The essence of Bible Translation – A preliminary ethical and practical Reflection –

Eberhard Werner


The essence of Bible Translation.. 1

– A preliminary ethical and practical Reflection -. 1

Content. 1

Abstract. 1

Foreword. 2

Preliminary Considerations on the Essence of Bible Translation.. 4

Missiological considerations. 5

Skopos and Objective of the Bible Translation. 7

Addressees, audience, target group. 8

Theological narrowing – Missiological breadth.. 9

Ethical (philosophical) reflections on Bible translation.. 11

Inspiration and Bible Translation. 14

Function of Bible translation. 15

Subsequent function of Bible translation. 17

Leading function of the Bible translation. 19

Incarnatory Principle of Bible Translation. 22

Inspiration – Sacred Texts. 25

Homiletics and Evangelism.. 28

Summary – An Ethical Reflection on Bible Translation. 30



By international organizations, as well as local church-initiatives “Bible translation” becomes a global movement, yet represents a glocal movement as a merge of both. Associated with this are the upgrading of the mother tongue, the inte.g.ration of even the smallest ethnic groups in the political-economic discourse of the nation-states, the networking of translational, ethnological and linguistic scientific activity and knowledge under the roof of the missiological and theological directed science of Bible translation. Due to this development, the question arises, among other things, of a binding ethic that traces the essence of Bible translation as science. The translation of the Bible as science with its product of biblical texts has a dual function. By guidance through the sacral-liturgical text of the global and local church, it serves both for internal strengthening (sacral-theological function) and for the expansion of the church into the non-Christian area (evangelistic-missiological function). The “Bible translation” as a global movement has a trailing and a leading effect, both of which make it a supporting element of church development aid. In its trailing function, the Church contextualizes the biblical text and develops its own biblical tradition (internal contextualization). In its leading role, Bible translation is contextualized into linguistic-cultural environments in order to generate church structures (external contextualization). In these functions, the Bible translation acts twice, on the one hand preserving (protecting function) and on the other progressive (shaping function). Fundamental to the translation of the Bible as a product, process and function is the dynamic and continuous “incarnation principle”. This is based on the messianic-Christian content about Jesus of Nazareth in a) oral and listening (oral-aural) and b) written (literary) form. It is essentially based on the sending of the Judeo-Christian God. The question arises, whether this principle of “incarnation”, conveyed in the Bible translation, represents a dynamic-continuous (recurring) or unique and thus static-preserving event, or whether both. The first does justice to the revelation of the divine history of salvation, which is translated by revisions of existing mother tongue Bible translations or first Bible translations into new mother tongues, the second calls for the constant reference of its revelation into the Jewish-ancient world around the turn of the times. This also involves the use of literal-philological translation traditions (preserving function) and communicative-idiomatic principles of translation (shaping function). Therefore, the current basic principles and the resulting developments in this scientific discipline are discussed below. This study represents preparatory philosophical-ethical considerations for a future ethics of Bible translation, which is based on the history of Bible translation in the context of world and church history.



Ethical questions arise whenever a discipline has a lively discussion about its objectives and conditions of its framework. This is obvious in the science of Bible translation in recent years. By and then the scientific circle of a discipline brings up the same topic with slightly different nuances, what Kuhn calls “scientific revolutions” (Kuhn 1970).1It is the Holy Spirit who is behind a translation of the Bible and lets the communication in the receiving person come into effect. However, it is precisely the communicative level among believers that is decisive for the receptivity of divine speech. This is the case in the science of Bible translation which is of interest here. Current discussions about contextualized Bible translations have given the impression that previous approaches to Christian development aid have been or are unprofessional and improper. This has led to considerable disturbances, both in the global Christian community and in local Christian institutions such as churches, congregations, and clerical organizations. It is in the nature of humans, when new paths are approached, they are wrestled and fought over. Objectivity and sustainability will guide the fate of new developments and bring about additions, changes or even realignments in the long term.

It is undisputed in the science of Bible translation that any linguistic group should have direct access to the basic biblical text. However, there is controversy about the communicative degree of a Bible translation and whether it should have a preserving or shaping effect or both. [1] The aim is a possibility to get to a linguistic-cultural equivalent in its own context that is able to grasp the native language audience. This is not easy for native-speaking translators either, because “translating” is an intuitive undertaking. In addition to a very literal translation that neglects the grammatical structures of the target language, it therefore makes sense to provide a communicative-contextualized option. The first will enter a “familiar” or “understood foreignness” in the text. Such a philological-literal translation imposes additional rework on the text for the reader. The second variant of communicative-idiomatic translation contains predefined interpretations by the translator and requires literal-philological references to the base text. The reader / listener will receive an extensive work. Whether this should be done in the translation as such, or in the paratext (accompanying text)2The term “paratext” for the explanations, notes and comments accompanying a “text” was coined by the French literary critic Gérard Genette (1981, 1997). Genette, Gérard 1981. Psalimpsestes: la litérature au second Paris: Editions du Seuil. Genette, Gérard 1997. Paratexts. Thresholds of interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. is up to the individual to decide. Another option would be several Bible translations as in Western tradition (see footnote 32).

However, the work on the translation of the Bible, as a sacred holy text, rests on the unification and union of the present and future church of God in one language group. This does not mean that all members of a language group have to agree to the linguistic form, but it means that the greatest possible consensus must be found within a linguistic community. In the struggle for mother-tongue Bible translations – there will probably never be the one and only true Bible translation – as many social groups as possible should therefore be brought together. At the same time, the question arises whether the global church would ever develop unity through the “unifying sacred Bible text”. The past shows that different denominations and denominations draw from the same Bible text and even develop from it. This is for instance obvious in Germany based on the Luther translation which is directive for the Pentecostal Church, the Pietism followers, the Protestant Church as well as the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, Bible translations have also divided groups, as shown for instance by the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or the literal-concordant DaBaR translation. If you look at the whole, it does not seem possible to gather a larger language group around a single Bible text, let alone the global church. The interpretation of different scriptural traditions (canons) as well as individual parts of the Bible or biblical passages is far too different.

Another point is about historical developments in Christian and church development aid. The familiarity of church history to the history of Bible translation is remarkable. Church and parish movements have either created new Bible translations or revisions, or have emerged from them.3First translations form completely new approaches (e.g. first listening bible, first Jesus film) in a language group. These are also known as “missiological” Bible translations. Revision Bibles and new Bible translations, on the other hand, are all Bible translations that are made for a linguistic and cultural area that already has access to one or more full Bibles. This includes both the revision of an existing text and the production of a text as a new Bible translation, which establishes its own translation tradition. The only decisive factor is whether or not the team of Bible translators can use a mother tongue text as a reference object. Here too, a trailing and a leading factor can be identified. This includes the “glocal” attention to the “church” context (theological component) as well as to the secular area (missiological component) in which Bible translation takes place. Subsequently, Bible translation strengthens a local ecclesiastical corpus; in advance, it motivates Christian groups to deal with the biblical message linguistically and culturally by contextualizing it accordingly.

Preliminary Considerations on the Essence of Bible Translation

The science of Bible translation operates under a variety of premises.4The term “science of Bible translation” has recently been perceived in the Christian world as an independent discipline. The complexity of the subject of “Bible translation” has caught up with interdisciplinary Bible studies, so to speak, and has led to chairs that deal solely with Bible translation as a scientific discipline. However, there is still little such specification in German-speaking countries (s. Werner 2012:7-12). Werner, Eberhard 2012. Einleitung, in Werner, Eberhard (ed.): Bibelübersetzung als Wissenschaft – Aktuelle Fragestellungen und Perspektiven: Beiträge zum „Forum Bibelübersetzung“ aus den Jahren 2005 – 2011, 7-28. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. During Bible translation discussions it becomes clear that there are very different starting points and objectives. Those are based on:

the translation goal that is the range of translation from “(word) literal / interlinearized” to “communicative”; oral5These include oral traditions (English oral-aural), which can develop into their own written traditions in the course of their application. The interaction between narrator and audience is determined by cognitive-epistemological factors. In oral traditions, the narrator and the listener (female in English literature) determine not only the narrative textual discourse, but also the epistemological recording of what is told. Both components work together to make an oral tradition viable (oral-aural; oral-auditory). In other words, telling and listening go hand in hand. They are directed by hearing and speaking and influence thinking and understanding. or written product,
using the theoretical models of translation, those include verbal models, frame models, the functional model, the Skopos model, relevance theory, the mass communication model, the cultural and the dynamic equivalent model the translation focus. Does the translation follow domestication or alienation that is the controversy of indigenization versus foreignization? Another focus is about a product based, is it a third party on oriented translation, is it using “understood / familiar foreignness” as a translation principle,
the degree of contextualization e.g. gender issue or interreligious dialogue and
the planned distribution network for instance non-Christian circles, electronic media.
The term “Bible translation” contains three processes as used in literature. It includes the function, the process and the product. “Bible translation” as a scientific function describes its influence and meaning from a missiological-theological point of view in the context of church history and world history. This reflects the missiological significance as well as the translational and human scientific preoccupation with theological content. “Bible translation” as a process describes the interdisciplinary applied part of this discipline. This includes the individual steps that were historically necessary to pass on the word of God in an oral-audible (English-oral-aural) and written manner. This includes the missiological relevant developments in the history of the churches and Christian development aid. Bible Translation as a product describes the developments around the oral traditions of 6Werner, Eberhard 2013. Von Worten zum „Wort“: Kognitive und epistemologische Wortfindungs-„Störungen“ in der Bibelübersetzung. Dallas: SIL International. [unveröffentlicht]. and written biblical content in translation. Text criticism, epistemological-hermeneutical aspects and traditions play a role here.

The range of translations is reflected from maximum intelligibility in the target language7Sometimes called “transmission”, “paraphrase”, “communicative”, “free”, or “analog translation” (very rare, but also found “allegory”). The use of the term “transfer” is ambiguous, since a “transfer”, in the original sense of the word, represents a literal representation of a text in a target language, but colloquially it describes the exact opposite of a very “free” translation. to the absolute grammatical-literal structure of the original into the target language. The latter leads to a text that is difficult to understand, the first to a formal – not functional – alienation from the original. Or, as Schleiermacher put it, a decision must be made as to whether the text should be transported to the recipient or whether the recipient should be brought to the text (quoted in Stöhrig 1963: 221).8Schleiermacher, Friedrich [1813] 1963. Ueber die verschiedenen Methoden des Uebersetzens, in Störig, Hans Joachim (ed.): Das Problem des Übersetzens, 38-70. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. This is generally addressed at Venuti for translation and is carried out by Naudé for the area of Bible translation. Venuti considers the common range of translation between indigenization versus foreignisation, as a part of a translation decision (2010; 1998:305, 315).Venuti, Lawrence S. (ed.) [2000] 2010. The Translation Studies Reader. Reprint. London: Routledge. Venuti, Lawrence S. 1998. American Tradition, in Baker, Mona & Malmkjaer, K. (eds.): Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, 305-316. London & New York: Routledge. Naudé, Jacki A. 2002. An Overview of Recent Developments in Translation Studies with Special Reference to the Implications for Bible Translation, in Naudé, Jackie A. & Van der Merwe, Christo HJ (eds.): Contemporary Translation and Bible Translation. A South African Perspective, 44-69. In Acta Theologica Supplementum 2, Bloemfontein, South Africa: University of the Free State.

Depending on the objective, a “paratext” (accompanying text) in the form of comments, footnotes or cross-references is necessary. The concept of textual fidelity or loyalty (to the original) is improperly used in the Bible translation in favor of literal translations. The cause lies in the tried and tested philological-grammatical translation learned in school, which understands the transmission of an original only on the native language level. The cognitive-epistemological transfer of the text into the semiotic and semantic-grammatical levels is secondary (in detail Nord 2011: 117,119, 121-1229Nord, Christiane 2011. So treu wie möglich? Die linguistische Markierung kommunikativer Funktionen und ihre Bedeutung für die Übersetzung literarischer Texte, in Nord, Christiane (ed.): Funktionsgerechtigkeit und Loyalität: Die Übersetzung literarischer und religiöser Texte aus funktionaler Sicht. Arbeiten zur Theorie und Praxis des Übersetzens und Dolmetschens. Band 33, 117-143. Berlin: Frank & Timme. (Original Aufsatz: erschienen in Keller, Rudi [Hrsg.] (1997): Linguistik und Literaturübersetzen. Tübingen: Narr, 35-59.).). Linguistic-cultural transmission takes place in the area of thought and understanding, which is reflected in the imagination of the audience. Among other things, the goal of the Bible translators is to help the two-dimensional oral or written “text” to give the audience a three-dimensional presentation. Oral traditions in the translation of the Bible represent one way to enable the liveliness of the text (e.g. Chronological Bible Storying, Bible narratives, The Prophets Story, radio), visual media representations another (drama, video, etc.).

Missiological considerations

Missiological developments in Christian development aid on non-alphabetized language groups led to the research and production of local Bible translations. The revision of translations as of the traditional Western Christian countries no longer solely or directly represent the scientific impetus for the necessary creativity and research in science for Bible translation. Not even in spite of a long history of Bible translation. Nevertheless, there is a mutual benefit of existing research and developments and experiences in Christian development aid. There is mutual give-and-take between Western organizations of Christian development aid and local partners, especially in the field of training native-language Bible translators. However, this should not hide the fact that there is still a strong dominance of the Western Church, which is understood – probably rightly – by local initiatives as “colonialist” and “imperialist” (Sánchez-Cetina 2007:392, 398, 408).10Sánchez-Cetina, Edesio 2007. Word of God, Word of the People: Translating the Bible in Post-Missionary Times, in Noss, Philip A. (ed.): A History of Bible Translation, 387-408. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

The interaction of local initiatives on Bible translation led to a movement in Bible translation, which is also called the “Century of Bible Translation” (Sanneh 1989:211Sanneh, Lamin O. 1989. Translating the message: The missionary impact on culture. Maryknoll: Orbis. The “century of Bible translation” follows the 19th century, which Latourette calls the century of Christian development aid (1937: xv Introduction). Walls and Sanneh mark the 20th century as the real century of Christian expansion (Walls 2005: 64). It is therefore only natural that tensions will arise with other globally missionary religions. Latourette, Kenneth Scott 1937. A History of the Expansion of Christianity 1. New York and London: Harper. Walls, Andrew F. 2005. The cross-cultural Process in Christian History. 3rd ed. New York: Orbis.). The interdisciplinarity of the science of Bible translation with missiology, theology and some human sciences led to a global movement. Therefore one can speak of the “glocal” effect of Bible translation in Christian development aid. Global translational, missiological and theological impulses are set, which continues at the local level in the area of mother tongue activities. Not only that local churches are strengthened internally through Bible translations, no, the language and culture group as a whole is also perceived externally. Thereby develops its own identity, which is expressed in “oral traditions” (audio, video, artistic products) and “written products”. Above all, this includes the fixation of one’s own oral tradition (history, songs, stories, poetry, etc.). Native-language school systems (first reading classes, integrative language classes, etc.), reading and writing aids, author and reading groups and mostly political actors have developed. This development represents the framework for Christian development aid and Bible translation. Language and cultural research is deeply political. Contrary to a popular view in Christian development aid that religious activity is not political, the tensions in the two thousand year history show that political influence on interests consequently follows. This applies not only to the state churches (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) but also to the free churches. The current statement of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) with regard to the translation of the Bible is an inward-looking church activity (footnote 37). However, it is recognized not only by the churches worldwide, but also by the state. The discussion about religious freedom and thus human rights12Above all, the establishment of several religious institutes for the freedom of religion, which are placed alongside human rights organizations (e.g. Amnesty International). represents an outward-looking political activity. It would now be idle to examine past church activities as part of the expansion of the church, but there has always been a confrontation with state powers. In the context of church history, secular movements appear, which either counter Christian activity or acquire it as counter-forces (e.g. humanism). Bible translation is in the same way intertwined with imperialist-capitalist, i.e. political developments (e.g. Ingleby 201013Ingleby, Jonathan 2010. Beyond Empire: Postcolonialism & Mission in a Global Context. Central Milton Keynes: Author House.). This is also evident from the unproven allegation that American or European organizations dealing with global Bible translation are said to be close to secret services (e.g. Wiki entry on SIL International).14SIL International 2014. Online: [Stand 2020-06-20].

Overall, the repeatedly denounced cultural-linguistic contextualization, based on linguistics and anthropology (in German-speaking countries also ethnology), has changed a lot (e.g. Morton 2012: 11)15Morton attributes a “humanistic” influence in theology and Bible translation to the effect of anthropology in the theological space. As a result, “human” evaluations came into research about God. Morton, Jeff 2012. Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant? Eugene: Wipf & Stock.. At the same time, however, the authority of theology as the supreme discipline of Bible translation has been lost in favor of linguistics, anthropology, social sciences and psychology. This leads to an uneasiness on the theological side, which fears an overemphasis on human influence, or anthropocentrism, in Bible translation, which is otherwise regarded as a spiritual discipline. This is also closely related to a changed understanding of the incarnation and the divine process of inspiring sacred and sacred texts. Nowadays, human sciences, missiology and theology stand on the same level in order to serve the language, the culture, the social structure, as well as the religious-ideological feeling of a language group in the Bible translation.

Skopos and Objective of the Bible Translation

The pendulum between anthropocentric-humanistic influence and divine mode of action has been swinging to one side or the other since the beginning of the church. In the past, there was controversy about the degree to which a text may differ linguistically from a very literal translation (e.g. Cicero 106-43 BC 16Robinson, Douglas 1997. Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome. S. 64.; Schleiermacher17Robinson, Douglas 1997. Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome. S. 64.; Störig 1963: xxv preface18Störig, Hans Joachim (ed.) 1963. Das Problem des Übersetzens. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.). The “literal versus paraphrasing” discussion reached a new high with the discussion introduced by Nida (1964; TASOT), Taber and Nida (1969; TAPOT) and later by de Waard and Nida (1986; FOLIA) on dynamic equivalence. This model was later renamed by Nida together with de Waard to functional equivalence, but has so far held its own under the term dynamic equivalence 19Nida, Eugene A. 1964. Toward a Science of Translating – with Special Reference to Principles and Procedures Involved in Bible Translating. Leiden: EJ Brill. (TASOT). Nida, Eugene A. & Taber, Charles R. 1969. Theorie und Praxis des Übersetzens unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Bibelübersetzung. New York: Weltbund der Bibelgesellschaften. (Deutsche Übersetzung von Kassühlke, Rudolf & Loewen, Jacob A.). (TAPOT). Waard, Jan de & Nida, Eugene A. 1986. From One Language to Another: Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation. Nashville: Nelson. (FOLIA).. This led to a crisis in Bible translation as a science in the Anglophone area in the 1980s, culminating in the “King James debate”. In Germany, it sparked the Christian public with the debate about so-called “modern” Bible translations that was initiated in 2003-2004 (Felber, Rothen & Wick20Felber, Stefan, Rothen, Bernhard & Wick, Peter 2003. „Heftige Kritik an modernen Bibelübersetzungen“. ethos 8, 56-57. Felber, Stefan 2004. Die Bibelübersetzung „Hoffnung für alle“ im kritischen Textvergleich. theologische beiträge 4/35, 181-201. Haan: Brockhaus. Felber recently published a critique of Nida and its dynamic equivalence, which examines the ideological infiltration of the model by the humanist and ideological generative transformation grammar. Felber, Stefan 2013. Kommunikative Bibelübersetzung – Eugene A. Nida und sein Modell der dynamischen Äquivalenz. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.). Fortunately, except for study purposes, the Church has only very rarely spoken in favor of an interlinearized or (word) literal format (e.g. DaBaR translation21Baader, Fritz Henning 1989. DaBhaR: DIE GESCHRIEBENE des Alten Bundes und DIE GESCHRIEBENE des Neuen Bundes. 2. Bde. Schömberg: Eigenverlag.; Munich New Testament22Münchner Neues Testament (MNT) [1988] 2007. Hainz, Josef. 8. Aufl. Düsseldorf: Patmos.). Other translation approaches are dealing with:

  • the cognitive processing of biblical information when communicating (relevance theory),
  • the functional structure of a translation process (functionalism),
  • the referential understanding framework (framework models; cultural model, mass communication model) or
  • the Skopos of translation (detailed in Werner 2011: 97- 192).
23Werner, Eberhard 2011. Bibelübersetzung in Theorie und Praxis: Eine Darstellung ihrer Interdisziplinarität anhand der Ausbildungspraxis. Hamburg: Kovač [English Translation: Werner, Eberhard 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: URL:… [PDF-File] [search for Eberhard Werner SIL] [accessed 2020-04-10]].

The dynamic equivalent, relevance theory, the cultural and some framework models have developed in the context of Bible translation within Christian development aid. Due to the large number of models and theories, the question of the translation method or the objective (Skopos) of a Bible translation is more relevant than ever.

These developments should not hide the fact that research is also carried out in the area of philological-literal translation methods. This is based on the realization that there can be more than just one literal translation of the Bible in a mother tongue. There is always an interpretative-intuitive part that leads to different translations. The purpose of philological research is currently aimed at attempts to translate the information given at word and sentence level into a target language in an understandable but closely dependent manner on the base text (Furuli 1999: xvi, 16, 3124Furuli, Rolf 1999. The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation: With a Special Look at the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Elihu Books. (s. footnote 62).). In general, it can be stated that native-language initiatives of a first or missiological Bible translation as product endeavor to produce a literal translation of the Bible. Whether the same is now included as an independent first work, as accompanying text for a communicative translation of the Bible, or in the paratext (accompanying material) is differently realized.

Addressees, audience, target group

Another controversial question in Bible translation is still who is serving a Bible translation and for whom it is intended or may be contextualized. What is undisputed is the anthropocentric, i.e. human action – albeit with the request of divine assistance – in the theological exegesis of the base texts and the anthropological-linguistic understanding of the target language. Yet it remains a mind-splitting question whether Scripture

only through the church
mediates (sermon and exegesis) and
translated or
b) also with participation (church has leadership) or

c) can even be translated into a mother tongue under the direction of non-Christian initiatives (church accompanies the project from outside).

The underlying question is whether this text, sacred to Christians, does not belong solely because of its content about divine speech and encouragement25These include: verbatim speech by the Judeo-Christian God (e.g. “I tell you …”; God speaks …); the words of the prophet; the life story of God incarnate (e.g. the I am – statements). to the sacral realm of the Church. Consequently, she would be removed from the field of everyday profanity. In other words, the question arises whether Bible translations that were created for the liturgical-sacral area of the church should and may deviate significantly from so-called missiological “first or missiological translations”. Can the ideologically colored missiological or theological objective influence or even determine the meaning of a Bible translation, and to what extent?26This division is evident, for example, from the objectives of the United Bible Societies (UBS) and SIL International. While the United Bible Societies work with local churches, SIL International has focused on Christian and non-Christian speakers of mother tongues to provide a first work for an ethnic group. Such works are not preceded by church ties or prejudice, but by linguistic-anthropological considerations. Both organizations are now increasingly working in both areas and with other partner organizations (see Meurer 1978:174-175). Meurer, Sie.g.fried 1978. Die Ü des Weltbundes der Bibelgesellschaften, in Meurer, Siegfried (ed.): Eine Bibel – viele Übersetzungen: Not oder Notwendigkeit?, 173-189. Stuttgart: Ev. Bibelwerk. Theology, and regardless of this also missiology, would be challenged to free itself from the claim of solely handling the Bible. Both disciplines should open up themselves and the Bible to the access and knowledge of human-anthropocentric and non-Christian scientific output. Even if it appears that this change in Bible translation has already taken place, a profound resistance to non-church Bible translations point to another reality. In addition, the Western Church, which has a creative and dynamic independent missiological mindset, has developed detached from the common theological principles. Another factor of this question concerns the claim to holistically implement the divine word in the life of the individual and the collective of the Church. This process, called “growth in faith” (1Petr 2.2; 2Petr 3:18) brings an additional anthropocentric component into play. The implementation of recognized spiritual truths bridges the distance to the divine space. Only a theologically pre-colored teaching of the Kingdom of God enables epistemological access in this area. Such a theological vision is reflected in the science of Bible translation.

Theological narrowing – Missiological breadth

Missiology and theology are deliberately interlinked and mutually dependent. This is shown by the current discussion about transformative theology, which actually takes up a missiological (“missional”) approach, but is examined and criticized from a theological point of view. Worth mentioning here is the “Tübingen Pentecost Call” initiated by Peter Beyerhaus (2013).

27Beyerhaus, Peter PJ 2013. Weltevangelisierung oder Weltveränderung? Tübinger Pfingst-Aufruf zur Erneuerung eines biblisch-heilsgeschichtlichen Missionsverständnisses. Gomaringen/ Tübingen: Diakrisis.¬Tuebinger-¬Pfingst-aufruf¬-2013-Langfassung.pdf [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2020-06-04]. Bosch also closely links missiology to theology, but already saw the fragmentation of theology into diverse local approaches in 1990 (1990: 3-4).

28Bosch, David J. 1991. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis. The South American “liberation theological” origins and those based on African “black theology” are no longer recognizable in some missiological approaches. The African missiologist Mbiti, for example, complained about the absence and reluctance of the African churches to make theological decisions because they focused on Christian development aid (Mbiti 1969: 232).

29Mbiti, John 1969. African Religions and Philosophy. London. Heinemann.

The deficit of such an orientation is still unclear to date if Western (theological) influences were not asserted. The requirement of a theological justification for missiological approaches is often associated with theological pre-assessments (see the current discussion about “transformative theology”).

Creative and dynamic approaches to Bible translation that serve the target audience and are geared towards target groups (HUP30The model initiated by McGavran Homogenous Unity Principle is propagated here for target group-oriented Bible translation (McGavran 1968: 9-15; McGavran et. al. 1973). Laing describes the purpose of the observations by McGavran and its implications for Christian development aid. The HUP was criticized for a suspected one-sided racist attack and the neglect of complex social realities (e.g. Bosch in Frost & Hirsch 2004: 51-52; McClintock 1988: 107-112; Fong 1996). However, there is currently no better model to describe group dynamic or social-cohesive developments in the area of Christian development aid. McGavran, Donald A. [1955] 1968. The Bridges of God: A Study in the Strate.g.y of Missions. 2nd printing. New York: Friendship Press. McGavran, Donald A., Pickett, J. Waskom & Warnshuis, Abbe Livingston [1936] 1973. Church Growth and Group Conversion. 2nd ed. South Pasadena: William Carey Library. Laing, Mark 2002. Donald McGavran’s Missiology: An Examination of the Origins and Validity of Key Aspects of the Church Growth Movement, in Indian Church History Review XXXVI/1. Und Online im Internet: URL: http:/ [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2020-06-25]. Frost, Michael & Hirsch, Alan 2004. The shaping of Things to come. Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century church. 4th ed. Peabody: Hendrickson. Fong, Bruce W. 1996. Racial Equality in the Church: a Critique of the homogeneous Unit Principle in Light of a Practical Theology Perspective. Lanham, New York, London: University Press of America. McClintock, Wayne 1988. Sociological Critique of the Homogeneous Unit Principle. International Review of Mission LXXVII/305, January, 107-116. Malden: Wiley.

) are not used due to theological concerns. Reference can be made here to the current discussion about so-called religion or culture contextualized Bible translations (critically among others Lingel, Morton & Nikides 201131Lingel, Joshua, Morton, Jeff & Nikides, Bill 2011. Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. Biola: i2 Ministries Publications.).

In this process, religious or cultural identity features are included in the translated text, with the interlinearized base text being supplied to the audience at the same time (Werner 201232It is surprising that this 3D frame representation is so lively discussed in Christian circles. The term 3D frame-model refers to interlinearization – transmission / translation – detailed paratext in a project (one book or even 3 books). The native language reader is provided with all the tools to independently conclude the base text and also to critically question it. The previous reviews revolve around fears of syncretism, doubts about the sincerity and reliability of the translation, a dissatisfaction with other religions and, last but not least, about the adherence to a philological-literal translation of the Scriptures into the idioms of this world. Werner, Eberhard 2012. Bible translation in the Orient – New Considerations. em 1/28, 3-16 Gießen: Arbeitskreis für evangelikale Missiologie.

). The differences between the two texts are identified in the “paratext” (accompanying text) using footnotes, comments, cross-references or glossaries.33These include: 1. the insertion of parallel passages or cross-references from the religious environment of the scriptures of other target language groups, 2. the adaptation of the external form to other religious texts, or 3. the linguistic recourse to key terms of other religions (denominations of God, ritual terms, etc.). In some discussions, this form of contextualization (also referred to as “high spectral” or “transformative”) is equated with transformative theology and newer social-diaconal missiological approaches (e.g. Beyerhaus 2013:7-9).

34See footnote 23 on Peter Beyerhaus. An extensive examination of new theological approaches, such as the “Theology of the Social Gospel”, the “Black Theology” of Africa or “Transformation Theology” shows that evangelical-pietistic and conservative circles withdraw to a “proclamation theology”. They fail to do so against diaconal-social hermeneutic interpretations of Scripture. Of course, this does not mean that diaconal projects are not carried out, but on the contrary, in evangelical space and in pietism they are an expression of a script-oriented way of life. However, due to a suspected lack of divine theological basis, the former hermeneutical perspectives are rejected as a missiological model.

The motivation for the contextualized translation of the Bible is by leading the audience to the base biblical text (see domestication).

It is undisputed that the translation of the Bible and the theological-hermeneutical understanding of Scripture influence each other. This is based on intuition and interpretation by the team of Bible translators. Every type of translation follows the intuition and ideology of its translators.35Rolf Furuli vividly demonstrated this in his dissertation on the theological orientation of English Bible translations compared to the New World Translation . He suggests literal translations to solve the dilemma, but unfortunately also overlooks their interpretative part in the choice of words and sentence structure (1999; see footnote 24). The theological foundations are reflected in translation. In the missiological area, one’s own theological understanding should be opened to other religious-cultural ideas for communicative reasons. The degree of opening is determined by the Skopos of those involved. In contextualized Bible translations, the included paratext is intended to help you draw conclusions about the base text and other translation options (e.g. philological-literal or interlinear). It is therefore not the stated goal to convey a transformative hermeneutics that would be based on a social-diaconal understanding.

However, the range of missiological experiments shows that anthropocentric approaches are becoming increasingly important in missiology and theology. The understanding and importance of people as Imago Dei is given great responsibility. The flip side of this development is seen as a departure from the divine. An ethical framework is of interest in this creative development.

The global church, as the guardian of the Scriptures and the keeper of the inner order of Christian life-style, is challenged to deal productively with this creative and dynamic thinking. It should be borne in mind that the majority of the ideas are internal to the Church or related to the Church.36This also includes perspectives of those interested in Christianity who are willing to actively take the risk of a Bible translation. If such far-sighted people are found from the major world religions, then they are under pressure from their own ranks to be called “converts”, at the same time they have to assert themselves from a Western Christian perspective in order not to be considered “crypto-Christians” (Schirrmacher 2014: 173 ). The problem of conversion is from a Christian point of view, the context of the theory of conversion has not yet been finally resolved. In my opinion, it is very imperialistically limited to western standards and overlooks the collectivist, social and peasant context of most cultures around the world (see below). Schirrmacher, Thomas 2013. Zur Diskussion um Insiderbewegungen in der islamischen Welt. em 29/4, 171-174. Und Online im Internet: URL:… [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2014-03-22]. These approaches are claiming to build on a biblically-based understanding just as the critic’s state. They reflect a theology about other religions that strives for rapprochement and is therefore inclusive. In contrast to this, there are some positions that reject the exclusivity of one’s own position as “true” Christianity. It is uncertain whether there is a middle position or an approximation possible.37The latest controversy over “Islam contextualized” (divine familial terminology) Bible translations has now ended at the intervention of SIL International at the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) by the latter. Although the internal agreements between SIL International and the WEA are still pending, it has been suggested that organizations in the field of translation of biblical father-son terminology will follow a three-step approach in the future. First of all, a priority literal, if that is not possible, a close equivalent and only in exceptional cases a paraphrasing translation should be chosen, whereby the paratext always refers to the meaning in the base text. The extent to which indigenous so-called “Jesus or insider movements” adhere to so-called contextualized Bible translations is beyond the influence of western or local churches. The western (evangelical) church rejects a rejection of the tried and tested Trinitarian church language in the area of the Trinitarian denominations of God. The terms God-Father, God-Son (for Jesus) and the term Holy Spirit remain untouchable. The WEA thus follows the creeds of the Old Church (e.g. the Apostolicum, the Nicanäum, Chalcedon, etc.). However, the WEA generally welcomes the method of contextualized and linguistic-anthropological research as a starting point for mother-tongue Bible translations. For discussion: WEA Beschluss –… [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2020-06-20]. SIL International Stellungnahme –… [Stand 2020-06-20].

Ethical (philosophical) reflections on Bible translation

The “spirit” of these developments is reflected in philosophical considerations. Although the term “postmodernity” is often used as a predicate for recent developments, it seems to be understood very different, and in some cases in opposite ways. It is so broadly defined in public that it cannot be used, but must be understood in terms of its effects. The term “postmodern” is therefore used here for its material and immaterial effects. Globalization, free market economy, democratization, capitalism, as well as the forces directed against these developments are part of it. These opposing forces of postmodernism, however, are gladly glossed over. International terrorism, international crime, the anti-capitalism movement, the socialist-communist movement, as well as the fragmentation into ever smaller national structures are part of the development.

This article focuses on the science of Bible translation. Other areas such as evangelism, socialization, martyrdom, church or community building develop similar, but discipline-oriented functions and effects. Overlap of disciplines is thereby common.

Philosophy is here understood as the output of current attitudes towards Bible translation and less as a pragmatic and communicable ideology to which a person or group is ideologically committed. In this former sense, it is a dynamic structure that always represents only a temporary snapshot. Current trends are analyzed and placed in a broader context.

Ethics represent the normative framework of a moral being in relation to an aspired ideal.

38I do not agree with Bockmühl, who describes ethics alone as the ideal “that we should live” (1995: 11). Bockmühl, Klaus 1995. Christliche Lebensführung: Eine Ethik der Zehn Gebote. Giessen: Brunnen. Nonetheless, it is also not solely about the “objective appropriateness of actions based on intersubjectively defined and constantly new rules of the game” as is announced from the evolutionary area (Schmidt-Salomon 2005: 102). Schmidt-Salomon, Michael 2005. Manifest des evolutionären Humanismus: Plädoyer für eine zeitgemäße Leitkultur. Aschaffenburg: Alibri. Ethics is ideological and represents the alignment with those norms and values (morals) that an individual would like to conform to within the framework of a social system. The personal conflict of conscience and its relationship to the collective conscience reveal the ethical framework to which the collective – also in individualism – and the individual are exposed. Social constraints and obligations, such as norms and values, and the individual’s living environment (social status, conscience, and enculturation) play a defining role. In Bible translation, the ethical ideas of ancient author cultures, the translation project management and the target group meet. The translation projects of Christian development aid, which relate to linguistic-anthropological knowledge about an ethnic group, emphasize native-speaking translators whose ethical-ideological framework. The long-term Christian character of an ethnic group, as a result of the Bible translation, in most cases only begins as a trailing development.

Bible translation, as a process and product, has an opinion-forming and conscience-shaping function. This is in common with other religions (e.g. Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism) that are based on a central oral tradition (see footnote 5) or written “Holy Text”. Derived from the inner Biblical testimony and the Church’s teaching, the Holy Spirit speaks to and enters man (Psalm 51:11; Mar 1: 8; Luk 12:12; Joh 14:26). Conversion occurs either

a) by overlaying or rejecting old ideological or belief-based content, and

b) reorienting to content that results from the knowledge of biblical content.

An individual as well as collective experience of faith results from the content recognized as a “divine history of salvation” (see footnote 36). It opens up to the believer as the key message of biblical revelation. The binding link is

a) the recognition of guilt, sinfulness and an awareness of wrongdoing towards a higher power (conflict of conscience),

b) the search and knowledge of a way of redemption through the acceptance of divine forgiveness and

c) the long-term focus on Judeo-Christian moral concepts as defined by the Bible in the respective linguistic-cultural environment.

The minimum common denominator is the acceptance of the forgiveness of sins in the work of salvation of the person Jesus Christ (Acts 17:3; 1Cor 8:6; Phil 4:7).

The epistemological development of the divine revelation takes place through the intellectual access to the Word of God. Divine action as the effect of the Holy Spirit mixes with the anthropocentric and intellectual cognitive ability of the believer. That this is done in prayer and respect for the religiously divine content of the Holy Text is a deliberate decision. Such an anthropocentric process reflects every religious perception of sacred texts. Incidentally, all religions meet on this level in dealing with their own sacred texts. The polemics at this level against Christianity, but also from the Christian camp, are disrespectful with regard to other religions. This polemic does not do justice to the models of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as other religious mediators. Human intervention in relation to the divine must not forget the advanced work of the vicarious work of salvation. Only the kenotic turning of Jesus of Nazareth to mankind and the individual shows the personal responsibility of repentance and the Christian way of life.

The conscience of religious people is open to knowledge from their respective scriptures. In the Christian world, the process of conscientious cognition based on the Petrine formula from 1Peter 2:2 and 2Peter 3:18 is called “growth in faith”. It is understood so broadly that ultimately all of the experience gathered falls under it. It may also be critically questioned whether organic growth is meant here either by quality or quantity or both. Such thinking is about an accumulation of knowledge, experience, or even “deification” of thinking in a mythical sense. Peter himself relates the formula to a collection of knowledge and implementation from the Holy Scriptures. This simplification does not finally describe the complexity of the succession in order to steadfastly and purposefully adhere to the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the ongoing and dynamic shaping of conscience is a crucial factor in converting and practicing religious traditions.

Leading and trailing function of Bible translation as science

The worldwide church and congregation (Corpus Christi) has a two-fold mission. As the guardian of the Holy Scriptures, she is supposed to preserve the contents of the book and to pass on the history of the Judeo-Christian God with Israel and the community (trailing function). Second, it is tasked with distributing this content in a dynamic and progressive manner. The goal is to reach the whole world with biblical content adapted to the culture and language (leading function). At the same time, the local church contextualizes the biblical content into its linguistic and cultural environment. This happens in the context of internal contextualization. This form of trailing orientation happens automatically in the context of homiletics and evangelism. Such corresponds to the external contextualization in Christian development aid, in which the translation of the Bible itself generates church structures. This orientation follows the leading function. Both orientations serve the church (Christian community) and are therefore promoted or accompanied out of it (see Figure 1). Purely in terms of translation technology, Bible translations are doable without Christian involvement. An example being biblical study texts in Islamic religious education. Not to forget that western non-followers of that religion also do translations of other religious base texts as educational products.

If the dual trailing and leading orientation is missing, then one would assume, as in Islam, an immediate direct divine revelation, the image of which is stored in the divine place as the original revelation. This would not be translatable because it is part and print of divinity itself.39Suras 2:23, 185; 3: 101; 6:19; 10: 37-38; 16: 102; 17: 106; 22:16; 27: 6; 97: 1. In the foreword to the online edition of a German revision of the Koran, the authors not mentioned write: “So the Koran is not an inspired human word, but a literal revelation from the creator of all beings and things.” The Inlibration of the Qur’anic revelation should not be interpreted as a static element, but rather gains a spiritual resonance body in the recitation, which is filled with life. In the recitation, the Qur’an is contextualized, linguistically in some places, but culturally everywhere (Neuwirth 2007:44-45).40Neuwirth, Angelika 2007. Studien zur Komposition der mekkanischen Suren. Zweite erweiterte Aufl. Berlin: de Gruyter. Und Online im Internet: URL:… [Stand 2020-06-11]. It is therefore also understood as an imitation of the Prophet Mohammed.41The Qur’an therefore more closely corresponds to the image of Christ and its recitation as an imitatio of the Prophet Mohammed and Mary’s presentation as a representative. It should be noted that the ultimate comparison always fails due to the heterogeneous constellation of a religious entity. The recitation of the Qur’an and its effects correspond to homiletics and evangelism in Christianity (see below). The process of contextualization shifts both to the recitation and its oral interpretation, as well as to the audience, the homilist and the evangelist (leading role of the Bible translation).

Inspiration and Bible Translation

The authoritative writings of Judaism (Hebrew Bible) and Christianity (New Testament) are indirect revelations of human authors. This is accepted for the biblical scriptures and is based on an open understanding of inspiration. The understanding of inspiration in Holy Scripture is difficult to grasp, since verbal or dictation inspiration does not have a comprehensive effect due to the findings that are critical of the text and the lack of a “primal” text. Attempts to transfer verbal inspiration to the authors (e.g. the Chicago Declarations42w/a 1978. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, JETS 21, 289-296.; Jeising 2012:35-55; Peters 2012:148-15343Jeising, Thomas 2012. Was bedeutet Inspiration?, in Mayer, Thomas (ed.): Die Bibel – Ganze Inspiration Ganze Wahrheit Ganze Einheit, 34-59. Nürnberg: VTR. Peters, Benedikt 2012. Kriterien für eine gute Bibelübersetzung, in Mayer, Thomas (ed.): Die Bibel – Ganze Inspiration Ganze Wahrheit Ganze Einheit, 138-154. Nürnberg: VTR.), at the same time, fail to emphasize the inaccuracies contained in human behaviour (Mildenberger 1992:2244Mildenberger, Friedrich 1992. Biblische Dogmatik. Eine Biblische Theologie in dogmatischer Perspektive. Band 1: Prole.g.omena: Verstehen und Geltung der Bibel. 3. Bde. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer: Kohlhammer.). The Chicago Declarations recently came into focus of the German Evangelical Alliance. From there it was warned that this should be “the decisive yardstick for Bible faith” (see footnotes 42, 68). It should be noted that the Chicago declarations also leave scope to define other forms of inspiration.

In the field of Bible translation, the question of inspiration becomes even more difficult, since Bible translators rarely see their product or the process of translation as inspired and directly guided by God (the author is not aware of such a quote). Even followers of verbal inspiration (see above) avoid describing a Bible translation as an inspired work. This is only allowed for the pre-critical “original” text, which is beyond our reach and reflected in the “base text”. Nevertheless, the followers of Jesus are inspired by the truth of the faith and the blessing of the Holy Spirit (e.g. John 14:26). This enables them to interpret the divine influence on the base text and its translation. Scripture thus becomes Holy Scripture. Basically, inspiration reveals itself to the believers as experience or effect inspiration (more on this below).

This does not mean that the base text that is before us would not be a divinely inspired work, but this approach simply expresses that the phenomenon of divine inspiration is beyond the knowledge of man. Nonetheless, the real evidence of divine work and speech can be found in the biblical writings:

Formulations such as “God speaks” (e.g. Genesis 26:2; Exodus 6:6; Isa 40:1),
the literal citation of God (e.g. 2Mose 5:1; 9:1),
the speeches of the prophets as divine messengers or, finally, of Christ as a human representative of divine transcendence (detailed Pache 1967:74-75; see also footnotes 42, 43, 63, 68).
testify the claim of global revelation. The path and the materialization of inspiration in oral and written traditions remain open. The way people transmit, hear, and write down the traditions only vaguely describes this phenomenon (see Figure 4).

While the text-critical maintenance of the base text and its philological-exegetical translations correspond to the first order of conservation, linguistic-target group-oriented approaches to Bible translation fulfil the second order of multiplication. At this point it should be emphasized that both orders complement each other and are not mutually exclusive. A balancing act results from whether the target audience, that is the addressees, are introduced to the basic biblical text or whether the base text is adapted to the recipient in an adapted form. To achieve the latter the objective of “experienced” or “successful communication” comes in focus. Nobody takes this responsibility away from the worldwide church, but it is incumbent upon it and the individuals belonging to it.

It can be seen in church history and the history of Bible translation that a constructive coexistence of philological-verbal and communicative Bible translations is the overriding goal in Christian development aid. Literal translations usually play an important role in the first translation phase. Native-speaking translators do not want to make mistakes and transport the text as close as possible to the languages of the base text. Since this phase shapes a young mother-tongue church, later communicative Bible translations are at first glance viewed critically from a theological perspective. However, it is only in the variety of target group-oriented Bible translations that independent and reproductive church life will develop. Because of this perspective, it would be a mistake not to look at the entire context including the biblical scriptural revelations accessible to a language or cultural group, as well as its church history and political background. In view of the above-mentioned question about the discrepancy between theological narrowing and missiological breadth, this applies all the more. It must therefore be treated with caution if theological-missiological departures in other parts of the world are rejected theologically just because they are likely to challenge Western theology.

Function of Bible translation

In detail, the above-mentioned follow-up function of Bible translation will now be considered. The conservative mandate to pass on the biblical content relates to both the oral and the written tradition of Scripture. The basis is the “text”, which is available as the base text, as well as the oral tradition, which result from the interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. Oral tradition can be traced back to the original tradition of the entire Biblical texts as hearsay. This includes the events of creation, the patriarchs, the history of Israel and later building on the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth and the Church as the Body of Christ. Non-Biblical source texts that build on the content of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament must be included. On the other hand, the “text” also includes implied communicative content (implicatures), derivable principles and contemporary witnesses about biblical events. The biblical content develops its own right in comparison and with consideration of outside witnesses. Let us look at this in detail.

Try to keep the oral tradition alive. For example, there are some approaches to restore the “original gospels” (e.g. Lamsa 1963; Schwarz & Schwarz 199345Lamsa, George M. 1963. Die Evangelien in aramäischer Sicht. St. Gallen: Neuer Johannes Verlag. Schwarz, Günther & Schwarz, Jörn 1993. Das Jesus-Evangelium. München: Ukkam.). When trying to retranslate, one repeatedly comes across the historical limit of the intuitively interpreted context of the transcript. An objective review is only possible with great uncertainties. However, it is clear that today’s canons of the base texts were preceded by an oral tradition. Contents were formulated, interpreted and placed in internal and external contexts. After the canons were put together, they were arranged according to the size or length of the scriptures and thus followed the literate principles of the antique. This gave rise to the template taken up during Reformation, which serves as a model for today’s Bible translations with only a few changes.46A notable exception is the translation by Christiane Nord (translation scientist) and Klaus Berger (New Testament), structured according to the presumed writing of the New Testament books and apocrypha. Berger, Klaus & Nord, Christiane 1999. Das Neue Testament und frühchristliche Schriften. Frankfurt am Main: Insel. The oral tradition has left its mark on the written text, which is important to the science of Bible translation.
Today’s tendencies are falling to Christian development aid of oral Bible translations as different formats. Those tendencies are influenced by zeitgeist or spirit of times, and cultural-linguistic necessities. The formats are narrative hearing product (e.g. Chronological Bible Storying), video productions (e.g. Jesus film) or creative performances (e.g. dance or theatre performance) also the way of back translations as proof of comprehensibility.47Oral, visual and audible products are especially necessary for non-literate ethnic groups. This form of Bible translation takes up the oral (aural) method of tradition and the lack of script orientation among peoples. All of these products are based on written texts or develop from them by aiming at a future literacy. You run the risk of interpreting the “text”. At this point it must be said that epistemological recognition and hermeneutic interpretation always interprets (see Figure 4). For this reason, the question should rather be which mechanisms are suitable and desired as a framework for this necessary interpretation.

Subsequent function of Bible translation

The subsequent function of Bible translation also includes its church-defining moment. This includes both the strengthening of existing communities and gathering the global church around the biblical canons. The centrepiece of unity is the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus Christ, the namesake of Christianity (Acts 11:26). From this central element, the history of Christendom developed in its theological and missiological orientation. In the post-apostolic phase of the old church, the biblical base text and the traditions surrounding it represent the sole basis for the development and transmission of theological content. For this reason, their conservation as biblical content is the foundation of the global church and its local institutions (“glocal”).

It is not a single translation of the Bible as a liturgical text (e.g. Luther Bible) that is decisive, but the entire understanding of the faithful in the form of an agreement. A collective understanding of biblical content as well as individual cognition arises in the context of the entire community. Nevertheless, a special Bible translation should be understood as a centre of community for group dynamic reasons. Reciting and memorizing a text together as a joint effort has a group-strengthening function. It is therefore advisable for larger ecclesial communities to commit themselves to a text to base, ritualize and repeat texts (e.g. Psalm 1 and 23; Our Father; Genesis 1:1-3 and Joh 1:1-4).

Without a doubt, access to the ancient Hebrew, Old Aramaic and Koiné-Greek base text in your own linguistic idiom is of central importance. This is shown both by the early translations (e.g. into Gothic, Slavic, Aramaic), as well as the need for native language access to biblical content, as demonstrated by John Wycliffe and later in the Reformation. It is entirely possible for people to follow a translation on a philological-literal level that follows the base textual grammatical and literal structure. However, such interlinear or literal translations require interpretation by the Church. This internal contextualization has a long history (e.g. Lücke 182348„Die Irrationalität des heiligen Originals soll im Bewußtseyn der Kirche lebhaft erhalten werden. Eine freye, mehr oder weniger modern Uebersetzung verstattet dem Uebersetzer zu viel Willkühr und macht das lesende Volk ungewiß und unsicher über den ursprünglichen Schriftsinn.“ Lücke, Friedrich 1823. Kurtzgefaßte Geschichte der Lutherischen Bibelübersetzung und Beantwortung der Frage, ob und in wie fern dieselbe als kirchliche Uebersetzung beizubehalten sey, oder nicht? Zeitschrift für gebildete Christen der Evangelischen Kirche Heft 3, 1-51, und Heft 4, 35-101. Elberfeld: Büschler.), it takes place in exegesis and interpretation. Homiletics and evangelism transports the biblical content into the relevant linguistic-cultural context. Looking back on the reformatory work, it also becomes clear that communicative principles require easy-to-understand translations. The 39 revisions made during Luther’s lifetime were due to exegesis, but also to the cognitive understanding of the readers and listeners of the biblical content (Metzger 1993: 230-231; Lücke 1823).49Metzger, Bruce M. 1993. Der Kanon des Neuen Testament: Entstehung, Entwicklung, Bedeutung. Düsseldorf: Patmos. In addition, an initial translation always represents an impulse for further translations, since it stimulates corrections, adjustments and other changes in the translation.

It is this the trailing conserving element of the Bible translation that leads to constant linguistic-cultural revisions and adaptations of the Bible text. Since human language and culture are in an ongoing process of change, the communicative garb of the biblical content must also be further developed and adapted. This target group-oriented focus on smaller language units within a larger cultural structure corresponds to this language and cultural change. At the same time, new findings in textual criticism and archaeology flow into the revision process, since the requirement for a Bible translation to be up-to-date must be given. The revision is an important part of the preserving function of the Bible translation. On the one hand, it guarantees a language group a moderate access to the biblical content; on the other hand it contextualizes the content into the contemporary language and culture of the recipient in a dynamic and creative way. In the revision, a team of Bible translators generates the Scripture text in an updated way into the now and at the same time prepares the way for the future. Revision work is a history of tradition, regardless of whether a revision continues a tradition (e.g. Luther translation; uniform translation) or whether a creative translation tradition begins (e.g. Volxbibel, Insel translation).

New formats of the traditioning of the Bible, such as online Bibles, oral Bibles or biblical products in media format are performing creative ways to bring the biblical text closer to the target group. The recipients themselves specify the communicative framework. Communicational conditions are established for the respective target group, which form the framework for the translation decisions. These framework conditions represent the functional plan of the translation (Nord 2001:11-12, 29; 2003:10).50Nord, Christiane [1997] 2001. Translating as a Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Explained. Reprint. Manchester: St. Jerome. Nord, Christiane 2003. Textanalyse und Übersetzen: Theoretische Grundlagen, Methode und didaktische Anwendung einer übersetzungsrelevanten Textanalyse. 3. Aufl. Tübingen: Julius Groos. In functional models of translation, the Skopos (the objective) of translation determines these framework conditions. A translation plan sets out the guidelines between the translators, the client and the recipients (ibid.). However, ethical responsibility rests with the translators and is set out in the translation plan. This plan also specifies whether it should be an interlinear, a philological-literal or a communicative-idiomatic translation. The understanding of communication and the resulting communicative strategies must also be demonstrated to those involved.

The principle of philological school translation “as faithful as possible and as free as necessary” is not sufficient to explain the understanding of communicative translation because it is unclear. The intention of the author of a text, who wrote this text by intension, would be ignored in verbatim rendering (Nord 2011: 117, 119, 121-122). Nord therefore suggests loyalty and fairness as valid parameters of translation.51Nord, Christiane 2011. So treu wie möglich? Die linguistische Markierung kommunikativer Funktionen und ihre Bedeutung für die Übersetzung literarischer Texte, in Nord, Christiane (ed.): Funktionsgerechtigkeit und Loyalität: Die Übersetzung literarischer und religiöser Texte aus funktionaler Sicht. Arbeiten zur Theorie und Praxis des Übersetzens und Dolmetschens. Band 33, 117-143. Berlin: Frank & Timme. (Original Aufsatz: erschienen in Keller, Rudi [Hrsg.] (1997): Linguistik und Literaturübersetzen. Tübingen: Narr, 35-59.). Elsewhere, in the context of the historical review of the science of translation, the invisibility of translators and their influence on translation are discussed (Venuti 2008: 1, 4-5).52Venuti, Lawrence S. [1995] 2008. The Translator’s Invisibility: A history of translation. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. What is meant by this, is that the more fluently a translation is to be understood, the more clearly the original author of the work can speak. Based on this statement, Venuti commits itself to the original and leaves the question of the model of translation open. Loyalty as an ethical standard is very well suited to give mutual trust to those involved in the translation. Loyalty is understood towards the original, the translation and those involved in the translation plan. Functionality describes the translational goals defined in the translation plan. It is crucial that the translation process is functional. From an ethical point of view, the functional approach forms a group-related theory based on collective participation.

After the church-strengthening function of the Bible translation was discussed here, the leading and shaping function now comes into focus.

Leading function of the Bible translation

In addition to the trailing conservative element of the Bible translation and thus the element of building and strengthening the church, there is also that element that forms and shapes the church. This is demonstrated in the leading function of Bible translation. Such includes the concern to provide information in the Bible translation about the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his life’s work. The history of the Church and its predecessor is grouped around the people of Israel and around any information conveyed in the Gospels and the New Testament letters about the divine will for humans, by the term salvation history. Although there is a lot associated with it today, it still roughly describes the common thread for the care and revelation of the Judeo-Christian deity to humanity (Cranfield in Iversen 2003:155).53Iversen, Gertrud Yde 2003. Epistolarität und Heilsgeschichte: Eine rezeptionsästhetische Auslegung des Römerbriefs. Münster: LIT.

The leading function begins with the work on the biblical “text” itself. The internal connections, the historicity of the scriptures, as well as the personal address of the audience develop their own dynamics. This prompts the reader to think and reflect on the biblical content. The later use of groups within the church with the “Bible text” is based on this. When studying and applying the content to personal life, the product “Bible translation” unfolds its own dynamic. In Christian circles, this is referred to as the “speaking of God” or the “speaking to God” based on the Shma Yisroel Shma Israel “Hear Israel” (Deut 6:4) (see Figure 1). The Word of God is said to have a personal impact that touches the conscience of the audience. This can be an individual as well as a collective experience. In “experiencing” the Word of God, future work is shaded as an experience. The Church implements this in Christian development aid by the diaconate and in evangelism.

Bible translation generates the gathering of like-minded and interested people and the creation of communities. The product as such forms the centre around which the interested parties gather. This happens because the Holy Scripture describe the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth in a contextualized manner and reflects it in a target group-oriented manner. Online Bibles (z. B. BasisBibel54BasisB(ibel): Grund genug zu leben – Die Bibel interaktiv. Neues Testament 2010. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. Und Online: URL: [Stand 2014-02-06]., Open Bible55Offene Bibel. Online Bibel. 3 Bibeln in einem Projekt. Studienversion, Leichte Sprache, Lesefassung. Frankfurt: Offene Bibel eV Online: URL: [Stand 2014-02-20]., or Volxbibel) are giving a good example of how groups of interested people could seek and find products on the Internet in a way to make the Bible an expression of their own theological understanding. Bible translation as a product and process has a target group-oriented and heterogeneous effect. The understanding of the biblical content expressed in the translated “text” (also audio text, video, or theatre) reflects its epistemological perception in the actors. This interpretative process works in the audience. In response to the message, there is therefore a group dynamic collection in larger units, either such as churches or parishes, or also in smaller communities (e.g. clubs, house meetings, action groups, cell communities). Strengthening and consolidating them has already been described as a trailing factor in Bible translation.56At this point it should be emphasized that this group dynamic development takes place in all religious and social processes in which interest groups are constituted by a common content. For Islam, Poston described this as a form of Islamic expansion (part of the jihad effort and the da’hwa invitation; 1992: 126-127). Poston, Larry 1992. Islamic Da’wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam. New York: Oxford University Press.

In Christian development aid there are enough examples of how after the solemn introduction called dedication a church is slowly constituted in an ethnic group by a new translation (Sanneh 2003:10, 25).57The solemnity expresses gratitude to God and instructs the translation to work now in the native-speaking believers and in the Church. Not only the teaching assignment on the biblical word counts, but also the diaconal assignment. The fact that ethnic groups receive a tool for reading and writing programs through the process of Bible translation leads to their internal and external appreciation, as well as to their public recognition. Sanneh, Lamin 2003. Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Not for nothing is the “century of the Bible translation movement” in correspondence with the “century of Christian development aid” (ibid. and Latourette 1937:xv)58Latourette, Kenneth Scott 1937. A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol 1. New York and London: Harper.. Church planting and strengthening runs in many cases – not exclusively – with Bible translation in parallel. The movement of the translation of the Bible developed an interdisciplinary momentum which:

generates new theories of translation (z. B. dynamic / functional equivalence, functional model relevance theoretical approach, cultural context models),
evokes linguistic models (e.g. text discourse models) and also
induces a critical view of missiological-theological questions (e.g. inspiration, hermeneutical understanding).
All of these developments approach the science of Bible translation from the outside through interdisciplinary questions. Linguistics, translation sciences, psychology, anthropology and sociological sciences are challenging the translation of the Bible. Specifically to the account of current developments based on new models and questions. Whether and to what extent, for example, linguistic and social developments flow into the translation process should be considered on individual case.

A recent example is the Norwegian Bible translation Bible 2011. The Norwegian Bible Society has worked over 12 years on a translation that has been translated together with well-known Norwegian writers. Just the level of awareness of the writers and the colloquial orientation of the translation have led to their outstanding success.59Bibel 2011. Oslo: Norwegian Bible Society. This example shows that literature is also based on the emotional world, and text, paratext and meta-communicative elements (intonation, language style elements, implications, conceptual context, etc.) complement each other in the overall impression of a product.

But the opposite can be observed too. Bible translations that have been created over many years are ignored or scorned. A distinction must be made here whether it is a matter of first translation for a language group or a revision or new translation in a language group that still has at least one Bible translation. In the context of Christian development aid and with regard to first translations, there are various reasons for such a rejection:

1) A language group is not yet able to understand the “text”. This is the case when for example, there was an inadequate Christian introduction to the content, the literacy process is still in its infancy, or dialectological variants make understanding difficult.

2) The “text” is not contextualized cultural-linguistically and thus does not affect the audience’s cognitive language perception. The hurdle to gain access to the “text” is too great (e.g. accusation of Christian falsification of the biblical content),

3) External factors, e.g. political or military influence prevent or complicate the handling of the “text”.

Theological-religious concerns prevail in revision translations.

1) If a Christian group cannot detach itself from the traditional text and has already built up its own Christian vocabulary or verbal material (church language),

2) If socialization with a Bible text took place from early childhood,

3) If denominational trenches are opened by a Bible text.

It is striking in Christian development aid that, above all, if the people involved in the translation are criticized, the judgment against the Bible translation itself is equally negative. Here we find

interreligious / cross-religious (e.g. accusation of adulteration),60In contexts in which Christians are oppressed or persecuted, the rejection and criticism of the Bible translations as falsifications and Christian propaganda is great. Behind it are at least religious, but mostly also politically fueled prejudices. The accusation of colonialism and capital imperialism is not uncommon. The translation of the Bible, as a central element of Christian development aid, is in the crossfire of criticism. It is important to listen carefully, as there is often justified criticism.
linguistic (z. B. dialect choice)
translational (e.g. post-colonial translation models) and
sociological (e.g. serving social classes)

History has shown that colonial aspirations and Christian development aid often went hand in hand and were characterized by the nationals as arrogance towards the West. Translations reflect good evidence of this imperial colonialism (e.g. Kipling’s Jungle Books; Fabri’s defense of colonial exploitation; Robinson 1997:32, 36, 45, 65).61Kipling, Rudyard [1894] 2000. The Jungle Books. Harlow: Penguin. Fabri, Friedrich 1879. Bedarf Deutschland der Kolonien? Barmen: Rheinische Mission. Robinson, Douglas 1997. Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome. Robert de Kenton published a translation of the Koran under the influence of Islamic influence in Spain, which tried to denature the Koran. Islam is depicted as fraud and Muhammad as its propagandist (Chouraqui 1994: 17-18). Chouraqui, André N. 1994. Reflexionen über Problematik und Methode der Übersetzung von Bibel und Koran. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Robinson beschreibt die unterschiedlichen Formen die der koloniale Einfluss auf Übersetzungen genommen hat (1997:31-32; 36, 60). Robinson, Douglas 1997. Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome. Basnett and Triverdi summarize the colonial influence: “The act of translation always involves more than language. Translations are always embedded in cultural and political systems, and in history. For too long translation was seen as purely an aesthetic act, and ideological problems were disregarded. Yet the strategies employed by translators reflect the context [of power interests and values] in which texts are produced (1996: 6).” Bassnett, Susan & Trivedi, Harish (eds.) 1999. Post-Colonial Translation – Theory and Practice. London: Routledge. It is primarily African theologians who raise their voices in this regard and admonish a colonialist language style – also in Bible translations – (Mojola & Wendland 2003:22-23).62Mojola, Aloo Osotsi & Wendland, Ernst R. 2003. Scripture Translation in the Era of Translation studies, in Wilt, Timothy (ed.): Bibletranslation: Frames of Reference, 1-26. Manchester: St. Jerome. The leading role of Bible translation then becomes a pioneer in advancing literacy, research on people and language, and mother tongue education. However, this is part of the always challenging leading function of Bible translations that develop from the experiences of the previous approaches. Challenges due to language and cultural change, and scientific new knowledge of the base text or the translation are integrated into these revision translations. For this very reason, it can also be called the creative office of Bible translation; this represents an external contextualization.

The ethical implications of the trailing and leading church is fundamentally challenged by the functions of Bible translations. On the one hand, the Church itself rests on the foundation of the Holy Scripture, at the same time it is its keeper, which it derives from a divine mandate taken from the Holy Scripture. In some Biblical passages, reference is made to the instructions on the preservation of the Holy Scriptures or the Word of God (e.g. Luke 11:28; Joh 8:55; 2Cor 4:2; Heb 4:12; Rev. 22:18-19).63Detailed list of God’s direct speech or citation in Pache (1967:74-75). Pache, René 1967. Inspiration und Autorität der Bibel. 3.Aufl. Wuppertal: Brockhaus. In addition to such biblical reference, the church invokes an apostolic authority, which it derives from church history via the early church (Acts and New Testament letters). The interpretation of the Biblical revelation by exegesis, homiletics and evangelism in turn flows into the linguistic-cultural contextualization. An ethical reflection on a transcendent source and authority is relativized by the anthropocentrically, scientifically intuitive and interpretative “translation” of the divine revelation into the idioms of mankind. In addition to a functional translation plan, the framework conditions for the Bible translation project must be mutually agreed. The parties involved commit themselves to each other as well as to the higher transcendent authority. This is usually asserted by functional justice in the transmission of the biblical content.

Incarnatory Principle of Bible Translation

Ethical reflections on Bible translation would not be conclusive without looking at the meaning of the incarnation. The incarnatory principle of Bible translation describes the dynamic and recurring process of translating biblical content into certain contexts (Werner 2011:328-329). The incarnation principle describes the transition of transcendence into the reality of this world. This communicative process is based on self-transmission, which was realized in Kenosis (God emptying himself in Jesus) and Condescension (God leaving his sphere in Jesus). God reveals himself in the human representation of Jesus of Nazareth. Although the mystery surrounding this process cannot be clarified, it opened the way to transfer this process across space, time, language and cultural boundaries. The translation therefore reflects this unique process in a recurring, timeless and spaceless way. The associated open and dynamic process allows the anthropocentric use of different translational theories, as well as the definition of different priorities in the Bible translation. The prohibitions on adulteration within the Bible relate to the biblically conveyed principles (see hermeneutics of the principles) and not the linguistic-cultural contextualization.

The incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth was not seen by the Old Church as a static and complete element of the divine plan of salvation, but as the basis of the recurring offer of salvation in this world. The formation of different theological traditions, the translation of different base texts (canons) as well as a centrifugal global orientation of the church towards all ethnic and linguistic groups hindered a central control of the entire body of Christ.64Above all, the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Christians around the world (not all parts of the world!) Led to a plurality that is reflected in contextualized Christianity. For this purpose, a target group-oriented, heterogeneous dynamic orientation towards local implementation has become standard in the translation tradition. This relates and is obvious in the spread of Christianity and the many church forms. In Bible translation, this has led to interdenominational, interreligious and interdisciplinary translation projects. We find therefore no single claim or sole validity of a congregation to a Bible translation.65Furuli vividly illustrated this using the New World Translation (NWÜ) of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since every translation of the Bible is intuitive, interpretative and theologically pre-determined, none can and should not be claimed to be unique (1999). (see also footnote 24 above). All translations of the Bible are public and thus open to criticism but also to use. This also describes the proclaiming claim of Bible translation as a public work. Finally, the intuitive interpretative orientation of the Bible translation leads to a theological and also zeitgeist-dependent influence.

The variety of translation options results in framework conditions that are reflected on the one hand in the biblical text itself and on the other hand in the perception and acceptance of the global church. The biblical text reveals the speeches, deeds and effects of the prophets, apostles and Christ. The beginnings of the church are sketched out and served the old church as well as today as a guideline against syncretism and sectarianism. This inner-biblical authoritative claim (Pache 1967:74-75) demands a systematic access to communicative content. This communicative content is not contained in the words but in the Biblical context. Implicatures, meta-textual and inter-textual information result from the biblical context. These express principles that, as communicative content, overcome time and space. The principles that can be derived from the speeches, sermons and parables of Jesus become universal in the global church. The work of salvation itself is reduced to the core “Belief in Jesus the Lord” (Acts 16:31). A hermeneutic of principles conveys these meta-textual claims, which are attributed to divine origin in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. The ethical framework for interpreting these claims is described in the subsequent and leading function of Bible translation.

The concept of incarnation as used here can be criticized by the fact that the one-time representative appearance in space and time would be relativized if it was transformed into a recurring event. This is also obvious in modern theological approaches, so the criticism. On the other hand it relativizes the divine work of salvation. It is countered by such a reproach that the path has already been taken with “the translations” of the Old Church in order to overcome space and time. Such eschatological orientation is understood to be valid until the Christ comes again. The “translation mandate”, as a missiological imperative of the hour, is to be derived from the developments around the divine revelation. The expansion from the local to the global focus of the offer of salvation through Jesus of Nazareth in the turn is initiated at

the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple (Mt 21:12-15)
the non-Jewish Dekapolis (Mar 7:31)
the Samaritans (Joh 4:4), and
a general global orientation (Mar 16:15; Mat 28:18-20).
The transfer of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth and the history of the first churches into the idioms of humanity reflects the history of the translation of the Bible. This in particular is exemplified in the biographical details about the person of Christ and the becoming of the early church. It would be different if, instead of the “glocal” orientation, it was solely a divine code of law or a catalog of rules that would be addressed to a certain group (e.g. religiously unique communities).

Another criticism should be mentioned here. It comes from representatives of the literal-philological transfer of the base text as static and unique and so doing justice to incarnation. In passing on the base text, the unity of the global church would be guaranteed by the collection of local churches around the unifying inspired Bible text. The prerequisite for this is the assumption that the biblical content is passed on in the most unchanged and globally identical lexical-concordant manner. In the end, translation would only be possible as an interlinearization. This argument must be countered by the fact that inspiration in this idea is reduced to reproduction and a static understanding. This should be based on a unique divine text, the effect of which would be inherent in the text. In such a case, the material text itself would contain a divine value.66In a sense, this would apply to the Islamic revelation, the inliberation of which originates from the image of the original Qur’an (Burgmer 2007: 24). The Vedas, on the other hand, do not develop their divine value in form, but in the development of the believer. As a consequence, they are translatable, but only effective in contextualized form (Prabhavananda & Manchester 1957: xi). The original philological-literal translation of other sacred texts, for example in the literary history of the Greek myths or of creation myths, was based on modern translation principles in order to make the text understandable (Schwab 2005). Burgmer, Christoph 2007. Licht ins Dunkel: Der Koran als philologischer Steinbruch (Ein Gespräch mit Christoph Luxenberg), in Burgmer, Christoph (ed.): Streit um den Koran: Die Luxenberg-Debatte: Standpunkte und Hintergründe, 18-38. 3. Aufl. Berlin: Hans Schiler. Prabhavananda, Swami & Manchester, Frederick 1957. The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal. New York: New American Library. Schwab, Gustav 2005. Die schönsten Sagen des klassischen Altertums. München: dtv. In contrast, the oral traditions and eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus of Nazareth show different human perspectives. In the case of Luke’s Gospel, it is an interpreted collection of statements (Luke 1:1-4). This is supplemented by the pseudepigraphers, the apocrypha and the deuterocanonical writings, some of which are canonical, some of which serve for teaching, but in all cases describe the environment around the turn of the times. Such writings complement the narratives about Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, the development, tradition and collection of the Biblical canons in church history indicate a dynamic and creative use of the church with the term “revelation” (Clarke 1999: 321).67Clarke, Kent D. 1999. Original Text or Canonical Text? Questioning the Shape of the New Testament Text we Translate, in Porter, Stanley E. & Hess, Richard S. (eds.): Translating the Bible: Problems and Prospects, 281-322. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. It must be assessed as “open”. This does not mean that it can be expanded arbitrarily, but that it is based on different text templates in the context of different translation traditions. The incarnatory principle derived from this is conveyed in the creative and dynamic transmission of events around the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament into the idioms and cultures of those who feel addressed.

The task of the translation of the Bible remains to give the language groups and microcultures of the world access to the traditional and conserved biblical content (first, revision and new translations). Due to the increasing influence of global traffic and national languages, language and culture change and death is helpful at first glance within the context of media networking due to a better sociolinguist understanding of processes. On closer inspection, however, bilingualism and multilingualism in minority contexts force strong social restrictions on peoples and individuals. Mostly the mother tongue is shifted to everyday life and not developed as an educational or traffic language. In this case, the cultural diversity of humanity is reduced. Bible translation contributes to the development of new Christian faith and successor communities in the form of the church and the community. These, in turn, promote the dynamic and creative diversity that reflects the plurality of the global human community. The different canons of the biblical text reflect this plurality.

Inspiration – Sacred Texts

It has already been mentioned above that inspiration is not perceived as an impartible good, especially in the Bible translation. In other words, inspiration is not interpreted as an inherent part of the text, which would then be transferred in the translation. Such content cannot be recorded communicatively. This idea would only be imaginable through a mythical process that is beyond the control of the translators. If the process is shifted to the “level of belief” and the base biblical text is assigned a superimposed divine breath, it remains undetermined how this is reflected in the translation. The usual ideas about dictation or verbal inspiration are of little help.68A plea for a form of verbal and dictation inspiration is given in the publication of the Bibelbund e.V. Peters, Benedikt 2012. Fehlerlosigkeit – was sonst?, in Mayer, Thomas (ed.): Die Bibel – Ganze Inspiration Ganze Wahrheit Ganze Einheit, 97-114. Nürnberg: VTR. The Bibelbund’s commitment to the Chicago Declarations can be found at: Online: URL: [Stand 2020-06-20].

It is noted from many sides that the doctrine of verbal and dictation inspiration does not reflect the handling of the Hebrew Scriptures by New Testament authors and by Jesus of Nazareth. Their relaxed approach to interpreting and applying the Jewish tradition indicates a human understanding of tradition (e.g. Enns 2005:15-16).69Enns starts from the thesis that just as Jesus is God and man at the same time, so it is with the Bible. It is 100% of both divine and human origin. His understanding of inspiration is based on an effect and effect inspiration so far, since Enns emphasizes the divine and human side equally (2005: 17-19). Enns, Peter 2005. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academics. Furthermore, the biblical writings are closely linked to non-biblical writings, which, however, permit other interpretations and in some cases also prejudice biblical content (e.g. creation myths such as Enuma Elish or the Gilgamesh Epos; codes such as the Codex of Hammurabi or the Nuzi documents; Enns 2005:26-27, 31). If one compares these texts around the environment of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament with the biblical books, then the argument of its uniqueness fades or levels out. The question remains as to how the divine “inspiration” affected the Judeo-Christian texts when surrounding literature produced similar content. It can also be assumed that the biblical authors knew their way around the environment and that there were mutual influences.

The various arguments that criticize a verbal or dictation inspiration idea anchored in the text or in the Meta-text are not taken up here.70From a critical point of view, θεόπνευστος theopneustos “breathed in / entered by God” is a hapax legomenon from 2Tim 3:16, since there are no comparative texts. Also πᾶσα γραφὴ pasa graphä “all scripture” is not a conclusive proof in itself, since at best it could be the Jewish scriptures, thus excluding the New Testament. Also Joh 10:35 καὶ οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή kai ou dunatai luthänai ä graphä “and the Scripture cannot be resolved” only testifies to Jesus’ view of the existing traditions and scriptures on the Hebrew Bible and not on the words he later recorded. Joh 5:19 indicates the complete dependence between son-god and father-god. Furthermore, the textual criticism and the different histories have shown that the words themselves cannot be carriers of divine impetus, since there are different readings and only (well-secured) probabilities to draw conclusions about the “original” (Allert 1999:86-88, 99-101). Allert, Craig D. 1999. Is a Translation Inspired? The Problems of Verbal Inspiration for Translation and a Proposed Solution, in Porter, Stanley E. & Hess, Richard S. (eds.): Translating the Bible: Problems and Prospects, 85-113. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Rather, it results from the practical relevance and everyday life of the Bible translation that those involved in a translation do not assume that they are transporting or even producing an inspired object or inspiration in any form. Nevertheless, the divine action is

in Scripture itself (Luke 4:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 10:35; 2Peter 1:20; Revelation 22:18-19), as well
in the form of visions / dreams (Acts 9:10 and 10:17; Mat 2:13, 19, 22), and
insisted in prayers (2Ki 20:5; Ps 39:13; Luke 6:12; Jak 5:15) and divine answer as well as prophecies and their assumed fulfilment (Mat 2:17; 4:14; Joh 12:38).
The way and the effect of this transcendent action are not described. In my opinion, a solution to this question arises in the effect of the text in the believer himself. Inspiration shifts to the effect and the effect that the text has on the recipient and which the latter permits. That the effect of the Holy Spirit predicted by Jesus of Nazareth forms the decisive moment is not anchored in the text, but in the encounter with transcendence (Joh 7:39; 15:26; 16:13).

The Hinduism (Upanishads, Vedas; see footnote. 63) adopted action and development “of the divine” in the interior of the recipient is in the Christian understanding of inspiration an argument against inspiration. This Hinduist principle and it effect is not inherent in the text, but works from the outside on believers. The “leadership” and “direction” of the Holy Spirit that is indicated in 1Tim 3:16 and 2Petr 1:20-21 by the authors of scripture shifted in this approach to the by divinity worked out decoding of the divine will in the recipient. The coexistence of the divine with the human activity shifts when translating to the self-responsible person. However, this applies to the translation of the Bible and cannot be generally applied to experiences of faith.

Subject of the effect-inspiration are the universal principles that have been transmitted by divinity in direct speech, parables, or narratives. Parallel to the “spirit of the law” (Torah; Deuteronomy 4:1; 5:1: 6:4; 28:15, 45). New Testament believers are expected to grasp the intentions of the biblical books (e.g. John 17:6; 1Thess 5:23; 2Thess 2:15; Rev 3:8, 10; 22:7). Jesus of Nazareth draws a parallel from the Hebrew Scriptures to his life (Joh 5:39) and thus opens the way for a hermeneutic of principles. This goes beyond the text and affects the whole person with his mind, his conscience, his emotions and feelings, as well as his character. In addition, there is the interpretation of the oral and written biblical traditions in the history of the church. Just as Jesus of Nazareth was at the same time whole man and whole God, the oral and written tradition at the same time represents a fully human as well as a completely divine revelation. The core contents are conveyed in the above-mentioned principles, which are also used in the Bible translations as one hundred percent human and at the same time divine.

The audience, as listeners and readers of Scripture, experience these principles “in the encounter with God”, in order to use a Christian formula. The traditional goods are converted into ethical standards. Such an ethic is not arbitrary, since the principles derived from the Scriptures must be justifiable with the Scriptures themselves. These standards are linguistically and culturally contextualized, which leads to different theologies worldwide, since different focal points are defined.71The black theology (Africa), the Liberation theology (South America), the harmony-theologies (Asia), space- and Zeit-theologien (Aboriginal and Native; Bevans, 2011:12-13; Stückelberger, 2011:9-10). Bevans, Stephen B. 2011. What Has Contextual Theology to Offer the Church of the Twenty-First Century?, in Bevans, Stephen B. & Tahaafe-Williams, Katalina (eds.): Contextual Theology for the Twenty-First Century. Missional Church, Public Theology, World Christianity, 3-17. Eugene: Pickwick. Stückelberger, Christoph 2011. Schöpfungstheologie – Schöpfungsspiritualität – Schöpfungsethik Impulse (aus dem globalen Süden) für eine globale und kontextuelle Ethik. Interdisziplinäres Fachgespräch zu ökologischer Ethik und Theologie, Heidelberg/FEST, 28./29. Sept 2011. Online im Internet: URL:… [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2020-06-16]. Incidentally, hermeneutics has been following this path for some time. In some cases, the literal interpretation of the biblical texts is presented as the “only truth”. In the translation of the Bible, such mixing leads to adherence to literal translation.

Inspiration, understood from the perspective of a hermeneutics of principles, does justice to the historical process and the history of the reception of Holy Scripture in that it transmits the creative-dynamic moment of divine activity to the recipient and respects human intervention. This corresponds to the incarnatory translation principle, which brings up the contextualized message of Jesus of Nazareth and the early church (Acts; letters; revelation) again and up to date.

Homiletics and Evangelism

The communicative disciplines of theology and missiology include homiletics and evangelism. Like all communicative sciences (e.g. translation sciences, social sciences, literary studies), they have a mutual relationship to the language and culture in which they operate. They draw their connections from their linguistic-cultural environment, but at the same time they shape it by influencing its linguistic and cultural form. This became particularly clear at the beginning of the Reformation, but also during the colonial times (see footnote 61). This mutual influence can also be demonstrated in the current context of the Internet and media use.72Technological terms such as computer terms (e-mail, cache, stick, cell phone, etc.), curse terms (bitch, gay, fuck you), and political keywords (Glasnost, Perestroika, etc.) were recorded in the media and thus a cultural asset. Such terms are officially introduced into the German language material via the Duden. The Duden – German spelling – takes up terms as soon as they have been used consistently in several media.

A little-noticed area in the field of the science of Bible translation is the influence of homiletics and evangelism on Bible translation in its three-fold division as function, process and product. In these two disciplines, linguistic and cultural symbols develop around the Christian faith. At the same time, the homilist and evangelist takes up linguistic-cultural concepts of the environment in order to interpret them in and into Christian space. In other words, preachers and evangelists describe their interpretation of biblical content to a target audience and contextualize their preaching. Bible translation in turn takes up linguistic-cultural concepts from there. In addition, homilists and evangelists obtain language material from Bible translations for their work.

A revision of a Bible translation becomes necessary when biblical content is cultural-linguistically so far from the proclamation that homilists and evangelists can hardly use the linguistic corpus of the biblical texts. The range of interpretation plays an important role here. If the reader has to interpret the text too strongly, the cognitive effort becomes too high and a dependency on experts arises. Especially with sacred texts, a “clerical bracket” develops that closes the text to the public. This “clerical bracket” leads to the church’s own use of language, which is referred to as “Canaanite”.73It is often very subconscious linguistic changes that flow into the church property: discontinuations, blessings, exultation, good humor, I have peace over, testimony, … The linguistic discrepancy only becomes clear when we talk to people who are not from the church.

In the base biblical text we find parables, speeches and sermons that convey the principles of how people relate to and remain in the Judeo-Christian concept of God. The narration formats perform a linguistic-cultural contextualized package of these principles. The principles themselves are based on the metaphor of the Kingdom of God and are therefore generally applicable in the sphere of time and space. Based on the reality of the speeches and actions of Jesus of Nazareth, the oral traditions were fixed in writing in the Jewish-Greek context of the first century AD. Then translators transferred this reality into their contexts (Ulfila, Hieronymus, Methodius, etc.). Target group-oriented revisions and adaptations follow these translations until today. Through all contexts, times and translations, the intended principles of the incarnated Christ remain and protrude beyond any contextualization. For this reason, contextualization is spatially and temporally bound, but not so the intended biblical principles.

Language and culture only form the portfolio for translation. The intended hermeneutical principles of ethics and moral are behind the material text. The material text forms the linguistic-cultural framework in which the information is transported. If one follows this hermeneutics of principles, then it becomes clear that the signs and symbols of the biblical content are above the text. The Lord’s Supper (Mat 26: 19-30; Mark 14: 13-31; Joh 13), for example, conveys a generally valid symbol for the interpersonal and the human-divine community; the church names it “sacrament”. The “prodigal son” (Luke 15: 11-32), on the other hand, represents God’s desire to meet people and to seek God at the same time through people. The images in which these principles are packaged are not subject to a fixed communicative framework and can also be adapted linguistically and culturally, provided the original context is understood. The framework of such a contextualization is formed by

the historical context of the original text,
the cognitive-communicative framework of today’s target audience, as well as
the intuition of the meaning anchored in the base text.
When translating a so called “sacred” text, there are two things to be done: on the one hand, a recourse to the historical context, as well as a linguistic-cultural adaptation into the communicative context.

This is illustrated by an example in the German-speaking area. Older, as well as more literal philological translations use for the Hebrew term זֶ֔ר zera “seeds”„(e.g. Genesis 3:15; 70x Hebrew Bible), although the term also means “plant seeds, seeds, offspring or sperm” (e.g. in Onanism derived from Genesis 38:9). Over time, the term has now been translated into “offspring” in more recent translations and as “seed” in corresponding contexts of flora and fauna. With regard to human “seed”, the term conveys a sexual connotation and would be translated for example, in Genesis 38:9 first with “offspring” and then with “sperm”.

“So Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. Whenever he went to his brother’s wife, his sperm simply fall to the ground to keep his brother from descendants.”74Gerade dieses Beispiel kommuniziert nur minderwertig und beschreibt Vorgänge unzureichend. “Onan wusste sehr genau, dass es nicht seine Nachkommen wären. Sooft er nun mit der Frau seines Bruders schlief, ließ er es nicht zum Samenerguss kommen, um seinem Bruder keine Nachkommen zu schenken.“

A rethinking took place here in Bible translation. In homiletics and evangelism, the experience preceded that certain terms and word constructions carry connotations with them. These do not communicate in everyday language or outside of certain linguistic contexts or do so wrongly.

Another “clerical bracket” of homiletics and evangelism is the selection of texts themselves. Rarely used biblical texts, such as the brutal land grabbing stories from Joshua and Richter are subject to a contemporary interpretation. This is also reflected in the rendering of the texts, since the basic theological positions are connected.

In this sense, homiletics and evangelism form the long outstretched arm of Bible translation. In Christian development aid, this corresponds to the different approaches for contextualizing the message. Local friendships, national partnerships and a good knowledge of the language and culture of the target culture play a role. Here, the linguistic-cultural framework is internalized in order to offer the native-speaking Bible translators support in their training. Not only members of local churches, but also translators interested in Christianity can be trained in this way.

Summary – An Ethical Reflection on Bible Translation


The science of Bible translation is threefold: the product, process, and function of Bible translation. The essence of Bible translation discussed here affects all three areas. As a communicative science, Bible translation is closely intertwined with translation science, linguistics and the sciences for communication (information technology, literary studies, etc.). As a missiological-theological discipline, it makes use of anthropology, psychology, philosophy and the social sciences. Its interdisciplinarity enables contextualization into the language and culture area to be translated. Target group orientation is one of the most important characteristics of Bible translation.

A distinction must be made as to whether it is a so-called first Bible translation, a revision or a new translation. The former describes Bible translation for the area of Christian development aid. This task has a special focus opposed to revision translation, which refer to subsequent translations, where there is already a full Bible or larger parts of the Bible. The latter is also the foundation for New Bible translation that start a new literature tradition in an area where there is still a Bible translation. The “Century of Bible Translation” (19th-20th centuries) caused in the area of first translations to take on the creative and pioneering role in this discipline today. This means that translational and linguistic experiences and developments migrate outside the traditionally predominant Christian countries of Europe and North America.

Different theories and models for translation, as well as for the missiological-theological implementation and meaning of the Bible translation in the ecclesiastical space, require a plurality of approaches. The target group-oriented communicative method speaks against a philological-literal translation, which is supposed to guarantee a Bible translation that is very similar for all contexts. A language and culture group should always be able to refer back to the base text, but a transmission at the word level communicates insufficiently. This is at the expense of the audience, who need elaborate auxiliary materials to interpret the content of the text. A communicative translation of the Bible, on the other hand, is in danger of interpreting the “text” and in turn leading the audience to their own elaborate text interpretations. There is no escape from this dilemma in the history of translation. The functional theory of translation tries to put the product in the center by emphasizing the Skopos that is the objective of the translation. Target group orientation is achieved by the contractual partners of a translation agreeing on their objectives and framework conditions with a mutual agreement. As part of a recursive control mechanism, the process is checked again and again and corrected in the event of deviations. The focus is on intelligibility, compliance with the agreements and proximity to the intention of the original. The team of Bible translators has the opportunity to control the process.

The subsequent function of the translation of the Bible describes the internal process of contextualization as well as its preserving orientation. The oral tradition of the base text plays a role model for modern media format in the science of Bible translation. The dynamic history of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the New Testament, depicts today’s introduction to online Bibles, biblical oral-aural and visual products, as well as computer-simulated Bibles. Versions for the visually or hearing impaired in particular indicate the interpretative nature of the translation. In gestures and images, biblical content is interpreted and conveyed to the audience. It is this intuitive interpretation that depicts the cognitive basis of the human ability to transmit language and culture. The theological basis of the subsequent function of the Bible translation arises from the divine sending of the Church as guardian of the Scriptures. According to this mandate, the mother-tongue church preserves the biblical “text” and passes it on to future generations. The philological-literal or interlinearizing method of translation is usually used for this. In Christian development aid, this also applies to non-mother tongue contexts and especially for first translations. In this sense, the translation of the Bible strengthens the church and holds the global and local body of Christ together as a community. This “glocal” orientation leads to a number of Bible translations that can set different linguistic or content-related focal points, but in their entirety define the binding divine good of biblical concepts. Just as the oral traditions led to an open “canon” – since different canons – so native Bible translations of a language group also form a selection. The global Church draws the binding biblical good from the totality of canonical plurality. Yet, further comparison is allowed with the base text. The diverse text variants indicate different traditions and – as suggested in the text by Nestle Aland – can be traced back to a more definable consensus. The variety of translations becomes the basis for ecclesiastical exegesis, homiletics and evangelism in Bible translation.

The leading function of the science of Bible translation unfolds its progressive-dynamic power in the target group-oriented adaptation of biblical content. This is done in oral, written or media form. The background of this external contextualization is the Skopos, which is determined by those involved in a project of Bible translation. In this function, the translation of the Bible has its foundation in the church and thereby extends beyond its focus. It carries the biblical message into linguistic-cultural contexts, where it develops its own spiritual momentum in the context of Christian development aid. Groups that generate a Bible translation are consolidated with their own revision translations. The cycle of the leading and trailing function describes the history of the Bible translation itself, which reflects its own thread within the history of mankind and the Church.

These processes perform the foundation of ethical reflections by the incarnatory principle of Bible translation. These processes describe the time and place independent enculturation of the biblical message. Bible translation becomes a recurring act of contextualization into the idioms of this world, starting with the unique coming into the world of Christ in the person of Jesus of Nazareth at the turn of the age, The act of incarnation itself reflects this cycle in that divinity in Kenosis expresses herself in order to approach and reveal herself to his counterpart that is mankind. This condescension does not end with the resurrection, but is continued in the constant “translation” and further reaching of the biblical content in the most varied cultural-linguistic contexts. The foundation of such a dynamic and open incarnation principle can be described as a hermeneutic of principles. It communicates the implied principle of a biblical narrative, a parable, or poetic abstractions. It is not just a question of translating the spatial and time-bound context of the oral or written tradition into a native language idiom as true to the text as possible, let alone literally. Homiletics and evangelization form a pioneer in choosing communicative contents. This is so because of its target group oriented transport of Biblical contents into linguistic-cultural contexts.

Inspiration is negotiated differently throughout the theological realm. Just like the doctrine of the Trinity, this anthropocentric construct depicts spiritual reality, which, however, is viewed from a human perspective, so to speak. Assuming this limitation, there is a separate perspective in the Bible translation. The holy authorship as well as the divine content of the revelation make us aware of the translational-linguistic concern of the Bible translators. Bible translation projects are usually accompanied by prayer from the church. At the same time, as in incarnation, the Bible becomes the subject of human interpretation and intuition. A divine effect of the translation of the Bible unfolds only afterwards in the ecclesiastical space of the religious community. This shift away from the product towards the body and the understanding of the individual believer comes into play in the result- or effect inspiration. The currently prevailing sensible variety of today’s Bible translations in a mother tongue area serves different target groups. At the same time, the epistemological recognition of divine claims and statements from the “texts” is shifted to the individual and the collective. There is no material divine substance called “inspiration” attached to the product. The “texts” itself open up a divine message to believers individually. In contrast, the indwelling of divine substance is presupposed in verbal or dictation inspiration. However, this thesis assumes that an epistemological access to the divine would be possible. Ultimately, this access would only be possible via the original or the base text, the original form of which is outside the human sphere of influence. This understanding of inspiration can only be transferred to Bible translation in a narrower philological-literal context. Since a philological-literal Bible translation of the base text would be accessible in the mother tongue as a comparative text, as an interlinear text or in paratext, such a teaching of inspiration is also covered in the result- or effect inspiration.

Homiletics and evangelism transport biblical content into linguistic-cultural contexts. The framework for this transfer is the communicative purpose. Only what can be understood and implemented is communicated. This premise defines when a revision translation is necessary and what it should look like. The starting point is the current use of language as it is interpreted in sermon and preaching when applied to the audience. If a biblical text template no longer communicates in a target group, then one has to ask whether a further written text form a new Bible translation or a revision is necessary. Where no biblical content is yet accessible in a mother tongue, Christian development aid is required. New Bible translations should communicate today, but it must be ensured in the accompanying text (Paratext) that the original historical meaning remains understood.

At the end of this ethical reflection, one thing can be said: An ethical framework was only be sketched out here. It remains the task of future research to consider the following questions: What is the relationship and how do the elements presented here relate to a general Christian ethics? How is it enriched by the ethical requirements in Bible translation?