Bible translation presents challengesBy Lynda Hollinger-Janzen Mennonite Mission Network
ELKHART, Ind. — Two Mennonite Mission Network partners told a room full of American Mennonite leaders that one of the most important challenges of mission work is communicating God’s Word in people’s “heart language.”
“We have to theologize well in our mother languages,” said Gilbert Ansre, who contributed to the founding of Good News Training Institute (now Good News Theological College and Seminary) in Accra, Ghana. “If we theologize well, we can teach God and Christ well, and we can become like Christ more and more.”
Ansre and Shekhar Singh, president of Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India, both have multiple advanced degrees, ranging from business and linguistics to psychology and theology.
This breadth of knowledge gives creativity and insight into their thought and ministries, which they shared with more than 30 leaders of Mennonite institutions at a luncheon hosted at the Mennonite Church USA offices in Elkhart on May 19.
Despite doctorates from prestigious academic institutions and being fluent in a multitude of languages, Ansre and Singh stressed the importance of people having access to God’s Word in their mother tongue, or their heart language.
The alternative inflicts colonial language prejudices on the character of God and the nature of Christ.
Ansre illustrated this problem with the example of the English language’s gender-specific pronouns. Biblical translators’ decision to use “he” for God imposes a patriarchal filter on the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis in English, Ansre said. The Hebrew and Greek pronouns indicate third person without specifying female or male.
“When you read, ‘God made man in his own image,’ immediately you go to masculine in your mind,” Ansre said.
The Hebrew word meaning “human person” is without gender.
“Your theology can be affected by your language,” Ansre said.
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