Translators, as well as fieldworkers in general, are expected to conduct themselves according to certain ethical standards, which (for Christians) generally arise from the Bible. Therefore, it is important and helpful for them to be acquainted with the general system of and notion of ethics. This exercise is designed to help them.
- To introduce and discuss the concept and nature of ethics
- To apply ethical principles to fieldwork, either in SIL or with some other agency
- To apply ethical principles to personal interaction
In Bible translation the translators must understand the cultural values that are presented in the societies represented in the Old and New Testaments. However, they must also examine the part values play in any society. This presentation is designed to help students think through the matter of cultural values. We begin with some definitions.
It is not a simple matter to translate a Bible story—there are many cultural and grammatical (as well as exegetical) features to consider when choosing the “best” way to translate a text. This story of John 11:28-44 in West Kewa, which we take up at verse 28, points out a number of the components (but by no means all of them):
Living amongst the Kewa people, as we did off and on for 15 years, and then continuing to maintain contact with them, I have long been interested in their concepts of borrowing and lending, as well as buying and selling.
It was not unusual for a Kewa man to ask me for a loan of some money. The word that he would generally use in West Kewa (WK) was yago, for example, ni yago mealua-ya? “Can I get (from you) a loan?” The word could also apply to giving credit (i.e., a loan) to someone: neme yago meda nina baani kaato “I am extending credit (a loan) to my sister” or neme yago talo “I am paying back the debt (or loan)”. In the Kewa idiom, If I extend the loan or credit, I “give” it, but if I pay it back, I “hit” it.
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.