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섹션 AFMI > 등록일 2011-05-20
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The Case and Call for Oral Bibles
Rick Leatherwood


The nature of missions is changing as we get closer and closer to the end. Our understanding of what needs to be done becomes clearer in light of the time and season we now find our-selves. A lot has changed since 1980 when the U. S. Center for World Mission began to teach the church about the Abrahamic Covenant and unreached peoples, about bonding, overcoming ethnocentrism, redemptive analogies, what is the meaning of indige-nous, etc. Many young people then took up the chal-lenge of how to complete the Great Commission. Lit-tle did anyone realize how close we would be to reaching people from every tribe and tongue just 30 years later.
Today 65% of the unreached peoples in the world do not read and write. They are oral learners and we must reach them through oral strategies. The most important part of reaching unreached people is to bring them the word of God. Many missionaries on the cutting edge of completing the Great Commission are now creating and learning how to use oral Bibles.
One problem in missions which has often been overlooked is that after a written translation is com-pleted, the people still don‘t know how to read it. Many translations, which a translator spent years working on are now collecting dust. Unfortunately literacy programs among unreached peoples have mostly been unsuccessful over the last 40-50 years, seeing on average an increase of only 4%. It is a diffi-cult thing for an adult to learn to read and write. If one is going to expend the time and energy necessary to learn to read and write it would be nice if there were some literature in that language to read. For many of these languages there may never be another piece of literature other than the Bible written in that language. So literacy programs have faced the major problem of incentive. If a non literate person is going to go through all the effort to learn to read, it will most likely be in the trade language of the country in which he lives. There is little incentive to learn to read a language which has no literature other than the Bible in it, when one can learn to read the trade language of their country which has the Bible and also has vol-umes of other literature.
A moment is also needed to note the difference be-tween an oral Bible and an audio Bible such as Faith Comes by Hearing is producing in many parts of the world. An audio Bible is the dramatized recording of the New Testament onto a cassette tape or an MP3 audio player which they have created called a Proclaimer. The text for the audio Bibles such as FCBH produces comes from a written New Testament which has been translated and ap-proved by Wycliffe or a Bible Society. A problem here is Wy-cliffe says it will take another 150 years to complete written translations in the languages of all the unreached peoples.
So what is an oral Bible and what are its advantages? An oral Bible is a recording of a core set of Biblical stories from genesis to Revelation that gives a panorama of the Scriptures. It is not a summary of the Bible‘s stories used for a gospel presentation as Global Recordings has done. Nor is it a para-phrase. An oral Bible is the word of God as it is written in the Bible. Great pains are taken in its creation to maintain the integrity of the Scriptures. Nothing is added or exposited. It is not embellished or expanded upon in any way. It is simply God‘s word as it is told in the stories of Scripture.
A major difference in an oral Bible and an audio Bible is that an oral Bible can be produced from the trade language which already has a written translation. Some good news is there are written translations in all of the world‘s trade lan-guages. So the oral Bible is not dependant on 150 years of future new translations. It takes the already completed written translation of the trade language, and records a selection of the stories orally into the mother tongue of the unreached tribe just as would be done through someone translating a message of a visiting preacher. The advantage of the oral Bible is it is done by a team in a group setting rather than just depending on one person as is the case when a message is translated from a guest speaker.
Another difference in an oral Bible and an audio Bible is that the stories recorded in an oral Bible have been crafted for reproducibility rather than recording the whole text as is done in an audio Bible. Many stories in an oral Bible have been shortened so they can be reproduced by oral learners. For ex-ample in the story of Noah, three chapters are squeezed down to less than a page. It is then possible to learn to tell the story of Noah in great detail, but not all of the details which would make the story too difficult to master. So the stories have been condensed but the stories of an oral Bible are not a summary of God‘s word put into man‘s words. The oral Bible is not a tract. The stories are strictly the word of God.
Crafting is simply choosing how much of a story is to be included, where to begin a story and where to end it. Consider how Stephen in Acts 6-7, crafted his abbreviated story of Is-rael‘s history as he chose where to begin and end and what to include in each of the events he told.

Some stories in an oral Bible may be compilations of the accounts given in the four gospels. Such as Jesus‘ baptism, where only Luke gives the dialogue between John and the peo-ple coming to be baptized, though only Matthew sets the over-all context of Jesus coming out of Galilee to be baptized by John at the Jordan, and finally only Jn. 1:29 says, ―Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.‖ So in creat-ing an oral Bible we can take advantage of all four accounts being available to give listeners the most complete picture possible.
So to make an oral Bible, a team of 5-6 native speakers of a particular language, who also know how to read their nation‘s trade language, learn two or more Bible stories a day, taken from the written text of the Bible in the trade language. De-pending on the reading skills of the storytellers, an oral Bible of 60 Bible stories told chronologically can be recorded in a week, beginning with creation and going right through to the book of Revelation. First the group sits together in the morning and discusses the key terminology of the stories they will be telling in their mother tongue that day. Their goal is to find the best way to say this word or that word in their language so the oral translation into their mother tongue will be accurate. They collaborate as a group discussing the word‘s meaning in the context of the passage, until they all come to agreement. Then each one studies their story using the group‘s consensus of the correct terminology or the best phraseology, and then with one of their team listening to check for accuracy, they tell their assigned story in their mother tongue as it is being recorded. The oral Bible then goes through a final check as it is edited.

With a native speaker listening to the recordings while follow-ing the written text, the editor makes any changes necessary, making sure the oral story agrees with the written text of the trade language. Together the editor and native speaker then arrange the stories in chronological order.
The stories are recorded onto a computer using a program called Audacity which is a free download from the internet. After the stories are edited they can be downloaded onto a CD, an MP3 player, or onto a variety of solar powered players on the market, or even put onto a mobile phone. The Oral Bible is now ready for distribution.
Our commission is to ―go and make disciples,‖ but it is pretty difficult to make disciples without the word of God. It is surely time for the whole translation component of missions to take a major step forwards toward reaching every tribe and tongue with the word of God by creating oral Bibles. It is good to see Wycliffe moving more and more into the creation of oral Bibles. As a result they have revised their projection from 150 years to finish the task of reaching every language with God‘s word to just 25 years by producing oral Bibles. This is good news indeed. Without doubt oral Bibles are the best way, as well as the fastest way to make the word of God available to oral learners who represent 65% of the unreached peoples of the world. (AFMI/ASFM)

Rick Leatherwood is the director of Kairos International. He can be reached at: kairos.rick@gmail.com
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