language of the Seljuk peoples, disseminated by the Seljuk Empire, was written with Arabic letters and by the 11 c. had established its written orthographic standard. Following the Seljuk era, other Turkic people swept into Anatolia during the “Mongol invasions” from the 12 to 14 c. (Busse 1988, pp. 86–87). In Ottoman times (1299–1923), Persian, Arabic, Greek, and Armenian loanwords permeated the Turkish language (Ostler 2006, p. 101). After the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, and because of the policies of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a team of international linguists developed a Latin alphabet with 12 special characters for Turkish. A specialized language institution named Türk Dil Kurumu was set up and still operates today to renew and cleanse Turkish of all loanwords and foreign grammatical components (Myers-Scotton 2006, p. 214).

Bible translation into Turkish started in the 16 c. with Le’ali’s (Ahmed ibn Musafa, d. 1563; Gundert 1977) Psalms, followed in the 17 c. with work by Yahya bin ‘Ishak who was also called Haki. His translation in Ottoman Turkish written with Arabic characters was finished in 1661 but was never published. The ambassador from Holland, Levin Warner, entrusted Albertus (Wojciech) Bobowski, a former Polish slave of the Tartar Ottomans known as Ali Bey, with the task of doing another translation of the Bible (1662–1966). The Bible was finished in 1664 and the MS was taken to Holland in 1666. Haki’s and Ali Bey’s translations remained unpublished at Leiden University Library until 1814 when Baron von Dietz began revising Ali Bey’s manuscript. This work was finished by Prof. Jean Daniel Kieffer and was published by BFBS in Paris in 1819; 5000 copies of Ali Bey’s NT were printed. This was followed by the entire Bible in 1827. Zacharias the Athonite and Seraphim of Pisidia, also working in the 18 c., translated catechisms, the Psalms, and other religious texts into the Turkish dialect of Karamanlidika and published them in Greek characters with the aim of teaching the doctrine of the Orthodox Church and the religious duties of an Orthodox Christian to the Turkish-speaking Christians of Asia Minor. Further revisions of Ali Bey’s translation were done in 1853 by Turabi Efendi and in 1857 by Sir James William Redhouse, who is famous for his Turkish and English Lexicon (1890). Redhouse’s NT (1857) was published by BFBS, but according to Findley (1979, 583), it did not come into wide use because of its idiomatic style.

Shortly after, in 1866, William G. Schauffler from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABFCM) translated and produced a NT that some consider a masterpiece of elegant Ottoman Turkish and parts of the Hebrew Bible (Richter 2006, p. 233). During 1873–1878, Ali Bey’s work was revised by a committee and received the government’s approval. It was called Kitab-ı Mukaddes (“Holy Book”). A rendering and harmonization of this standard text for the Christian Churches of the Ottoman Empire into Greek, Arabic, and Armenian characters was finished as three independent translations in 1901 and is called the unified Ottoman-Greco-Armeno-Turkish text (Riggs 1940, p. 245).

Starting in 1961, evangelical movements led to new Bible translations into Turkish (conclusive list in Privratsky 2010). These new translations were mainly guided by a mix of conservative and dynamic equivalent translation principles. They used Tanrı and not Allah as the name of God, to be distinctive from the Kitab-ı Mukaddes and Islamic tradition. Portions of the NT employing dynamic equivalence translation principles were published in 1978 named Wonders of Jesus and Teachings of Jesus. Modern translations of the NT include Müjde (1987), İncil (1989/2008), Kutsal İncil (2003), and the easy to read version, Halk Dilinde İncil (2012). Recently published Bibles include Kutsal Kitap Yeni Çeviri (Holy Book New Translation, BS in Turkey 2001; with DC 2003) and Ekümenik Kutsal Kitap (Ecumenical Holy Book, Haktan Yayıncılık 2007) .

Future Prospects

The science of Bible translation is advancing the computer epoch. Advance in computational translation, linguistics, and neurosciences led to a multiplicity of computer tools that offer the similar view of different Bible translations, others edit translated texts automatically based on dictionaries that are individually prepared, and so-called crowdsourcing offers huge (paid) communities for translation dictionary making, dubbing, and oral-aural products (video, audio, etc.). With it the social media are increasingly used to get linguistic and cultural data from people groups. With these efforts the testing of Bible translation attempts is nowadays done in social media groups. The results are online Bibles or Bible texts that are only digitally published. Away from the written product, an oral-aural orientation makes the Bible “text” available as a video, an audio text, a film, or a clip. Professional films (Jesus film, Magdalena film, etc.) and video clips based on the Bible text can easily be viewed on smartphones or other modern equipment (tablet, projector, etc.). The future will be not the written but the oral-aural “text” that is available easily and everywhere via the Internet.


Summarizing these arguments, there is strong evidence regarding a mandate for Bible translation for the Church. As a result of this mandate, the worldwide Church accelerates – intentionally or unintentionally – the emerging science of Bible translation by providing a central gateway for divine communication with humanity and by offering an interface between cultures.


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Nida, E. A. ([1960] 1990). Message and mission: The communication of the Christian faith (Rev. ed.). Preface from Charles Kraft. Pasadena: William Carey.

Nida, E. A. (Ed.) ([1976] 2004). Good News Bible: The Bible in today’s English version. New York: American Bible Society (formerly called Today’s English Version).

Nida, E. A., & Taber, C. (1969). The theory and practice of translation. New York: United Bible Societies. (TAPOT).

Nord, C. ([1997] 2001). Translating as a purposeful activity: Functionalist approaches explained (Reprint). Manchester: St. Jerome.

Nord, C. (2003). Textanalyse und Übersetzen: Theoretische Grundlagen, Methode und didaktische Anwendung einer übersetzungsrelevanten Textanalyse (3rd ed.). Tuebingen: Julius Groos.

Nord, C. (2004). Loyalität als ethisches Verhalten im Translationsprozess. In: I. Müller (Ed.), Und sie bewegt sich doch… Tanslationswissenschaft in Ost und in West, Festschrift für Heidemarie Salevsky zum 60 Geburtstag (pp. 234–245). Frankfurt: Peter Lang. [Engl.: Nord, C. (2004). Loyality as ethical behaviour in the translational process. In: I. Müller (Ed.), But it does move … Translation science in East and into the West, celebration document for Heidemarie Salevsky for the 60th birthday (pp. 234–245). Frankfurt: Peter Lang.].

Noss, P. A. (2007). A history of Bible translation: Introduction and overview. In P. A. Noss (Ed.), A history of Bible translation (pp. 1–25). Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

Orlinsky, H. M., & Bratcher, R. G. (1991). A history of Bible translation and the North American contribution. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Ostler, N. ([2005] 2006). Empires of the word: A language history of the world. New York: Harper.

Privratsky, B. (2010). A history of Turkish Bible translations. Online im Internet: http://​www.​scribd.​com/​doc/​51331567/​A-History-of-Turkish-BIble-Translations-Privratsky-March-2011-v-F. [PDF-Datei] [Stand 10 May 2017].

Reiss, K., & Vermeer, H. J. ([1984] 1991). Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie (2nd ed.). Tuebingen: Niemeyer.

Richter, J. ([1930] 2006). Mission und Evangelisation im Orient (Reprint der 2. Aufl). Nürnberg: VTR. [English: Mission and Evangelisation in the orient (Reprint of the 2nd ed.). Nuremberg: VTR.].

Ricoeur, P. (1984–1988). Time and narrative (3 vols.) (trans: McLaughlin, K. & Pellauer, D.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Riggs, C. T. (1940). The Turkish translations of the Bible. The Moslem world XXX (pp. 236–248). London: Christian Literature Society for India.

Rogers, H. (2005). Writing systems: A linguistic approach. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sanneh, L. ([1989] 1992). Translating the message: The missionary impact on culture (4th ed.). Maryknoll: Orbis.

Søgaard, V. (1993). Media in Church and mission: Communicating the Gospel. Pasadena: William Carey.

Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. ([1986] 1995). Relevance, communication and cognition (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.

Toury, G. (1995). Descriptive translation studies and beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Turner, C. V. (2001). Biblical Bible translating: The biblical basis for Bible translating with an introduction to semantics and applications made to Bible translation principles and problems (2nd ed.). Lafayette: Sovereign Grace.

van der Merwe, C. H. J. (2003). A new translation of the Bible into Afrikaans: A theoretical and practical orientation. Paper presented at UBS TTW, Iguassu Falls (Brazil). (unpublished).

Walls, A. F. (1990). The translation principle in Christian history. In P. C. Stine (Ed.), Bible translation and the spread of the church: The last 200 years, 24–39. Brill: Leiden.

Walls, A. F. (2005). The cross-cultural process in Christian history (3rd ed.). New York: Orbis.

Walls, A. F. (2006). The missionary movement in Christian history: Studies in the transmission of faith. New York: Orbis. 11th printing.

Wendland, E. R. (2006). LiFE-style translating: A workbook for Bible translators. Dallas: SIL International.

Wendland, E. (2008). Contextual frames of reference. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Werner, E. (2011). Bibelübersetzung in Theorie und Praxis – Eine Darstellung ihrer Interdisziplinarität. Hamburg: Kovac. [English: Werner, E. (2013). The mandate for Bible translation – Models of communication and translation in theory and practice in regard to the science of Bible translation. Dallas: SIL International. Online: http://​www.​sil.​org/​resources/​publications/​entry/​51438 [PDF-File]. Accessed 10 May 2017.

Wierzbicka, A. (1996). Semantics: Primes and universals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wilt, T. (2003). Bible translation: Frames of reference. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Winckler, W. K., & van der Merwe, C. H. J. (1993). Training tomorrow’s Bible translators: Some theoretical pointers. Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, 19(19), 41–58.


Additional Reading

Shaw, D. E., & Van Engen, C. E. (2003). Communicating gods word in a complex world: God’s truth or hocus pocus? New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Smalley, W. A. (1991). Translation as mission: Bible translation in the modern missionary movement. In W. R. Shenk (Ed.), The Modern Mission Era: 1792–1992, 1–111. Macon: Mercy.


Bible Translations

American Standard Version. ([1901] 1988). The Holy Bible based upon the Hebrew Masoretic text for the OT and upon the Westcott-Hort Greek text for the NT. Oklahoma City: Ellis Enterprises.

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. ([1909] 1990). In R. Kittel (Ed.), in assistance of A. Alt, O. Eißfeldt, & P. Kahle (4th rev. and smaller ed.). Suttgart: German Bible Society. (BHS).

King James Version. ([1611] 2008). With Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

New Living Translation. ([1996] 2004). The Holy Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale Charitable Trust.

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. (1961). New testament in 1950. Pennsylvania: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Revised Standard Version. ([1946] 1973). The Holy Bible. Authorized revision of the American Standard Version. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (RSV).

The English Darby Bible [1884/1890]. (1997). Darby, John Nelson. Ontario: Woodside Fellowship of Ontario.

The Greek New Testament. (2004). In K. Aland et al. (Eds.), Stuttgart: United Bible Societies. (GNT).

The New Revised Standard Version. (1989). New York: National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. (NRSV).

Volxbibel. (2007). Online: http://​www.​volxbibel.​de/​html/​promo.​htm. Accessed 28 Apr 2017.

Vulgate. (1983). In R. Weber et al. (Eds.), Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem (Vulgate Latin Bible). Stuttgart: German Bible Society.