November 2020 saw the launch of the Hindi translation of the South Asia Bible Commentary. Five years following the publication of the English edition the South Asian publisher, Open Door Publications, has worked tirelessly to make this Hindi version a reality.
The following is a translation of the Publishers/Translators Preface from the commentary. Let us give thanks to God for this achievement and celebrate with the contributors, editors and translators in making this landmark work available to many more readers.
When William Carey arrived in India, he used a munshi (local clerk) to learn the vernacular language, translate scripture, preach to locals, teach in school and run the printing press. The munshi translated and spoke for Carey most days. Along with that, the first Hindi translations of the gospels, and many other Hindi Christian materials, were made available as the result of the work of the Baptist missionaries in Serampore. The first translation of the gospels into Hindi was completed by them around the year 1818. Over 200 years later, as you hold the South Asia Bible Commentary in Hindi in your hands, another significant ‘feather’ has been added to the ‘cap’ of the history of Christianity in India. The SABC is significant in that this one-volume commentary is entirely a regional endeavor – written by South Asians for South Asians. The English version is now translated from English into Hindi, by Hindi speakers for Hindi speakers. A kairos moment indeed! A milestone in Christian publishing!
The vision to produce SABC in Hindi came out of the desire to make the word of God speak with relevance and application to the South Asian realities of today. With the production of the English language SABC, the South Asia region received its first contextual commentary on the whole Bible. However, the need to offer the commentary in a heart language brought the vision to new heights. The desire has been to have native Hindi speakers work on the source language to capture the truths of the word of God and convey the message accurately. At the same time, they were to keep in mind the terminology and contextual factors that are familiar to an ordinary Hindi believer. The present translation has sought to fill this important and significant lacuna.
If this Bible resource is to be of worth to the person on the street, it must speak to him or her in their own language. The Hindi translation of SABC is based on this desire, which was also held by the Reformationists. A multi-disciplinary team of men and women from different life situations – including pastors, missionaries, scholars, ordinary believers, and newer believers - worked hard to make this possible.
A commentary of such size - with 1.6 million words in English, translated for the Hindi-speaking believer, is far-reaching. Hindi is probably the third most-used language in the world and by far the most popular language spoken in India. The 2011 census indicated that there were 528 million speakers of Hindi in India which accounted for 37 per cent of the total population. Both for the historic churches and the growing new churches, as well as Christian leaders at the grass-root level, pastors, students, and lay leaders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the SABC Hindi can be instrumental in the establishment and nurturing of a vibrant church in the region. All will benefit from this Hindi resource, which is the first of its kind.
We envision another, more significant, impact because this translation does not use Hindi merely because that happens to be the local language or the popular language in the region. Instead, the desire is that this work should see the use of the Hindi language affect the content of the work. The SABC chooses to use Hindi specifically to serve an unserved audience and draws intentionally from the world of Hindi idioms. This approach is a significant step towards grounding Christian ideas in Hindi, rather than merely expressing Christian ideas in Hindi. In this way, theology, ethics, poetry and other aspects of the Christian life are given new terms and a network of ideas which are at home in the religious worldviews of Hindi-speaking India.
This initiative of translating a commentary from English into Hindi has had its challenges. The English SABC used the New International Version (2011) as its basic scripture text for interpretation. Since there is no modern equivalent Bible translation available in Hindi, the team had to rely on the old version of the Hindi Bibleproduced by the Bible Society of India (1983) as its base scripture text. The old version of the Hindi Bible, which has its roots in the translation by the Serampore missionaries, is, even today, the faith language of the Hindi speaking church. The team had to adapt itself to the language of the Hindi speaking believers.
Apart from the challenges in finding terminological alternatives, filling semantic gaps, and identifying contextual synonyms and antonyms, the translating team had other complex issues. The English SABC initiative had more than 70 scholars representing different regions of South Asia. The team had to narrow down, amongst the rich and culturally diverse nation of India, the usage of proverbs and idioms from regional languages and place them in the Hindi context. This pressed the text to its limits of intelligibility, and translatability. The team have consistently opted for a meaning-to-meaning rather than a word-to-word approach in such situations. This in turn brought another challenge. The word-to-word approach has the obvious benefit of allowing us to translate without first having to decide what exactly a specific formulation was intended to mean in the first place. The translator is ultimately forced to create clarity where an author may, quite unintentionally and unwittingly, have failed to express themselves with sufficient precision. The translators had to elaborate words, idioms and phrases in many such situations, even finding constructs for several theological terms that have no correspondent in the Hindi language.
As a team, we realise that that this translation is less than perfect, and these are matters in which the work of limited human powers is sure to attain even less than we would desire. However, the team has kept these aims before them and has done everything in their power to help communicate the meaning to the average believer.
In conclusion, it must be said that, as with other publications of this nature, this translation is not the result of a single person. The translation and editorial teams had to do their rath-din ek karna (burning their midnight oil) to bring the meaning as close as possible to the original. We wish to express our most profound appreciation to all those who contributed to the translation of this commentary. Also, we want to express our gratitude to Langham Partnership International for their patience, and for believing in the project. A much-needed Hindi translation of the one-volume commentary is now available in your hand!
This translated excerpt is from the 2020 South Asia Bible Commentary Hindi edition ©SABC Editorial Board, used with permission.
South Asia Bible Commentary (Hindi)
by Wintle, Brian
The first one-volume Bible commentary produced in South Asia by South Asians for South Asians – and for the world. Pastors, students and lay leaders serving the rapidly growing church in South Asia will find this an invaluable resource that helps them to interpret and apply the Bible in the light of South Asian culture and realities. Christians all around the world will also benefit from its powerful and relevant insights into the biblical text.