Revisions: Making a Good Thing Better

When the Falam Chin Bible was dedicated in 2018, I was thrilled to see a high-quality Bible in the hands of this people group in Myanmar. In late 2022, I was excited to train the same team to revise that Bible. But why would a good Bible need to be revised?

Before reprinting a New Testament or whole Bible, it is normal to do a light revision to correct any typographical errors. At Bibles International, we put our translations through a series of quality checks at the end of the translation process to ensure that they are of high quality. However, inevitably some small issues remain. This is one factor in the revision of the Falam Chin Bible. The 20,000 copies of the Falam Chin Bible are sold out and the need for a reprinting provides a good opportunity to fix small issues in the translation. The translation team has compiled a list of passages that they want to revisit, either because readers have raised questions about the translation or to see if the flow could be improved.

The main reason for the Falam Chin revision is one that is common for minority languages: a change in orthography. Most of the languages that BI works with do not have a fully standardized writing and spelling system (orthography). People may have different opinions about how words should be spelled and even whether two units of meaning should be written as one word or two. The Falam Chin worked with BI’s linguistics team on this issue and produced a Writer’s Handbook that presents clear rules for such issues. Following the publication of the Bible, however, readers found that some of the rules needed to be adjusted, so in 2022 BI produced a revision of the Writer’s Handbook. The major goal of the Falam Chin Bible revision is to make the spelling conform to the rules in the revised handbook.

In some cases, a revision is necessary because of problems in the translation itself. Sometimes the dialect used for a translation is not that used by the majority of the population. That was the case for the Patris* Bible in South Asia; readers felt that some expressions were too much like a sister language rather than true Patris, and they requested a revision. In the days when computer programs for translation were limited, it was impossible to produce a translation that was consistent in the use of terms or even in spelling. If these inconsistencies are significant, a revision may be necessary. In other cases, well-meaning translators may produce a translation that is literal but does not use their language in a natural way, so that people find it difficult to read and understand. As a result, churches may request a revision or a retranslation.

Although revision is a necessary part of Bible translation, we can be confident that God’s Holy Word is perfect and unchanging and will accomplish His work in hearts. - K.H.