The Biblical texts generally accepted by Biblical Scholars as closest to the original are Hebrew, Aramaic (for the Old Testament) and Greek (for New Testament). Translation of Scriptures is necessary because it brings the word of God close to the people in languages they understand. BSK collaborates with other Bible agencies in translation work, especially for the smaller language groups whose languages are not yet in print or are undergoing literacy development.
Translation work is a partnership between the United Bible Societies, Churches and Bible Society of Kenya.
United Bible Societies
The UBS provides Translation Consultancy for all BSK projects. The translation Consultants are highly trained in linguistics, Biblical Studies and Anthropology. They ensure that the translation is accurate, natural and clear in relation to the original Hebrew or Greek rendering and the receptor language.
Churches in a given language group establish that there is a genuine need for Scriptures in that language. This is because the Churches know best the Scripture needs of their members. They then approach BSK for assistance in the translation. BSK therefore joins the Churches in translation work in response to their Scripture needs.
The Churches provide translators who are competent in speaking and writing the language into which the Bible is to be translated. Translators must also have full command of English language since they use it as the source text for translation. Translators who are knowledgeable in Biblical Hebrew and/ or Greek are preferred. They must also be respected members of their Churches and be acceptable by the other Churches within the language group. Ordinarily, BSK does not appoint translators directly. They must be recommended by their Churches. They go back to their churches on completion of the translation projects.
Moreover, the Churches must provide 15 to 20 persons who serve as reviewers. They must be competent in writing and speaking the language into which the Bible is being translated. Manuscripts that have been produced by the translators are sent to the reviewers who study them at home. The reviewers are then invited to one place where they discuss their comments and necessary amendments are made to the manuscripts. Reviewers are appointed from different churches and they too must also have a good command of both English and the language of translation.
They critique the work of the translators, ensuring that the language rendering is correct and acceptable to the churches.
In addition, the churches provide office space, contribute to project finances and give the general administration to the project through a locally constituted project committee.
Bible Society of Kenya
On its part, BSK undertakes the administration of the project until the translation is ready for publishing. BSK is in charge of the translation staff as well as production and distribution of Scriptures after they have been printed and delivered to the BSK warehouse. The Society also raises funds to cover the shortfall after the Churches have given their contribution.
Duration and Cost
Translation of the Scriptures into a given language is a time consuming process. On average, a translation takes 12- 15 years. This is the international average. Due to different reasons, some projects have taken more than 25 years to complete! A New Testament takes about 5 years. Each verse costs Kshs 1000 to translate. This is a very costly undertaking requiring a lot of careful planning and clear decision-making. It therefore requires much commitment, prayers and financial support on the part of all the parties involved.
The objectives of the Bible Society is that there should be at least a Bible for every Christian home, a Testament for every literate person. Specifically, BSK aims at making the Word of God available in formats that appeal to or meet needs of different audiences.
After translation, the manuscripts are typeset to the highest acceptable and affordable standards. Typesetting is done either at the UBS Manuscript Center in Nairobi or other typesetting centers in the world managed by sister Bible Societies.
Click on the table below to see the Bible translations that have been done in Kenya to date (2023)