Taxes, Knitting, and Bible Translation -- HH August 2022
August 31, 2022
During a large conference in the Netherlands at the beginning of summer, we had the privilege of seeing new ways in which technology and media are being used to spread the Gospel and learning how our tools are playing an important role. I (Doug) led a session titled “Paratext for All”, which has had some important ramifications since then. You see, the Paratext Bible translation software is jointly owned by SIL and the United Bible Societies. Years ago, it was extremely difficult for other missions or church groups to get a license to use the software. This wasn’t done on purpose but was the result of copyright restrictions on the Greek, Hebrew, and Bible texts that were included. In fact, there were organizations in India who began to develop their own software to do the same after they were told they didn’t qualify. But over the past several years, we have made major changes to the policies and licensing to ensure that anyone who wants to translate the Bible into any of the 2000+ remaining languages has access to the best tools. In addition, those who are vetted as Bible translators get access to over 1,600 Scripture texts in over 1,000 languages to help them translate. So, the message at the conference was simple: No matter what you’ve been told before, today you can download and use Paratext to translate the Bible. Together, P.J. and I threw free Paratext T-shirts into the audience to anyone who acknowledged they had been denied access to Paratext in the past! The message was well received, and several organizations spoke to us afterword, indicating their surprise at this change and how eager they are to sign up to use Paratext.
We keep talking about Paratext, but how does this software help translate the Bible? Think about the tax software that you might use to do your income tax. It doesn’t do taxes for you, but guides you through the process, providing all the information you need to make the right decisions and check for mistakes. In the same way, Bible translation software doesn’t translate the Bible for you, but it guides you through the many steps in the process, enabling collaboration with a team of translators and consultants as the text is drafted, checked, revised, and published.
If the tax analogy doesn’t resonate with you, P.J. compares Paratext with knitting. You follow a pattern, but invariably you make mistakes. Fixing mistakes is done by “frogging” –the process of ripping out your stitches. You know, “Rip-it, Rip-it”! Bible translation is following a plan to translate the text, observing how it communicates, ripping out sections and starting over until you get it right. Paratext facilitates this process of constant revision by keeping track of every change you make, allowing you to go back and compare with previous versions. Like in knitting, it even gives you a “lifeline” for any point in history so that you can go back to before the mistakes. In P.J.’s digital publishing role, she uses the same analogy to make changes and then revert them if things don’t look right.
Whichever analogy speaks to you better, just know that over ten thousand Bible translators around the world are depending on this tool to as they translate God’s Word into unreached languages. Pray for all those who are involved in improving Paratext and supporting it, as well as for the Bible translators as they use it in their daily work.
We want you to know that you play a critical role in our ministry! Your prayer and support are used by God to bless and multiply toils and training for Bible translation. May you continue to spend time in the Word and receive the Lord’s blessing.
Partners in the Gospel, (Phil 1:5)
Doug & P.J. Higby
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Doug & Priscilla Higby are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Both are serving SIL International: Doug is Language Technology Use Director, and Priscilla is Academic Publication Manager.
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