Why won’t the Ukrainian Bible come out until 2012? Why is it taking so long?
Compared to what? If we were translating “Gone with the Wind,” which has 200,000 words, it would take about six months. But “Gone with the Wind” is in English, a much easier language than Greek or Hebrew. It’s in one language, not two. And the subject matter is much easier. It’s not like Exodus, full of highly technical terms for animals, plants, minerals, architecture, textiles, and altar appointments. Gone with the Wind was written as entertainment. The Bible is intended to be spiritually and mentally challenging. It’s also much longer, because for marketing reasons we also have to translate the Septuagint. One million, 600,000 words, not counting the Apocrypha. Eight times as long as Gone with the Wind. Three times longer than War and Peace.
And the Bible is quite different from any other document in its readership, because experts will dissect and analyze every word. Pastors use short texts from the Bible to write sermons, articles, classes, and books. They dig into these texts as deeply as they can, using either the original languages or commentaries by professors who know the original languages. For this reason, our readership includes many people who have become experts in a few hundred verses or paragraphs of the Bible, and our translation has to be right or those pastors will not recommend our translation to their parishes.
So why is it taking so long? We have to do it right, so we won’t waste years and a stack of hundred dollar bills having to do it over.
Is it really taking so long? Compared to WHOM?
I went to the big Kingdom Hall here in Ternopil, a provincial capital, to see what Jehovah’s Witnesses were doing at their annual convocations. Ternopil province has one fiftieth of Ukraine‘s population. So when I counted 2,500 to 3,000 Jehovists just in our province, that tells me there are about 125,000-150,000 active Witnesses just in Ukraine, which agrees with their own figures. There are even more in Russia. That’s over a quarter million single-minded religionists with an enormous publishing house and a pile of money backing them. Just this year they finally published their heretical New World Translation in Russian. It took them 15 years–and they did it from an English original, not from the original languages; it says so right on the title page. “Perevedeno z angliyskovo izdanya.”
The patriarch of Kiev also issued a translation of the Bible into Ukrainian, but that was done from the Russian and Russian is even easier for Ukrainians to translate than English. It took them 15 years–and there are thousands of priests here who know both languages.
There are rumors that the Baptists are also doing a translation from the NIV into Ukrainian. It hasn’t shown up yet.
In any case, our translation will be the definitive Ukrainian translation of the 21st century, because only we will be doing it from the original languages. And we will be doing it as correctly as is possible for a small team of experts.
I thank you all for helping me do this, because it’s not the kind of work an amateur can do after he’s tired from his day job. By the grace of God, I’m not an amateur; my college and seminary have the finest program of Biblical languages that Lutherans offer in the Western Hemisphere. And by the generosity of you I could quit my day job as professor of Biblical languages, so I can edit the Ukrainian translation full time.
But what I truly need most of all is your prayers for me and for this project. Only God can give me the energy I need to do this work, and sometimes I run out of gas. A good time to pray for me is when you put on the coffee in the morning–something you do every day that’ll remind you to pray for me every day.
God bless you for your help.