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Baptists and Bible translations.

In 1914, Kentucky Baptist pastor J. W. Porter wrote, "Baptists have, in spite of their poverty and persecution, led all others in their efforts for translating and circulating the Scriptures." (1)

Clearly, Porter overstated his case, but his words do remind us that Baptists, especially early Baptist missionaries, have contributed much to the important task of translating the Bible.

William Carey (1761-1834), the first Baptist missionary, arrived in India in 1793 to begin a long, productive ministry. Self-taught but with an exceptional gift for language, Carey quickly recognized that India was populated by numerous linguistic groups and that each of these groups would need to have the scriptures translated into their own language. He set out to learn Bengali and then Sanskrit.

Colleagues Joshua Marshman and William Ward arrived in India in 1799, and over the course of the next thirty years, the three missionaries produced six complete translations of the Bible and twenty-three translations of the New Testament. Carey himself did the translation work in Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Marathia, and Sanskrit. (2) He was also instrumental in the translation work in Punjabi, Pashto, Kashmiri, Telegu and Konkani. (3) P. Sam Daniel, in "William Carey's Contribution to Indian Languages," estimated that Carey "worked or influenced heavily the translation of the Bible into as many as thirty-five languages." Daniel further suggested that "Carey was breaking new grounds and laying the path for the development of these languages as vehicles of education." (4)

Ellen Howard Cushing (1840-1915) was another Baptist missionary translator. In 1866, she met and married Josiah Nelson Cushing. That same year, the couple sailed to Burma to serve as missionaries. The Cushings established a new station in northeast Burma in order to work with the seven million Shans living in that area. Together they translated the gospels into Shan and produced the first English-Shan dictionary and a Shan grammar book. Following several illnesses, the birth of a son, and periodic separation from her husband who was serving several villages simultaneously, an exhausted Ellen and her son returned to the United States in 1880. In 1886, she became a field secretary for the Philadelphia Baptist Missionary Union, and in 1892, she helped found and then direct the Baptist Training School for Christian Workers. When her husband died in 1905 while on furlough, Ellen returned to Burma to complete his translation projects. She died on April 30, 1915, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Bible translation work has surely been one of the great contributions made by Baptists to the Christian global community, and this issue of the journal offers a glimpse into some of the translation work done by Baptists. Steven M. Sheeley first offers an overview of Baptist involvement in translation work. Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants, Robert O. Byrd, and Kendal P. Mobley provide insight into the lives and work of the following Baptist translators, Adoniram and Ann Judson, Edgar Johnson Goodspeed, and Helen Barrett Montgomery. Charlotte W. Sprawls offers us personal insight into the busy life of Bible translator Charles B. Williams, who was her father.

The final three articles in this issue of the journal touch on topics that have long been part of Baptist discussions: the role of women, church-state relations, and Landmarkism. Susan M. Shaw explores what Southern Baptist publications in the 1970s had to say about the place of women in society and in the church. Chun-pang Vincent Lau examines the controversy both in Hong Kong and in the United States over use of public funds by Baptist schools, and J. Kristian Pratt traces the relationship of Landmark leader Ben M. Bogard and fundamentalist leader J. Frank Norris.

(1.) J.W. Porter, "Bible Translation and Circulation," http://www.baptistpillar.com/bd0623.htm, accessed April 17, 2007.

(2.) Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions (New York: Penguin Books, USA, 1990), 224.

(3.) David Daniell, The Bible in English (New Haven, CT: Yale, 2003), 621.

(4.) P. Sam Daniel, "William Carey's Contributions to the Indian Languages," Language in India, http://www.languageinindia.com/april2001/carey.html, accessed April 17, 2007.

Pamela R. Durso

Editor
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Author:Durso, Pamela R.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:676
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