Comparing Bible translation and Bible storytelling

Comparing the Processes of Bible Translation and Bible Storytelling[1]

Karl J Franklin (Draft, January 2012)

Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics and SIL International

Abstract

In this article I argue an obvious but necessary point: that the process of translating and checking all or parts of the Bible is fundamentally different than telling and checking Bible stories that are based on all or parts of the Bible. I discuss this in some detail because many missionaries often consider the two processes as similar in a number of respects, particularly concerning source texts, views on inspiration, chronological accuracy, audience, methods of checking, and the training needed to accomplish the respective tasks. Another difference, which is more subjective and therefore more difficult to examine, although equally important, is the claim that there is something “beyond” the Biblical text or the story, something that has more “reality” than the the story or text itself.

Introduction

Bible storytelling (sometimes called Bible storying) is a fundamental aspect of the strategies of a number of missionary agencies.[2] As with translations, the models used represent a continuum of approaches, from the literal to the free. A literal model tries to reproduce as exactly as possible the “original” Scriptural text or story, as given in the Biblical languages, in the “receptor” language.[3] Literal translations are sometimes called “word-for-word” and the free ones are called “thought-for-thought”.[4] Literal Bible storytelling might be called a “sentence-by-sentence” rendering, while free telling might be thought of as a “reworked copy” of Scripture. In either instance, the contrastive features of the two approaches (translating and retelling) should be carefully compared and evaluated. In the remaining sections of this paper I attempt to do so.

Stories

The cognitive framework for stories is well attested by writers such as Coles (1989), Fauconnier and Turner (2002), Haven (2007), Lewis (1982), Schank (1990), Turner (1996), and many others. The Bible is a series of stories, in various literary genres, such as narrative, poetry, geneologies, prophecies, songs, laments and prayers, proverbs, letters, and so on.[5] How the story genre is told differs from how it is translated.

Examining the Story

A Bible translation finds its written text in the Canon, the accepted set of texts in Hebrew and Greek[6]; A Bible story finds its source in some particular translation of the Biblical text. It follows that storytelling is a step further removed from the original text than Bible translating. The Biblical languages of the texts are Hebrew and Greek, as well as the Aramaic language in 250 verses (out of a total of 23,000) in the Old Testament, particularly in Ezra and Daniel. Jesus spoke Aramaic (and Hebrew and Greek), as did most of the apostles, so it is not surprising that numerous Aramaic words and phrases occur in the New Testament, as well as in personal and place names.[7]

Bible translators use various sources to interpret and translate the texts, including interlinear translations, dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries, and so on. Bible storytellers do not need to rely on as many secondary sources for in-depth analyses and studies because they are re-telling the story based on already translated and explicated texts.[8]

Bible translators exegete the source texts using linguistic resources, such as semantics, discourse studies, and pragmatics, as well as lexical and theological studies, to “uncover” the meaning of a particular text. On the other hand, storytellers retell the already exegeted story orally in a particular vernacular language. In so doing they use emotion, imagination, audience participation, music, drama (and other forms of art) to “demonstrate” what the story means.

In Bible translation the source text is literal, exactly as revealed and written down, which is then interpreted and translated. On the other hand, in storytelling there is an oral description of what was written down and it may come from more than one resource.

What, then, are some of the properties of an oral story?[9]  For a start, consider the following: (1) adjusting formal features in the vernacular narrative, such as lexicon, grammar, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics; (2) the identification and use of key cultural analogies; (3) the utilization of appropriate cultural memory techniques; (4) the provision of background information as an avenue to comment on cultural aspects in the story; (5) the dramatization of the story, so that the audience can be emotionally involved; (6) a focus on the main idea or theme of the story, as well as appropriately introducing and tracking the characters; (7) noting and encouraging audience reaction and interaction throughout the story; (8) provoking and discussing imaginative parts of the story; (9) taking notice of creativity and spontaneity; and (10) ensuring narrative documentation by means of the story. I will now examine each of these briefly and add some further comments on checking stories.

  1. 1.      Formal Features

A storyteller may take the conclusion of the story, as given in the text, and foreshadow it in the oral version.  Verses from the written text will then be in a different order because the oral discourse structure of the vernacular language will be quite different from that of the source text.  The structure of the story will depend on how the storyteller decides to tell the story, drawing on pragmatic features and a repertoire of lexical items, yet keeping the main points and theme intact.  Tellers should not simply recite the story or text from memory, but rather re-tell it according to their intuitive underlying grammatical and pragmatic constraints.[10]

  1. 2.      Cultural metaphors and analogies

Jesus used analogies that were clear to people who lived in first century Palestine, but who were also familiar with the Jewish religious culture. On the other hand, often when stories are told in the vernacular the people may be unfamiliar with Palestine cultural items, such as sheep, vineyards, and grain fields, and need cultural analogies. In Papua New Guinea, for example sheep are in a taxonomy with animals similar in size to pigs and vineyards are like particular kinds of gardens. Storytellers note and encourage the use of cultural perspectives on the nature of grain (seeds), fields (open areas) and many other items, such that analogies and metaphors become part of the stories.

  1. Memorization and memory techniques

Memorizing a verse or section of the Bible means repeating or reciting it exactly as in the text.  In storytelling the teller bases his or her narrative on images they see in the story. The audience is an integral part of the story because they are interacting and helping to build images of the scenes (e.g. “a dry and empty place where people did not live,” rather than “a desert”) and the characters (e.g. “the man Goliath, who was as tall as a mature banana tree and whose spear was the size of its trunk, but heavy like an oak”). Storytellers can draw upon such cultural images to strike a chord with listeners and this can be done without memorizing the story.

  1. Background and setting

The longer we have lived in a place and the more people we have know there, the more dominant the scene will be in our memories. Mountain dwellers in Papua New Guinea will not find much that matches their cultural scenes in the setting of Lake Galilee, although the Jordan River may evoke parallels with local rivers. Storytellers can make such settings explicit (e.g. “the Jordan River, which is about the size of our Kagua River and also floods at certain times of the year”). These mental pictures help define similar places in the stories. Making connections with an unfamiliar setting is an important feature in engaging the attention of the audience. Without some background to refer to, hearers become easily confused.

Even the mental image of a house or village will depend upon the cultural setting, so the storyteller will need to bring out crucial differences in the story that are implicit in the text. For example, when Jesus heals a paralyzed man who has been lowered on a stretcher through a hole in the roof of the house (in Mark 2.1-12), the listener will imagine something about the construction of houses and even stretchers at that time.  In translating the text into a language and culture where the people build houses with small pitched roofs, translators may insert a picture to clarify the setting.  However, in telling a story about the text, the teller can explain the setting immediately within the story (and, of course, show a picture as well).

  1. Dramatization.

There is no dramatization in a static translation[11]. However, in storytelling performance is expected on the part of the teller—some kind of dramatization.  In such cases, the teller may improvise, using props, gestures, or vocalization to make the story come “alive” to the audience.  Music, dialogue, and other methods can be used to enhance the story and make it a part of the listener’s imagination and memory.

  1. The Big Idea.

The most important thing in a story will vary. It may be the theme, the interdiction, the violation, the consequence, or the moral of the story. The storyteller will vocally or dramatically underline the main point so that the listeners can better grasp why the story was told in the first place.  The storyteller therefore tells the story with episodes that highlight the main idea and theme of the story.  Translators provide the same effect with section headings, footnotes, and other literary devices (underlining, bold, italics, quotation marks, em dashes, spaces, etc.).

In translations, characters are tracked by grammatical (subject, verb, tense, mode, etc.) and syntactic markers (agent, object, patient, etc.).  Storytellers, on the other hand, heighten the story by building up the dramatic entrance, performance, or exit of the character, by describing how the character looked (“he had a pale face, a pointed nose, and uneven protruding upper teeth”), what he wore (“a shabby cloak with long tears along the sleeves”), or even his temperament (“he scowled and stuck out his tongue to show anger”).  Characters become vivid in storytelling because the teller can enact the character by shifting position or posture.

  1. Audience.

The audiences in translation and storytelling can be the same, but the interaction between them will differ. When we read a text aloud to a literate audience, they may follow along, noting omissions, difficulties in pronunciation, or other faults.  On the other hand, the storyteller’s audience is more likely to enjoy the performance by keeping their attention on the teller.  The reactions of the audiences are therefore different—the one is reacting to a reading and may indeed say “amen” here and there; the other is reacting emotionally to the performance and will cooperate and commiserate with smiles or tears when appropriate.

  1. Imagination.

Checking what the listener imagines upon hearing a story is easier than doing the same with a written translation.  In the former case, the storyteller is expecting the listener to imagine scenes; in the latter case the translator does not want the reader to evoke scenes that are not clear from the text. Of course this may happen and, when it does, many implicit meanings in the text will have to be made explicit.  When Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two (Mark 6:6-13), he told them not to take a bag or money, nor extra clothing. The storyteller can easily explain that Jesus wanted the disciples to depend upon the people to care for their hospitality.  The translator can fill in this information as well, but it will often overload the text (e.g. a translation such as ”Jesus wanted the people who heard the teaching of the disciples to give them the food and lodging that they needed” could be considered overloaded).[12]

  1. Creativity.

If translators become too creative (and no one can define exactly where the limit lies), what they have give their audience is a “paraphrase”.  And even in a paraphrase, the translator is not encouraged to substitute a pig for a sheep, regardless if the translation is in cultures where there are no sheep. A storyteller can blend stories and use creative analogies to get the main point of the story across, for example, by using an animal that the people find familiar. By being creative the listener thinks and acts outside of the normal mold (e.g. the “script” that we follow in most of our cultural activities, such as dressing, going to bed, showering, eating, driving, and so on).  We all operate within certain cultural constraints and we don’t usually deliberately upset our cultural guardians.[13]

Sometimes when a storyteller is relating a story, there will be an episode that provokes a spontaneous comment, especially when something in the story awakens the audience’s imagination. Of course, listeners can react spontaneously to a text that someone is reading by saying “amen”, gasping, clapping their hands, or showing some other unexpected response.  However, the storyteller is not surprised by spontaneous reactions to the story—such reactions are expected and show personal involvement. Of course the responses may also show that clarification or adjustments to the story are in order.

  1. Documentation.

Finally, we can elicit stories to see how well people use and understand their language. For example, once we have recorded a vernacular story, we can record an additional track that interprets the original story, and this can be done by another person.  In this way, not only is the vernacular story preserved, but comments and interpretations of the linguistic aspects of the story, including its free translation, can be preserved as well.  In fact, we can record a number of free translations of the same text by several speakers. When we translate a text we do not have the same degree of flexibility. In other words, there are two different purposes for the documentation: stories preserve naturalness and interpretations; translations preserve a (well-edited) text.

  1. Some further comments

Consultants who are checking translated passages in the vernacular rely on a literal back translation in which the vernacular is translated back into a language of wider communication. Because the consultants generally do not speak the vernacular, they look for gaps in information, collocational clashes, and so on that should show up in the literal back translation.[14] Checking stories does not need to be nearly as precise concerning the original text. Rather, we would expect stories to be restructured according to the cultural way that stories are told. Cultural metaphors and analogies would be introduced and the setting of the story would be provided. The main theme and content of the story would be apparent and remain intact, despite any creativity and dramatization. The audience would provide the feedback vis à vis interaction and participation and not by means of a back translation, although retold versions of the story by a number of hearers would be necessary to insure accuracy.

If stories are checked simply by “back translations”, literalness is the outcome, not naturalness. On the other hand, by listening to an oral retelling of the story, vernacular speakers can note if something is lacking in the story and ask that it be inserted before the next retelling. Vernacular audiences are the judge of how the story sounds, not biblical scholars who do not know the language.

The naturalness of a translated text depends upon how well a good reader delivers it. In many cultures, including our own, a slow reader interferes with comprehension. Even with a competent reader, the emphasis is different than the emphasis given by a storyteller, particularly inflection and intonation.

The audience reacts immediately to a story, but hearers often don’t react when they listen to or read a text. That is why some missionaries don’t tell a story, but rather teach the story and its application. In such cases they claim to “know” what the hearer needs to learn and apply.

The Etic and Emic perspectives[15]

A helpful perspective when examining an item, such as a text or retold story, is to consider its etic and emic dimensions. Etic and emic are two ways to view the same thing, resulting in two ways to describe it, providing, as Pike (1957) says, “A stereoscopic window on the world.”  The detached observer has one view (etic), the native participant has another (emic), but both are necessary. The outside observer is attempting to understand the inside viewpoint and as he does, he moves back and forth from the objective etic categories that he has been trained to utilize to a subjective understanding of what the categories mean culturally—their emic nature.  The etic view is alien because it is cross-cultural and prepared in advance as a typological grid. It is therefore somewhat absolute, often measurable, and created by the analyst, while the emic view is domestic, mono-cultural, and culturally derived. It is therefore relative and yet represents a system to be discovered by the analyst. In Pike’s view the analyst is attempting to move back and forth between the two systems as he analyzes the data.

By applying these criteria to stories  and translations, we need to view each simultaneously in terms of their etic and emic features. From the etic viewpoint, texts and stories have contrastive units; for example, we would expect parables to have different forms and features than a poem.  Each story that is told has a range of variation based upon its particular context.  Any shared background and context between the teller and listener or reader will aid in interpreting the meanings, which are subsequently understood from that mutual perspective.

A story genre can be etic or emic, depending on how it is viewed, i.e., who classifies it. An emic set of stories will share enough features that cultural insiders will understand and interpret them in much the same way.  For example, in West Kewa (a language of Papua New Guinea), cultural insiders use the words remaa and iti to describe and contrast two different types of stories. One category might be called “real” or “historical” and the other “legendary” or “mythical”, although the definitions often overlap in practice.  We also allow for the range of etic variation that occurs—no two speakers will tell or hear the story exactly the same. On the other hand, for a unit to be considered emic, the cultural insiders will negotiate and eventually understand it to have the same meaning. Those kinds of stories that outside research “experts “agree have the same characteristics will constitute a derived etic set of stories, e.g., those that we classify as “legends”, “fables” and so on.

In defining the features of an emic unit, such as a kind of story, the analyst could examine:

  • If it is a physical or a perceptual unit, as judged by native participants of the culture;
  • If it is appropriate to a particular context;
  • If it represents a set of such units, e.g., a set of “legends”;
  • If it can be named by participants in a culture, e.g. a “story” or a “legend”;
  • If it differs from another unit in perception and usage such that the two units have contrasting features, e.g., written vs. oral stories;
  • If it is related to a place in a hierarchy of patterns, e.g., men’s stories vs. women’s;
  • If there is a relationship to some cultural purpose.

The last point may be difficult to establish but note, for example, how Bible translations are generally suited in the context of a church or Bible study, while Bible stories have are more restricted to Sunday schools and children’s talks.[16] Regardless of context and purpose, the insider is the judge on the acceptance and understanding of the story—its meaning, relevance and application.

Pike (1987:77) recognized that his linguistic theory had to be philosophically valid: “I want a philosophy which I can live by, as well as think by.” He accepted as a given an emic nature to known reality and that language and other behavioral structures have units that are emic. We likewise assume that a story has an emic reality within the culture. Such realities are “partly relative to that particular culture and are partly constrained by innate human characteristics and the relations of people to that part of the world which is outside them” (1987:79).

Beyond the text

The actions and plans of God lie “behind” the Biblical texts. That is, God has revealed himself by the texts, but not solely by them. Otherwise, how would illiterate people who have never had any portion of the Bible know anything about God? The Kewa people, for example, often expressed that they “knew” that there was a God, although called of course by their particular vernacular name.[17] How did/do they know anything about God? The Kewa men expressed opinions to me that God spoke to them through dreams, or that they were aware of his presence through various natural things, such as the flora and fauna that they interacted with every day. Floods, famine, lightning and thunder, and other “natural” phenomena convinced them of supernatural forces and beings.

When Biblical experts refer to the actions and plans of God, they assume a God who is not physical, indeed we are told in the Bible that God is a spirit (John 4:24) and that he must be “worshiped in spirit and in truth,” both abstract concepts. This is despite the fact that throughout the Bible God is talked about in anthromorphic terms.[18] Theologically, we know that God does not have fingers or hands, but metaphorically we use these physical words to talk about the actions of God and indeed it is impossible to talk about “Him” without such terms.

My Kewa friends also resorted to physical things when they talked about traditional spirits. Needed were magical stones, flutes, houses, pig’s blood, bones, special languages, as well as other material objects, if the rituals were to be considered effective. Just as a Christian needs to hold a physical wafer or a cup of wine to depict what Jesus said was his body and blood, the Kewa needs a sacred stone to represent the essence and power of his ancestral spirit. All of these objects lie behind and beyond concepts about the actual Biblical text or the particular ancestral spirits.

When we refer to the Scriptures as “sacred”, we may also be going beyond the text. In such cases, it becomes “active and alive” (Heb. 4:12) not only in application, but also in our imagination. This is because, as Turner (1996) notes, we have literary minds. This may be theologically abstract, but it affects the way Bible translations and Bible stories are conceived, discussed and compared.

Martin Cothran wrote an article praising the King James Bible[19] and quotes from the atheist Christopher Hitchens, who supported that translation. Hitchen’s position was that the KJB has influenced our English language more than any writing except, perhaps, Shakespeare. Cothran’s contention is that truth is a mystery and can only be approached indirectly. Instead, “Modern Bible translators goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to slaughter.” Cothran and Hitchens (and many others, of course), are rightly concerned that Bible translators do not understand poetic expression and are ill-suited to translate it. They may know Greek and Hebrew but their facility of English is questioned. This concern, it seems to me, illustrates a present apprehension over Bible stories: the claim that the vernacular is simplified in stories instead of made superior, as in in translation. Cothan and Hitchens are not criticizing Bible stories; they are decrying modern translations as, among other things, as non-metaphorical and paraphrases, representing “utilitarian prose”, “linguistic taxidermy” and a march to the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley. According to Cothran, any attempt at a clearer understanding for the modern reader is a threat to accuracy.

We know that when a text is translated or a story retold that a wealth of pragmatic information accompanies the text or story. Storytellers and Biblical text performers make inferences apparent, so that when Felix “signals” to Paul to speak (Acts 24:10), the signal can be actualized by the speaker making a motion with his hand or perhaps (as in some cultures) raising his eyebrows. The signal is beyond the text but it can be made explicit. Should the Greek word for “signal” be considered sacred because it represents something outside of the text? Have the interpreters now damaged it by making it plain?

On training

Storytelling requires more limited training than translation and it is potentially available to everyone. Training is needed for storytelling consultants and coordinators who pass on their skills to vernacular storytellers. However, at present, storytelling courses are peripheral to the core curricula of schools like the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics, while Bible translation is central to the core curricula.[20] Even in cases of Scripture application, ethno arts and literacy, the notion of storytelling is marginal in the training.[21]

The value of stories in most societies is self-evident, but training in the use of them is not. Traditional societies do not have dictionaries, encyclopedias, or the classics as a reservoir for their knowledge—but they do have stories. A storytelling trainer should therefore be knowledgeable about the stories of the culture. The storytelling training would be different from that of a Bible translator in a number of ways:

  • The core curricula would be stories, including personal, Biblical, biographical, cultural, and extra-cultural ones;
  • The amount and content of Bible background would complement the stories chosen;
  • The trainer would present a list of possible stories, each with a summary of its theme and purpose, but the order in which they were told would be up to the insiders;
  • A discussion by the trainers and cultural insiders would result in Biblical stories for their cross-cultural application. For example, The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan are relevant anywhere in the world, although they would need cultural adaptations;
  • The chosen stories would be recorded or read (or both) in a language of wider communication—for example in PNG this would most often be Tok Pisin. This would be both a part of the training process and an outcome of the training itself;
  • The participants (think, students) would listen to the story until they felt competent to retell the story. At this point it would be instructive for the trainer to observe how the participants learn the story—do they see, for example, mental pictures or images as they imagine the story? In other words, what processes are they using to help them to remember the story?
  • Participant students volunteer to retell the story in the language of wider communication, but with audience assistance. Discussion follows on what seems to be missing or has been added to the recorded story. For example, what additional background might be needed or how might the story be recast?
  • Two students from the same language group practice telling each other the story. When they are satisfied that they can tell the story to the group, they do so (in their vernacular);
  • After additional discussion on where and how the story can best be used and retellings of the story for fluency, it is recorded.[22]

Note that the structure of the storytelling course is highly interactive and informal. Written materials are either not used at all or kept to a minimum so that the more educated participants do not dominate the exercises. However, to preserve the stories they must be recorded and, where possible, written down and used in literacy classes. But with very small language groups literacy materials and programs will most likely be nonexistant or limited.

Infrastructure

It costs a lot to do a Bible translation, so there are economic considerations. Well-trained translators and consultants, back-up supporting personnel for communication, transportation, education and medical needs are substantial. In the case of isolated language groups, it is difficult for the translators to live among the people for any length of time, so that some mission agencies have resorted to “hiring” nationals to do the work and supporting them in various ways.[23] But the primary factor is that any infrastructure will be of little use if, as experts predict, these small languages become moribund or extinct in the next generation.

Summary

The policies and practices of a particular agency will determine if and when Bible storytelling receives prominance. Unfortunately, given the present strategies, the needs of the very small languages will probably continue to receive marginal interest, especially if translators are not available. [24]

References

Barrett, Justin L. and Frank C. Keil. 1996. Conceptualizing a nonnatural entity: Anthropomorphism in God concept. Cognitive Psychology 31:219-247.

Coles, Robert. 1989. The call of stories: teaching and the moral imagination. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Fauconnier, Giles and Mark Turner. 2002. The way we think: conceptual blending and the mind’s hidden complexities. NY: Basic Books.

Franklin, Karl J. 2005a. Special strategies for small language groups. Part I: Re-thinking stories. International Journal of Frontier Missions 22:6-11.

Franklin, Karl J. 2005b. Special strategies for small language groups. Part II: Proposing an alternative initial strategy for small language groups in the Pacific. International Journal of Frontier Missions 22:45-51.

Franklin, Karl J. 2007. Oral storytelling and fieldwork. The Journal of Biblical Storytelling 16(1): 36-52

Franklin, Karl J. 2009a. Loosen your tongue: an introduction to storytelling. Dallas, TX: The Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics; Revised edition, 2010.

Franklin, Karl J. 2009b Etic and emic stories. http://www.gial.edu/GIALens/vol3-2/Franklin-Etic-Emic-Stories.pdf.

Franklin, Karl J. 2012. Bible translation and small languages in the Pacific: Ten years later.  Iinternational Journal of Foreign Missions. 28 (4):

Haven, Kendall. 2007. Story proof: the science behind the startling power of story. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

Lewis, C.S. 1984. On three ways of writing for children. In Of this and other worlds. Edited with a Preface by Walter Hooper. Collins: Fount Paperbacks.

Lord, Alfred B. 1974. 2nd edition 2000. The singer of tales. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Nida, Eugene A. and Charles R. Taber. 1974. The theory and practice of translation. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

Pike, Kenneth L. 1957. A stereoscopic window on the world (Language and life, part 1). Bibliotheca Sacra 114:141-156. [W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship for 1956], Dallas Theological Seminary and Graduate School of Theology.]

Pike, Kenneth L. 1967. Language in relation to a unified theory of the structure of human behavior. The Hague: Mouton & Co.

Pike, Kenneth L. 1982. Linguistic concepts: An introduction to tagmemics. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Pike, Kenneth L. 1987. The relation of language to the world. International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, Volume XVI, Number 1:77-98.

Pike, Kenneth L. 1993. Talk, thought and thing: the emic road toward conscious knowledge. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Schank, Roger C. 1990. Tell me a story: a new look at real and artificial memory. NY: Charles Scribner‘s Sons.

Turner, Mark. 1996. The literary mind: The origins of thought and language. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.



[1] Based on a lecture given in the course “Oral tradition and Literature” at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics, November 23, 2011. For some of my published materials on orality see Franklin 2005a, 2005b, 2007, 2009a and 2009b. I wish to thank Joice Franklin and Janet Stahl for their helpful comments. All web addresses cited were last accessed in February 2012.

[2] See, for example, http://www.oralitystrategies.org/strategy_detail.cfm?StrategyID=1, http://www.churchstarting.net/biblestorying/, http://www.wycliffe.org/go/careers/typesofwork/languagework/chronologicalbiblestorying.aspx, http://www.ntmbooks.com/chronological_teaching . The New Tribes Mission (now NTM) is often considered the forerunner of the oral Bible storytelling although the mode has been practiced for hundreds of years. For a short summary of the history see: http://www.oralbible.com/about/history.

[3] A number of caveats are in order: (1) We don’t have the original writings, so we rely on the “best” manuscripts available; (2) the notion of a receptor (sometimes called “target”) language comes from Bible translation experts such as Nida and Taber(1974); (3) the concept of the source language underlies many translation projects and refers to multiple examples of Bible texts, not only those in the Biblical languages, but also languages of wider communication, i.e. trade languages, education languages, and so on.

[4] See, for example, http://www.apbrown2.net/web/TranslationComparisonChart.htm for a chart referring to some 20 translations as either word or thought based.  The latter are also often called “dynamic” translations. For example, an interlinear text (such as Greek and English) is literal (word based) and The Message by Eugene Peterson is free (thought based).

[5] For an overview to Biblical genres, see, for example, http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Genres.htm; http://loveintruth.com/interpret/7-survey; http://www.addeigloriam.org/bible-study-guide/bible-genre.htm.

[6] For a collection of information on how the Bible came to have its present (Protestant) form of accepted (also called “genuine”) books, see: http://www.anabaptists.org/history/howwegot.html.

[7] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_of_Jesus for more detailed comments.

[8] Bible stories can be told at all stages during a vernacular translation. How they are told varies according to background knowledge, teaching, and so on. In many instances, however, there would be a language of wider communication to depend upon for background and information when telling the Bible stories—although only literates would have access to it.

[9] Adapted from Franklin 2009a:77-80.

[10] Janet Stahl has pointed out that one example is repetition—this happens frequently in storytelling but is not usually tolerated in reading a text.

[11] Of course, the “Jesus story” on film, the story of the Prophets on radio, and so on, are dramatizations of text and in that sense clearly a story.

[12]  Janet Stahl points out that It takes a while for storytellers to get a feel for which images are crucial to the main point and the extra information that is necessary without ruining the impact of the story.

[13]  Janet Stahl notes Lord (1974), who wrote that societies evaluated storytellers by the creative use of language and in particular metaphors or flowery speech.  In literate societies people evaluate the stories by the character or plot embellishments.

[14] http://www.wycliffe.org/go/careers/typesofwork/languagework/translation/bibletranslationstepbystep.aspx, for example, outlines these steps: reviewer check, consultant check, exegetical check, consistency check, format and style check, proofreading, and oral read-through, involving various translators and a review committees. Further, the back-translation “reflects as closely as possible the meaning and grammatical structure of the indigenous language text, so that consultants who do not know the indigenous language can evaluate how accurate and adequate the translation is.”

[15] For more of what I have said on this topic see: Etic and emic stories. http://www.gial.edu/GIALens/vol3-2/Franklin-Etic-Emic-Stories.pdf.

[16] Some may argue that the use of cell phones and digital devices allow Bible translations to be used in any context. This may be true, but the nature of the Gospel is one of interaction and communication and not simply for meditation. Digital devices are tools, like books, and depend upon reading ability for proper understanding.

[17] The vernacular term for “God” was not accepted by the missions in the area, in fact at one time there were four words used: transliterations (God Jehovah) and two vernacular words. The Kewa people now have the NT in their language (in three dialects), but many, especially older people, cannot read it. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of “people groups” that do not have access to the Bible in their own language. They rely on a second language, a language of “wider communication”, for any written information about God.

[18] For a study on anthropomorphism in God concepts see Barrett and Kiel (1996) at: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~lds/readinggroup/barrett1996.pdf. For general information on anthropomorphism see: http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/anthropo.htm.

[19] See http://www.memoriapress.com/articles/What-the-King-James-Bible-Hath-Wrought.html for a copy of the article from The Classical Teacher (Winter 2011).

[20] Advanced interdisiplinary degrees on the broader aspects of “storytelling” can be found on-line at several sites, e.g. East Tennessee State University (www.etsu.edu). The Network of Biblical Storytllers (http://www.nobs.org/) and the National Storytelling Network (http://www.storynet.org/) are two examples of groups that anyone can join.

[21] See http://www.gial.edu/ for details on the courses offered. At present, storytelling is assumed under the elective called “Oral Tradition and Literature.” Generally in SIL, Bible storytelling courses are short, practical “seminars.” See, for example, the flyer at http://onestory.org/xfiles/2009aug_os_flyer.pdf.

[22] This means that there must be recording devices for the courses and playback devices for the villages.

[23] For example, The Seed Company solicits money in a program called “One Verse” where donors are invited to sponsor a Bible verse every month for $26 (see http://www.oneverse.org/projects/all, accessed December 2011).

[24] See Franklin 2012 for my documentation on how SIL has met the needs of small language groups in the Pacific (particularly PNG) in the past 10 years.