News Archive 2008
December 31, 2008

news of Bible translation 200

08.12.08 I Workshop on completing the translation of the whole Bible

From the 1st to the 8th of December a workshop was held outside Moscow for translation teams that will soon finish the entire Bible in their languages. Six teams participated – some from Central Asian languages with several million speakers, others from smaller people groups like the Tuvin.


There were lessons on a variety of subjects, for example writing an introduction to the Bible, ensuring consistency of key terms, checking with the Paratext computer programme, reviewing Old Testament citations in the New Testament, forming a glossary, building a concordance, and adding cross-references. Various other issues were also discussed, including the revision of the New Testament in the light of the Old Testament, stylistic checking of the whole Bible and a number of publishing questions, such as format and supplementary materials. Among the teachers were translation consultants from IBT, UBS and SIL, as well as members of the translation teams, and there were many useful and interesting discussions.

The publication of six entire Bibles within the next couple of years will be the culmination of two decades of intense work by these translation teams.

11.11.08 I Official presentation of Bible translations in the languages of Dagestan 

On 11 November 2008 a great celebration took place at the Academy of Sciences in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan in northern Caucasus (Russia): the New Testaments in Avar and Kumyk were presented to the public together with portions of the Bible in another ten languages of Dagestan – Tabasaran, Lezgin, Lak, Dargin, Tsakhur, Rutul, Agul, Bezhta, Kubachi and Andi.

Many speakers addressed the full hall of the Academy. Professor Gadzhi Gamzatov, who in 1991 signed an agreement on Bible translation with IBT’s founder, Borislav Arapovic, recalled: “In the beginning there was quite a lot of opposition, but this has calmed down and now the work is regarded as normal. Everyone is happy and grateful for the New Testaments in Kumyk and Avar. I encourage you to read, read this book! Our culture has been enriched through the Bible.”

Christianity reached Dagestan as early as the first century, Islam came much later;” the new director of the Institute of Languages stated, “therefore the translation of the Bible belongs to our culture and to our future.” “To our students these New Testaments are excellent study material,” said the rector of the Muslim theological institute. “But I need to warn you that the worldview of Christianity differs from the Muslim view. However, we trust that Professor Gamzatov is doing the right thing and that these books will be useful to our country.”  

At the end of the celebration when the participants were invited to take books from the exhibition table, many people hurried to the front, and the books quickly disappeared.

27.10.08 I On 27 October the Children’s Bible in Khakas was launched in Abakan, capital of Khakasia

In the morning a special feast for young readers was organized by the Central Children’s Library for the children at a Khakas boarding school in Abakan. A representative of the Ministry of Culture spoke about the cultural importance of the Children’s Bible. Then N. Gorbunova from IBT told the children that this book had been translated into many other languages of Siberia Tuvin, Shor, Altai, Buryat, Evenki and that it was often used in schools. A priest from the Abakan diocese stressed how important it was for children to get to know the Holy Scriptures. Translators Ilya Topoev and Tatyana Borgoyakova gave examples of some difficulties in Bible translation, and Professor Karpov, language editor of the translation, talked about the necessity of resisting temptation, and how the Bible would help the children in this respect.
Although it was only brief, we believe there was a real encounter between the children and the book that will open the door to the world of the Bible for them. For the teachers the Children’s Bible in Khakas will be helpful
in their teaching about world literature, history and art.


In the afternoon a second presentation took place in the National Library of Khakasia, with participants from the cultural and scientific circles of Abakan. All the speakers thanked IBT for the gift of the Children’s Bible and stressed its importance for the cultural and spiritual development of Khakas society, especially for each individual child that would come into contact with this book. The whole edition (3,000 copies) was donated as a gift to the Khakas Republic.

10.10.08 I IBT Helsinki published new Komi translation of New Testament


The Institute for Bible Translation in Helsinki has completed the translation of the New Testament in Komi, in cooperation with Syktyvkar Diocese. The presentation was held on 3 October in Syktyvkar, the capital of Komi Republic.


According to Diocesan press secretary Fr. Philipp, the language of the Bible versions in Komi published in the nineteenth century is antiquated compared with the modern Komi language. “The new translation of the Gospels in Komi is especially important to people in the regions and villages where the Komi language is used,” he said. “The book will be distributed mainly among libraries, schools and colleges. Believers can obtain the Gospels in churches and in the Diocese of Syktyvkar.”

29.09.08 I From 24 to 26 September 2008 IBT and the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences hosted a conference entitled “Bible translation as a factor in preserving and developing the languages of the Russian Federation and the CIS”.

The participants were welcomed by Mikhail Alekseev, deputy director of the Institute of Linguistics, IBT’s directorMarianne Beerle-Moor, and by Academicians E.P. Chelyshev and G.G. Gamzatov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In the greeting sent by J.L. Vorotnikov, chairman of the Russian Scientific Humanitarian Foundation, he noted that Bible translation served as a powerful impulse for national, cultural and spiritual revival among the speakers for whom the Bible was translated.

During the three days of the conference about 30 speakers read their papers linguists, translators, sociologists, biblical scholars and historians from all over Russia and the CIS. Apart from methodological problems connected with translation, the speakers also analyzed its sociological, religious and cultural aspects. Some s peakers related their experiences of Bible translation into the languages of Dagestan, Evenki, Roma, Ossetic, Komi-Permyak, Khakas, Tajik, Yazgulyami, Shor, Bashkir, Udi and others.

The role of Bible translation for the preservation and development of languages was discussed in many of the papers. At a time when the languages of small ethnic groups are rapidly disappearing, Bible translation often proves to be the only written monument of a language and is regarded not only as a religious text, but as a normative model, a source of replenishment and enrichment of words and phrases. Bible translation stimulates the development of the language and interest among the speakers for their language; it raises the prestige of the language, which in turn contributes to the revival of the people and their culture. 

Marianne Beerle-Moor highlighted IBT’s Bible translations into languages under threat of extinction. She also spoke about the most recent and famous example of languages that have been preserved thanks to Bible translation – the recently discovered Caucasian Albanian manuscript in old Udi, a language belonging to the Lezgin group of Dagestani languages.

Many of the speakers focused on practical questions of Bible translation. G.V. Kostochakov stressed the value of the Shor-Russian dictionary which is included in the Gospel published in Shor. M.I. Magomedov mentioned the significant role of Bible translation in non-written languages for the spread of literacy among speakers of these languages.

The participants expressed their great appreciation for the high standard of the conference, its organization and the papers which were read, which resulted in many lively and interesting discussions.

19.09.08 I The first New Testament in Avar published


The New Testament in Avar. Institute for Bible Translation, Russia/CIS, 2008.On 19 September 2008 the first copies of the New Testament in Avar were delivered to IBT’s office in Moscow. The Avars (about 800,000) are the largest people group in Dagestan, northern Caucasus. There are also Avars in northern Azerbaijan and in Turkey. This is the first New Testament ever published in their language – a historic event! The translation team has been working on the translation for 17 years.


The Avar language belongs to the North Caucasian family and is used in many areas of Dagestan as the language of communication between various ethnic groups. The Avars began to write down texts in their language as early as the 17th century earlier than any other people group of Dagestan.


Together with other ethnically related peoples, the Avars formed part of one of the earliest known Christian states, namely Caucasian Albania, and from the 4th century onwards Christianity was widespread among them. However, as the Middle Ages wore on, the Avars came under the influence of Islam and their life and culture became thoroughly islamicised. Today they are Sunni Muslims.


The first Bible portion in Avar, John's Gospel, was published by IBT in 1979, Mark's Gospel in 1996 and Luke & Acts in 2000. Proverbs was published in 2005. Translation work into Avar is continuing with other parts of the Old Testament.


In November 2008 there will be a celebration of the Bible books so far published in 12 languages of Dagestan: New Testaments in Avar and Kumyk, books from the New and Old Testaments in Tabassaran, Lezgin, Lak, Dargin, Tsakhur, Rutul, Agul, Bezhta, Kubachi and Andi. The event will be arranged by IBT and the Institute of Language, Literature and Art of the Academy of Sciences, Dagestan, and will take place in the capital, Makhachkala.

12.09.08 I Children’s Bible in Khakas

Children's Bible in Khakas. IBT Russia/CIS, 2008.In September 2008 the Institute for Bible Translation published the Children’s Bible in the Khakas language. This is the thirty-fifth translation of IBT’s well-known Bible for Children, first published 25 years ago in Russian. Since then this book has been translated into several non-Slavic languages of Russia and the CIS. For many people it has become their first step in getting to know the Holy Scriptures.

The translation of the Children’s Bible into Khakas, which began in 2002, was carried out by a team of five, four of whom were Khakas. The first edition is of 3,000 copies, and the books have already arrived in Khakasia. They will be distributed to libraries, schools and churches, so that as many readers as possible will be acquainted with this new, beautifully illustrated book in the Khakas language.

In October there will be an official presentation of the Children’s Bible in Abakan, the capital of Khakasia, arranged by IBT together with the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Khakas Republic. The first part of the presentation will be with children of a Khakas boarding school, while the second part will be a roundtable discussion with writers, teachers and other representatives of Khakas society.

16.06.08 I The Four Gospels and Acts in Crimean Tatar

The Four Gospels and Acts in Crimean Tatar. Institute for Bible Translation, Russia/CIS, 2008.In the summer of 2008 the Four Gospels and Acts were published in Crimean Tatar for the first time.

The Crimean Peninsula is the historic homeland of the Crimean Tatars. However, in 1944 they were accused of being Nazi collaborators and deported to Central Asia and other areas of the Soviet Union. Many died of disease and malnutrition. For a long time the Crimean Tatars were not recognised as a distinct ethnic group, they were deprived of all rights, with no freedom to travel. Only in 1989 did the Soviet Union allow the Crimean Tatars to return to Crimea. Today more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars are back in their homeland, struggling to reestablish their lives and reclaim their national and cultural rights, including the use of their language, against many social and economic obstacles.

The first attempt to translate the Bible into Crimean Tatar took place during the period 1978-1996. In 1999 a translation group was established locally and since then several Bible books have been published (“Stories of Jesus”, illustrated by a national artist, in 2002; a book on the prophets in 2005; a revision of Matthew’s Gospel in 2006, and a book containing Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in 2007). The work is done in cooperation with the Pioneer Bible Translators and the Ukrainian Bible Society.

The Crimean Tatars are hungry for spiritual literature and the books published so far have been well received. Our hope is that the Four Gospels and Acts will be a great blessing to the Crimean Tatars.


15.05.2008 I "In the beginning was the Word”.  Easter Prologue Polyglot

For Easter 2008 IBT Russia/CIS published a book containing the first seventeen verses of John’s Gospel in 76 languages – some of them are ancient, as Koine Greek, Syriac, Latin and Church Slavonic, while others are modern languages spoken or used in Russia.

Every Easter night, in the Russian Orthodox Church tradition, these verses are read in many languages. Easter is the oldest feast of the Church and has always been celebrated on the night between Holy Saturday and Easter Day. From the third century it was the night when new believers were baptized and received into the community of faith.

The tradition of reading John 1:1-17 goes back to the tenth century and is believed to have been initiated by the Bishop of Constantinople. From the very beginning it was read in two languages, Latin and Greek. Hebrew was added to this reading as the third language used in the inscription on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. When local languages started to be used in the liturgy, the text was read in these languages, too.

In Russia today the Prologue is read in these ancient languages and in several modern ones. There is a symbolic significance: the good news of Christ whose victory over death is celebrated especially on Easter night is meant to be heard in all languages of the globe.

We hope that this book will make it possible for the churches to read John 1:1-17 in many “new” languages, especially in those which have previously had no Bible translation.

21.03.2008 I Basic training course for Bible translation


From 11 to 21 March within the framework of a new educational program the Institute for Bible Translation held its first intensive basic training course in Moscow for translation team members. Taking part were twelve people from nine translation projects (Ingush, Kabardian, Lezgi, Erzya-Mordvin, Moksha-Mordvin, Nogai, Tabassaran and from Central Asia), including translators, exegetical checkers, philological and stylistic editors and also one local coordinator. They attended sessions on introduction to the Old and New Testaments, the historical and cultural context, linguistics, translation theory, exegesis, testing, philological editing and organisation of the translation process from IBT staff, lecturers from a Moscow theological college and professors from the Institute of Linguistics (Russian Academy of Sciences). 

The participants’ feedback was encouraging: “The workshop has challenged me to learn more, to know the source text better; it has captivated me and made me more interested in the subject of Bible translation.” “After the workshop I wanted to change a lot in my translation.” “I’m happy that after this seminar I can make my own small impression on my project and help the rest of the team members.” 

Following this success IBT is now considering the possibility of holding a more advanced course.

05.03.2008 I  Presentation of the Mari New Testament

On 4 February the New Testament («U Sugyn») in the Eastern Mari language was launched at the National Library in the city of Yoshkar-Ola. The translation was by the Institute for Bible Translation, Helsinki.At this important celebration in the life of the Mari El Republic a large gathering heard speeches by Archbishop John of Yoshkar-Ola and Mari El, Minister of Culture Mikhail Vasyotin, and

Professors Ksenofont Sanukov and Sergey Starikov. They stressed the importance of the translation of the Holy Scriptures into Eastern Mari, in the context of the historical-spiritual development of the Mari people and of the other peoples in the Mari El Republic.

This was followed by greetings from the guests who had travelled to Yoshkar-Ola for the celebration Director of Finno-Ugric branch of the Institute for Bible Translation in Helsinki, Anita Laakso, theological editor Tiina Ollikainen and translator Leonid Yandakov.

The leader of the translation commission in the Yoshkar-Ola and Mari Diocese, Rev. Nikolai Chuzayev, read the Lord's Prayer from the new Eastern Mari translation.

Website of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Yoshkar-Ola