Jesus Speaks Sirmar

It’s easy to imagine Bible translation as simply exchanging one set of words for another, but it is so much more than that. Situating translated Scripture in the cultural context is critically important.

Recently, the Sirmar* translation team in South Asia has been addressing difficult phrases in the Sirmar New Testament. For example, in Sirmar the term “free woman” is a euphemism for a prostitute. Therefore, the team had to get creative with the translation of Galatians 4:31: “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” They ended up deciding to replace a literal translation of the term with “woman who experienced God’s grace.”

Likewise, Jesus often said, “I tell you the truth” when he wanted to emphasize something for his disciples. Unfortunately, in the Sirmar culture, coming right out and saying you are telling the truth specifically indicates that you are lying. In creating the Sirmar translation, the team chose for Jesus to instead say, “I have one very important thing to tell you.”

Likewise, Jesus spoke truth directly to the woman gathering water at the well. However, addressing a woman without proper introduction and special pronouns is the height of rudeness in the Sirmar culture. Therefore, in the Sirmar translation, Jesus addresses the woman with the cultural term, ‘Baya’ before speaking to her.

These are all small adjustments, but they can make the difference between a Bible that is read regularly and one that sits on a shelf, gathering dust.


Source: OneBook