New books at a glanceBible Translation and the Spread of the Church: The Last 200 Years Leiden-New York-Kobenhavn-Köln: E.J. Brill, 1990. xii + 154 pp. ISBN 90-04-09331-1 $43.00 (Studies in Christian Mission, 2).
Reviewed by Theo Hermans
Table of contents
Translation has always been with the Christian churches, and it has always loomed larger and cut more deeply than we might be inclined to think. This is not just a matter of Luther and the Authorized Version and the Good News Bible. As the very first paper in this collection points out, the early Christian church very quickly abandoned the language of its founder and adopted Greek and then Latin as its medium; even the biographies of Jesus are written in a language other than the one in which he preached, forcing issues of translation on the Church right from the start. And the last paper in the collection reminds us that, although [ p. 277 ]the Christian Churches may have been predominantly European for much of their history, since the mid-1980s more than half of the Christian world population is non-white, and the trend is expected to accelerate. It is this development which has made modern Bible translation into a modern-day global business, and in the last two hundred years or so the Bible Societies have been in the forefront of that endeavour. At the moment, it appears from figures quoted in the present collection, the whole Bible has been translated into more than 300 languages, the New Testament into 670, and single Biblical books into 911 (p. 150). In 1984 over 500 languages were involved in some form of Bible translating in Africa alone, with complete Bibles being available in more than 100 African languages (p. 16).