18th Forum Bible Translation

Dear friends of the Bible Translation Forum,

The 18th Forum on Bible Translation will take place from 02 (Tue) to 03 (Wed) May. It is expected that the event will start on Tuesday at 9:30 and end on Wednesday at 16:00.

The location for this year’s Forum is Forum Wiedenest e.V. (Eichendorffstraße 2; 51702 Bergneustadt; Tel. +49 2261 406-0; info(at)wiedenest.de). Please register exclusively via https://www.wiedenest.de/wycliff by April 15, 2023. Information about the costs can also be found on the website.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Tianji Ma (tianji.ma1309@gmail.com).

Preliminary program: Ablauf 18. Forum Bibelübersetzung 02.05 – 03.05.2023 Wiedenest_v3

We are very much looking forward to welcoming you.

Tianji Ma / Eberhard Werner


Disability Studies and Bible translation

werner [at] forschungsinstitut.net



This essay is a short introduction to Disability Studies and Bible translation. What is on the first glance not obvious, becomes much clearer when the linguistic and social impact of historic Bible translations is in focus. Not just political correctness but also an Inclusivist rethinking of the church is needed to overcome existing hermeneutics of Ableism or Disableism.


Disability Studies (DS) originates from social studies in the 1960s concurrent with both the gay and feminist liberation movements and Latin American liberation theology. Since then, there has been an increasing awareness of DS in theology, but not so much in missiology (intercultural theology in Germany) or in the Science of Bible translation. Research on, by, and with people with physical or mental impairment is yet to be introduced in these disciplines. Within Disability Studies, the history, the needs (e.g., care, assistance), and the social framework of adults with physical or mental impairment have been investigated. Less so in missiology or Intercultural Theology, where neither Christian parents nor other Christian care providers for children, or those groups that focus on Christian care have been in focus.

In the light of expensive long-term (Bible) translation training, preparation in intercultural-linguistics, costly member care and administrative structures, as well as the high cost of medical or physical aid both on the field and at home, there is an obvious lack of research on DS in missiology. Out of an inclusivist approach, such a need opens up the potential for sending organizations. For one it will help

  • gathering information about the needs of their staff with physical or mental impairment, as well as
  • evaluating concerns regarding disability within people groups on the field, in respect of at least ten percent of an ethnicity’s population (12.8% in US, 2017 census; 10% in Germany, 2016 census).

DS emerged out of the social prejudices against people with disabilities (i.e., ableism or disableism), in the form of

  • discrimination,
  • isolation, and
  • the exclusion of disabled persons.

It was implemented by veterans of war with a disability, and those persons with physical or mental impairment, who

  • had to live in special-care facilities isolated from a normal environment,
  • were unable to study at universities, or
  • to manage the needs of daily life (e.g., shopping, cooking, dealing with officials), due to the sheer fact of the inaccessibility of the public realm to them.

In addition, one would add the refusal by officials to listen to the needs of parents of children with impairment, especially regarding education or assisted care at home instead of in special-care homes. Whereas in the US, the outcry against the discrimination against the disabled was regarding the (in)accessibility and (lack of) education, in the UK and Germany, the focus was on seeking/the need for independent assisted daily life. Radical insider movements such as the “cripple movement” (Krüppelbewegung in Germany) were recognized on not just the national, but also the international level (Fandrey 1990). In 2006, the UN chartered the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” The US, the UK, and Germany ratified the convention in 2009; by March 2018 there were 175 ratifications globally (Online see https://www.un.org/).

The terms “participation” and “integration” became keywords of the early days, later replaced by the multifaceted term “inclusion,” expressing an Inclusivist environment on all levels of life such as accessibility, assisted independent living, language, social acceptance, and perception. Historically, terminology of popular Bible translations (e.g., King James Version, Luther Bible) was very influential. Later, when by language shift some terminology was used in colloquial language as terms of abuse, the translation tradition did not adapt to modern Inclusivist language, but became exclusive. Examples such as “cripple,” “idiot,” “invalid,” “lame,” “monster,” etc., have nowadays become ostracized from acceptable usage. However, out of pity or sym- instead of empathy, exclusivist terminology is sometimes still used (un)consciously in Bible translation. For example, the 2017 revision of the Luther Bible still uses einen Lahmen, “a lame [person],” instead of “a paralyzed person” (Matt 4: 24), following the “Lutheran tradition” as a code for revision. One reason for this is the lack of disabled Bible translators, exegetes, and theological hermeneutists, bearing in mind the adage, “Nothing about us, without us.” This parallels the development of gender Inclusivist or Feminist language in the 1980s that resulted in revision in the Luther Bible in 1999 from Weib, which carried then the meaning ”bitch”, to Frau, “woman”.

There are similar demands in Bible translation for political correctness regarding the translation of descriptions of persons with a handicap as well as an Inclusivist perception by the Church. Wynn Kerry was one of the first to address this issue (2001). He gave four recommendations to translators, the most helpful one being to move from generalization to descriptive terminology. Thus “a lame person” may become “a man/woman with a mobility impairment,” and “a blind person” may be expressed as “a person with visual impairment.”  Mark 8:25 reads, “his sight was restored” in most (more literal) Bible translations (so NRSV; cf. Ger. wiederhergestellt). This leaves the audience with the assumption that the healed man’s “blindness” was most likely an impairment caused by illness in later age, since the man’s sight was “restored” (“he saw again,” assuming he saw at one time in life).  In a best-case scenario, the audience will wonder, whether the man was born blind or became blind later in life. This uncertainty would be obvious mainly to sensitive exegetes, who would use Inclusivist language in their rendition. Beyond that, hermeneutics must take into consideration that the Biblical authors reflected their culture-bound perception of disability.

Over more than nineteen centuries, literal translation transporting the NT authors’ perspective on disability led to the exclusion, isolation or, since the 18 c., relegation to special homes, of people with impairment, out of the Church’s mandate of social welfare (Ger. Diakonat). Nowadays, politics force the Church, as a public player, to make possible the inclusion of persons with disabilities on all levels of society as leaders, pastors, and staff, and of course members and interested parties. In this way, hopefully, sympathy out of pity is replaced in the Church by empathy out of equality, thus performing an Inclusivist role in building diversity in the communion of saints (Reynolds 2008).


Additional reading: Kerry 2007a, 2007b.


Fandrey, Walter 1990. Krüppel, Idioten, Irre. Zur Sozialgeschichte behinderter Menschen in Deutschland. Stuttgart: Silberburg-Verlag. [Engl.: Cripples, idiots, lunatics. On the Social History of Disabled People in Germany.].

Reynolds, Thomas E. 2008. Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality. Grand Rapids: BrazosPress.

Wynn, Kerry 2001. Disability in Bible Translation. Bible Translator 52/4, 402-414. New York: UBS.

Wynn, Kerry H. 2007a. Johannine Healings and Otherness of Disability. Perspectives in Religious Studies 34, 61-75.

Wynn, Kerry H. 2007b. The Normate Hermeneutic and Interpretations of Disability within the Yahwistic Narratives, in Avalos, Hector, Melcher, Sarah J. & Schipper, Jeremy (eds.): This Abled Body. Rethinking Disabilities in Biblical Studies, 91-101. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

Bible Translation Forum – Symposium – up from 2005

The annual Bible Translation Forum – Symposium – is a symposium where theologians, translators, linguists, and others interested in Bible translation (eg, missiologists, sociologists, etc.) meet to critically and fairly discuss their work in the area of the Science of ​​Bible Science.

In the past, we had translators of the Unified Translation, the Elberfelder Bible, the Basis Bible, the New Zurich Bible, the Bible in Just Language, the Luther Bible, and the New Evangelical Translation. Also Linguists in functional translation and relevance theory, as well as translation consultants from United Bible Societies and Summer Institute of Linguistics. Speakers and participants cover the entire spectrum of ecclesiastical tradition.

The idea of ​​the forum is to discuss the largely ignored, but in our opinion central, Christian theme of the Bible as a translation, and to find out who, when, what and for whom, in this area, something has been done or undertaken.

I would personally be very happy if you get excited about it and I look forward to your inquiry. You are also welcome to recommend the Forum to your friends who are interested in the science of Bible translation.

The Bible translation Forum is supported by Wycliff Germany e.V. (Holzhausen), Verlag Theologie und Religion (VTR; Nuremberg), Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL; Dallas), Forum Theologie (Wiedenest) and the Forschungs-Stiftung Kultur und Religion (Gießen).

Eberhard Werner

werner [at] forschungsstiftung.net

Find below the programs of the past Bible Translation Forums:

1st Bible Translation Forum 2005;    1 FBÜ-2005 Inhalt
2nd Bible Translation Forum 2006; 2. BÜ Forum Wied 12 – 13 Juni 2006
3rd Bible Translation Forum 2007;  3. FBÜ-2007
4th Bible Translation Forum 2008;  4. FBÜ-2008
5th Bible Translation Forum 2009;  5. Forum Bibelübersetzung, 8.-9. 9. 2009
6th Bible Translation Forum 2010;  6. Forum Bibelübersetzung, 24. – 25. 9. 2010
7th Bible Translation Forum 2011;   7. Forum Bibelübersetzung, 03. – 04.05. 2011
8th Bible Translation Forum 2012; 8. Forum Bibelübersetzung, 15.05 – 16.05.2012
9th Bible Translation Forum 2013; 9. Forum Bibelübersetzung, 14.05 – 15.05.2013
10th Bible Translation Forum 2014;   10. Forum Bibelübersetzung, Wiedenest, 06.05 – 07.05.2014
11th Bible Translation Forum 2015;    11. Forum Bibelübersetzung 05.05 – 06.05.2015
12th Bible Translation Forum 2016;   12. Symposium Forum Bible translation Oslo 200th anniversary Norwegian Bible Society
13th Bible Translation Forum 2017;   13. Forum Bibelübersetzung, 16.05 – 17.05.2017 Karimu
14th Bible Translation Forum 2018;  14. Forum Bibelübersetzung Wiedenest 24-25 April 2018
15th Bible Translation Forum 2019;  15. FBÜ wQEBTF Oslo 15-16 May 2019 Program
16th Bible Translation Forum 2020 was cancelled dueto the Corona Epidemy – the annual Yearbook 2020 was published
16th Bible Translation Forum 2021;  16.th Bible Translation Forum 5.-6. Mai 2020 Program
17th Bible Translation Forum 2022;  17. Forum Bibelübersetzung 03.05 – 04.05.2022 Karimu


Multilingual Education (MLE) and First Bible Translation Projects – How does Multilingual Education (MLE) facilitate First Bible Translation Projects?

Eberhard Werner



Abstract 1

1 Introduction. 1

2 First Bible Translation Projects – Contexts 2

3 Understanding Multilingualism and Multilingual Education. 4

3.1 Motivation for MLE programmes 5

3.2 Identity, the Self and Multilingualism.. 5

3.3 Special audience of MLE – Children. 6

4. First Bible Translations and MLE Programmes 6

4.1 MLE programmes – Project Planning. 7

4.2 MLE – Literacy and Language Development 8

5. Conclusion – MLE and Bible Translation. 10

References 10




We are concerned with the sustainable use of what we call First Bible Translation Projects within Christian Development agencies. Too many Bible translations and their sub-products were never used, due to the lack of a church, of reading capacity or of education in general. Multilingual education is a discipline that supports mastering the mother tongue as well as the language of wider communication (trade or national language). Thus, writing and reading skills are trained as well as the use of written products. Religious texts are often welcome to serve the task of transition material from one language to another. This is where Bible translation comes in with its oral and written aspects. The lively historical stories and a common theme from the very beginning of creation to an eternal future offer a variety of genres. Language development as a sub-discipline of Bible translation offers support for languages that are on the edge of extinction in developing strategies like Multilingual Education (MLE) for survival. MLE itself follows early-exit as well as multilingual approaches. Literature as the overall discipline of MLE contains linguistics, pedagogy, anthropology and Scripture engagement, and supports the development of MLE programmes. All these sub-disciplines together allow for a successful interplay between the science of Bible translation and Multilingual Education. In this article we will discuss a strategic approach that would combine both disciplines.

1 Introduction

The early days of multilingual education (MLE) reach back to the year 1953 when UNESCO emphasised the use of the vernacular language1UNESCO 1953. The Use of the Vernacular Languages in Education. France. Online: URL: http://www.inarels.com/resources/unesco1953.pdf [PDF-File] [accessed 2021-11-10]. The volume presents articles from specialists that gathered in November 1951 in Paris to discuss a continental survey on the use of the vernacular language including all five continents. Discussed were different pilot projects in vernacular education. in education projects. Close to forty years later, in 1990, the World Conference on Education for All, which took place in Jomtien, Thailand, marked another cornerstone in the formation of MLE programmes. At that conference, delegates from 155 countries agreed to make primary education accessible to all children and to reduce illiteracy around the world (UNESCO, 2015). As a further step, in 1999 an annual Mother-Tongue Day on the 21st February was established. Also, during these developments human language was recognised as an intangible living cultural heritage of humanity.2UNESCO 2008. Intangible Cultural Heritage. Living Heritage and Mother Languages. Online: URL: https://ich.unesco.org/en/ich-and-mother-languages-00555 [accessed 2021-11-06]. The awareness rose after it was recognised that globalisation, digitalisation and huge migration movements oriented towards employment increased language death and led to multilingualism, leaving only a few largely spoken languages of wider communication. The document, “The mother tongue dilemma”, from 2003, reflects the economic and social impasse that nation states experience, if large social groups are less or un-educated (see also Kosonen 2013).3UNESCO 2003. The mother tongue dilemma. New York: UNESCO. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000130800 [accessed 2021-11-06]. However, none of these interventions brought the development of MLE much further forward. Only very local and small projects developed during the last 15 years.

We will first look at mother tongue and first language acquisition, as the research on these topics is central to the understanding of MLE and first Bible translation projects. Secondly, the meaning and function of first Bible translation projects comes into focus. Thirdly, the broad range of MLE strategies is of interest, and fourthly we see the interplay of both as combined attempts for mother tongue education.

2 First Bible Translation Projects – Contexts

First Bible translation projects aim to support a local church or a group of believers who have no, or limited, cognitive access to Bible translations from their surrounding languages. The first translation into their vernacular represents not just a religious document but is also a political statement, as the vernacular is expressed by an orthography and a product that is a representative genre as a piece of literature. The political stance is essentially what links MLE with first Bible translation projects.

First Bible translations in contexts where there is no Bible translation in the mother tongue are products of long-running linguistic and anthropological research. Why is this so?

First, the basic idea of MLE corresponds with first Bible translation programmes4First Bible translations, new Bible translations and revision Bible translations must be differentiated. New Bible translations and revisions are in contexts where there is at least one existing and used Bible translation. New Bible translations differ from revisions in so far as they do not follow the genre of a traditional Bible translation as revisions do, when they keep to a specific translation style, vocabulary, grammar use or phrasing. First Bible translations as part of the science of Bible translation therefore globally offer a huge field of experience in linguistics pragmatics, translation science, anthropology, pedagogy and psychology (Werner 2018:135-164). that start with the mother tongue, but hold to the language of wider communication or the national language with regard to reference Bibles, the language of glossaries, reference material or the involvement of supportive institutions.5For instance, Bibles in ‘Kurdish’ languages in Turkey, which belong to the Indo-Iranian language family, refer to Turkish Bibles and exegetical material, although Turkish is from the Turkic language family. The same with language learning material such as dictionaries, primers or reading products, which also refer to Turkish.

Second, a translation is only successful if the mother tongue idiom is well-researched, and phonological study, orthography and the oral recordings match the written text. Therefore nowadays computer programs like Scripture App Builder6Most common is Scripture App Builder a computer app from SIL International that very easily merges a written text with audio and makes them available in the App Store. Scripture App Builder. Dallas: SIL International. Online: URL: https://software.sil.org/­scriptureappbuilder/ [accessed 2021-10-10]. offer text and audio together to reach illiterate as well as literate persons. Other tools like FieldWorks Language Explorer (FleX) support the phonological and morpho-syntactic analysis of a language.7FieldWorks Language Explorer. Dallas: SIL International. Online: URL: https://software.sil.org/fieldworks/ [accessed 2021-10-10]. FleX allows interlinearisation and builds up a lexicon during the interlinearisation. The linguistic analysis allows the description of the grammar, vocabulary and text discursive features of the language.

However, first Bible translations and a good linguistic analysis show only limited success and do not help languages on the edge of extinction.8A tool to describe language assessment is the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (EGIDS) by Paul Lewis and Gary Simons, who expanded Fishman’s GIDS scale. On this scale the status of a language is described and put in the wider context of expectations of development- Most languages that are under a dominant national language for more than fifty years are in the area of 6b and “threatened”. The language is only used in family and not in the public realm. SIL International 2020. Language vitality 2020. Dallas: SIL International. Online: URL: https://www.sil.org/­about/­endangered-languages/language-vitality [accessed 2021-10-10]. As the EGIDS scale reveals, it is important to focus on literacy and the use of the mother tongue as a written language for children to develop reading skills. By reading, ideas are expressed, discussed and taken further, traditions are fixed, and identity is built. Belonging and identity are central to a healthy ethnocentrism, which allows demarcation from “the other” and marks identity. Conscience is the main feature in this. It is built by enculturation and constitutes identity, the self and belonging (Käser 1998:130-131; Iurato 2015:8-81, 94).

In the process of Bible translation, the evaluation of the linguistic inventory of a mother tongue and the dictionary of that language are in focus. Bible translation encompasses many genres such as narrative, poetry or prose.

3 Understanding Multilingualism and Multilingual Education

Multilingual education, as the name states, is oriented towards multilingualism. It is based on the premise of “first-language-first”. Therefore MLE starts with the mother tongue, also called first language (L1), and transitions to the language of wider communication or a national language (L2).9The transition bridge from L1 to L2 starts with an introduction to L1, oral proficiency in L1, and well trained reading and writing skills, before moving over the bridge to focus on reading and writing in L2, oral proficiency in L2, literacy fluency in both languages, introduction in both and finally lifelong learning in both languages. SIL International 2015. Multilingual Education. Brochure. Dallas. Online: URL: https://www.sil.org/sites/default/files/mle_­brochure­_2015_a4_­english_web.pdf [PDF-File] [accessed 2021-11-10]. Different conceptions of MLE projects are discussed. A standard MLE approach is led by the central government or local authority and is oriented towards vernacular languages (L1) that are different from the language of higher education and economics (L2). Due to the political system, MLE programmes, if introduced at all, range from early-exit transitional programmes to full bi- or multilingual school education systems. However, it is the mother tongue (L1) that is the focus in most programmes, and is, at least in the beginning, used as the language of instruction. Nonetheless, the language of wider use (L2) is central to the higher education system, which is why it is of interest to the combination with Bible translation attempts.

3.1 Motivation for MLE programmes

Historically, national school systems focus on only one language as the language of instruction. In countries with more than one national language this leads to different school systems, which adhere to one language of instruction, like a French school, a German school or an English school. Those who don’t speak the language of instruction are forced to learn the language to follow the lessons. In some cases this is enforced, in others the pupils are left on their own. Either way, if the pupils are not able to follow the instruction the danger of abandoning any educational achievement is high, or thus opportunities to enter the higher school system are also missed. Obviously, this not only affects the individual, who suffers the most by the loss, but also such a social system generates a lot of uneducated people that burden the economic system. If people are educated in their mother tongue they make the best use of their cognitive potential, and in so doing the encultured shared encyclopaedic knowledge, the mother tongue lexicon, and the perception of the world are easily accessed, and new ideas are more easily formed (Thomas & Collier 1997).

3.2 Identity, the Self and Multilingualism

Conscience and thought are the main driving forces of the self, the identity and the personality. All of them are only cultivated if the mother tongue is valued and allowed to be used and developed. It is easier for children to address two or more languages if one language is managed well. It is also easier to learn to read and write in the mother tongue than in any extra language. Thus, transition from a well-known orthography and writing system to another is easier than starting it all in a foreign language. An exception are bilinguals, who develop their own vocabulary and morpho-syntactical memory for each linguistic context. On the other hand, thought, conscience and the perception of the world are central and form identity and the self (Fabbro 1996: xii, 89-90).

3.3 Special audience of MLE – Children

The audience for MLE programmes is young children that recognise the difference in their mother tongue from the language of the news, their neighbours or that spoken by most people in their country. Training material for the first year is essentially produced for them. The interplay of the officials and the MLE conductor is central. UNESCO promotes MLE,10UNESCO has emphasised the importance of mother tongue since 1953. Mother Tongue Day was established as a reminder. UNESCO 2014. Multilingual Education. Why is it important? How to implement it? Online: URL: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000226554 [accessed 2021-10-10]. and declares mother tongue to be a central piece of child education.11Malone developed a resource kit to evaluate MLE needs: MTB MLE resource Kit: Including the Excluded. She developed this kit to recognise the different parts and agents in MLE programmes. All nations were asked to join the mother tongue declaration, which most did. For this reason, training material must be approved by the national school officials. It must be in accordance with the training material of the national language pupils. However, the MLE training is aimed at avoiding extra workload for the pupils of a mother tongue which is not the national or language of wider communication, as this often leads to frustration. In some countries, the mother tongue training is held outside the normal school system. However, such an approach shows only limited success and does not help languages on the edge of extinction.

4. First Bible Translations and MLE Programmes

In Bible translation the mother tongue (L1) is the centre of attention. Starting with the phonological inventory, proposing an orthography, working through the morpho-syntactical and text discourse register, the transition to translation is an essential step to discover a mother tongue. The mother tongue speaker is the basic subject to guide these steps. They are the ones who know about their language best, although they may not be best in translation, if they do not understand the task of translation or are not able to work in a team.12Kiraly suggests a social-constructive approach in translation. The translators start to discuss their translation processes and their results and thereby focus on a mutual approach to reach the goal of a translation following the Skopos of the project (2000:4). The outcomes of first Bible translation approaches are also central to MLE and educational material like primers, first reading literature and audio-visual instructions on arts and other communicative expressions. Not only the written word, but also drawings, crafts, sculpture and music are foundational elements to express culture. Up to now the link between first Bible translations and MLE is essentially in the realm of linguistics and anthropology.

4.1 MLE programmes – Project Planning

First language acquisition is normally and globally finalised by children during their fourth year of life (Clark 2009:14). After this process, education in school should start with training in reading and writing and other learning experiences. Ideally, after the finalisation of the first language acquisition process, an MLE programme would be started for children. Multilingual persons and their developmental processes are discussed below.

Susan Malone published an MLE project planning tool for MLE projects (2010). She herself set up programmes and is experienced with different contexts, such as Papua New Guinea in 1991 (Malone 2010:3), Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Other examples and a focus on 11 Southeast Asian countries are presented by Kosonen and Young (2009).

MLE programmes have different levels of approximation by the language groups involved. An example of an 8-year programme is aimed at a language situation where functional bilingualism or multilingualism is needed (Malone 2010:17). This is often the case in large societies with many officially recognised languages.

There are some MLE programmes which aim at a 3-year transition, in cases where a mother tongue is not officially recognised, but flourishing at home, that is a level 6b on the EGIDS scale (see above). This is not highly recommended, and tends to occur in contexts with limited acceptance of MLE programmes. Such projects start reading and writing the mother tongue for one year in school (2010:16). In this first school year the national language or the language of wider communication is maximally used for 20% of instruction or as small-scale language learning material. School year one or grade one has the scope of training in the mother tongue to read and write at 80%. In the second school year a 50% transition to the national language or the language of wider communication starts by introducing the orthography and the phonemic system of the national language or the language of wider communication. Also, transitional material from the mother into the national language is provided. The other 50% is aimed at reading and writing the educational material of 2nd grade or school year in the mother tongue. In the third year, education moves to a transition of 80%, and only 20% in mother tongue education. School year four will join the national school system. It has to be emphasised that the regular educational school material of the 1st and 2nd school year needs to be in the mother tongue, whereas the 3rd school year mainly brings the pupils and the national language or the language of wider communication together. Thus, in MLE, the cognitive abilities were trained in the mother tongue to learn and manage language. The basic principles are always the same.

The early-exit MLE programmes are mentioned here, because they allow for a combination with first Bible translation projects if the vernacular (L1) is linguistically researched by a phonological and grammatical description. Still, we need to keep in mind that normal MLE programmes go for longer transitions. They start from the beginning of school and endure the whole school education time, leaving options to be trained in other languages.

The following overview shows the project plan:

Stage I – learning takes place entirely in the child’s home language.
Stage II – building fluency in the mother tongue. Introduction of oral L2.
Stage III – building oral fluency in L2. Introduction of literacy in L2.
Stage IV – using both L1 and L2 for lifelong learning.

4.2 MLE – Literacy and Language Development

Literacy is another discipline that is in focus with regard to MLE and Bible translation. The term describes the ability to read and write. Over the course of time, the academic discipline of literacy was concerned with processes of oral-aural perception and writing and reading, from a pedagogical, psychological and sociological point of view. In Bible translation the focus of literacy is on the fluency of reading and writing as well as the oral perception of spoken texts, so that the production of reading material like primers and transitional literacy or audio products for language learning comes into focus. Today apps like PrimerPro13PrimerPro 2020. Dallas: SIL International. Online: URL: https://software.sil.org/primerpro/ [accessed 2021-10-10]. or Bloom14Bloom. Dallas: SIL International. Online: URL: https://bloomlibrary.org/landing [accessed 2021-10-10]. are easily set up to produce transition or reading material, based on local and contextualised material that can be easily built in (e.g. pictures, drawings, and songs). MLE, accompanied by these apps, helps mother tongue speakers to produce such material on their own. The availability and easy use of these apps make the language development process sustainable and financially independent. The products are all available online and can be used in different formats, such as PDF, Power Point presentations or video sequences.

Language development is firstly a term that describes first or mother-tongue language acquisition, and secondly it is an academic subject with a broad application. For our purposes, the focus is on language endangerment as the entangling force of language loss. Activities to slow down or hinder language loss would fall under the subject of language development. MLE offers a strong foundation and a transition bridge from a mother tongue to a national language or the language of wider communication (see picture Malone 2010:13). In this, the recognition of the mother tongue as a national or world heritage by the national government or UNESCO goes first. Secondly, the public awareness of the culture that overlays a mother tongue is raised by official language activities like MLE projects. MLE approaches also aim to bridge cultural differences between the mother tongue community and the national community. This is done firstly by the approach to both language groups in the school system, and secondly on the official level, by the reciprocal development of an MLE project by officials of both social groups. There will also be a linguistic approximation since both languages are public and will be mutually recognised, developed and used in specific contexts, without questioning the importance of a national language or the language of wider communication. The local use of a mother tongue within families or social groups is not in contradiction to the use of the national language for higher education and economic reasons.

5. Conclusion – MLE and Bible Translation

For many reasons Multilingual Education (MLE) is an important tool to manage different languages. The economic win for a society is by reaching out to larger social groups. MLE and first Bible translation projects have in common that the linguistic prerequisites go together. A thorough understanding of the language and culture is basic to translating and understanding a huge text like the Bible. At the same time, such understanding is also important for preparing material for MLE programmes. The overlap is in the interest to develop reading and writing skills in children and adults. The extra gain in MLE is that identity and a sense of belonging are built up and this leads to cognitive management of, at minimum, two languages. First Bible translation projects profit from capable mother tongue speakers, who would know how to write and read their language.


Clark, Eve V. 2009. First Language Acquisition. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Fabbro, Franco 1999. The Neurolinguistics of Bilingualism: An Introduction. Hove: Taylor & Francis.

Iurato, Giuseppe 2015. A Brief Comparison of the Unconscious as Seen by Jung and Lévi-Strauss. Anthropology of Consciousness 26/1, 60–107. Arlington: American Anthropological Association.

Käser, Lothar 1998. Fremde Kulturen: Eine Einführung in die Ethnologie für Entwicklungshelfer und kirchliche Mitarbeiter in Übersee. 2. ed. Lahr: Liebenzeller Mission. [Engl.: Foreign Cultures: An Introduction to ethnology for overseas Development and Christian Aid workers.].

Käser, Lothar 2004. Animismus – eine Einführung in die begrifflichen Grundlagen des Welt- und Menschenbildes traditionaler (ethnischer) Gesellschaften für Entwicklungshelfer und kirchliche Mitarbeiter in Übersee. Bad Liebenzell: Liebenzeller Mission. [Engl.: Animism – An Introduction].

Kiraly, Don 2000. A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education. Empowerment from Theory to Practice. Manchester: St. Jerome.

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Keywords: bible translation, multilingualism ; children’s education ; pedagogy ; first bible translation ; educational factor ;


The biblical Revelation as an eye of the needle of divine communication – An overview of the Trinitarian-communicative foundations in relation to the science of Bible translation

Eberhard Werner


The biblical Revelation as an eye of the needle of divine communication. 1

An overview of the Trinitarian-communicative foundations in relation to the science of Bible translation  1

Abstract 1

Structure. 1

Introductory thoughts – Ways of communication. 1

The self-revelation. 3

Holy Scripture – Anthropos and Theos. 5

The eye of the needle of divine communication. 6

Missiological considerations. 9

Experienced communication. 10

Church Historical Review – Communication Thought 11

Summary. 12



Sacred Scripture conveys to us different ways in which divine transcendence was revealed to man in pre-biblical, pre-Christian, pre-canonical, and canonical times. The revealed concept of the three-unity or Trinity of the Judeo-Christian God plays an important role. However, this theological theorem as biblical truth must not obscure the fact that it is a purely relational structure. The relational category of God’s revealed essence becomes explicable, among other things, from the forms and ways of communication. The event of the incarnation, in the condescension and the divestiture or emptying (kenosis) of the divine counterpart in persona, as well as the formation of the canon in the context of the entire salvation history, represents a provisional climax of divine revelation, which must be regarded as the communicative eye of the needle. The “before” and the “after” of the ways of communication of this divine revelation form the basis for the science of Bible translation. The biblical canons in their presently presentation, as well as the writings accompanying and describing them, form the basis of our image of God. As foundational texts, these canons are based on textual criticism. They narrow the divine communication patterns to the implicit and explicit communicative content of the biblical text. For this reason, the science of Bible translation is required to become aware of the variety of possibilities for the transmission of communicative sacred-divine content and to make the receptor / receiver aware of both the ways of transmission and the options of meaning of the biblical text(s). The nature of God accessible to us is described in these ways of transmission and communication.


In the first part, ways of communication in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are considered, by which the divine transcendence approached humanity, subgroups or individuals in an orally transmitted or written way.

In the second part, the function like a needle’s eye / narrowing of these ways of revelation to the canonization and writing down of the Scriptures is considered, as well as the significance of this process for the community and the Church.

The third part deals with the resulting missiological consequences.

Introductory thoughts – Ways of communication

The Trinity, three-unity, three-in-one or three-in- unity represents a theoretical concept that can be derived from the biblical accounts, but cannot be logically comprehended. It remains a mystery that manifests itself in faith (πίστις, pistis) and understanding (σύνεσις, synesis) in the believer. It testifies to a relational aspect in which both God’s inner love relationship between his revelatory forms (hypostases or persona) is manifested (ad intra), as well as the outward love relationship with man (ad extra). The latter is symbolized in the relationship with his messenger in human form (the Messiah, the Christ). The communicative forms and ways that this Trinitarian revelation takes in the biblical testimony point to the outwardly directed revealing mode of God’s being. On the basis of these ways of communication it shall be examined which communicative position this revealed God has towards man and how he wants to bring himself close to him. The non-revealed characteristics of transcendence remain hidden and form the indissoluble secret or mystery of the Creator. The divine revelation, the Bible, represents the only testimony.

Ways of communication from the divine-transcendent sphere into the human-physical realm of man, are described in the Bible:

– Oral traditions also known as oral-aural transmission (hearsay), such as in Jer 23:27.

– Written revelations, such as the I-words: I say to you, I am … (e.g., Ex 4:23; Isa 46:10; Mk 14:62; Jn 6:35).

Individuals (e.g. Moses, Abraham), subgroups (e.g. families, tribes, etc.) or entire peoples (e.g. Israel, Assyrians, Babylonians) were considered as addressees. Such ways can be distinguished into:

– the direct speaking of God (direct revelation)

o in the form of the voice of God (e.g., Exodus 3:16 in the thorn bush to Moses),

o through dreams (Genesis 40:16) or visions (Ezek 8:4).

– the indirect speaking (partial revelation),

o in writings (Ex 32:16),

o through messengers (Gen 16:9),

o prophets (Isa 38:1; Heb 1:1-2),

o appointed disciples (1Peter 1:1), and

o ordinary people (Jn 4:39).

The term direct revelation, must not obscure the fact that in the Scriptures the God of Israel never showed Himself in His entirety. Jacob and Moses had the most generous revelatory experience, as God approached them in persona (Latin for ‘mask’; Genesis 32:31 and Exodus 33:23). However, the phrase “face to face” פָּנִ֣ים אֶל-פָּנִ֔ים should not be overused, since the overall biblical context makes it clear that no one can perceive God in His entirety (e.g., Jn 1:18; 1 Chronicles 1:18; 1 Chronicles 1:18; 1 Chronicles 1:18). e.g. John 1:18; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 John 4:12). This seems to have been an extraordinary form of revelation that enabled Jacob and Moses to cross the boundary between holiness and profanity. Whether it concerned with this border crossing metaphysical or physical events remains open. In other words, whether here humans approached the state of God or whether the divine transcendence approached the state of humans is not described in more detail.

Another categorization of the channels of the com¬munication orients itself at the direction,

– the communication on horizontal (man-human; community) and vertical (man-God, God-

human) level,

– the social relation of the community to the outside (sociological orientation),

– the religiously conditioned psychological-cognitive level.

This division lends itself to a distinction in the fields of theology and missiology between pragmatic considerations (first level above) and an interdisciplinary theoretical model (latter level).

All examples of divine revelation enter the consciousness of humanity or world conscience (sometimes world consciousness) because of their oral or written transmission (fixation). Within the framework of the history of tradition, even inexplicable events become communicative experiences, which by extension form an integral part of global experience in the communicative sphere. In other words, although some sequences of communication from biblical revelation are unique, e.g., the burning bush from which a voice speaks (Exodus 3:2), this event enters human consciousness through its appearance in Scripture. Revelation contains a conserving component that faces critical examination in human scrutiny for truth and relevance. This is theologically and missiologically significant, since in apologetic treatises the communicative background of the interlocutor must be taken into account, such as the Islamic communicative sphere of experience in dialogue with Muslims and vice versa. The process of revelation today is narrowed by the scriptural revelation of the biblical testimony. Before we go into this, it is necessary to examine the self-revelation of the God of Israel (Hebrew Bible) and the relationship with the world in Christ (Hebrew Bible and New Testament), which is significant in the history of salvation.

Knowledge of the divine channels of communication and the content of revelations derives from biblical revelation itself. In this sense, the Scriptures form both the means of communication and the source of information about the communication revealed therein. This inherent circularity results from any religious revelation that invokes a sphere-transcending source. From a communicative point of view, man thus becomes a passive recipient, target addressee and object of the communication of revelation, but an active partner in the communication in prayer, Bible reading and the proclamation of the contents of revelation (see below).

The self-revelation

At the turn of the Western world, the God of Israel, who refers to Himself as אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה I am (Exodus 3:14), revealed Himself in the incarnate Jesus of Nazareth. This “I AM” traces back to the Tetragrammaton (484a) יהוה (yhwh; TWOT ) as revealed to the prophet Moses. The attributes in the Hebrew Bible pointing to a one-person division (oneness in diversity) are:

– “us/we” (Genesis 1:26 and 11:7; e.g., “let us make man”);

– “the Spirit of God” (Gen. 1:2; 1Sa. 10:10; 12x; “I will send my Spirit” Isa. 44:3)

– “the angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16:7; Ex. 22:23; 164x).

This multiple orientation or better tripartite division of the person יהוה Jahweh into several areas of tasks or revelation, as indicated in the Hebrew Bible, is also concretely realized in the New Testament in the condescension and kenosis (divestiture) of God by the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah.

A threefold orientation for the person of God in the New Testament emerges. The three persona (see above) of the NT are mainly indicated in the image of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Here, the (Jewish) image of the nuclear family and the related closest interpersonal relationship of the Father to the Son is taken up. Since God was thought of in the majority of antiquity as male, the relationship of the mother to the child, which in reality was by all means closer, receded in favor of the father (image of upbringing or family). Other images of relation are expressed in the relation of judge, pardoner, and counselor (legal realm) or teacher, student, and master (educational realm) or commander, soldier, and commander-in-chief (military realm). Within these relational images of relationships, the lines of communication always remain the same because authoritarian structures are confident. Thus, the father is superior to the son, the judge to the accused, the teacher to the disciple, and the commander to the soldier and is accredited to give instructions.

The biblical revelation realizes itself in the transition from the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament or rather from the relationship of the people of Israel to the global church in the up to now world-historically unique appearance of the announced Messiah. In detail this is expressed by:

– The substantial physical incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth. It refers to an approach offer of the until then predominantly unapproachable transcendent creator (exceptions are the prophets Moses, Eliah and king David).

– The condescension (condescence) of divinity and the associated crossing of spheres. This points to the thrust direction from the metaphysical into the physical space of man. Well, however, the opposite direction is to be recognized in the resurrection and ascension. A reversed direction of humans, who could reach from the physical into the metaphysical space by their own effort, as e.g. in Hinduism, which was thought until then and also today again, is rejected by the symbolic function of condescension.

– The physical emptying (kenosis) of Jesus of Nazareth points to the necessity and urgency of human response to the offer of salvation at a time appointed by God (ἐκένωσεν ekénōsen Phil 2:7). Jesus forms the model, since he completely submitted himself to God by emptying his will to be completely at the Father’s disposal.

In sum, these events mean that the process of revelation aligns from the Revealer (יהוה, θεος, κυριος) to the Revealed. The biblical account tells of God revealing Himself to man. But what about the ways of communication? Are these accessible to man, or is he completely at the mercy of the will of divine transcendence to reveal itself, as happened, for example, in dreams or visions? How can man act or react in an answering way? These questions about communicational issues are now dealt with.

Holy Scripture – Anthropos and Theos

In order to answer the posed question, it requires a small detour to the origin of the scriptural revelation. Scripture revelation represents an interplay between divine and human activity. Two scenarios will illustrate this:

We realize a far more extensive revelation of God.

a.         Let us assume – and this is quite realistic – that the scriptural evidence available to us concerning the history of salvation represents only a fraction of what was actually revealed by this God about his person and also came to be written down.

In addition, there is the extensive loss of oral traditions about this God of the Israelites and the messenger Jesus of Nazareth, as can be observed worldwide in the history of literature, even over short periods of time.

b.         It can be assumed that the writings available to us are in themselves abridgements – perhaps even during the lifetime of the authors.

A contrast to this are,

a. the inlibration of the Koran, which is derived from a primordial revelation, which is reflected in the present Koranic text and therefore, according to the thesis, transports no human, but only divine information content.

b. also the Book of Mormon as a stone breath lends itself to such divinity.

c. conceivable, of course, would be a global direct revelation to all people as happened in the chiseling of the commandments in stone (Deut. 4:13 and 5:22) and the writing on the wall for Belshazzar (Dan. 5:5).

All of these approaches (a-c below), however, are so far beyond human reach and are speculative, since neither a disposition of

– a divine original revelation (a below; product of divine thought),

– the revealer / breather (b below; process of revelation),

– nor on its global effective power (c below; God remains inaccessible) exists.

The human authors were aware of their responsibility, and nevertheless they had to decide out of

– personal (e.g., consideration for their environment, health),

– economic (e.g., writing material, finances, reputation in society) or

– time-related (e.g., lack of imagination for the future, educational system),

reasons limit us to a selection. The scriptural evidence of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible available to us can serve as an example here. It can be assumed that the so-called “minor prophets” could have kept up with the “major prophets” in terms of content and importance in terms of revelation. Nevertheless, the author or authors of each book made a selection and thus accepted an – albeit responsible – abridgement. The “great prophets,” on the other hand, were more fully considered. In this selection or appearance of a book, the personality of a prophet is also reflected. In view of this interplay, man, as an individual and as the corpus of Christ (all believers), must be considered the ultimate filter for the textual template of the canon of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament that exists today. The question of the formation of the canon and the inspiration of the biblical text is here considered from a purely anthropocentric point of view, subsequently the divine agency is not accessible to man. Nevertheless, the Holy Scripture remains a sacred work, as it refers back to the author of revelation and thus to the realm of the sacred. The text is not at the mercy of profanation, since the content describes in itself the realm of the non-profane or sacred/sacred.

In order to answer the above question now, how it is with the divine-human communication ways, the text fulfils on the one hand in itself all criteria of human communication and carries on the other hand immanently the stamp of divine self-revelation.

However, a new challenge arises, namely that of the meaning of this text as of divine origin and its transformation into a written communicative-informative revelation.

The eye of the needle of divine communication

Up to now, it could be established that the transmission of communicative contents is based on both the transcendent originator, who made use of human communication channels, and the human author. With the manifestation of the (biblical) canon, which was finally constituted for the Western Church in the course of the Reformation, but already showed relative stability from the 4th century onwards, man is given full responsibility for the administration of revelation. The Holy Scripture, represents the sum of all the canons as a canon and has acted like a pinhole or filter for the worldwide church ever since. This means that the congregation and the Church, by means of this visible tool of control, has at its disposal the wider and invisible divine revelation, on the one hand as guardian of the Scriptures, and on the other hand as responsible for the indigenization of the same, in all the ethnic and linguistic groups of this world. The latter of course only there, where faith falls on fertile ground. To the non-believer it is only a book.

With the Holy Scripture statements about or from God are filtered. Insights or contents that cannot be deduced from the evidence of Scripture fall under the deliberately intended censorship of Scripture. Thereby, the essential more extensive pre-canonical revelation narrows in the course of church history to the text accepted as canon relevant for the respective church. Thus, a Roman Catholic Church considers itself committed to the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, while other churches, such as the Protestant, make gradual distinctions even within the generally accepted 66 books of the Martin Luther Bible and assign different values to the books (e.g., lesser importance of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle of James). The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the South and East mostly follow the text of the Septuagint and include in addition to the 39 books of the Protestant canon of the Hebrew Bible:

– History books:

o Esdras (3Ezra), 2nd Esdras (Ezra), Esther (with additions), Tobit, Judith, 1Macc, 2Macc, 3Macc.

– Books of Wisdom:

o Wisdom, Sirach.

– Major Prophets:

o Baruch, BrJer = Letter of Jeremiah, Ez, Dan (with additions).

– Apocrypha or additions:

o Oratio Manasseh, 3Ezra, 4Ezra, Psalm 151.

In addition to the 27 books of the Protestant New Testament canon, these churches have the following canonical books:

-1st and 2nd Epistles of Clement, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Hebrews, the Revelation of Peter.

This development of church history alone points to the essential part and contribution of man. In addition, there is the question of the formation of the canon, which on

– on the one hand, the selection of the books (process of recognition or / and rejection),

– on the other hand, the selection of texts from the total pool of existing text manuscripts (textual criticism) and

– finally to the final editing or definition of the canon and its recognition (church history).

The unresolved questions connected with these processes, the still open global canon of the whole church, cannot be discussed here, but they are highly explosive topics, which additionally underpin the human influence on the formation and shaping of this global canon.

It should be pointed out at this point that this is a temporary narrowing of the communication channels, which will be extended to all conceivable communicative forms at the latest with a further personal direct revelation of the Christ (e.g. Second Coming of the Messiah). Also, a change of state, i.e., into a substantially physically new body, as envisaged in the resurrection, would change the conditions. Such a change of condition would be seen, for example, in the immediate presence of believers living and deceased into the direct presence of the biblically revealed God, as is envisioned as the precedent of the so-called Rapture. This is initiated by the fall of death and is manifested in the millennial kingdom at the Second Coming of Christ. In the direct presence of God, according to divine revelation, direct communication also takes place (e.g. Rev. 7:9-11), which is subject to new conditions and is not subordinate to scriptural revelation.

In summary, this means that Jesus of Nazareth’s time on earth (30-36 years) included the all-encompassing communicative presentation of God, but he is limited to a selection of information for posterity due to the narrowing of time and salvation history in the biblical canon. The Spirit of God acts as a helper and a bridge of the gap, which, however, again submits to the eye of the needle of the written revelation, i.e. the believer has to measure by this scriptural evidence what it is that is of divine origin and will.

From the communicative point of view, the Holy Scripture has developed in the context of church history and specifically for the church into an eye of a needle, which as a filtering element of communicative processes not only

1. is itself a means of communication (translation-specific function), but also

2. directs and controls communication processes (inner-church function) and

3. advances communicative processes (human-divine communication).

The concept of narrowing must not be understood as if revelation wanted to limit man, but by this concentration on a written revelation the way is possible for other ways of revelation (e.g. vision, creation, dream, prophecy etc.), which can be measured against this fixed form. The Holy Spirit impels the Church as the Corpus Christi to apply the test bar to these three communicative functions (1.-3.).

The biblical text is in itself a closed work of revelation which centripetally points to its spiritual-informal core and invites to deal with it. This inviting effect comes from the fascination about the person and effect of Jesus of Nazareth. At the same time, the biblical revelation acts centrifugally as a world-historical document. It reports about the cultures of the antiquity and the religious thought of the election as church and human-historical proof. Within this informal salvation-historical function, Sacred Scripture contains an implicit mandate for communication and translation. Such a mandate relates to all languages and cultures of the world to enable contextualized church structures. Following the enculturation of a person in his or her native cultural group, the indigenization of the message via the realization of the Kingdom of God into the respective cultural and linguistic group represents a parallel development.

By narrowing the divine offer of information and communication by means of the touchstone of the biblical canon, the Holy Scriptures become the bibliocentric heart of church life. It represents the ultimate norm against which ideological developments, church life, the orientation of the diaconate, and the theological interpretation must be measured (see above).

The communication of spiritual truths and knowledge is based on the disciplines of theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, exegesis and auxiliary disciplines like sociology, linguistics, philosophy, psychology and the sciences of communication and translation. The binding link of these disciplines represents divine revelation, which drives interdisciplinary communication and research activity. Its communicative function, informative and appellative, is transported, on the one hand, from within itself (the intrinsic effect of revelation) and, on the other hand, through the Church, as its instrument of proclamation (proclamation and interpretation).

Missiological considerations

Up to this point, we conclude that a Trinitarian model of communication is based on the importance of biblical revelation both as the bearer of communication and as its mediator. In this context, divine communication in the context of self-revelation narrows down to the canon and its filtering function. The change of spheres in the event of incarnation, condescension and kenosis through Jesus of Nazareth foreshadows the missiological orientation of the Kingdom of God. This is reflected in a threefold sending, in the Missio Dei, the Missio Christi and the Missio Spiritus. Within this threefold commission the Missio Dei describes the broader framework of God’s sending of Himself, as well as the worldwide mission of the Church within the framework of Christian development aid and its theoretical foundations from missiology (see below). The Missio Christi describes and advances the methodological concept of the Kingdom of God. The Missio Spiritus describes the theological framework within which the believer moves and which he puts into practice in the diaconate and by Christian development aid. This dynamic image of the threefold assignment represents a relation and cannot be played off against each other or offset. It means that all three areas of the Christian sending commission flow into each other and complement and never exclude each other.

The theological-missiological framework, the Missio Dei, is part and content of the methodological advancement of mission, represented in the concept of the Missio Christi. In the same way, both complement the practical implementation of these frameworks and methods in Christian development aid, which is the Missio Spiritus. According to the interconnectedness and interwoven nature of the Trinity, this mystery cannot be dissolved. This is also true, by the way, of the following communicative Trinitarian interpretation as symbolized by an outward-facing representation.

The model of the threefold mission finds its communicative realization in the 1. Communicatio Dei, 2. Communicatio Christi and 3. Revelatione Spiritus.

– The Communicatio Dei reflects the missionary and theological framework within which the communication of transcendence and its manifestation takes place. This includes the total package of the written, oral and in hearing revealed spectrum of the divine counterpart.

– The Communicatio Christi describes the revelation in the incarnation, the condescension of God in the emptying of Jesus of Nazareth (kenosis) and the self-initiative methodology of transcendence to make use of the human ways of communication (vertical-horizontal axis). This is unique in the history of mankind, because otherwise religions use the human ways of communication only to approach the deity(ies) (horizontal-vertical axis).

– The Revelatione Spiritus describes the implementation of communicative means to confront the individual, the group or even whole ethnic groups with the notion of the Kingdom of God. Since this extends to every conceivable means of communication (dreams, prophecies, visions, self-revelations, salutations, etc.), the Revelatione Spiritus narrows and limits itself to the canon of Scripture.

This argument of the eye of the needle function will be considered here once again in more detail and in terms of its communicative significance.

With the narrowing of divine revelation to the Holy Scriptures, the responsibility to administer the Church and its instrumentalities was transferred to man. This includes the handling and dissemination of the revealed Word, as well as the personal implementation of its ethical and theological premises. From the previously one-sided address of man through transcendence, a double responsibility has since arisen:

– On the one hand, the maintenance of the vertical communicative axis by means of prayer, obedience and attention regarding the divine revelation (Christ-fugal).

– On the other hand, the horizontal communicative axis within the Church and to extra-church circles with regard to brotherly and neighbourly love in the context of the diaconate and Christian development aid (Christ-petal).

From this model, the Communicatio Dei includes not only the missio interna, but also the missio externa. The extent to which this shifts the model or understanding of the missio Dei is not the subject of this study, but it would not be consistent to consider the missio Dei as a superordinate entity, since it forms a transparent-permeable framework that is dynamically woven into the threefold duty of the global Church.

Experienced communication

The model of communication in missiology and theology presented here also has an impact on the academic fields of church history, the science of Bible translation, biblical studies (exegesis, hermeneutics) and homiletics. Furthermore, in the context of the science of Bible translation, ethnology, linguistics, sociology, philosophy and psychology are consulted.

All these disciplines address divine communication and lead to an understanding and comprehension about God through the Bible, which establishes “experienced communication” in the recipient. In this process, the one who is communicatively addressed feels a real experience. This is evident in hermeneutics and personal engagement with the divine revelation. “Experiential communication” goes beyond the physical channels of com¬mu¬ni¬ca¬tion. It enters, as also does prayer, into the psychological-cognitive space of communication. Prayer, Bible reading, the direct speaking of God to man (vision, dream) and indirectly in prayer (impressions, hunches, sensations) give man answers to questions of life. In this sense a com¬mu¬ni¬cative process closes, which ideally starts from the human being, but depends on the will of revelation of the transcendence. This will of revelation narrows down to the inner-biblical revelation, i.e. the Holy Scripture as a filter. Thus, on the one hand, man is open to God’s speaking through the Holy Spirit, but at the same time he is limited to knowledge within the framework of his knowledge of the Bible, since this provides him with a measure and a filter. For example, prophecies, visions or dreams are used as divine channels, but are reduced by the written revelation. The biblical testimony itself opens the possibility for personal edification and also of other persons through direct revelation, if this is measured scrutinizing against the content of the Holy Scripture (1Cor 14; again the Scripture represents the standard).

The human being independently controls the cycle (prayer, readiness to receive), as well as to fall back on the filtering function of the revelation presented by the Scriptures. In this sense he is an equal counterpart to the divine communication partner (Imago Dei) and holds a special position within the framework of creation.

At this point it must be pointed out that there are also interpretations on the basis of the biblical representation, which assign a foreign control to humans. Here it is argued that the Holy Spirit alone motivates, directs and carries out the will and accomplishment of a communicative approach to God. The will of the human being is then based on the fact to arrange himself with this external guidance and to subordinate himself to it. At this point, this interpretation, which raises the question of predestination, shall only be mentioned and left open for further interpretation.

Church Historical Review – Communication Thought

From the perspective of church history, it is the science of Bible translation that conveys the realm of experience of the church in the form of the translation traditions. The canon of the whole church, as the sum of the most diverse canon traditions, manifests itself in the native-language Bible translations. In addition, in the course of the history of Bible translation, the respective condition of the local churches and the global Church is reflected. With regard to this function, it does not make sense to speak of a “higher development” or a “spiritual growth” of the church (vertical axis), but rather it makes sense to speak of the increasing experiential horizon or communication horizon of the church (horizontal axis). Incidentally, this also applies to the individual within the framework of the Church, who does not develop more cognitively, but increases in his spiritual experience. To make this more concrete, it is worthwhile to rummage in history:

– The pre-canonical Church depended on oral tradition and the apostolate and its doctrinal succession (transmission of doctrine). The experience of the Church with Marcion, Gnosticism, Arianism and other influences flowed into the further development of the Church and is reflected in the dogmas and creed (statement of faith) of this period (3rd – 4th century AD).

– The first native translations of the Bible into Semitic languages and dialects, as well as into Armenian, Gothic and Latin, reflect the state of the Church at that time, which was strongly dependent on authorities. Thus, the clergy is emphasized in these translations. For this reason, the Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and individual Near Eastern churches also have a strong tendency toward liturgy and hierarchy.

– With the Reformation, the lay priesthood comes into the consciousness of the Church. The expressions “salvation”, “salvation” and “grace” define the church for the next centuries. Interestingly, the church, which until then had been subordinate to the clergy, is able to adapt to this communicative change, which I would call a “dynamic contextualization”.

This list can easily be expanded and continued using church and theological history. What is important, however, is that the communicative foundation – the filter, that is, the Holy Scriptures – never lost its meaning or value, that is, its inherent persuasive aspect, throughout time although the form, language, and cultural references changed. This phenomenon is grounded in the Trinitarian triad of the Communicatio Dei, the Communicatio Christi and the Revelatione Spiritus. The members of the Church, as part of her posture as conservative guardian and at the same time progressive disseminator of the message, is thereby given a great deal of responsibility to be used creatively and for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.


The complex communicative relationship between the nature of God as “sender” and “messenger” reflect the Trinitarian person-qualities of revealed transcendence. Holy Scripture, as the manifested document about the divine person and activity in church and human history, narrows and thereby reduces the channels of communication in the event of the writing down and fixing of the global canon, which sums up the many individual canons of the churches. This reduction finds its cause in the incarnation, condescension and kenosis of the transcendence in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who gave himself to the will of God. Descriptions about him and the effect of his actions relevant to salvation history – namely his death, resurrection and ascension – are recorded in the testimony of Scripture. With the concretization of scriptures relevant to the Church in the biblical canon, the responsibility of translating, disseminating and implementing the Christian message is completely transferred to man. The previously orally transmitted and more comprehensive revelation is reduced to the authoritative written format. In this function, Scripture acts as a pinhole and communicative filter:

– preceding revelation (canon of the Hebrew Bible),

– subsequent revelation (e.g., visions, dreams, prophecy), it

– is a source of information on theologically and missiologically relevant questions, and

– development relevant to church history (e.g., dogma, creed, faith orientation).

As a source of sacred and sacral content that transcends the human sphere, it indicates a crossing of spheres that proves to be Christ-centric on the one hand and Christ-fugal on the other. The former draws man toward revelation in order to bring him close to God and also to keep him there (e.g., fascination with the church). The latter drives him away from this center, out to his fellow men, in order to bring them close to the sphere of Christ.

The communicative reality contained in the dynamically interwoven concept of the Missio Dei, Missio Christi and Missio Spiritus corresponds to the triad of the Communicatio Dei, Communicatio Christi and the Revelatione Spiritus. To this Trinitarian harmony corresponds the Communicatio Dei as a theological and missiological framework within which transcendence is revealed to man. The Communicatio Christi is revealed through the manifestation of the Christ in the Incarnation, the Condescension and the Kenosis (emptying). In doing so, it makes use of the human channels of communication. In order to confront the individual, the group or whole ethnic groups with the Kingdom of notions about God, the Revelatione Spiritus narrows and limits itself to the canon of Holy Scripture as the touchstone and measure of the Church.

The history of the Church, the history of Bible translation and Christian development aid reflect the vertical expansion of the experiential realm of the global Corpus Christi. This expansion is based on the delegation of responsibility in establishing a written revelation. The believing person is given the global responsibility and opportunity to provide people from all cultures and languages with access to the essence and Trinitarian personhood of God יהוה, θεος, κυριος (yhwh, theos, kyrios) revealing Himself in the Holy Scriptures. The science of Bible translation is instrumental in this triad of the Communicatio Dei, the Communicatio Christi, and the Revelatione Spiritus. It does this in particular by providing methods and models of communication and translation in formation. These enable the (biblical) translator to actively choose a model or mix of models for his or her project. In this sense, the recipient is provided with a contextualized set of information that enables him or her to access the Scriptures in a culturally and linguistically relevant way.

Turkish Bible Translations

Eberhard Werner



This overview sums up the history of Bible translations in Turkish an Altaic language. The unique history of translation attempt into this language reaches back to the Ottoman Empire and reaches up into the Turkish Republic, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in the year 2023.


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

Bible translation into Turkish started in the 16 c. with Le’ali’s (Ahmed ibn Musafa, d. 1563) Psalms, followed in the 17 c. with work by Yahya bin ’Ishak who was also called Haki. His translation in Ottoman Turkish written with Arabic characters was finished in 1661 but was never published. The ambassador from Holland, Levin Warner, entrusted Albertus (Wojciech) Bobowski, a former Polish slave of the Tartar Ottomans known as Ali Bey, with the task of doing another translation of the Bible (1662–66). The Bible was finished in 1664 and the Manuscript was taken to Holland in 1666. Haki’s and Ali Bey’s translations remained unpublished at Leiden University library until 1814 when Baron von Dietz began revising Ali Bey’s manuscript. This work was finished by Prof. Jean Daniel Kieffer and was published by BFBS in Paris in 1819; 5,000 copies of Ali Bey’s NT were printed. This was followed by the entire Bible in 1827. Zacharias the Athonite and Seraphim of Pisidia, also working in the 18 c., translated catechisms, the Psalms, and other religious texts into the Turkish dialect of Karamanlidika, and published them in Greek characters with the aim of teaching the doctrine of the Orthodox Church and the religious duties of an Orthodox Christian to the Turkish-speaking Christians of Asia Minor. Further revisions of Ali Bey’s translation were done in 1853 by Turabi Efendi and in 1857 by Sir James William Redhouse, who is famous for his Turkish and English Lexicon (1890). Redhouse’s NT (1857) was published by BFBS, but according to Findley (1979, 583), it did not come into wide use because of its idiomatic style.

Shortly after, in 1866, William G. Schauffler from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABFCM) translated and produced a NT that some consider a masterpiece of elegant Ottoman Turkish, and parts of the Hebrew Bible (Richter 2006, 233). During 1873–78, Ali Bey’s work was revised by a committee and received the government’s approval. It was called Kitab-ı Mukaddes (“Holy Book”). A rendering and harmonization of this standard text for the Christian churches of the Ottoman Empire into Greek, Arabic, and Armenian characters was finished as three independent translations in 1901, and is called the unified Ottoman-Greco-Armeno-Turkish text (Riggs 1940, 245).

Starting in 1961, evangelical movements led to new Bible translations into Turkish. These new translations were mainly guided by a mix of conservative and dynamic equivalent translation principles. They used Tanrı and not Allah as the name of God, to be distinctive from the Kitab-ı Mukaddes and Islamic tradition. Portions of the NT employing dynamic equivalence translation principles were published in 1978 named Wonders of Jesus and Teachings of Jesus. Modern translations of the NT include Müjde (1987); İncil (1989/2008; Kutsal İncil (2003) and the easy to read version, Halk Dilinde İncil (2012). Recently published Bibles include Kutsal Kitap Yeni Çeviri (Holy Book New Translation, BS in Turkey 2001; with DC 2003) and Ekümenik Kutsal Kitap (Ecumenical Holy Book, Haktan Yayıncılık 2007). Additional reading: Gundert 1977; Privratsky 2012.



Busse, Heribert 1988. Das arabisch-islamische Weltreich und seine Nachfolgestaaten, in Steinbach, Udo & Robert, Rüdiger (Hgg.): Der Nahe und Mittlere Osten: Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft, Geschichte, Kultur, 81-96. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Findley, Carter V. 1979. Sir James W. Redhouse (1811-1892): The Making of a Perfect Orientalist? Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 99/4, 573-600. Winona Lake: American Oriental Society. Und Online im Internet: URL: http://www.jstor.org/­stable/­pdfplus/601447?_tokenId=­9FZjy­TSxA3­eIChf6MVPy [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2008-11-04].

Gundert, Wilhelm 1977. Bibelübersetzungen V: Übersetzungen ins Türkische, in Krause, Gerhard & Müller, Gerhard (Hgg.): Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE), 299-310. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Und Online im Internet: URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=iEEsRpX_MaUC&pg=RA1-PA2­99­&lpg=RA1-PA299&dq­=Turkish+Bibles+Ali+Bey&source=web&ots=7Zyl7hzg_3&sig­=I1aC­D­gG­3dDz­PYdIEX_uJhPH02wk&hl=de&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result [accessed 2020-11-04).

Myers-Scotton, Carol 2006. Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Ostler, Nicholas [2005] 2006. Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. New York: Harper.

Privratsky, Bruce G. 2012. A History of Turkish Bible Translations Annotated chronology with historical notes and suggestions for further research. Online. URL: http://history­of­turkish­bible.­files.word­press.­­com/2012/05/turkish-bible-history-_2012_05_n.pdf [PDF-File] [accessed 2020-11-10].

Richter, Julius [1930] 2006. Mission und Evangelisation im Orient. Reprint of 2nd ed. Nuremberg: VTR.

Bible Translation in the Orient – New Considerations

Eberhard Werner



Bible Translation in the Orient – New Considerations. 1

Abstract 1

Preliminary considerations. 1

Historical Review.. 2

Turkish – Example of a Linguistic-Religious Target Group. 2

The Ottomans, Turkey and Europe – Fertile Crescent 3

Germany and the Turkish Republic. 3

Christian Initiatives of the 19th and 20th Centuries. 4

Bible Translation and Christian Development Aid – Fruitful Complementation. 5

Turkish Bible Translations – Historical Review and Overview.. 6

Overview of (modern) Turkish Bible translations. 6

Turkish Bibles. 7

Contextualization as a missiological concept – an outlook. 7

Communication Problems of Bible Translations in the Islamic World. 7

Communicative awakenings in Turkey. 8

Proposed solutions – building Islam-contextualized Bible translations. 8

Critical view, of the Islam-contextualized approach. 9

New theological-missiological approaches – reflections in Bible translation. 10



Christian initiatives are closely related to Bible translation processes. They precede or follow Bible translation projects. The goal of Bible translation are contextualized translations in the target language that are indigenized into the emerging church. These developments should never be considered without their (church) historical background, otherwise contextualization is understood as a method and not as a development. In particular, proper-theological approaches are associated with such processes that challenge Western theology (here, for example, the crescential approach). The historical background of a state in the Middle East, between Orient and Occident, with regard to its political, cultural and Christian developments in the context of the national language translation of the Bible is here in the centre.

Preliminary considerations

The worldwide church and congregation (the Corpus Christi) is commissioned as the custodian of the Holy Scriptures, both to preserve its content and to transmit its dissemination dynamically and progressively into the world in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. While the philological-exegetical care of the basic text and its translations corresponds to the first task, linguistic-target group-oriented approaches to Bible translation represent another format that corresponds to the second task. The balancing act consists in the question of whether the target audience, i.e. the addressees, should be introduced to the biblical basic text, or whether the basic text should be brought closer to the addressees in an adapted form so that it realizes “experienced” or “successful communication” in them. No one takes this responsibility away from the worldwide church, but it is incumbent upon it and the individuals belonging to it. Church history and the history of Bible translation are demonstrating that a coexistence of philological-verbal and communicative Bible translations are effective the goals to Christian development aid. It would be a fatal mistake not to look at the entire context of the biblical scriptural revelations accessible to a language or cultural group, as well as its church-historical-political background. This is even more the case before rejecting theological-missiological awakenings that are capable of challenging Western theology. In the present case, the political and historical relationship of Christianity and Islam in the Middle East is considered.

Historical Review

In this century, Germany, or rather the former German Empire, looks back on a relationship of almost 300 years with the Republic of Turkey, what is now the heartland of the former Ottoman Empire. It is the remnant of the Middle Eastern and European empire that ruled over five centuries (14th – 20th centuries). Nearly 2.1 million Turkish neighbours in Germany (with a focus on Berlin) and a population of about 70 million in the country itself, justify a look back at Christian developments in this Empire, as part of the missiology and church history of Asia, as well as the history of Bible translation. From a European perspective, it is also of interest to take stock of translational innovations in the current situation in this heartland of Christian origins. In view of the planned EU enlargement, the European church must also increasingly deal with the situation.

In this country, in between the crossroads between the Occident and the Orient, there are currently about 43 ethnic groups, of which about eight are exclusively or mainly settled in the country. Some of them do not yet have access to the Word of God. These include the Kurmanji-speaking Kurds, who have a full Bible, the Zaza people and the Laazis with at least a gospel of Luke, the Circassians and the Kirkasians. Likewise, there are some peoples, currently unresearched according to their linguistic environment, whose number of speakers, bilingualism, geographical dispersion, etc. need to be investigated (e.g. Circassians, Kirkasians, Romanes, sign languages, Western Armenians, Turkish Yörük nomads, etc.).

This article focuses on the history of German-Ottoman/Turkish relations and Ottoman/Turkish translations of the Bible, so the Turkish language will be presented first. This information seems all the more important because it is essentially linked to the disintegration of the Eastern Church and illustrates the current political situation.

Turkish – Example of a Linguistic-Religious Target Group

Turkish belongs to the Altaic Turkic languages. Its origins can be traced back to the so-called “Kök Türkler” (i.e. Sky Turks) to the year 552 AD. Turkic languages today comprise about 150 million speakers, of which about 70 million use Turkey Turkish. They perform the youngest language family in the Middle East.

Beginning with the Seljuk Empire of the 11th century, Turkish was then written with Arabic letters. This developed into the written standard. As a result of the “Mongol invasions” of the 12th-15th centuries, other Turkic-speaking peoples also invaded the Middle East and South-eastern Europe. From the beginning of the Turkish dynasty of Osman, which established itself as the Ottoman Empire (1460-1923 A.D.), Turkish took many loan words from Arabic, Persian and Greek. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, in accordance with the policy of the state’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – and still unique in the history of a state – a resolute language cleansing followed. International linguists worked out a Latin phonetic alphabet, including some special characters, in replacement of Arabic, which followed the language rules of Turkish (Laut 1996 and 2000).1Furthermore, a special language institution (Türk Dil Kurumu) was founded, which to this day is supposed to cleanse Turkish of all loanwords or foreign grammatical components and renew it with Turkicizing solutions. Recently, for religious reasons, “Arabisms” have again become more popular, which has led to a reorientation of Bible translation (see below). Laut, Jens Peter 1996. Vielfalt türkischer Religionen. Spirita: Zeitschrift für Religions­wissen­schaft 10/1, 24-36. Marburg: Diagonal. Laut, Jens Peter 2000. Zur Sicht des Islam in der Türkischen Republik bis zum Tode Atatürks, in Wolfgang Schluchter (Hrsg.): Kolloquien des Max Weber Kollegs VI-XIV (1999/2000), 59-75. Erfurt: Max Weber-Kolleg.

The Ottomans, Turkey and Europe – Fertile Crescent

During the Middle Ages, especially until the 14th century, the Middle East was romanticized as the “Orient and the Oriental” and formed the basis of numerous legends. When the Ottoman Empire expanded strongly from the 15th century, due to its military superiority, this image changed. Numerous conflicts with the late medieval European powers led to a negative image.

The official church, due to its negative attitude towards Islam in the Middle Ages, ostracized the Ottoman Empire, when the Holy Places in Israel and, from 1453 on, the center of the Eastern Church – Constantinople – were located in its domain. A rapprochement of the, until then, inaccessible Ottoman Sultanate with Europe began with the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire was opened in the age of colonialism and from the 19th century on as an economic area for Europe (1838).

Internal political quarrels and colonialist desires of France, Italy and Great Britain accelerated the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Especially the Christian minorities in the heartland, particularly in Eastern Anatolia, got the full aggression against Western interference after a quiet period (mid to eighties of the 19th century) (from 1895 on). This constellation led to a pan-Islamic and pan-Turkish political orientation. In the area of conflict between Islam and Christianity, the latter was defeated. The two-thousand-year-old Christian presence in Turkey was reduced from about 2.1 million before the pogroms (10% of the total population) to a few remnants (Armenian-Gregorian, Greek-Orthodox, Syrian churches). It is estimated that 1.2 – 1.6 million traditional Christians were displaced or killed. Today, about 100,000 Christians live in Turkey (0.2% of the total population). All Islamic people groups in the heartland of the Ottoman Empire participated in these anti-Christian actions.

Due to the anti-communist Truman Doctrine, Turkey joined NATO in 1952. First accession negotiations of the then European Economic Community (EEC) as the predecessor organization of the EU opened Europe to the Bosporus.2In the years leading up to the founding of the state and into the 1960s, people were sceptical and wait-and-see about the new state structure.

In 1999, EU accession negotiations began, and after a constitutional referendum by a majority of the Turkish population in September 2010, there is little standing in the way of Turkey’s long-term admission as a full member (Zürcher 2004)3Zürcher, Erik Jan [1993] 2004. Turkey: A Modern History. Rev. ed. London: I. B. Taurus..

Germany and the Turkish Republic

The high points of German-Ottoman-Turkish relations were initially limited to the military sphere. As early as 1731, Turkish soldiers joined the Prussian army under Frederick William I on the basis of a ducal donation. They are given their own quarters, a mosque and later a cemetery (Berlin). The force grows to as many as 1,500 soldiers in some cases. The expression “mach keinen Heck meck” (don’t make a stern meck), which derives from the request of Turkish prisoners for bread (Turkish: ekmek), also dates from this time. Prussian military training was highly valued in the Ottoman Empire. The Prussian military training system was introduced and established primarily by Count Helmuth von Moltke in the 19th century, as evidenced by the numerous military academies from which the state founder Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk) also emerged.

With the beginning of the First World War, an anti-Russian front was formed between the Sultan and the Emperor. When both warring parties lose, relations fizzle out and no new contacts develop for the time being. Atatürk rather sticks politically to France and Italy. During World War II, German professors who had fled the Nazi regime helped build the university structures in Turkey. These lively contacts slowly end after all professors without exception return to the German university apparatus in the post-war period. The European economic boom after the Second World War, starting in 1960, brought about an economic and political renewal of relations. Guest workers from the East were recruited by emissaries of the German economy. Since then, immigration, integration, reunification, asylum and the planned EU accession have determined relations between Germany and Turkey (Steinbach 1988 and 1996).4Steinbach, Udo 1988. Ideengeschichte im Zeichen von Kolonialismus, Unabhängigkeits­bewegung und Modernisierung, in Steinbach, Udo & Robert, Rüdiger (Hgg.): Der Nahe und Mittlere Osten: Politik, Gesellschaft, Wirtschaft, Geschichte, Kultur, 135-184. Opladen: Leske + Budrich. Steinbach, Udo 1996. Die Türkei im 20. Jahrhundert – schwieriger Partner Europas. Bergisch Gladbach: Lübbe.

Christian Initiatives of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Lost to the West and widely forgotten is the fact that throughout the 19th century, the Ottoman heartland was the focus of Western mostly American and English organizations of Christian development aid. The initial goal was to spread the Christian message in this geographical area of early Christian revival (e.g. Acts and many of the New Testament epistles). Quickly, people became aware of the disadvantage and the miserable condition of the Christian people groups (some given the status of millets) in the Islamic context. Thus, the attention of foreign evangelical, Protestant and Catholic support was directed to the Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox (Aramaic), Nestorian and Russian Orthodox churches. The enumerated order represents at the same time their numerical presence. The Armenian Church, as the largest and oldest national church, received special attention, expressly since it suffered the most from the persecutions. The Aramaic church represented a symbolic position due to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth also spoke an Aramaic dialect.

The initiatives of Christian development aid had as their vision to strengthen the established and resident church circles in the Middle East, so that they could approach the surrounding Islamic peoples with the Gospel. This phase went down in the history of the global church as the “Great Experiment” (The Great Experiment) and began around 1810 and ended at the latest with the First World War. In addition to children’s homes, care for widows, schooling and education, hospitals, sanitation and irrigation systems, the agrarian increase in production was also implemented. To this day, the great universities in İstanbul (still Constantinople until 1930) and other cities bear witness to these resolutions. In the East, ruins and remnants of more than 100 years of activities during the “Great Experiment” can be seen everywhere. At times there was even an official and state-protected Protestant church. Only with the turmoil of the pre-war years and the war years of the First World War did these initiatives collapse. Due to the expulsion and destruction of Christian peoples in the pogroms (1896, 1905, and 1914/1915) in the East, immediate and drastic help became necessary. This reduced the orientation of Christian organizations to saving a few survivors. At the latest with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey after the turbulent years of upheaval (1906-1922), triggered by the Young Turks and Young Ottomans, it was no longer possible for Christian organizations to work in the country. Forced Turkification and forced Islamization remained the only chances to stay and survive. The approximately 100,000, who did so, were completely absorbed into the Islamic peoples (Kieser 2000).5Kieser, Hans-Lukas 2000. Der verpasste Frieden: Mission, Ethnie und Staat in den Ostprovinzen der Türkei 1839-1938. Zürich: Chronos. (Türkische Version: Kieser, Hans-Lukas [2005] 2010. Iskalanmış barış: Doğu vilayetleri’nde misyonerlik, etnik kimlik ve devlet 1839-1938. 3 Baskı.İstanbul: İletisim.).

The German Orient Mission (DOM) under the leadership of Johannes Lepsius (1858-1926) had as its goal the spread of Christian content among Muslims. Founded in 1896, however, this goal was never realized, as the pogroms and persecutions against Armenian Christians (1895-1896) attracted all their attention. Lepsius was committed from the beginning to exposing and informing the West about the atrocities. Together with Pastor Ernst Lohmann, he founded the “Deutscher Hülfsbund für Armenien” (today: Christlicher Hilfsbund im Orient, Bad Homburg).

The German initiatives of Christian development aid never developed in the direction of church planting, which is why the translation of biblical content was not on the agenda. The basic attitude was to use the existing Bible translations in the respective languages of the churches – Turkish, Armenian, Aramaic, Greek – as communicative tools of the Christian message. Even revisions were not planned and were not actively supported from the German side. This attitude, by the way, continued until the eighties of the last century (Ye’or 2009).6Ye’or, Bat [1996] 2009. The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude. Seventh-Twentieth Century. Seventh printing. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. (Transl. by Kochan, Miriam and Littman, David).

Bible Translation and Christian Development Aid – Fruitful Complementation

Bible translation in the Middle Eastern region has its origins in two movements. On the one hand, native-speaking churches emerged from the ethnic groups of the Near and Middle East, which quite quickly translated their own Bibles or parts of the Bible into their own languages (e.g. Syriac Peschitta, Armenian, Gothic Bible, etc.). On the other hand, Arab Christians have also distinguished themselves from the Islamic world with their own Bible translations and theological works since the 6th century AD. These Bible translations were the inspiration for the Ottoman-Turkish translations in the Omani Empire (Lauche 2007 and Griffith 2010).7Lauche, Gerald 2007. Die Geschichte der arabischen Bibelübersetzung, in Müller, Klaus W. (Hg.): Mission im Islam, 129-139. Nürnberg: VTR. Griffith, Sidney H. 2010. The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam. Oxford: Princeton University Press.

An essential and strategic approach of Christian development aid was to translate the Bible into Ottoman Turkic dialects and the languages of Christian minorities. A translation of the Bible into Turkish by Primus Truber is mentioned as early as 1570 AD, but it was either never published or was done into a Croatian dialect rather than Turkish (Privratsky 2010:1). Some development workers also went so far as to provide translated materials to non-Christian ethnic groups such as the Zaza, Kurmanji Kurds, Laaz (Laasen), and also Turkic peoples. However, translated full Bibles did not materialize. Conversions and conversions, however, in all directions, were not uncommon from 1850 to 1890. Even whole ethnic groups or tribes could take this step (e.g. a few Alevi Zaza tribes in Dersim). All the more serious was the active and mostly also passive re-Islamization during and after World War I, which mostly resulted from strategic survival reasons. The only weakly beginning people-group-oriented founding movement of small groups, congregations and congregations, which otherwise leads to indigenous translation approaches of Christian literature, was nipped in the bud. Practically today we have no remnants of this time, except for ruins and oral traditions that are of basically positive resonance and also testify in this way to the Christian initiatives.

Turkish Bible Translations – Historical Review and Overview

Bible translation into Turkish began in the 17th century with Yahya bin Ishak, also called Haki (1659). His translation into Ottoman Turkish with Arabic letters was never published publicly. However, it served as the basis for the intervention of the Dutch ambassador Levin Warner with Sultan Mehmet IV, who asked the Sultan to entrust a Polish defector named Wojciech Bobowski, or Albert Bobowsky also called Ali Bey, as the main translator to translate the Bible (1662-1666). Haki’s and Ali Bey’s translations remained unpublished and were kept at the Leiden Library in the Netherlands. In 1814 Baron von Dietz began to revise the latter manuscript. In 1819 Kieffer finished Ali Bey’s New Testament, it was copied 5,000 times and replaced by the complete Bible in 1827. Despite the Arabic orthography used, the text became the model for revisions by Christian churches in the Ottoman heartland.

Further revisions appeared in 1853 by Turabi Effendi and in 1857 by Redhouse. The latter became famous for his Turkish-English and English-Turkish dictionary (1890), which is still used today. Redhouse’s New Testament did not find wider circulation because of its free (idiomatic-dynamic) approach to translation. Ten years later, Schauffler translated and produced a New Testament and parts of the Old Testament from 1867 to 1873 as a member of the American Board of Christian and Foreign Missions (ABCFM) (on revision vs. new translation, see Haacker 2006)8Haacker, Klaus 2006. Bibeltreue und Bibelübersetzung, in Neef, Heinz-Dieter (Hg.): Theologie und Gemeinde. Beiträge zu Bibel, Gottesdienst, Predigt, und Seelsorge, 36-47. Stuttgart: Calwer..

From 1873-1878, Ali Bey’s work was revised by a committee, and it became the standard textbook of Christian church liturgy due to its state approval (called Kitabi Mukaddes). Translations, adaptations and harmonisations in Modern Greek, Arabic-Turkish and Armenian-Turkish were completed in 1901.

The roots of the Turkish Bible Society (TBS) date back to its founding in 1820, and its origin points to the early years of the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS; 1806). The headquarters of the TBS has been in İstanbul since 1966 from where translation work and distribution of Bibles are organized.

Since 1961, Turkish evangelical movements have begun translating new Bible translations and various exegetical tools into Turkish. These new translations, although mostly guided by conservative translation principles, use, for example, the ancient Turkic word for a supreme sky deity “Tanri” rather than the Arabic loanword “Allah” as the name of God. They do this in contrast to the liturgical church text of the Kitabi Mukaddes and the Islamic tradition. Following the new translation principles (Koller 1978 and 2001)9Koller, Werner 1978. Kritik der Theorie der Übersetzungskritik. IRAL, Vol. XVI/2, 89-108. Heidelberg: Julius Groos. Koller, Werner [1983] 2001. Einführung in die Übersetzungswissenschaft. 6. durchgesehene und aktualisierte Auflage. Wiebeisheim: Quelle und Meyer. of dynamic equivalence, such as the German Gute Nachricht Bible, parts of the New Testament were published in 1978 under the title Miracles and Teachings of Jesus.

Overview of (modern) Turkish Bible translations

NT: 1988 (Müjde); 1989/2008 (Incil); 2003 (Kutsal Incil).

Bible: 1941 (Kitabi Mukaddes); 2001 (Kutsal Kitab Yeni Çeviri); 2007 (Ekümenik Kutsal Kitap).

In progress: revision of Ali Bey’s New Testament and furthermore a contextualized version for readers with Islamic background, İncili-i Şerif’in Yüce Anlamı 2011 (Matthew started in 2008).

For a nearly exhaustive list, see http://www.translation-trust.org/¬html/-history.html [accessed 2021-05-10].10o. V. History of Bible Translation in Turkey. Online: URL: http://www.translation-trust.org/html/history.html. [accessed 2012-01-10].

Turkish Bibles

Ekümenik Kutsal Kitap 2007. Online: http://www.hakikat.net/index.php. [accessed 2021-01-05].

İncili-i Şerif’in Yüce Anlamı 2011 Havari Matta’nın Kaleminden. Orijinal Metin ve Kelime Türkçe Çevirisi ile birlikte. İstanbul: Sabeel Media. The New Testament in the Old Meaning: The Words of Matthew.

Kitabı Mukaddes [1941] 1995. İstanbul: Kitabı Mukaddes Şirketi.

Kutsal Kitap 2001. İstanbul: The Bible Society in Turkey.

Kutsal Kitap Yeni Çeviri / En Büyük Boy Ciltli 2002. İstanbul: Kitapyurdu. New translation of the Holy Book / Large format 2002.

Müjde 1988. İncil “Müjde” İncil`in Çağdaş Türkçe Çevirisi. İstanbul: Kitabı Mukaddes Şirketi Yayınları. [Eng: Müjde. New Modern Translation of the New Testament.]11Privratsky, Bruce 2010. A History of Turkish Bible Translations. Online im Internet: URL: http://www.­scribd.­com/doc/51331567/A-History-of-Turkish-BIble-Translations-Priv-ratsky-March-2011-v-F. [PDF-Datei] [accessed 2021-01-10]..

Contextualization as a missiological concept – an outlook

The above-mentioned Bible translations reflect the communicative and translational state of the art of the present. Besides the dynamic-equivalent translation principle, cultural, mass-communicative, frame-model and Scoops-oriented (Vermeer 1989)12Vermeer, Hans J. 1989. Skopos and Commission in Translational Action, in Chesterman, Andrew (ed.): Readings in Translation Theory, 173-187. Helsinki: Finn Lectura., functional (Nord 2001)13Nord, Christiane [1997] 2001. Translating as a Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Ex­plain­ed. Reprint. Manchester: St. Jerome. and relevance-theoretical methods (Gut 2000)14Gutt, Ernst-August [1991] 2000. Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context. 2nd ed. Manchester: St. Jerome. have crystallized in translation in general and in Bible translation in particular. These Bible translations serve as lifelines and spiritual centres for the proclamation and Christian life of the existing church and community structures. It is enormous, which translational Bible variety, the nevertheless quite small Christian Turkish church and community called into being. Nevertheless, the communicative breakthrough into the Islamic population of Turkey has not yet been achieved.

Communication Problems of Bible Translations in the Islamic World

A general debate among Western and former Muslim background believers in Jesus has its origin in the perception that in Islamic countries the common Bible translations (e.g. the Turkish translations mentioned below) are reluctantly used or quoted by Islamic scholars and believers. Furthermore, it is found that only Christian circles and only a few small sections of the Islamic population refer to and perceive them as sacred texts. In studying this phenomenon, three points proved to be communicative obstacles:

Identification problem; the use of language in these translations is identified as Christian colloquial language whose conceptualizations do not coincide with Islamic concepts.
Authorization problem; the approval of the Bible texts was authorized by the state, but not by Islamic theologians.
Falsification problem; the accusation of falsifying the basic Hebrew and Greek texts that carries over to the Turkish translation of the Bible.
In addition, the official Turkish Bible Society and other Middle Eastern Bible organizations are closely connected with Christian-Western (United Bible Societies) and Christian-Eastern organizations (Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches). The non-recognition of Turkish Bible translations as Sacred Texts is surprising for two reasons:

the West treats Islamic revelation differently and considers even non-authoritative translations of the Qur’an as Sacred Texts (e.g. German Ahmadiyya Qur’an translation).
Arabic Bible translations of the 4th – 8th c. AD / 1st c. BH – 2nd c. AD were considered Sacred Texts by Islamic scholars and played an important role in the Ottoman Empire, but since the 15th c. this is no longer the case, although the Arabic Bible translation tradition continued unchanged (Lauche and Griffith 2010).
Communicative awakenings in Turkey

The recent approaches of some Turkish Bible translations with the aim of solving the communicative obstacles, mentioned above, are signs of a dynamic Christian awakening in Turkey. Both new translation methods developed in translation scholarship and various bridging principles are being applied to bridge the religious divide that the communicative problems entail. The different translations are intended to address all strata and circles of Turkish society. First and foremost, the identification problem is to be solved. The Turkish population as a whole should find itself communicatively reflected in the Bible text. Test trials with individual texts (2008-2010) showed that mostly Christian and Islamic circles from Islamic backgrounds felt addressed in the communicative intention of such texts. Furthermore, they cause linguistic-cultural non-Turkish (ethnic groups) and micro-cultures (target groups) to increasingly seek out monolingual Bible translations.

It should not be forgotten that there is also vehement resistance from Christian circles against communicative or contextualized Bible translation. This is being consolidated from the young evangelical movement, as well as from some established churches. The main arguments brought forward relate to the accusation of:

cheap ingratiation with Islam,
watering down / falsification of the biblical content,
conscious or unconscious attempts at division.
Although these arguments are to be taken very seriously, it remains to be seen whether the global church is not overstepping its function as the guardian of Scripture or whether, after a period of acclimatization, its own theology is not emerging. Both moments are documented in the history of the church and Bible translation (Marcions rejection vs. Luthers acceptance).

Proposed solutions – building Islam-contextualized Bible translations

So-called Jesus or Insider Movements in the Islamic world are beginning to translate Bible texts. Their goal is to redefine and name the theological terms that are provocative for Muslims and preloaded with Western dogma. It is important to note that these are existing movements that show an interest in bridging the existing communicative gaps between themselves and their differently thinking environment. Believers who see their Islamic background as their cultural and linguistic foundation and therefore do not want to part with their traditions, their cultural heritage and their use of language because it gives them identity. They are frightened by the cultural-imperialist claim of Western Christianity, which considers itself the sole guardian of divine truth. They do not want to accept the fate of many believers in Jesus with Islamic background to be expelled from their cultural and language group and to have to go into hiding in the West as the only possibility of trusting in Jesus.

For the above mentioned problems there are different approaches. They are mainly

formal-translation and /or
social-cultural adaptation or rapprochement axioms that are addressed.
To the former category of Islamic-theological adaptation (a.) we find issues such as.

the Trinity, which in these movements is viewed from the perspective of the Islamic “Allah” concept and thus from a one-person doctrine, with the three-oneness being thought of from the oneness of God,
the sonship of Jesus, which is a relational concept and represents a very narrow – derived from the image of the nuclear family. However, this can also be outweighed by the concept of brotherhood (umma) or the judicial system of judge-defender in certain cultural contexts, or by
the one-sided interpretation of Paul’s teaching as anti-Islamic propaganda, e.g. when Paul’s rejection of the Jewish faith is simply based on Islam as an equal false doctrine (e.g. Acts 15:1-6; Gal 2:14).
It is rightly pointed out that the Council of the Apostles and the Pauline letters show an approach to the linguistic and cultural heritage of the peoples to be reached with the message of salvation (Rom 2:28-29; 1Cor 9:20; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). These themes are translated for formal translation reasons (b.) under new and unique cultural and linguistic theological considerations. In doing so, the form of Holy Scriptures is taken very seriously and preserved in the Islamic context and from the point of view of other cultural-historical factors (e.g. Qur’an, revelation texts, religious texts, etc.). Thus, the text of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek basic text of the Bible is partly supplied either 1. in the original or 2. in footnotes as a translation. In the main text, however, terms are used for Jesus that refer to him as “Advocate” or “Vicar of God”. The parables are not touched by this, because they represent on an abstract level the relations between the divine persons or names. This procedure makes it possible for the reader, who is pre-loaded by his Islamic environment, to deal mentally anew with the “actual” text. The form of the written revelation represents an approach to the Islamic texts, whereby also content-related references in the paratext (comments, glossary, footnotes) are dealt with. The references to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament documented in the Qur’an (e.g., Moses Sura 2:87, 92, 136; Jonah Sura 10:98; Sura 37:139-148; Jesus Sura 2:87, 253, and many others) are taken up and included as supporting passages in the reference apparatus. The third and social-cultural aspect (c.) of such contextualization is determined by the perception of the Islamic world umma “religious body”. Belonging in Islam is defined by the observance of the five duties and a “God-pleasing” life. In order to continue to belong to the corpus in the event of conversion, the traditional requirements of this religious life are transferred to the content of the New Thought. The mosque remains the center of spiritual exchange (also in the biblical text), the mullah or hodja remains the religious authority, and the Qur’anic schools form the foundation of theological thought. Thus, as is visible in Indonesia, the debate over the reinterpretation of Judeo-Christian and Islamic revelation takes place at the training centers and between scholars.

Critical view, of the Islam-contextualized approach

The advantages and disadvantages of such an approach are currently the subject of heated debate. The accusations of falsification of Scripture, ingratiation or seduction coming from Christian circles (see above) are countered by the arguments of the communicative opening of the biblical text as well as the need of the target group for an unbiased and communicative text with regard to the adoption of pro-Western, colonialist dogmatics in the biblical text. The critics’ concern relates to the fact that the basic biblical text is no longer recognizable. Through the superimposition of new theological concepts, the incorporation of post-biblical Qur’anic references and content, and the emphasis on social Islamic ideas, the geo-grammatical revelatory content of the Judeo-Christian is at best distorted and at worst twisted into its opposite. The latter causes that the accusation of falsification is intensified exactly by this adaptation and any confidence in the revelation is lost. In other words, what this movement started against, namely to win back trust in the Judeo-Christian revelation, boomerangs and returns with devastating effect.

The criticisms could be defused with some examples, such as those appearing in EMQ 47/1 (2011: de Jong; Daniels, Gene & Allen, Don and others), showing that these Bible translations are indeed understood as revelatory texts by non-Christians. Nevertheless, the fear of a syncretistic approach remains. The global church has faced such developments several times in the past (e.g. Marcion, etc.) and has found ways to deal with them. Since the global “Bible translation movement” represents a progressive-dynamic approach to the cultures and languages of the ethnic groups, another communicative component of culturally relevant framework models is forming in this new approach.


New theological-missiological approaches – reflections in Bible translation

A Middle Eastern theology and missiology breaks through here, which on the one hand turns away from colonialism and argues strictly postcolonialist. It is based on the experience of a centuries-old ecclesiastical tradition of the Eastern Church and the young Protestant church and community with a Muslim background. This interesting mix sets new emphases and partly contrasts with Western teachings that cannot be accepted in active theological debates of the new realm. In this context, the argument of clerical overload – despite the Reformation’s new orientation – repeatedly comes to the fore. In this context, Western Teutonic missiology and theology are also criticized in their one-sidedness towards dogmatic-systematic doctrine. The personal reference and the practical application of the message of Jesus of Nazareth are in the center of the new approach.

In reference to the different styles of scholarship and in distinction to the Teuto-Gallic (Western), Nipponese (Asian), African-Black, or Native American-liberal (South American), this missiological approach could be called crescential missiology and crescential theology. The term crescential refers to the Fertile Crescent and the cultures and religions that have developed in its space and influence, as well as their specific characteristics.

The differences of the approaches can be divided into general and specific. Unlike the first two theologies and missiological approaches (Teutonic-Gallic), the latter have no historical burden or active reference to

the two world wars and their impact on the aftermath of the Holocaust (e.g., covenant theology, salvation history, theology of Israel),
the alliance strategy of the Allies (Atlantic alliances, e.g., EU, NATO, etc.), or
the Asia-Pacific developments (e.g., atomic bombing, Americo-Japanese alliance, Korean and Vietnam conflicts, etc.),
the developments of ecumenical-global activities in church history before 1960 (e.g. conferences on Christian development aid, Lausanne conferences), or
the economic endeavours of capitalism, socialism, or communism prior to the beginning of the twentieth century that related to Western industrialization.
Christian theology in the Middle East and the Maghreb states had little development potential of its own until the breakaway from colonialism in the late 1950s. The growing self-confidence of the evangelical movement in South America, Asia and Africa is also impacting the Near and Middle East. Although politically rather an Islamization mixed with nationalism can be observed, new forms of Christian life are breaking through in the underground. The primarily postcolonial orientation of this theology stands in stark contrast to that of the West. The traditional churches of the region, the Armenian Apostolic, Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Eastern Catholic, and some smaller ones, as well as the Coptic Church, are currently ossified in their forms, but they are also experiencing broad recognition among the younger generation (see State Report of the National Bible Societies).


As has been shown, the historical context must be taken into account when considering new developments in Christian development. The existence and evaluation of existing Bible translations provide clues as to whether new approaches are necessary and possible. Only when such experiences are available will the need for alternative approaches become clear. It would also have to be examined whether the German Bible translations are not subject to the same dilemma here, since they hardly address the 1.8 million Turkish fellow citizens. One may be curious which new aspects the theological development in the tense field of

colonialism-post colonialism,
the east-west divide,
traditional church-evangelical congregations,
salvation-historical-orthodox and inclusive-exclusive expression.
contributes to the worldwide church.


Key Terms:

Bible translation ; Occident ; Orient ; Middle East ; colonialism ; post colonialism ; theology ; Christian development service ; Turkey ; guest workers ; Bible societies ; Islam ; contextualization ; hermeneutics ; scriptural interpretation ;


Diaspora, Migration, Escape and Bible Translation

Eberhard Werner


Diaspora, Migration, Escape and Bible Translation. 1

Abstract 1

1. Preface: Unfathomable Diaspora. 1

2. Diaspora – reasons: Attempt at delimitation. 3

3. Effects of the diaspora – groups of people, identity. 4

4 Missiological reflections on the diaspora. 7

4.1 General missiological considerations. 7

4.2 Individual case considerations. 8

4.2.1 Identity(ies) – In the Diaspora. 8

4.2.2 Points of Connection to the Christian Faith – Diaspora and Church. 10

4.2.3 Creative involvement in diaconal structures. 11

Bible translation and diaspora. 12

Summary. 13



Migration movements have existed since time immemorial. Various causes have always triggered such movements, and we are interested in how religions have limited or accompanied them. Religious enmities are also among the causes. The Christian church is familiar with such experiences, indeed it is part of such movements, counter-movements and related diaconal aid institutions. In addition to historical facts, this essay will consider missiological aspects in order to do justice to the thematic blocks of migration and diaspora. Questions that revolve around the formation of identity(ies) play a role here. In order to understand these extensive topics, they will be narrowed down to anthropological observations under specific local movements and their political-social effects in Germany. “Identity” is examined for missiological reasons on the basis of three basic needs of migrants (incidentally of all people): a.) the need for recognition through work or social engagement, b.) the need to recall a linguistic and cultural framework as “home”, and c.) the need to satisfy a healthy curiosity about life in order to shape one’s (own and social) future. Furthermore, a biblical-Christian investigation offers the possibility to take up impulses that arise from the life situation of migrants in the diaspora. Here the Bible translation movement plays a role, which will be discussed. The current East-West oriented Asian-Middle Eastern refugee movement from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria in the direction of Europe, with a focus on Germany, offers the current basis for such considerations. The South-North oriented movement from Africa will only be touched upon, as it has partly different causes and effects.


1. Preface: Unfathomable Diaspora

From Senecca the quote is handed down, “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.” Recognizing that the complex and wide-ranging topic of “diaspora” can never be discussed conclusively, the situation of migrants and their trajectories from Turkey to Germany have been used as examples and comparisons for this article. Furthermore, it deals with the complex of questions of how (individual and group) identities are formed and how they present themselves in the encounter with migrants. All this with a view to derive missiological implications and to think about possible strategies of action for evangelization and diaconia and Bible translation.

What does diaspora mean in today’s age of almost unlimited mobility?1Financial and time limits currently provide the framework; unfortunately, environmentally protective, energy-efficient and sustainable reasons play a marginal role. In the future, the decline of fossil fuels will significantly influence mobility. Seneca’s wise but mystical statement indicates that this topic can never be discussed conclusively. Most modern studies in this field come from a sociological perspective and discuss the issues of assimilation, integration and inclusion of populations that call themselves diasporas or are perceived as such from outside. In the process, individual aspects often come to the fore, as they are considered significant in the various disciplines: These can be linguistic characteristics or peculiarities,2Bengio, Ofra & Maddy-Weitzman Bruce 2013. Mobilised diasporas: Kurdish and Berber movements in comparative perspective. Kurdish Studies 1/1, October, 65-90. Online: URL: http://metapress.com/content/­751148011116366k/­fulltext.pdf [PDF-File] [accessed 2016-05-04]. from a Christian theological perspective also ecclesiastical or missiological questions3Hunter, Erica C. D. 2014. Coping in Kurdistan: The Christian Diaspora, in Omarkhali, Khanna (ed.): Religious Minorities in Kurdistan: Beyond the Mainstream, 321-337. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Roam, Caitlin 2015. One Method Does Not Fit All: Case Studies of the Muslim Diaspora. EMQ 51/1, 20-28. Wheaton: Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). Also Online: URL: http://www.emqonline.com/­node/­3207 [accessed 2016-04-20]. Rynkiewich, Michael A. Rynkiewich 2013. Mission in “the Present Time”: What about the People in Diaspora? Paper presented to the International Society for Frontier Missiology on September 13, 2013 (Plano, TX). IJFM 30/3, 103-114. [PDF document]. Holter, Knut 2014. My father was a migrant Aramean: Old Testament motifs for a Theology of Migration, in Im, Chandler H. & Yong, Amos (eds.): Global Diasporas and Mission, 57-70. Oxford: Regnum Books International. Also Online: URL: http://www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum/downloads/-Global_Diasporas_and_¬¬Mission.¬pdf [accessed 2021-03-20]., from a religious studies perspective intercultural theological peculiarities4Boyarin, Daniel & Boyarin, Jonathan 2005. Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity, in Braziel, Evans Jana & Mannur, Anita (eds.): Theorizing Diaspora, 85-118. Oxford: Blackwell., from an anthropological perspective gender-specific or cross-cultural observations5Manalansan, Martin F. IV 2005. In the Shadows of Stonewall: Examining Gay Transnational Politics and the Diasporic Dilemma, in Braziel, Evans Jana & Mannur, Anita (eds.): Theorizing Diaspora, 207-230. Oxford: Blackwell. Gilroy, Paul 2005. The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity, in Braziel, Evans Jana & Mannur, Anita (eds.): Theorizing Diaspora, 49-80. Oxford: Blackwell., from an Islamic religious theological background sociological questions6Langer, Robert 2008. Alevitische Rituale, in Sökefeld, Martin (Hg.): Aleviten in Deutschland: Identitätsprozesse einer Religionsgemeinschaft in der Diaspora, 65-108. Bielefeld: Transcript. and much more.

Historically, the mass migrations during the Roman Empire resulted in large shifts of ethnic groups. They were preceded by the Celtic movements along the Danube in the 4th century B.C., followed by the Germanic tribes migrating from the north and many more. Besides the spread of Christianity (1st – 4th century A.D.), the spread of Islam (6th – 9th century A.D.) is also to be mentioned. War campaigns and violent spreads were initiated by the Mongolian storms of the 11th – 13th century A.D. These led to the reshaping of the Near Eastern region during the High Middle Ages. Thereafter, the Ottoman Empire reconstituted not only North Africa, but also eastern southern Europe, the Balkans and the so-called Fertile Crescent in the Near and Middle East. Probably the largest modern migration movement occurred from Europe to North America from 1800 to 1925, when one in five Europeans immigrated.  Parallel to this was Chinese migration to Canada and North America.7An estimated 5.45 million Germans alone immigrated in the years 1821-1912 (Naumann 1916:125-130). Naumann, Friedrich 1916. American Neutrality, in Naumann, Friedrich (ed.): Die Hilfe. Wochenschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst 22nd Jg, 125-130. Berlin-Schöneberg. Since the nineteen-sixties, migration movements have increased many times over. It is estimated that in 2005 there were 200 million migrants worldwide. This is approximately 3% of the world’s population, affecting one in 34 people (estimate circa 2005 in Hanciles 2008:118, 121).8Hanciles, Jehu J. 2008. Migration and Mission: The Religious Significance of the North-South Divide, in Walls, Andrew F. & Ross, Cathy (eds.): Mission in the Twenty-Fist Century, 118-129. London: Darton, Longman and Todd. Due to the continuous increase of trouble spots and the explosion of the world population since the beginning of the 20th century, we can therefore speak of “the epoch of migration” (:118).

This article deals with the sociological hotspots as they are discussed in the public due to the current, i.e. since the year 2015, so-called “refugee crisis”9As a proposal for the misnomer of the Year 2015, the term “refugee crisis”, although often adopted carelessly, makes us think. After all, it is not about a crisis that comes from refugees, but about a relief effort to people who have lost their homes. http://www.shz.de/deutschland-welt/panorama/unwort-des-jahres-fluechtlin… [accessed 2021-03-23]. from Pakistan, Afghanistan and majority Syria to Europe and here especially Germany and Sweden. The migration movement from the Maghreb states, which is perceived as threatening by the public, in reality comprises only a few thousand and does not play a role here, since there is a political push for rapid deportation. Likewise, the quite interesting field of political negotiations with the countries of origin, mostly concerning financial payments, is not considered here, as this is beyond the scope.

The shaping of life is based on external environmental factors that are shaped politically and by nature, including basic human needs. These basic needs shown here are not to be understood as conclusive. For practical reasons, the needs for safety and security and others have been neglected. Based on anthropological observations of the practical life of migrants, three basic needs could be identified, among others:

a.) the need for recognition through work or social engagement,

b.) the need to remember a linguistic and cultural framework as “home”, and

c.) the need to satisfy a healthy curiosity about life in order to shape one’s own and society’s future.

The western dominant perspective, which is taken here, tries to meet the missiological possibilities, which are conceivable at the moment. It is well known that thankfully Asian, South American and African organizations and institutions are also becoming increasingly missiologically active in Europe. An increasing publication of their experiences is to be awaited with joy. Furthermore, the experiences with the European “guest worker movement” of the sixties of the last century will be referred to, since they show long-term developments for the question here.

2. Diaspora – reasons: Attempt at delimitation

The Greek term διασπορά diaspora “dispersion” is found in reference to migration movements. These refer to a (former) minority in a place that they themselves do not describe as their place of origin. Early on, the term was used to refer to the Jewish people who were forcefully resettled from Israel by the Assyrians (9th century BCE) and later from Judah by the Babylonians (6th century BCE) to Babylon (e.g., 1 and 2 Chronicles; 1 and 2 Kings). The term, which originated in the Hebrew Bible translated into Greek (Deut. 28:64), was understood as a slur but entered history as “Jewish diaspora.” It was later applied to countless forced or unforced migrations (Wan 2012 under Diaspora Quick Links 10Wan, Enoch 2012. The Phenomenon of Diaspora: Missiological Implications for Christian Missions. Diaspora Study. Online: URL:www.GlobalMissiology.org [accessed 2021-05-13].). Where political or religious persecution occurs, the term quickly finds its place, as the extensive, far from exhaustive list that Wan points out (2012: List of References).

If one wants to list the reasons that lead to a diaspora situation, one can roughly distinguish between voluntary and forced migration, as well as migration that can be limited in time and leads to a diaspora, although there are of course overlaps. Voluntary is the move to a previously foreign region as a subsequent move, for professional or social reasons. The term forced refers to situations of persecution, war or misfortune in which the homeland must be left due to external coercion. Refugee or displaced persons movements from crisis areas are certainly by far the best known categories. Overlaps in motivations or reasons for migration can be found, for example, for economic reasons. The latter include migrant workers, who may be voluntary (e.g., cargo shipping) or forced (e.g., slave labor, prostitution, human trafficking). Unnamed here are developments that were initially voluntary, but then degenerated into coercion and vice versa. The military advances of some ethnic groups, like the Huns (5th – 3rd century B.C.), the Vikings (until the 8th century A.D.) and the Mongols (see above) became in their course in-evitably necessary movements, in order to guarantee the supply or they ran off in the fact that the peoples merged into others.

Temporally, one can assume short-term and long-term phenomena. Thus, we speak of short-term diaspora situations, such as the recruited Indian workers on the new Panama Canal or the 2016 Olympics. Long-term diaspora situations also occur, spanning generations.  A diaspora may also dissolve altogether,11The Chinese workers on the east-west and west-east routes of the North American railroad of the 19th century, who later settled in the newly developed cities, can be regarded as impressive examples. The modern Palestinian camps in Jordan, which have emerged since the 1940s and have been instrumentalized as a political issue by Arab states, also belong to this group. Sociologically interesting is the post-World War II status of the Danish minority in northern Germany. with one group returning home (e.g., Albanian asylum seekers) or assimilating completely into the new environment (e.g. French Huguenots in Germany; large segments of Sinti and Roma).

However, the own and internal assignment of a group to this term is problematic. Is the migrant worker who comes from India, was born there, grew up in Madagascar, came to Italy through work and married an Italian woman, there really in the diaspora? Does a group with similar backgrounds constitute one? What is “home” for these people? Do they need one for their own identity? How is identity defined in such cases? The assignment from the outside seems simple at first glance, but it is not at all clear, especially since one’s own assessment ultimately decides how someone locates himself.

An important question concerning the diaspora is the question of identity. It is difficult to clarify, because people who were born in a country and have always lived there, except for short stays abroad, usually think nationalistically and thus form the contrast for the “others” (otherness). People who do not share this experience are considered strangers. “Strangeness” is opposed to nationalism. Nationalism, however, is an expression of belonging and homeland, as an internal and external determination of identity. The identity documents (identity card, passport, driver’s license) prove the external characteristics of belonging. The permanent proof of residence becomes the characteristic of this public documents. As shown in the previous example, this still says nothing about the person and where he or she locates him or herself internally, if this is at all possible or necessary. Multiple identities are possible and sometimes necessary. In addition to the above examples, these include so-called labor nomads from construction, shipping, freight and logistics, etc. They cover all social strata. They themselves form social strata in their respective environments (e.g. German commuting doctors in Norway or Switzerland). This can be temporary or does have fixed structures. In the construction industry, temporary work projects are based on the use of temporary workers (e.g. major sporting events, huge construction projects) as well as permanent support personnel (e.g. nuclear power plants, dams, etc.).

“Diaspora” is therefore by no means a homogeneous term, which only refers to a person or group in a foreign country, it also includes the underlying life situation and how it came about. On the one hand, diaspora is an external characteristic assigned to a person or group as an identity, but at the same time it is also an internal identity characteristic that expresses itself as “foreign”, “stranger(s)” or “being in a foreign country”.

In political or social considerations, the impact of a diaspora situation on the affected people themselves, as well as on the population that considers itself native, is usually discussed. This is another aspect that should be included in the considerations. Some diaspora situations are noticed only in the course and with the appearance of sociological-political tensions. Before that, it could be a hitherto unnoticed movement. This includes tourism, which is a migratory movement that can lead to temporary diaspora. For German tourists, Mallorca, the east coast of Spain and southern Turkey represent a temporary diaspora.

3. Effects of the diaspora – groups of people, identity

With regard to the three basic human needs mentioned at the beginning (points 1 a-c), which have a particular impact in the diaspora, the question of “identity” is limited here with regard to

a.) work / social commitment,

b.) linguistic-cultural reference back to the “homeland”, and

c.) shaping the future.

In most cases, the diaspora leads to an increased perception of one’s own identity in a foreign country (Hiebert & Hiebert 1995:285-286; Muslims in Europe in Hanciles 2008:125).12Hiebert, Paul G. & Hiebert Meneses, Eloise 1995. Incarnational Ministry: Planting churches in Band, Tribal, Peasant, and Urban Societies. Grand Rapids: Baker. Only in the recognition of “foreignness” as a characteristic of demarcation from the new, can a field of tension open up with one’s own, as well as foreign identities. This becomes very clear in the political organization of radical groups abroad. The most prominent examples in Germany are the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) and, increasingly, ISIS/IS (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham; Daesh) (on the PKK, see Bruinessen 1999:8-10).13Bruinessen, Martin M. van 1999. The Kurds in Movement: Migrations, mobilisations, communications and the globalisation of the Kurdish question. Working Paper 14. Islamic Area Studies Project. Tokyo, Japan. Both movements are considered to be foreign-controlled and thus assigned to the diaspora. Peaceful political movements that revolve around the diaspora are innumerable.14The Turkish Alevis, consisting of Kurds, Zaza and Turks, should be mentioned here (see FN 5 above Langer 2008). The Armenian and Aramaic migration movements since 1915, as well as the Yazidis, should also be mentioned. Maisel, Sebastian 2014. One Community, Two Identities: Syria’s Yezidis and the Struggle of a Minority Group to Fit in, in Omarkhali, Khanna (ed.): Religious Minorities in Kurdistan: Beyond the Mainstream, 79-96. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

The best known are the associations of displaced persons that formed after the Second World War. The diaspora long ago became the homeland, and yet there is also talk of “homeland” about the expulsion areas (e.g. Salzborn 200015Salzborn, Samuel 2000. Grenzenlose Heimat. Geschichte, Gegenwart und Zukunft der Vertriebenenverbände. Berlin: Elefanten Press.). Here, too, there are several underlying identities.

How are the identities that develop in a foreign land characterized? A diaspora situation affects many socio-political groups, cultures and nations:

1. The individual or group that is in a foreign land.

2. The culture(s) in whose national territory the diaspora develops,

3. The culture(s) from which the diaspora has moved to a foreign land.

4. International institutions and organizations that promote the affairs, needs and rights of social structures.

For the original “homeland”, the groups in the diaspora constitute:

1. A political mouthpiece,

2. They are financial supports and

3. They facilitate emigration through (family) reunification, partnerships and serve as illegal points of contact.

For the new “homeland”, these diaspora groups are challenges in social and professional integration, reasons to deal with the political situations of the countries of origin, as well as the basis for shaping a common future as part of the newly constituted overall society.

The German-Turkish past is particularly revealing in this respect, as it has all these elements. Originally, it was primarily military aid that led to the establishment of Turkish units in the Prussian army as early as the 18th century. Assimilation was quite common in this movement. This first Turkish presence was followed by the so-called “guest workers” from October 30, 1961 (Bad Godesberg guest worker agreement). This established a Turkish diaspora. Not only the numerical size, but also the ambiguity of the political status of this group of people, as well as the duration of their stay led to a temporary alienation from the German host country. By family reunion and political-economic deterioration of the situation in the homeland (Turkish military coups 1960, 1971 and 1980; state crisis 1991-1994), as well as economic strengthening of the Diaspora became this the political mouthpiece. The Turkish diaspora campaigns in the EU for women’s rights, the Kurds, Zaza, Alevis, Armenians and social minorities (homosexuals, transsexuals, intersexual, etc.). It supports financially the members and political groups actively (e.g. PKK, building projects such as tenement houses), as well as passively by a pronounced travel tourism (catchword: Auto-Putt of the seventies and eighties through Yugoslavia) and strengthened by a pronounced following of family members, as well as illegal immigration with later toleration.

Comparable movements and developments can be seen for France from the Maghreb states, which were former French colonial territories or close trading partners (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia), and for Great Britain from the Asian Commonwealth (India, Pakistan). Here, economic reasons play the main role. Flight movements from Turkey can be traced back to the persecution of the Christian armies (1896 and 1915) in the transition to the Turkish Republic as well as non-Islamic or non-Sunni groups (e.g. Yazidis, Alevis, etc.) due to the military coups in 1960, 1980 and the unrest of 1994-1996, as well as politically unstable times. Ethnic reasons also play a role. What these groups all have in common is that they sooner or later became politically active in the diaspora and also formed themselves religiously. In the homeland, interference from abroad in turn led to increased tension with the groups that remained behind.

Obviously, Spanish, Italian and Greek groups in the diaspora, which in the same way originated from this period of agreements on guest workers, found their identity(ies) via the path of integration and assimilation. It should be noted that there was a mutual interaction between the diaspora and the countries in which it was established. In Europe, it is noticeable that the Islamic-Turkish diaspora has the greatest difficulty in integrating and developing in a positive and enriching way. Again and again the religious question flares up whether Islam can be part of German culture. No matter how this question is answered, it is clear that Islam has arrived in Germany through the developments surrounding migration and the diaspora. Thus it is to be evaluated missiologically and a starting point for the intercultural theological dialogue. The sociological-political repercussions of the diaspora on the countries of origin weigh heavily, as the French relationship with the Maghreb states and the German-Turkish relationship show.

The European situation shows that, in the long run, the host countries developed their economies positively because of or in spite of the diverse diaspora situations. Integration into the labor market has been largely successful in all countries. However, it cannot be overlooked that there has been an increase in violent crime by specific diaspora groups. Organized drug, procurement and smuggling crime in particular finds European markets to serve via the diaspora. In particular, drug smuggling from Afghanistan via Turkey is worth mentioning here, with many parties earning money on the way to the consumer. Likewise, forced prostitution from eastern countries, which led to human trafficking from east to west (Jürgs 201416Jürgs, Michael 2014. Sklavenmarkt Europa. Das Milliardengeschäft mit der Ware Mensch. München: Bertelsmann.). There are completely different economic movements from the Asian states, which are economically poorly off, to the rich Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Emirates, Oman, Bahrain). The same applies from the south of America towards the northern United States of America (USA). In general, this form of crime, human trafficking, and thus the high-yield human smuggling goes from poor to rich. The resulting diaspora situation leads to illegality and thus to criminalization.  At the same time, diaspora groups willingly participate in this form of criminality because of their connections and networks.

It can therefore be stated that the diaspora situation has both positive and negative consequences for the individual, as well as for the diaspora and the countries of origin. Particularly negative consequences are political and religious radicalization, economic impoverishment of social groups, social ethnic tensions, and the associated criminality (criminal offenses against foreigners, violent crime).17Unanimously, the gap between rich and poor is seen as the cause of the crime described here. The latest example is the “slut hunting”, a kind of flash mob for the sexual harassment of women in public, which has been known since the uprising at Tariq Square in Egypt. It is exercised in Europe with the right to prey on “rich Westerners,” as happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015 (this is only part of the rationale). Other forms are to be found in the targeted gang burglary crime in which buses of men are carted in from “poor” Balkan countries, who break into residential areas right next to the highway and then immediately leave again for their countries with the stolen goods. Outstanding positive consequences can be found in the long-term economic betterment of individuals and groups, the political and economic influence on the countries of origin through the involvement of political and economic institutions, committees and the media as a mouthpiece, as well as the enriching intercultural encounters.

4. Missiological reflections on the diaspora.

How can diaspora and its attendant social phenomena be addressed missiologically? Two complementary missiological starting points come together. First, there is evangelism, as a Christian means and expression of reaching out and communicating with the microcultures18The term “microculture” replaces the discriminatory term “subculture”, which suggests a subordinate unit. Microcultures are often units of equal rank. that are perceived or feel themselves to be diasporas (e.g., Derbe et al. Acts 14:20-23). Secondly, there is diaconia (Christian aid), as energetic and active support to the neighbor. Both together aim at bridging the gap between the diaspora situation and the perception as “strangers” (e.g. Acts 21:7 Paul spent time with people). Of course, this can and should only intervene to the extent that the group or an individual wants it to. Some diaspora situations, as mentioned earlier, are not perceived or are intentional.

4.1 General missiological considerations

From the observations described above, general missiological considerations arise, which can be grouped into the following, non-exhaustive, points:

1. Missiological undertakings towards persons or groups in the diaspora are always perceived as political. This political perception occurs, in each case, from different perspectives. Thus from the diaspora itself, from the national or resident cultural circles surrounding the diaspora, from the national or resident cultural circles in the country of origin, and last but not least from international organizations or institutions that deal with a diaspora group (see above regarding groups of people No. 1-4). If one takes the radical groups, described above, as an extreme bandwidth, the reactions range from self-sacrificing self-giving (sympathizers) to violent combating of the diaspora. In light of these perceptions, missiological ventures themselves should be transparent and well-organized. Since many such undertakings begin in private and at the local level, it is important to quickly seek publicity and present one’s work. This at least partially removes the possibility for some critics to draw false conclusions and to discredit polemically (e.g. proselytism, secret service activities). One cannot protect oneself against false accusations and slander.19Here, the accusation of “mission” is worth mentioning, as it is often played out in Turkey. Although the Turkish term “misyon” is used secularly in the sense of “mission, order, contract” (e.g., the “misyon” of a university), a second meaning, this time religious, has developed in the sense of Christian-Western poaching by Islam. This is used by Sunni religious and political Turkish circles to create anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiment (see internal annual report of Evangelical Christians in Turkey).

2 In the diaspora, groups rarely form a homogeneous unit. Rather, they reflect the culture of origin and are composed of a hodgepodge of sociological streams with different emphases. Common denominators are the language or the derivation of a common origin which results from traditions, myths and localizations.20These are, moreover, the characteristics of ethnic units in general. A common language, a common origin (traditions, myths) and a local assignment of what is perceived as home. Through this, a social microculture locates itself in its surrounding society and defines itself through these ties. Likewise it is defined from the outside on the basis of these characteristics. From the outside, however, superficial or false knowledge can also lead to a group assignment. Here, terms such as “Turkish guest workers” or “Turks” should be mentioned, which are applied to Kurdish (Kurmanji speakers), Zazai (Zazaki speakers) and also Aramaic-Syrian orthodox people from Turkey. The terms “Africans” or “blacks,” on the other hand, apply to all dark-skinned people. The paraphrase “foreigners”, on the other hand, is very general and serves to distinguish people from their own national definition. From a missiological point of view, the linguistic-anthropological approach to a group is called for. The biggest hurdle, namely language, is easier to overcome in the diaspora through the national language than would be the case in the country of origin, where the national or lingua franca bears an additional important meaning. Nevertheless, a basic knowledge of the mother tongue is a way into the center of culture. This realization, which has meanwhile become a political issue, leads as a demand, at least in Germany, to intensive learning of German by migrants. As an anthropological approach, an ethnographically oriented investigation of the cultural differences to one’s own culture offers itself. This should start with a few outstanding observations and then go into detail. Usually it is the clothing (e.g. headscarf debate), the way the sexes deal with each other and with each other (segregation patterns) and the religious structure (e.g. Islam, Alevism, Sufism, Parsism) that are of interest. The insights that come with this form communicative starting points (evangelization), they point to structural needs, which calls for diaconal action.21These include, among other things, language instruction, care for the disabled (care instructions, manners), treatment of drug addiction, gender issues, questions about inbreeding, and education about contraception and abortion.

3 The reasons or causes for a diaspora situation sometimes bring traumatization with them. These are repressed, negated or used as a means to obtain services. The traumas can be overcome through care and diaconia (Diakonie). It becomes dangerous when this problem is approached with an arrogant or overestimating attitude. It is important to have recourse to specialized personnel (pastoral-therapeutic or psychological specialists) and to pay attention to gender-specific characteristics. The situation is completely different with the not to be underestimated number of adventurers who have left their home country because of a lack of perspective. Insofar as they are accessible, the diaconia is focused on language work for integration and the introduction to the labor market.

4.2 Individual case considerations

This paragraph includes questions of identity, links to the Christian faith and creative integration into diaconal structures.

4.2.1 Identity(ies) – In the Diaspora

One starting point for missiological action is the question of identity. This is all the more so because one’s own definitions of identities can be questioned by the biblical message. The questions in this regard revolve around the location of identity(ies)? How do migrants identify themselves? What identity(ies) are given to them from outside? Here, the encounter field of the original “home(s)” as well as the new “home” plays an important role. Many reports of the experiences of the second and third generation of migrants point to this field of tension. This is especially true if they have grown up in a new home state and are citizens there and also feel themselves to be such, and they are still addressed to their avoidable country of origin, their skin color, their frizzy hair or to their parents and they are classified as “strangers, foreigners”.22Boz, Tuba & Bouma, Gary 2012. Identity construction: A comparison between Turkish Muslims in Australia and Germany. Epiphany 5/1, 95-112. Also Online: http://epiphany.ius.edu.ba/index.php/epiphany/article/­down­load/­45/46 [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2016-05-10].

A national identity makes it possible to move within the local context of political and social possibilities. This includes civil rights and duties. The general human rights are superior to them (e.g. UN human right charter).23http://www.menschenrechtserklaerung.de [accessed 2021-05-24]. The civil rights of a state are only partially different for diaspora situations, otherwise the penal regulations and the disciplinary system apply to all. Particular specific obligations, such as language acquisition for participation in the labor market or the temporal and spatial limitation of the right of residence, and further specific rights, such as the duration of residence for obtaining social benefits, apply only to migrants and thus to the diaspora.24It is important to note that violations of residence law are only possible by non-Germans. Belonging to a national identity provides the basis for traveling abroad and for bureaucratic activities (registering a residence, opening a bank account, registering a vehicle).

The question of identity and thus of belonging is a challenge for Christian evangelism. For theological reasons, national identity is often identified as unimportant and expanded to include a spiritual and global perspective. Participation in the global-timeless church is postulated, from a spiritual dimension, as the proper one. In principle, this idea offers the possibility of overcoming national limitations within the framework of the universal church. However, it must be pointed out that national points of view have always played a role in the Bible. They are presupposed as given realities, even mentioned consciously. Thus the affiliation to the Jewish people is of importance as the apostles, Jesus Christ and the Old Testament arch fathers and prophets prove it in distinction to the Philistines, Canaanites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. But also the affiliation to non-Jewish political-national greats is shown, like the Samaritans or the Decapolis.25An important moment in this discussion is played by the decision made after the meeting of the elders and apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15:23-29, Gal 2:10-21). The tension between Jewish Old Testament law and New Testament faith, and between Jewish ethnicity and non-Jewish peoples, becomes clear here. “Gentiles,” “Romans,” “Jewish citizens,” and in Acts 2:9-11 also all major ethnic groups known at the time are mentioned in the New Testament. The apostle Paul made use of his right as a Jewish citizen under the name Saul (Acts 9:14 in conjunction with 8:1, 3 and 9:1), as well as of his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:27). A person’s linguistic and cultural identity provides insight into his ideas about the world (worldview) as well as his former environment. Language reflects both. If one knows such linguistic-cognitive and anthropological connections, then it is also easier to approach the other person in terms of content. The basic needs for work, an origin (first “home”) and participation in shaping the future reflect this identity.

The motivation of migration is based on economic, political or personal reasons and causes the departure from the homeland.26The order given here follows the observed reasons for global migration, but may well be different for an individual country or situation. A final determination is not possible, as the motivations and reasons for migration overlap. For this reason, it is important to become somewhat aware of the situation there and also to know the possible motives of migration. This is to be asked from general sources and not from the persons concerned. In most cases, questions about the reasons for migration only spread mistrust and inhibit the relationship. Incidentally, this also applies to personal questions about visible physical disabilities or psychological traumas (war, crime, misfortunes). The latter is also not permitted for human rights reasons, but quickly becomes criminally relevant if such knowledge were to be published or coercion could be proven. Therefore, caution is required here. For ethnographic studies, therefore, consent is required for the recording, transcription and processing of the data. In the case of lengthy research, permission may need to be repeated.

“Identity” in the diaspora concerns both the past, what one was, and the future, what one wants to become (first “home and shaping the future). Constantly, migrants are unconsciously confronted with this dilemma. About the children, political changes in the country of residence as well as the countries of origin and finally the own competences (professional successes or failures, social dependencies) the question is constantly with which culture, which state entity one identifies oneself more. Since time immemorial there have been economic as well as political migration movements, only in the fewest cases, as today, a close connection to the country of origin was possible for political or financial reasons. Visa regulations, favorable and extensive mobility offers (flight, car, bus, train) and recently global agreements in the banking sector make close relations possible. Today financial links are possible. Rental houses, real estate and companies in the countries of origin are the rule (own observations among migrants of Turkish origin). These developments make it even more difficult to decide on an identity and are responsible for different identities assigned from the outside and self-perceived. Migrants who have been persecuted for religious or political reasons have created a future for themselves by working long hours in the country of residence. However, once a certain level of financial security has been reached, the laws of socio-cultural obligations come into force with respect to those who have remained in the home country. This leads to an economic tie back. The provision of housing, the repurchase of former property and the accompanying presence in the former home country lead to new tensions and challenges.

The developments shown here indicate the deep attachment to the culture of origin as the first “home”. Missiological planning needs to understand and pay attention to the approach and the identity assignments, of the “both here and there”. People in the diaspora can, and usually do, consciously live with these different identities. They do not peddle them, since there can also be areas of tension with the surrounding culture or with the culture of origin. Only rarely does it happen that no identity is categorized as “home” at all, but the web can be opaque to outsiders. The identity felt by the migrants themselves represents the starting point for the encounter, even if it is overemphasized and idealized. This can lead to alienating segregations, such as the emphasis on not wanting to “pollute” oneself by dealing with “Westerners” that is foreign-religious people (purification phenomenon). Nevertheless, such attitudes are also a starting point for evangelistic and diaconal Christian approaches.

4.2.2 Points of Connection to the Christian Faith – Diaspora and Church

The above-mentioned basic needs for a.) recognition through work or social commitment, b.) a return to a linguistic and cultural framework as a “home” and c.) a healthy curiosity about life in order to shape one’s own (and society’s) future are excellent starting points, since they are dealt with elementarily in the biblical message and contextualized from an ecclesial perspective.

Different identities bring with them many life experiences. These are not only positive in the sense of broadening horizons, but can also be of negative origin and stem from violence and destruction. The global increase of religious movements during the 20th century originates, among other things, from the human experiences of the two world wars, the rapid economic upswing and the resulting economic gap between the industrialized nations and the two-thirds world. Increasing environmental catastrophes, climate change and expansive population growth contribute to the fact that religions are important identity-forming and society-binding factors.

Wherever microcultures emerge, for linguistic, socio-cultural or other reasons, they are evolving as points of contact for Christian efforts, a profile also occurs of how they relate to Christian commitment. The range goes from rejection or indifference to acceptance and openness to new ideas (healthy curiosity). Regardless of this attitude, there are material needs, such as livelihood security, provision for life and participation in public life, which want to be satisfied (recognition through work / social commitment). Unfortunately, the latter need is only of secondary importance for the church due to the biography of Jesus Christ as it has been handed down. The self-sufficiency as a carpenter until his public appearance at the age of about 30 years becomes only indirectly clear. The fact that there are no accusations from this time indicates that the work was handled reliably (Mk 6:3). Inferred would be the social recognition and inner satisfaction that Jesus of Nazareth experienced through it. Nevertheless, the Kenosis (divestment) of the Godhead manifested itself by Incarnation in that Jesus performed manual labor and made himself and his followers dependent on the provision of disciples only from his public ministry onward (Mk 3:20; 7:24; Lk 5:29; feeding miracles, etc.).

The congregation can establish links through networks and connections with social and public agencies (hospitals, administrations, service providers, etc.) that enable diaconal attributes to be included in congregational life as well (basic need a). In linking diaconal involvement with community-building elements, migrants are not only encouraged to provide for themselves socially and financially, but they also learn more about community-church life. The confrontation with Christian doctrine, lifestyle and congregational life usually also represents an interreligious experience. This poses a challenge to the church and community, as apologetic elements force reflection on one’s own position. In this area, special attention must be paid to intercultural encounters and intercultural communication. This also means to have the “first home” of the migrants in mind (basic need b). Christian activities there (resident churches, Christian presence through development aid, etc.), the languages spoken, the national and ethnic history, as well as leaders and social structures are of importance. Throughout the world, the majority of social structures are tribal or divided by bloodline, headed by individual leadership elites (tribe or heroic family27So-called “sheikhs,” “pashas,” “chieftains” or “saints” can attain their position through inheritance, but also through special merits (combat leadership, miracles, wisdom). They are assisted by religious, political and economic helpers who lead smaller social or local units (extended families, villages, sects). The division of labor of social constructs has been known since ancient times (e.g., People of Israel Num 11:16-17). In particular, military, medical, and administrative units can be identified (shamans, priests, doctors, village heads, commanders). E.g. Syrian Turkic Armenian Yezidis in Kreyenbroek, Ph. & Rashow, Kh. J. 2005. God and Sheikh Adi are perfect: Sacred Poems and Religious Narratives from the Yezidi Tradition. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, Introduction. S. a. Maisel, Sebastian 2014 above.). These elites are the mediators to the environment, they are mouthpieces and filters for overall social demands and developments. The European tradition of so-called town twinning is a model for churches and congregations to network. International partner churches or partnerships with social institutions broaden the view and offer a field of activity for migrants, young people and also pensioners. Shaping one’s own and society’s future while satisfying healthy human curiosity is possible within the framework of the church through diaconal-political commitment (basic need c). Local networking with the most diverse institutions (foreigners’ advisory councils, inclusion institutions, and district leaders) forms the foundation of such activities. After knowledge of German is available, migrants have access to such networks, or they can actively engage in them. This Win-Win situation serves the Christian community and church as well as the actors.

4.2.3 Creative involvement in diaconal structures

It would now be irresponsible to say that the diaspora is an easy field for Christian commitment. Language and cultural hurdles have to be overcome. This obstacle is countered by one’s own experience and superiority in one’s own socio-cultural context. Crossing borders offers the community and the church the opportunity to grow in numbers and knowledge. However, it remains to be weighed which offers of the community serve the migrants and which would be necessary to cover the basic needs mentioned. With regard to the need for recognition through work and social engagement (basic need a), the approaches of “transformation” are promising. Neighborhood work and social institutions (e.g., second-hand clothing stores, crèches, and Christian shops/coffees) offer points of contact but also potential jobs. The networking with such institutions and the involvement of public institutions (e.g. Federal Employment Agency, Social Welfare Office / Office for Integration) is another mainstay. The basic need to refer back to one’s own origin (basic need b) can be met by obtaining information about the language and culture and thus establishing points of contact. Contacts to the homeland through the church or community would be a next step. Partnerships with schools, leaders and elites can lead in the long run to exchange of experiences, visiting contacts and others.

Shaping the future is both a spiritual and social challenge for the church (basic need c). Theologically, the contemplation of a rapture, or soon salvation of the believers (1 Thess 4:17) is a counterproductive eschatology, which is diametrically opposed to the congregational preparation and shaping of the future of the congregations by the apostles. The New Testament congregations were prepared in the long term for confrontation with dissenters and the necessary structures, as well as theological-missiological foundation stones, were laid. These include spiritual equipping (Eph. 6:11-20), the indications of things to come and the proving of faith (Rev.; Heb. 11:1-11; etc.), and lastly the promise that only the reappearance of the Christ will usher in the new age (Acts 1:10-11). Homiletically, preaching and evangelization must have in view the formative power of the church. Social projects are to be based on the shaping of the environment, social structures and the involvement of different cultures, minorities and marginalized groups. Especially marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, people of different origins or sexual orientation, should be included as part of a society that reflects diversity. It makes sense to carry out such projects outside of one’s own framework, as this gives those addressed more room to maneuver. However, physical constraints should not be an obstacle to participation, as is often the case for people with mobility impairments. Migrants with such limitations would have to overcome a double hurdle with such obstacles, since their own mobility limitations already exclude them from many things in their own environment.

Bible translation and diaspora

A not insignificant part of the Christian mission can be seen in making the Holy Scriptures linguistically and culturally accessible to the language groups of this world. This can be derived from the Jesuit teaching and mediating mandate to make disciples (Mat 28:18-20). As this is expressed in Revelation as an eschatological principle, people from every language and nation will one day stand before the throne of God (Rev. 5: 9-10, 13).

From the beginning of the Church, this multiplication of the Church has been practiced through mother-tongue Bible translations. The best known examples are the Greek Septuagint of the 2nd century B.C., which became the basis of the Church, the Syro-Aramaic Peschitta (2nd century B.C.), the Latin Vulgate from the 4th century, the Slavic, and Gothic translations of the Bible. From the 19th century, the work on Bible translations into smaller and smaller language groups increases. The century of Bible translations is supported by numerous individual initiatives, by organizations and by the Church. From the beginning, diaspora groups played a significant role, because they were often able to translate the Bible from the lingua franca into the native language as bi- or polylingual mediators. All in all, even today this group has the special significance that, in contact with Christianity, they enrich their own linguistic and cultural area through the translation of the Bible. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the migration experience offers a more or less openness to the new environment, its contexts and ideas. On the other hand, the longing for one’s homeland also generates a need to communicate about the new situation in which one finds oneself, and in doing so, a transcultural process is initiated.

The project of a Bible translation as a transcultural process offers the possibility to work on the linguistic, theological and sociological points together in a team structure. The diaspora gap from the national culture to the migration culture is a particular challenge. The aforementioned question of identity plays a key role here. Through a product with which a national culture identifies itself, and that is what the Bible is, a part of the cultural heritage is passed on to a migration culture. This interaction causes a form of rapprochement in both social groups, which can be taken up by the church. For the migration culture, dealing with a foreign cultural asset is a challenge, because the reactions to it are not predictable.

It is necessary at this point to mention also revisions or new translations made abroad by the diaspora, of Christian-influenced migration cultures, as this challenges the native church at home (e.g. Aramaic translation projects in USA and Europe). On the one hand, the question must be answered as to why a revision is not carried out by the church in the home country, and on the other hand, agreement or cooperation between the Bible translation project and the home church is indispensable in order to gain the necessary acceptance. Nevertheless, the diaspora also plays an important role here, as it can translate creatively and independently of local influences.

Bible translation projects in the diaspora offer many advantages, but also have challenges to overcome. The advantages are, on the one hand, great political and personal security for all involved, since they usually take place on a small scale, with little public participation, in urban situations. Furthermore, diaspora circles are usually well wired with each other, so that they can quickly respond to each other and react. Finally, the diaspora situation also offers quick access to academic and technological resources, as educational institutions are close by and can be used unobserved. One challenge is that diaspora groups are not homogeneous units and it is difficult to find and mobilize the often few interested parties. This also includes the difficulty of balancing effective management by external project management, consultants, financial support, and the feeling of ownership of the project by the translator team. Likewise, just living in the diaspora for the migrants is already burdensome and burdened by many conflicts, so a Bible translation project adds additional burdens.


In this article, the causes and effects of migration with regard to diaspora have been highlighted. Diaspora, as a complex social phenomenon, is to be differentiated into voluntary and forced migration, as well as migration that can be limited in time and leads to diaspora. External attributions as well as internal feelings about diaspora situations cannot be played off against each other. Where and how a migrant or a person or a group defines itself as a diaspora is ultimately left to the actors themselves. Nevertheless, typical characteristics, perceptions, challenges and advantages are recognizable, which can be applied to the diaspora from the outside. This study thus refers to migrants in the diaspora. For the missiological yield, the perspective could be narrowed down to three basic needs: a.) the need for recognition through work or social engagement, b.) the need to reflect on a linguistic and cultural framework as a “homeland,” and c.) the need to satisfy a healthy curiosity about life in order to shape one’s (own and society’s) future. With regard to the question of “identity” or “identities” generated by a diaspora situation, the challenges but also the experiential gains for churches and congregations were highlighted. Creative approaches to diaconal involvement of people living in a diaspora situation help to meet these identities, but at the same time address the needs. Neighborhood work and close networking with local organizations and institutions is helpful in opening up employment and engagement options (need a). This diaconal line is supported by personal attention to the “first home”, language and culture. Contacts to the social leadership elites there play a role (need b.). Planning for the future is made possible by integration into the community structure and the linked committees. Independent tasks for the people from the diaspora are the highlight of Christian activity. The language and culture of the “new homeland” is always to be understood as a foundation for any togetherness. Bible translation as an ecclesiastical task forms a transcultural connection between the cultural circles involved and can serve to build bridges in the ecclesiastical sphere. The Word of God as a center for believers of different cultures is a characteristic of the global church, since the same revelation is now available in the respective mother tongue.


[1] Financial and time limits currently provide the framework; unfortunately, environmentally protective, energy-efficient and sustainable reasons play a marginal role. In the future, the decline of fossil fuels will significantly influence mobility.

[2] Bengio, Ofra & Maddy-Weitzman Bruce 2013. Mobilised diasporas: Kurdish and Berber movements in comparative perspective. Kurdish Studies 1/1, October, 65-90. Online: URL: http://metapress.com/content/­751148011116366k/­fulltext.pdf [PDF-File] [accessed 2016-05-04].

[3] Hunter, Erica C. D. 2014. Coping in Kurdistan: The Christian Diaspora, in Omarkhali, Khanna (ed.): Religious Minorities in Kurdistan: Beyond the Mainstream, 321-337. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Roam, Caitlin 2015. One Method Does Not Fit All: Case Studies of the Muslim Diaspora. EMQ 51/1, 20-28. Wheaton: Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). Also Online: URL: http://www.emqonline.com/­node/­3207 [accessed 2016-04-20]. Rynkiewich, Michael A. Rynkiewich 2013. Mission in “the Present Time”: What about the People in Diaspora? Paper presented to the International Society for Frontier Missiology on September 13, 2013 (Plano, TX). IJFM 30/3, 103-114. [PDF document]. Holter, Knut 2014. My father was a migrant Aramean: Old Testament motifs for a Theology of Migration, in Im, Chandler H. & Yong, Amos (eds.): Global Diasporas and Mission, 57-70. Oxford: Regnum Books International. Also Online: URL: http://www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum/downloads/-Global_Diasporas_and_¬¬Mission.¬pdf [accessed 2021-03-20].

[4] Boyarin, Daniel & Boyarin, Jonathan 2005. Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Identity, in Braziel, Evans Jana & Mannur, Anita (eds.): Theorizing Diaspora, 85-118. Oxford: Blackwell.

[5] Manalansan, Martin F. IV 2005. In the Shadows of Stonewall: Examining Gay Transnational Politics and the Diasporic Dilemma, in Braziel, Evans Jana & Mannur, Anita (eds.): Theorizing Diaspora, 207-230. Oxford: Blackwell. Gilroy, Paul 2005. The Black Atlantic as a Counterculture of Modernity, in Braziel, Evans Jana & Mannur, Anita (eds.): Theorizing Diaspora, 49-80. Oxford: Blackwell.

[6] Langer, Robert 2008. Alevitische Rituale, in Sökefeld, Martin (Hg.): Aleviten in Deutschland: Identitätsprozesse einer Religionsgemeinschaft in der Diaspora, 65-108. Bielefeld: Transcript.

[7] An estimated 5.45 million Germans alone immigrated in the years 1821-1912 (Naumann 1916:125-130). Naumann, Friedrich 1916. American Neutrality, in Naumann, Friedrich (ed.): Die Hilfe. Wochenschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst 22nd Jg, 125-130. Berlin-Schöneberg.

[8] Hanciles, Jehu J. 2008. Migration and Mission: The Religious Significance of the North-South Divide, in Walls, Andrew F. & Ross, Cathy (eds.): Mission in the Twenty-Fist Century, 118-129. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

[9] As a proposal for the misnomer of the Year 2015, the term “refugee crisis”, although often adopted carelessly, makes us think. After all, it is not about a crisis that comes from refugees, but about a relief effort to people who have lost their homes. http://www.shz.de/deutschland-welt/panorama/unwort-des-jahres-fluechtlin… [accessed 2021-03-23].

[10] Wan, Enoch 2012. The Phenomenon of Diaspora: Missiological Implications for Christian Missions. Diaspora Study. Online: URL:www.GlobalMissiology.org [accessed 2021-05-13].

[11] The Chinese workers on the east-west and west-east routes of the North American railroad of the 19th century, who later settled in the newly developed cities, can be regarded as impressive examples. The modern Palestinian camps in Jordan, which have emerged since the 1940s and have been instrumentalized as a political issue by Arab states, also belong to this group. Sociologically interesting is the post-World War II status of the Danish minority in northern Germany.

[12] Hiebert, Paul G. & Hiebert Meneses, Eloise 1995. Incarnational Ministry: Planting churches in Band, Tribal, Peasant, and Urban Societies. Grand Rapids: Baker.

[13] Bruinessen, Martin M. van 1999. The Kurds in Movement: Migrations, mobilisations, communications and the globalisation of the Kurdish question. Working Paper 14. Islamic Area Studies Project. Tokyo, Japan.

[14] The Turkish Alevis, consisting of Kurds, Zaza and Turks, should be mentioned here (see FN 5 above Langer 2008). The Armenian and Aramaic migration movements since 1915, as well as the Yazidis, should also be mentioned. Maisel, Sebastian 2014. One Community, Two Identities: Syria’s Yezidis and the Struggle of a Minority Group to Fit in, in Omarkhali, Khanna (ed.): Religious Minorities in Kurdistan: Beyond the Mainstream, 79-96. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

[15] Salzborn, Samuel 2000. Grenzenlose Heimat. Geschichte, Gegenwart und Zukunft der Vertriebenenverbände. Berlin: Elefanten Press.

[16] Jürgs, Michael 2014. Sklavenmarkt Europa. Das Milliardengeschäft mit der Ware Mensch. München: Bertelsmann.

[17] Unanimously, the gap between rich and poor is seen as the cause of the crime described here. The latest example is the “slut hunting”, a kind of flash mob for the sexual harassment of women in public, which has been known since the uprising at Tariq Square in Egypt. It is exercised in Europe with the right to prey on “rich Westerners,” as happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015 (this is only part of the rationale). Other forms are to be found in the targeted gang burglary crime in which buses of men are carted in from “poor” Balkan countries, who break into residential areas right next to the highway and then immediately leave again for their countries with the stolen goods.

[18] The term “microculture” replaces the discriminatory term “subculture”, which suggests a subordinate unit. Microcultures are often units of equal rank.

[19] Here, the accusation of “mission” is worth mentioning, as it is often played out in Turkey. Although the Turkish term “misyon” is used secularly in the sense of “mission, order, contract” (e.g., the “misyon” of a university), a second meaning, this time religious, has developed in the sense of Christian-Western poaching by Islam. This is used by Sunni religious and political Turkish circles to create anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiment (see internal annual report of Evangelical Christians in Turkey).

[20] These are, moreover, the characteristics of ethnic units in general. A common language, a common origin (traditions, myths) and a local assignment of what is perceived as home.

[21] These include, among other things, language instruction, care for the disabled (care instructions, manners), treatment of drug addiction, gender issues, questions about inbreeding, and education about contraception and abortion.

[22] Boz, Tuba & Bouma, Gary 2012. Identity construction: A comparison between Turkish Muslims in Australia and Germany. Epiphany 5/1, 95-112. Also Online: http://epiphany.ius.edu.ba/index.php/epiphany/article/­down­load/­45/46 [PDF-Datei] [Stand 2016-05-10].

[23] http://www.menschenrechtserklaerung.de [accessed 2021-05-24].

[24] It is important to note that violations of residence law are only possible by non-Germans.

[25] An important moment in this discussion is played by the decision made after the meeting of the elders and apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15:23-29, Gal 2:10-21). The tension between Jewish Old Testament law and New Testament faith, and between Jewish ethnicity and non-Jewish peoples, becomes clear here. “Gentiles,” “Romans,” “Jewish citizens,” and in Acts 2:9-11 also all major ethnic groups known at the time are mentioned in the New Testament.

[26] The order given here follows the observed reasons for global migration, but may well be different for an individual country or situation. A final determination is not possible, as the motivations and reasons for migration overlap.

[27] So-called “sheikhs,” “pashas,” “chieftains” or “saints” can attain their position through inheritance, but also through special merits (combat leadership, miracles, wisdom). They are assisted by religious, political and economic helpers who lead smaller social or local units (extended families, villages, sects). The division of labor of social constructs has been known since ancient times (e.g., People of Israel Num 11:16-17). In particular, military, medical, and administrative units can be identified (shamans, priests, doctors, village heads, commanders). E.g. Syrian Turkic Armenian Yezidis in Kreyenbroek, Ph. & Rashow, Kh. J. 2005. God and Sheikh Adi are perfect: Sacred Poems and Religious Narratives from the Yezidi Tradition. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, Introduction. S. a. Maisel, Sebastian 2014 above.

Book Review: Du Mez, Kristin Kobes 2015. A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism

werner [at] forschungsinstitut.net


Du Mez presents a combination of evangelical missiology and theology, Bible translation, intercultural theology and contemporary history, all represented in one person: Katharine Bushnell. The study is carried out under the theme “conservative Christian feminism”. Kristine Kobes Du Mez carries the reader back into the period of the American-British evangelical revivals of the 19th and 20th centuries, namely the Methodist movement. Her topics are: Ideologically embossed anti-feminist Bible translation, colonialism, slavery, prostitution and child abuse in regard of (male) Christian responsibility and participation. The Commonwealth, and geographically-specific China, India and Australia come in focus.

In the preface Du Mez presents Bushnell’s translation of the story of creation in Genesis 1-3 (: ix-x; Preface). Only in the course of the biography of Bushnell becomes clear how this, at first impression, irritating translation of the Bible came to be. As the seventh of nine siblings Bushnell was born in 1855 in Peru, Illinois. She moved with the family, then the age of 15, to 130 km distant Evanston. This town was known as evangelical Methodist Mecca and one of the evangelical Christian feminist strongholds (:13-15; :12-26; A Paradise for Women).

The Holiness movement, especially under the leadership of women, clashed there in contrast to the strict Victorian gender segregation (:27-61; Virtue, Vice, and Victorian Women). This resulted in the participation of women at management level and in education (z. B. Northwestern Female College). The evangelization of women by men was criticized loudly. The outspoken Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society from the Methodist Episcopal Church (WFMS) was led by Frances Willard, Bushnell’s neighbor (:19). For decades she became her mentor, based on a mutually benefiting relationship (:21). Bushnell studied theology and the languages of the Biblical base text. Exegesis and hermeneutics became her favorite.

Based on emphasis on missiology oriented to other counties and on women in science, in the context of the Methodists, Bushnell further studied medicine (:24-25). In 1879 she went as Medical Intern-expert to China. Her trip stood under the influence of Christian feminism, the Christianization of women by women, and the so-called “social-purification campaign” (:27; social purity crusade). Here, in a foreign land, she recognized for the first time, significantly the (un)conscious reduction of women. She learned about the motivations by men behind, and why women leave this with them. She was, at that time unaware of her own imperialist-colonialist approach. In the Chinese translation of the Bible she found basic ideas for paternalistic and ideological bias in the global Christian context. As an example she addressed Philippians 4:2-3. In the Chinese translation the text referred to two male assistants, while the basic text speaks of Euodia and Syntyche as female assistants (:39-40). Even worse, was the theological “proof” of her male counterparts regarding this erroneous translation.

Bushnell got the chance to work for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) (:41). Back in the US she examined different scientific links between prostitution and male influence in Wisconsin, such as she had perceived in China (:60-62; :62-85; Heathen Slaves, Christian Rulers). Her big breakthrough came with an investigation for targeted prostitution by British soldiers in the Indian part of the Commonwealth. Under false pretenses, however, based on official assignment, she could discover there the conduct of British troops with Indian women. False marriage-promises led to a sort of “official” prostitution. As a consequence, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide and social ostracism lead in turn to resistance against the British population (:69-71). Bushnell and Andrew, her friend, were able to prove this for China. Their findings led to strong protests in the Commonwealth but were scientifically sound. Bushnell was probably the first woman of that time, to declare publicly Christian theological thinking responsible for crimes against women (:86-89; :86-107; The Crime is the Fruit of the Theology).

Bushnell began her own Bible lessons for women: God’s Word for Women. At the same time she studied English Bible translations of their paternalistic mistranslations. She quickly realized that the understanding of the history of creation fundamentally influenced paternalist interpretation (:108-129; Leaving Eden). In particular, the position of Eve after the Fall was the key exegetical matter of fact (:130-151; Reedeming Eve). She borrows at the same time from anthropological and religious studies. The matriarchy, as an early social system served her as foundation for the special divine transferred responsibility of the man against the woman. Not as protector of woman, but as a God-opposite, absolutely equal to the woman. Only later paternalistic interpretation postponed this particular responsibility on the shoulder of the woman, who was now at the mercy of male power structures (:150-151).

Liberal movements in American-British Protestantism leveled in the long run the gender issue, and thus the participation of women in theological space (:152-162;). By the early 20th century a new liberal feminist wave began, for them Bushnell’s conservative approach was not enough. Bushnell spoke in favor of the family, against abortion and contraception (birth control) from (:163-178; A Prophet without Honor).

Since the so-called “modern liberal feminism” could not eliminate the discrimination of women, it became the “new morality” and “conservative Christian feminism” that rediscovered Bushnell for intercultural theology (:179-187; Conclusion: The Challenge of Christian Feminism).

In summary, this study is recommended to anyone who wants to educate on the subjects gender-question, human trafficking, prostitution, feminism and ideology in Bible translation.


Gender ; human trafficking ; prostitution ; feminism; ideology in Bible translation ; colonialism ; post-colonialism ; maternalism ; paternalism

Book Review: Morton, Jeff 2012. Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant?

Morton, Jeff 2012. Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant? Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 126 Seiten

werner [at] forschungsinstitut.net

Jeff Morton is a professor at Biola University’s Cook School of Intercultural Studies. As in his previous works Two Messiahs (2011) and as co-editor of Chrislam (2011), in the present work, within the framework of 12 succinct articles, he has explored so-called “Insider Movements,” also called “Jesus Movements.” Inspired by movements that follow Jesus as the “Messiah” (Messiah Movements) (e.g. Messianic believers of Jewish background), he examines those from the Islamic realm. Morton goes into the – for the whole discussion very helpful – division into a theological understanding of religion, biblical foundations and the understanding of conversion. He sifts through these three areas using statements made in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) and the International Journal of Frontiers Mission (IJFM) by key proponents Kevin Higgins (Global Team; IJFM 2004-2009), Lewis Rebecca (Fron-tiers; IJFM 2007-2010), Dudley Woodberry (Fuller Seminary; 1989; 1996; 2007), and Rick Brown (SIL International; IJFM 2004-2010). Because of its timeliness, the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) denying position regarding Islam-contextualized terminology in Bible translations, published in April 2013, is not addressed. He answers questions about the identity of Muslim messiah followers, the understanding of church, and the translation of terminology objectionable to Islam in Bible translations or scriptural material in his other publications.

Right from the introduction and in the first chapter, Morton makes it clear that he views Islam as a “false religion with a false message about a false hope delivered by a false prophet, and written in a book filled with false claims” (p. 9; emphasis in original. EW). To demonstrate what he sees as the serious differences between the biblical and Quranic understandings of God, Morton uses the proper names Yahweh and Jesus in contrast to the Islamic Allah. In doing so, the anti-Christian orientation of Islam becomes clear to him above all in the Quranic textual content, which he points to as evidence throughout.

Chapter two illuminates the idea of an, according to Higgins, original orthodox Islam, which is renewed from within by Messianic Muslims and has not removed far from Original Christian views (p. 14). On the basis of the central event of the incarnation of Jesus, he shows the “anti-Christian spirit” (p. 17) of Islam, which rejects it. Morton goes on to discuss his three main arguments (see above) on the basis of selected biblical textual evidence from proponents of the Insider Movement.

He further discusses Gen 14:17-20, the appearance of Mechizedek, king of Salem (chapter three). Higgins sees in this pericope an action of God (El in v. 18 in reference to Semitic Elohim and Allah) in other religions, namely the religion of Melchizedek, which is a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Morton rejects this. The latter assumes that Melchizedek’s religion, similar to Abraham’s, worshipped the true God Yahweh at its core, and therefore took heed with Yahweh.

In chapter four, Morton discusses 2 Kings 5:15-19. According to Higgins, the story of Naaman and his cure of leprosy by the prophet Elisha is another indication that a believer should remain in his religious-cultural environment. The fact that Naaman took to Aram from Israel’s earth shows that he was to remain in his cultural-religious tradition with the prophet’s permission. Through the biblical linkage of the possession of Israel’s earth and the God of Israel now worshipped by him (v 15, 17), this story shows that one can worship Yahweh even as a non-Israelite. At the, end Morton rejects such, as an argument from silence, since no qualitative statement would be made about Naaman’s position in relation to the God of Abraham.

In chapter five, Morton discusses Jonah 1 and the position of the prophet and the ship’s crew as evidence of non-Jewish Yahweh worship. In his opinion their relationship to Yahweh, based solely on the prayers mentioned, cannot, in his view, be considered evidence of a real relationship to God.

John 4 and Acts 8 are further passages that are considered by proponents as evidence of non-Jewish followers of the Yahweh cult and are supposed to prove that these people groups remained in their religious-cultural environment (chapter 6). The conversions from the Samaritan people are often seen by proponents as examples of Insider Movements (pp. 36-37). Morton, however, again rules out such a derivation from the argument from silence. Since there is no mention of a detailed conversion of the Samaritans, nothing can be said about it.

Acts 15:19-21 (chapter 7), Acts 17:22-23, 28 (chapter 8), 1 Corinthians 7:17-20 (chapter 9), and 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (chapter 10) round out the considerations, though the argument remains similar.

In chapter 10, Morton takes up a comparison by Woodberry that is noteworthy here. The latter sees similarities between the Decalogue of Exodus 20 and the same commandments in the Qur’an. Morton compares the two and concludes that (1) the Sabbath commandment was not taken up in the Quran because Muslims use Friday as a holiday (p. 74), (2) that there are two commandments that are not clearly answered in the Quran (no other gods, do not kill), but (3) that the other commandments also appear in the Quran. Muhammad remains a plagiarist for Morton. Interesting at this point is that Morton traces Woodberry’s remarks on an approach to Islam back to John Wilder’s 1977 article: Some Reflections on Possibilities for People Movements Among Muslims (Missiology 1977). The whole represents for Morton what has become a long-running and dangerous paradigm shift in evangelical theology.

Morton then moves on to an understanding of return and conversion and Christianization (chapter 11). He sees the main concern of the proponents of Insider Movements as wanting to avoid at all costs Christianization or, in the worst case, Westernization of faithful followers of Jesus from Islam (pp. 88-90). Morton makes it clear that this basic assumption is wrong, since a convert does not become a Christian by name, but a true Christ follower who can call himself anything he likes, but who belongs to “Christ”. In this context, cultural-religious arguments play only a minor role. Finally, Morton concludes with a clear rejection of the Insider Movements as part of true Christhood (chapter 12).

Also worth mentioning are the two appendices. Appendix 1 contains a policy statement by Bassam Madany against the initialization of Insider Movements as a Western product. Appendix 2 is an examination by Roger Dixon of Insider Movements in West Java, Indonesia. Roger Dixon has been partly involved in the movement (also in Bangladesh) and concludes that it is a false gospel and a false approach that has opened many rifts instead of closing them.

This book is helpful in getting a picture of the theology and missiology of proponents and opponents of the Insider Movement approach. It is ironic, or sarcastically negative, in places, which is consistent with the author’s “evangelical biblical” and “conservative” understanding. If a theological approach to Islam – and this is the crux of the matter in this discussion – is not desired, then one comes to such conclusions. Above all, the contention between Scripture and the Quran make this study a tool for apologetic inquiry. Finally, it should be said that the overemphasis on a Western influence in the formation of Insider Movements does not represent the whole truth. In part, Christian development workers in the Islamic world encountered pre-existing circles of messiah followers whom they took on. The latter development, however, does not appear in Morton’s work.