Why translate the Old Testament?

Show me a tall building without a solid foundation. Show me a house with no roof where the rain will not come pouring in. Show me a house with a roof, but no walls or foundation. This is the picture of an incomplete Bible. The complete Bible has the Pentateuch as foundation, the rest of the Old Testament as the walls and the New Testament as the roof — they are inter-dependent.

How can anybody think of the Bible as complete without the Old Testament? It would be like living a life with no recollection of the past, total amnesia with no points of reference. Jesus Himself frequently quotes Scripture from the Old Testament. Omitting the Old Testament is equal to denying Jesus being Jewish. Denying Him His part in the Trinity. Denying the history of God’s plan for man’s redemption.

The old Testament exposes with brutal honesty man’s inadequacy and sinfulness against God’s omnipotence and covenant love. The two Testaments form a unity bound by God’s love and should never be separated. If we do not have the Old Testament, we would never know the great treasure we have received in the New.

Henrietta Mears said: “The New is in the Old contained. The Old is in the New explained. The New is in the Old latent. The Old is in the New patent.”

Let us not be arrogant in deciding what God should and should not have left out of His revealed word to us. Let us enjoy and learn whatever we can from what he Has given.

Let us then proceed to translate the complete Bible for everyone in the language God gave them.

Eyes of Light

Jesus made some pretty profound statements while he was here on this earth. Often times, a simple-seeming metaphor is not just food for thought, but a complex, sixteen-course, dining adventure for your mind! One of the great tasks for a Bible translator is to unravel these complexities and to make them clear in his or her own language and culture.

While working through the Gospel of Matthew, Soli translators working in Chongwe, Zambia got stuck on one such passage. In chapter 6, Jesus compares our eyes to lamps and says, “if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” The Soli words for lamps connotate electricity, wires, and switches, so do we have Jesus talk about turning on and off lights? Do we change the metaphor or educate about Jewish lamps? How can we say the same thing differently? And, the questions are not only about a word, but the concepts too—how can light be darkness? Is this talking about the medically blind or the spiritually lost? What does God want to say to the Soli people?

Well, He not only gave insight to the translators but this passage became a larger metaphor for the project itself. Instead of talking about physical lamps and bulbs, the translators were inspired to talk about “sources” of light and darkness. This took on special meaning for the translators, because the Soli Bible Translation project has been a source of light shining in some dark places and situations.

Now, with the entire New Testament available in Soli, Jesus’ powerful and oft enigmatic words can be heard and understood in new and amazing ways! Yes, Jesus speaks Soli and now the New Testament messages of truth, love, and light are available for the Soli people to understand clearly—in their own language.

Joel Brown