Update from Brian Renes
Why does it take 15 years* to translate a Bible? No surprise, it is a big book with tons of complexities.
For over 30 years I have been encountering the wonder, the richness, and the ever-deep complexity of the Bible, and specifically the unique challenge of translating God’s Word into other languages. There are over 30,000 verses in the Bible. An experienced translator can maybe draft 20 to 30 verses in a day, depending on whether it is a story, poetry, or prophesy, the latter being much harder. The first draft itself takes years.
Once the draft is complete, it gets reviewed by the other translators. So again, 30,000 verses are gone over one verse at a time to improve the wording and ensure a solid understanding of the passage.
Eventually, after several revisions and much discussion, the team feels like the text is ready. But before any book can be published, it needs to be others who are not on the translation team. That is called a “community check.” The translation team has done the best they can do, but they need to ensure it is understood by as many people as possible. So they read it or share it with people from various churches (as shown in the pictures).
Over the past months, the Tojolabal translators have shifted to that focus and are visiting churches far and wide in the region. This experience has been great because they can share the Word of God, reading it with people who have not yet heard these texts. Many were excited to hear Psalms for the first time. But in addition to that sharing, they also discover some words that are not understood in certain communities. After each of these reading sessions, the team comes back to discuss and further improve the translation. One beautiful step closer to the first full Bible in Tojolabal.
Please pray for the Tojolabal translation team that they can have the strength to finish and the wisdom to do their work well.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership in Bible translation,
Brian and Donna Renes
*note on 15 years: The amount of time it takes to translate a Bible has many implications. The number of translators and their ability is foremost in terms of planning the time it will take to finish. In the case of the Tojolabal translation project, they started with two translators working full time. It was obvious that it would take far longer than 15 years to complete the Bible with just the two, so another pastor was added to work with them. As the years passed, one of the original translators went blind due to complications from diabetes (he was under 50). To make up for his loss, another translator, who was a young pastor, was added. Regrettably, another got sick, so a young lady was added. Each translation project is unique, but the Tojolabal story reflects what typically happens. People get trained to do the work but, with such a long-term project, there are due to be setbacks. Thankfully, the Lord provides. His Word will go out to all—sooner or later.