At translation workshops, many translation teams gather together to work on a practical task and exchange their experience with their instructors and with one another. The entire process resembles a massive brainstorm session. The intensity of the work gives birth to new translation decisions and sometimes even to completely new approaches to translation.
There is an old Abkhaz legend about a widow. Her husband was killed, and she raised their three sons alone. When the sons grew up, the time came for them to avenge their murdered father according to their ancestral law. But who of them would become the avenger? The widow suggested casting lots to determine this. She would bake several pieces of flat bread and hide a small piece of wood in one of them.
In the old Buddhist legend, Prince Siddhartha Gautama (who became the Buddha) started his spiritual journey after he saw an old person, a sick person and a dead person for the first time. “What do we live for, if all are destined to die?” he asked, and his sincere questioning gave start to one of the world religions.
From several Kurdish testimonies, we see that for many Kurds who became followers of Christ, the very beginning of their life quest was absolutely the same. Both for our senior team member, who is the long-term translator, and for a younger team member, who has been a philological editor and an external reviewer of the Kurdish Scripture translation for several years, the path that finally led them to Christ started at the age of 8 or 9 years old with a realization that death awaits all. Our translator’s story was surprisingly similar to Prince Gautama’s: he saw a dead person being carried through their village to his funeral. The younger team member (let’s call him Alex) had a different life story: he was one of six children, and the only one who lived past childhood. At the age of 4 or 5 Alex lost his last remaining brother, and at the age of 8-9 his mind and heart became restless, tormented and hypnotized by questions about the inevitability of death and the meaning of life.
Good Bible translation is not a simple process. Each translated text goes through at least four drafts with various checks at each stage (exegetical checking, internal reviewing, philological editing, field-testing, consultant checking, external reviewing, etc.). But even after the translation is completed and the book has been published and delivered to the region, it still needs to be somehow distributed among its potential readers, which is not an easy task either. Distributing the Bible in areas with a predominantly Muslim population may be dangerous because many people are prejudiced against the Bible and see it as a tool of westernization or russification – a real threat to their ethnic culture and to the worldview foundations of their community.
By the middle of the 1st millennium B.C., an alliance of 26 tribes was formed in the eastern Transcaucasus (at present, the territory of Azerbaijan). They formed the polyethnic kingdom of Caucasian Albania, which in the 4th century A.D. adopted Christianity as its state religion. Parts of the Bible were translated into the Caucasian Albanian, or Agwan, language, which belonged to the Lezgic language family. However, this translation was lost during the early Medieval period, and parts of it were discovered only in recent times. In the 12-17th centuries Islam came to dominate in the region, so nowadays the Lezgic peoples are mainly Muslim. They practice folk Islam, but traces of their Christian past are still noticeable, and in folklore traditions one can still find traces of ancient paganism...