God Speaks My Language
A History of Bible Translation in East Africa
This is the fascinating and important story of how God’s Word came to East Africa. Beginning with the pioneering efforts of Krapf and Rebmann, Aloo Osotsi Mojola traces the history of Bible translation in the region from 1844 to the present. He incorporates four decades of personal conversations and interviews, along with extensive research, to provide the first comprehensive account of the translations undertaken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The maps and tables included assist the reader, as does a history of the Swahili language – its standardization, role as lingua franca, and impact on the work of translation. Mojola’s writing is a tribute to those who sacrificed much in their quest to see the word of God accessible to all people, in all places – and the many who continue to sacrifice for the peoples of East Africa. This book is a key contribution to the important and ongoing narrative of how God has met us, and continues to meet us, in our own contexts and our own languages.
Dr Aloo Mojola has traced the history of Bible translations into the languages of eastern Africa, from the earliest versions by various missionaries in the nineteenth century to the local translation teams that collaborated to produce the versions in current use. He deserves commendation for packaging in one volume so much information. The book is a valuable resource for scholars interested in the history of Bible translation (as a whole and in parts) into various African languages in Eastern and Central Africa. He challenges African biblical scholars to embark on sole translations of the Bible in their respective languages, as was done in European languages at the beginning of the Reformation. He commends Professor John S. Mbiti for his pioneer translation of the New Testament into Kiikamba (Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau, 2014) and challenges younger African scholars to emulate Professor Mbiti. I rejoice with both Professor Mbiti and Dr Aloo Mojola for these exemplary achievements.
Jesse N. K. Mugambi, PhD
University of Nairobi, Kenya
This book is informative, illuminating and challenging in telling the story of Bible translation in East Africa. Scholars and students of church history in Africa will find in this book the intersection of translation, intercultural relations and mission work as it impacted the growth of the church in East Africa.
This book embodies more than the story of the translation of the Bible and is a tribute to those who were engaged in the work of mission in East Africa. It is also a substantial contribution to the work of translation by both the missionaries and mission agencies but most of all the Africans whose story has for a long time not been told.
Esther Mombo, PhD
St Paul’s University, Limuru, Kenya
Professor Aloo Mojola’s book articulates the beautiful story of how the Bible came to settle in Eastern Africa. Accordingly, that started in the mid-nineteenth century with the German missionary and linguist J. L. Krapf. It gained momentum in the twentieth century and continues unrelenting in our time. Thank you Dr Mojola for documenting this fascinating and unfolding outreach of the Holy Scriptures.
The book is an excellent piece of research, documentation, organization and presentation of that story. It is comprehensive, informative, up-to-date, and highly readable. It is a great compliment to the Bible and an encouraging support to its further translations and revisions.
John Mbiti, PhD
Prof Aloo Osotsi Mojola has painstakingly and meticulously chronicled the history of the translation of this priceless treasure – the Bible – in the larger East Africa region. In his earlier edition, he captured Bible translation endeavours in the traditional historical and political entity of East Africa as represented by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. This current work, which is updated and expanded, broadens the landscape to include Rwanda and Burundi in the re-configured sphere of East Africa.
Prof Mojola does not undertake this task as an armchair researcher with a shallow grasp of the field under consideration. What issues from his pen emanates from one who embodies a rare and unique ring of authenticity. The combined blend unveils one who has thoroughly immersed himself in the depth of Christian spirituality, has scaled the heights of biblical and linguistic scholarship, and is rooted in the firm ground of African identity.
The resultant product is an exquisite masterpiece of surpassing excellence. In addition to the wealth of knowledge and information on the Bible and its translation in East Africa, the book is an invaluable literary gold mine on the history, ethnography, ecclesiology, and even geography of the communities in the catchment area.
Rev Watson Omulokoli, PhD
Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya
Table of Contents
- Foreword by Philip A. Noss
- List of Figures
- List of Tables
- List of Maps
- Setting the Stage for the Story
- Krapf and Steere Set the Ball Rolling: The Beginnings of Bible Translation in East Africa and the Story of the Swahili Bible
- The People of Pwani: From Lamu to Mtwara
- A Leap into the Interior
- The “Mountains of the Moon”
- The Eastern Bantu Neighbors of the Baganda
- The People of the White Mountain
- The Move to Central Tanganyika
- The Spread to the Lake
- The Hills and the Valleys: From the Southern Highlands to the Shores of Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika
- Facing Mount Kenya
- The Nilotes of the Eastern Great Rift Valley
- The Jii Peoples of East Africa
- The Sudanic Peoples of the West Nile
- The Cushitic Peoples of Kenya and Tanzania
- Concluding Remarks
- Appendix A: Perspectives from Kenya
- Appendix B: Perspectives from Tanzania
- Appendix C: Perspectives from Uganda
- Appendix D: Perspectives from the Region
- Appendix E: History and Achievements of Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL) in Kenya
- Index of Languages and Dialects
- Index of Names