Photo: Natasha Schmale
Beyond Words

Ears—or Ears that Hear?

As you'll find out, a good Bible translation consultant is invaluable.

(Pictured Above) Wycliffe Bible translation consultant Greg Beyer reviews Scripture translation with the Bamunka team.

As another checking session with the Bamunka translation team is nearing its mid-afternoon conclusion on Cameroon’s Ndop Plain, Wycliffe consultant Greg Beyer is wondering about something. In the Gospel of Mark, the team has translated Christ’s challenge to those listening to Him as, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear” in their Bamunka mother tongue. 

The translators translated a draft of the Scriptures, then sent this to Beyer translated back into English for his review. All the teams working in languages of the Ndop Cluster do the same. Beyer (and his wife Annette, who provides administrative support) have travelled to the Bamunka translation office on this day, ready with comments and questions based on his review of their work. Beyer proceeds verse-by-verse through the draft, arriving at the verse in question, Mark 4:9.

Everybody has ears, Beyer points out, so is Jesus just saying, ‘Let everybody hear what I’m saying’ or is Jesus saying something deeper? After all, English translations say “ears to hear.”

Beyer, who holds an MA in biblical studies from Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, brings his experience as an exegete, sharing the original meaning of the biblical text with the translation team. 

“Jesus was saying, ‘you need to have a willingness to hear, and then think more about what I’m saying in my parables,’ ” he stresses. “It’s a slight nuance, but I think it’s important nonetheless.” 

Team members, including several pastors, mull over Beyer’s input. In the end, they believe their translation in Bamunka is a good one. They say it conveys Jesus’ concern that hearers needed a sincere willingness to hear and think about what he was saying. 

“I’m trying to make sure that what they come out with is the best it can be.”
Greg Beyer

Beyer says later that he isn’t entirely convinced the translation is the best that it can be. Since this phrase of Jesus is found several times in the Gospels, the team must be sure it clearly communicates the intended meaning each time.  

“It’s something I want to explore a little more with the team,” he says. “If they persuade me that ‘Yes, this is how it’s understood in our language,’ then I’m fine.  In the end, ultimately, this is their translation. I want them to be satisfied with what it says.” 

As a translation consultant, Beyer’s role is to check translations to ensure they are accurate, clear and sound natural in the language. “I’m trying to make sure that what they come out with is the best it can be.”

Translating and checking the Scriptures verse-by-verse can indeed be tedious and tiring, but Beyer knows the value of translating God’s Word well into the mother tongue. So do the Ndop Cluster translators, like Pastor Zachary Umaru Lohnyefong of the Bamunka team.

“The joy is that the people are accepting it, the people are committed to it, they are receiving it,” he explains.

 “The first day I read in the church in the mother tongue, one old man jumped up and said, ‘Pastor, we have understood everything.’ The whole church was quieter than ever before. From the first day we started reading it in church, more people are coming to Christ than ever before.”

Subscribe

Like what you’re reading? Then don’t miss an issue. Subscribe to be notified when the next issue is published.

Already a subscriber? Log in here

Next Story

Last Word

Unexpected Weapons Against Human Trafficking

Bible translation ministry creates a barrier against human trafficking and exploitation, both now and for future generations.
Foreword

Waking Up to God's Word

It is better to laugh in church with understanding and appreciation, than sleep because of clouded or zero comprehension. Bible translation is key!
Feature

Movie Night in Bambalang

Through the Luke film, a previously “foreign” Jesus comes to villagers as a countryman speaking their language.
Feature

Group Mentality

Wycliffe personnel share their expertise with locals in a seven-language, simultaneous Bible translation effort gaining momentum in northwest Cameroon.
Feature

Flames Turned to Hope

In the midst of war, Pastor Pius Mbahlegue courageously brought the peace of Christ to his village.
Feature

Whole Hearted Commitment

Trusting God’s radical call of obedience leads a couple to linguistics work in Cameroon’s Ndop Plain.
Feature

Bright Future for the Next Generation

Mother-tongue schooling is setting the foundation for the youth of Cameroon’s Ndop Plain.
A Thousand Words

On the Outside Looking In

Ndop children desperately trying to see what is happening in a primary school.
Watchword

Global Bible Translation News

A new way to gather many words in a short time is being used to produce first-ever dictionaries in minority language groups.
Beyond Words

Ears—or Ears that Hear?

As you'll find out, a good Bible translation consultant is invaluable.
Last Word

Unexpected Weapons Against Human Trafficking

Bible translation ministry creates a barrier against human trafficking and exploitation, both now and for future generations.
Featured Partnership

Invest in the Ndop Cluster

Wycliffe Canada Featured Partnership