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Indigenous translators to discover the lands and culture of the Bible

Bible Society’s Paul Eckert is to take a group of about a dozen indigenous Bible translators to Israel in August and September to enrich their understanding of the Scriptures.


Mr Eckert, who works as translation adviser with the Remote and Indigenous Ministries (RIMS) team, has organised a special study tour of the Holy Land for mother tongue translators through Biblical Byways, which is led by experienced Wycliffe Bible translators Les and Kathy Bruce.

“I think it will be of great benefit to the translators,” he said. “Being a very visual people, and where land is very important to the way they look at the world, actually being in the spot where Jesus walked, and where Moses walked, will allow them to feel that in a deeper way.”

Mr Eckert said it had been difficult to organise passports for all of those who were interested in travelling to Israel because many did not have a birth certificate. All of those registered to go have worked on the Pitjantjatjara Old Testament Translation Project since it started in 2011.

The study tour of Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, from August 29 to September 12, has been designed for translators who do not know Hebrew and have not done much formal seminary study. It will follow a biblical chronology as far as possible from Abraham to Jesus, so the translators can keep in mind the sequence of events. As well as Pitjantjatjara translators from Alice Springs, the group will also include indigenous translators from Papua New Guinea and India, along with chaperones and interpreters. An Israeli guide will take the group to about 50 sites, and provide commentary in English. The interpreters will then explain the relevant Scripture to their groups, showing how the biblical events played out in each geographical situation. The tour goes much deeper scripturally than any other available tour and is far less expensive.

“The Bruces have been Bible translators in PNG so they know the sorts of thing that translators are up against when they translating a different language, in a different culture. They’ve also given us quite a bit of work to do beforehand to become familiar with the country of Israel, so it is a real study tour, not a holiday,” Mr Eckert said. “We will learn much as we see the land of the Bible. This will be a big help in our translation work back home.”

He added that while a benefactor had contributed towards the costs of the tour, and participants had been encouraged to do their own fundraising, there was a shortfall in meeting the budget. “So we’re madly looking at other avenues.” If you are interested in helping, please contact Mr Eckert on [email protected]