One of the good things about editing a church magazine, and writing your own articles for it, is that you can reject said articles if better/more timely things come along.
With that in mind, and to stop it disappearing into complete oblivion, here’s something by me that I took no time in deciding wasn’t good enough for the May Grapevine (actual mag to be online shortly). On the off-chance that you (yes, you) want a copy for your own nefarious reasons, feel free to take one; some rights reserved.
Found in translation
‘Sérhver ritning er innblásin af Guði og nytsöm til fræðslu, til umvöndunar, til leiðréttingar, til menntunar í réttlæti.'
What would you do if you walked into church on Sunday and heard someone reading that? What would you do if, when you then scrabbled in your pew for words you could understand, you found that someone had already confiscated all the Bibles? What if the hymn books had vanished too, along with the song words slides, because they had Bible verses in them? That’s all part of the unnerving symbolism of No Bible Sunday, which is being celebrated – if that’s the word – on May 16th.
No Bible Sunday, organised by Wycliffe Bible Translators, highlights the plight of hundreds of millions throughout the world having no Bibles in their mother tongues. That’s the case for many languages. The figures are stark: according to the noted linguist, David Crystal, there are about 6,000 languages spoken in the world today. According to the Bible Society, the Bible has been translated, in whole or in part, to 2,061 of those. That leaves a lot of people who have no knowledge of the Bible in a language they can easily understand, and for whom every Sunday is a ‘No Bible Sunday’.
According to the official website for the project, No Bible Sunday “presents a significant challenge to spoilt Christians in the West who treat Bibles as expensive ornaments.” And there’s a lot of truth in that statement. We’ve reached the stage in the UK where not only do the majority of households have a Bible, but most of them have several. There have been scores of English Bible translations through the centuries, from the famous ‘King James' translation of 1611 right through to The Essential Remixed Testament For Gangsta Youth. Yes, we did make the latter one up, but there are plenty of similar ones out there.
Wycliffe Bible Translators themselves are working hard to bring the Bible to all peoples in all nations. Already Wycliffe workers have helped to complete 500 translations, making God’s Word available to more than 35 million people. This has always been done hand in hand with local communities. Ambitiously, by 2025, they aim to see a Bible translation project started in every remaining language.
Where does all this leave us, in the well-translated West? It should certainly leave us thankful that we have God's word freely available in our own mother tongues. More than that, it should encourage us to use such a gift wisely, regularly and well. The Bible, for us, should be more than an ornament, a thing to be picked up in church on Sundays, or read in our homes when we feel guilty for not having opened the book in a while. Because, as Timothy's second letter puts it, in the English New International Version:
‘All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.' (chapter 3, verse 16)
And in Icelandic, at least, that's exactly where we came in.