A Bible in My Language [resource]
The Word of God is the foundation for my faith, and indeed for my entire understanding of the world in which I live. It is my teacher, my friend and my guide, and it is my final authority. What a treasure to have this book translated in my heart language! Men gave their lives to give me an English translation of the Book so that I could know the truth. Deaf Bible attempts to do the same for the Deaf. Is it effective? Judge for yourself.
For many Deaf people, English is a second language, one which they struggle to read and write well. The first and native language of most Deaf people is Sign Language. The Deaf need to see God’s Word in their own language. The contributors to the Deaf Bible have translated all of the New Testament and large portions of the Old Testament into American Sign Language, and made them available as videos to watch online or to download in a free smartphone application.
This is Huge
The following video drives home the importance of this issue more clearly than I could ever express. It moved me to tears the first time I watched this Deaf girl realize that God loved her.
Why should the Bible be translated into Sign Language?
- Deaf people need God’s Word in their heart language.
- Deaf with limited English literacy should be able to see for themselves what the Bible says.
- Bible memorization in Sign Language is aided and improved when there is a standardized way to sign each verse.
Does Deaf Bible deliver on its potential?
I wish I could give the Deaf Bible a resounding endorsement and encourage its adoption for use. But when dealing with the most consequential Book in the World, it is extremely important that it be translated with extreme care and accuracy.
There are a number of translation philosophies, some of which are more careful than others to treat the Word of God with the respect it deserves. It is beyond the scope of this post to conduct a thorough review of the Deaf Bible for accuracy and clarity.
However, my initial impression and the things I have heard from others leads me to believe that there are some liberties taken, that some things are not translated faithfully, and that like some modern English translations, certain verses are left out.
Because of this, I cannot wholeheartedly endorse the Deaf Bible. But neither can I ignore it! Right now, Deaf Bible seems to be the only mainstream ASL Bible translation available. While it certainly has some issues, let us not discount the importance of this milestone.
And if a Deaf man or woman wants to watch the Word of God in their own language, let us not forbid them. We place ourselves in danger of repeating the error of the Catholics of old, who said the Bible could never be translated into the “vulgar” English tongue, and that the common people should not be trusted with the Word of God in their language because they would not understand it.
No, instead of rejecting the only Bible in the language of the Deaf, let us teach what we know to be true: that God gave us his Word, that his Word is perfect, but that sometimes translations are not perfect.
Review the Deaf Bible for yourself, and note what you find. Though it is not perfect, is it better than nothing?
Let us encourage the Deaf who desire to watch (“hear”) the Bible in ASL to rejoice that they have God’s Word in their language, and to study the Bible daily. But they must also be taught that when something in their Deaf Bible is not the same as their King James Bible, they should trust the King James as the standard for translation accuracy and faithfulness in English. Not on the grounds that the English language is better than American Sign Language, but rather because of the translation approach.
Here are a couple of important things to consider when approaching a translation:
- The underlying texts used for the translation
The King James Bible was translated from the Textus Receptus. Many modern translations, including follow the critical texts, which differ from the Textus Receptus. The Deaf Bible often follows critical text readings.
- The translation philosophy
Many modern translations interpret the text of scripture, attempting to convey the meaning behind what is said rather than what is actually, literally said in the original text. This is called “dynamic equivalency.” The Deaf Bible appears to take this approach.
We can certainly hope for an even better, more accurate ASL Bible translation. Lord willing, that will come. Still, I thank God that even now the Deaf of the United States, even those who cannot read English, can “hear” the words of God for them. May they be not hearers only, but doers also.
Have you downloaded the Deaf Bible and watched translated passages? Share your thoughts here!