Story

Don't have an account yet? Sign Up Now. It's free!

The Lausanne Global Conversation is on the World Wide Open Network

Article

  • Print
  • PDFPDF
  • Flag

How Bible Translation Can Protect Indigenous Languages - William Carey in India

Author: Lex Loizides
Date: 06.10.2010
Category: Scripture Engagement, Truth and Pluralism, Media Engagement

Rate (2)
  • Currently 4.50/5
Favorite (0) Recommend

Translations

Available Translations:

Originally Posted in English

William Carey’s translation of the New Testament into Bengali

Indian intellectual, Vishal Mangalwadi argues that the process of Indian Modernisation had its genesis in the work and influence of missionary William Carey. Carey believed that reform was possible because of the Christian concept of a personal God who is the Creator rather than the doctrine of Karma:

‘The idea of Karma is that an impersonal law rules our destiny and automatically gives us the consequences of our actions.

‘According to the Bible, sin is breaking the laws of a Person – our loving heavenly Father. Therefore it is possible to find forgiveness and to be delivered from sin and its consequences.’ (Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussouri, 1997)

Access to knowledge for all

Following the example of the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century, Carey knew that in order to achieve spiritual and social liberation, the Bible must be translated into the languages in common use (vernacular).

Mangalwadi argues that this was the first step towards modernisation – the availability of knowledge in the language of the people.

Carey’s Bengali Grammar, 1801

This meant the possibility of education for the masses as well as their protection from exploitation through ignorance. To Carey it was obvious that the most important text to translate was the Bible.

Mangalwadi writes: ‘A key factor in modernisation which Carey tried to popularise is that the spoken language of the people should also be the language of learning, the language of industry, of marketing, and of governing.

‘A feature of a medieval society is its use of an elitist language as a means of discriminating, and also as a method of granting to an aristocracy unearned privileges.

The preservation of indigenous languages – what Carey’s work enabled

‘It became possible for India to make the transition from Persian as the court language, to Urdu, and then to the regional languages (at least in the lower courts) because of Carey’s labour and leadership in turning the vernaculars into literary languages through Bible translation.’ (ibid p.79-80)

The promotion of indigenous languages

Carey became utterly consumed with the need to record, write and understand the local languages – in order that he might deliver the Bible to the people.

He translated and published the Bible into nearly 40 different languages. He started more than 100 schools and began the first college in Asia to teach in an Asian language (Bengali).

Hear the voice of a modern Indian scholar: ‘Their passion for reforming India by making the Bible available in the vernaculars motivated the missionaries to develop grammar for many Indian dialects, and eventually, to develop Hindi as a literary language for the majority of the citizens of India.’ (ibid p.80)

Keywords: William Carey, India, Bible translation, Modernisation, globalisation, indigenous languages, evangelism, Scripture

Conversation Post Comment

There are not currently any comments.

You must be logged in to post a comment. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up now (it’s free and easy!).