When Bible Translators Find Just the Right Word | Wycliffe Bible Translators

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Fall 2017

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When Bible Translators Find Just the Right Word

  • August 31, 2017
Tanzania landscape

With one glance at an English dictionary, it’s evident that the word “sealed” can have many meanings. The book of Revelation uses two different definitions of the word in two different passages. Revelation 5:1 describes a scroll sealed with seven seals. Later, in chapter seven, 144,000 servants of God receive a seal on their foreheads.

What if, in translating for a language other than English, it’s not quite as simple as using one word?

In Tanzania, the Jita translation team spent time tackling this. The translators quickly found a word for the forehead seal, which described it as a “mark of ownership or belonging” — like one that would help a Jita farmer protect his cow.

The search continued for a word that could describe the seals mentioned in Revelation 5. “The seals on the scroll were less about ownership,” explained Michiel Louter, one of the team’s translation advisors, “and more about the privacy of each scroll’s contents.”

With a bit more research, the translators found another Jita word to use for the seals on the scroll. “They describe it much like glue strips,” Louter said.

The translators realized that they would need separate terms to capture these different meanings. Please pray for the Jita team as they continue their work to make sure every verse is clear and accurate in their language.