Scripture translation is key Christian concept

Hart Wiens is a great believer in the immense value of Bible translation

“In translation we participate in God’s plan to reach all nations,” says Hart Wiens, director of Scripture translations for the Canadian Bible Society (CBS).

He is convinced of the immense impact Bible translation has had on the spread of Christian faith. “Where missionaries took time to learn the language and culture and translate the Scripture, the church was strong and vibrant. Where they took shortcuts, it was less strong,” he says.

Why is Bible translation work important? Wiens takes it back to a defining story in Acts 2, where people from all around the world were together worshipping. Suddenly there was a commotion and everyone heard strangers speaking his or her own language. What does this mean?

“For me as a translator, one of the messages is that God desires for everyone to hear in their own language what God has done. It was an important message for the early Church. It was the founding of the Church, moving it beyond the sense of Jews as one nation but a deeper vision to the call of Abraham through whom all nations will be blessed.”

This helps to explain why Wiens has devoted his life to this work. “The idea of rendering God’s word into other languages is a uniquely Christian concept. It’s not that way in Islam. But Christianity is based on translation, with the incarnation of Jesus Christ being the ultimate in translation. Inherent in that is the idea that God communicates through the diversity He created.”

It isn’t just about religion. Literacy and other benefits flow from the efforts of Bible translators. “In my experience and the reading I’ve done, nothing has contributed more to people’s desire to read than learning the Scriptures. Apart from contribution to our faith, the contribution to people’s education and people’s desire to grow and develop is tremendous in itself.

Child reading Bible

“Nothing has contributed more to literacy than the desire to read Scripture.”

These convictions have guided Wiens’ career. For the past 17 years he’s been responsible to direct and provide quality assurance for the translations CBS publishes in indigenous languages in Canada. He also directs an office that has an increasing role in development and implementation for computer support for translation around the world.

Before that, for 19 years he worked in the Philippines with Wycliffe where he started a translation program in a remote community, then went on to work in administration. In addition to his work with the Bible Society, he serves as board chair for Wycliffe Translators of Canada.

“The Bible has had a transforming role in my life and the history of my family. I believe it’s a book that can bring positive transformation to individuals and people groups,” he says. “I see in the Bible a narrative that talks of a Kingdom of God where God ultimately will bring about the restoration of creation, bring people together and restore the world to what He intended for it. It’s a vision that is compelling and energizing.”

Source: Christian Week, May 2010 Issue

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