The interesting thing about translating the Bible into a jungle language is that you learn things about your own language, knowledge-base, and assumptions. A lot of the things in the Bible make a lot more sense to the Oroko people than to your average North American English speaker: kinship relations, aspects of animal husbandry, ways of celebrating (I have a whole new understanding of the parable of the 10 virgins after being involved in a wedding out here).

But, then there are a few things which have no referent in this culture and require extensive modifying phrases to explain a concept or object denoted by a simple word in English. "Bronze" was the problem word for the translation team most recently. Oroko has only one word for all metal, but the Bible names many different kinds of metals, and the distinctions between them, while not absolutely crucial to meaning, are important enough that they worth differentiating.

Another troublesome concept because it not only reoccurs repeatedly, but also because it is central to so many illustrations and analogies in both the Old and New Testament, is "the vine." Oh yes, they have vines here. They also most certainly have alcohol. But the vines are jungle greens, not grape-producing; and alcohol is made from the sap of palm trees. So it's all good and well to say a vine is "a plant bearing a fruit that looks like ndoa" but it doesn't get you very far when you're dealing with all the wine imagery of the Old Testament or the "remain in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit" vine imagery of the New.


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