Announcement in a church bulletin

Announcement in a church bulletin

In Ghana, some churches announce banns of marriage. Three Sundays in a row there is a public announcement of the names of the couple to be married with the planned date of their wedding. The announcer tells the congregation that if they know of any reason why the couple should not be married, they should inform the church leaders If the couple are from different churches, the banns are announced in each church.

If the church uses a projector, the name of the couple is projected and sometimes a photo. If the couple is present, they are asked to stand. At that point, it is not uncommon that people in the congregation cheer, whistle, clap their hands, trill or otherwise show their joy. There may also be laughter or giggles.

The word “banns” comes from a middle English word meaning “proclamation”. So “banns of marriage” is just an archaic way of saying “public announcement of plans to get married”. One might think that the word banns would be dropped in favor of a more up-to-date word, especially given how close “banns” is to “bans” – the spelling is different, but the pronunciation is the same.

Churches tend to be very attached to certain words, like banns. That can have an effect on translation.

©2013 GospelGifs

©2013 GospelGifs

Imagine a place where the Gospel has never been preached. Missionaries come and preach to the people through interpreters. The missionary doing the preaching uses the word “sin” and the interpreter has to find the equivalent word in the language. Very often and unfortunately, the interpreter has to find the word on the fly with no preparation. So he chooses a word. It might be a good choice and it might not. Unfortunately, few missionaries take the time to consider what words their interpreters are using for key Bible concepts. The interpreter picks words for other key ideas – salvation, savior, heaven, Holy Spirit, etc. using this same haphazard process.

It was in this hit and miss way that specific local words for key Bible concepts were “chosen” in some places. And sometimes those first choices stuck and became tradition, just like banns. In contrast, the method used to chose key terms for English was quite different. Many of them were chosen by an Oxford scholar who knew Hebrew and Greek – the languages in which the Bible was written. That scholar was William Tyndale.

Places where there are Christians, but not yet a translation of the Bible, the accidental process by which words are chosen for key Bible concepts sometimes had the result that different churches use different words than others for the same Bible concept.

Bible translators have to sort this out. Each church may be quite attached to the words it uses. It may not even have thought about the slapdash way the words were chosen nor have considered that there are better words than the ones they use. As we have seen with banns, church tradition in the use of words can be very important to people. If the translators are not careful, some people might reject at translation if it does not use the words they prefer, even when their those words do not have the right meaning. In insisting on their words, church leaders and Christians will say that they are protecting good teaching. In reality, they are protecting their tradition.

Pray for Bible translators. In the matter of key Bible terms, they not only have to find the best words, they often end up having to be negotiators and peacemakers to the get best words accepted over church tradition.