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The necessity of Old Testament translation

by Dr. Paul K. Kimbi

Misriani Balle sits with the Helong New Testament and Shorter Old Testament, which she helped translate for her language community in East Timor.

In November 2017, the Board of Wycliffe Global Alliance passed a motion expressing its desire to see Alliance Organizations partner together with local communities to ensure that the whole Bible is eventually translated and made available in the appropriate media in these communities. Hitherto, the focus of translation for many organizations has been on the New Testament, ostensibly in the belief that the New Testament is good enough for the salvation of a given community. But there is a high value in the translation of the Old Testament and I would like to cite some reasons in support of this.

The Canon of Scriptures consists of 66 books for Protestants, and we believe that God’s mission is holistic and integral and is revealed through the full counsel of Scriptures. Millions of Christians across the world are taught prayer through the Psalms. When the Psalms are not translated, it deprives people of Christian growth in this spiritual discipline, and this is tantamount to deciding for a given community what the Canon should consist of.

Zeto Wekan, a Bible translator, holds a copy of his Fordata language New Testament.

God is calling us not just to be saved from sin but to enter into a loving relationship with Him. A Christocentric canon that centres only on the New Testament and salvation from sin deprives us of the beauty of the enduring relationship with God that is taught in the Old Testament. God’s sacrificial love in the book of Hosea and His forgiving grace for Gentiles in Jonah are good examples.

The Old Testament background culture is in many ways similar to the cultures of Africa. This presents a good stepping stone into the faith. The Old Testament itself contains the ten commandments, said to have been written by God Himself with His own finger and thereafter He gave it to Moses (Exodus 31:18). That is the starting point of our Scriptures as we have it today and that is the book from which Jesus quoted all the time and said, “it is written”.


Dr Paul Kimbi is Bible Translation Programs Coordinator for Wycliffe Global Alliance Africa Area and serves on the Alliance Leadership Team as Consultant for Bible Translation Programs.

Photos by Marc Ewell

Reproduced with permission from Wycliffe Global Alliance


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