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The Unseen Heroes: Celebrating Bible Translators as Epic Storytellers

Man praying with hands folder over Bible

Generations of storytellers have stirred human hearts with tales of unspeakable beauty, ferocious evil, and epic battles everywhere in between. These stories aren’t the kind where a mother glares at her six-year-old and says, “You’re quite the storyteller, young man.”

These are stories that get at something deep and true in the world. They stir our souls because it’s so difficult to express these deep truths. Epics lead us to weep or rage, sometimes at the same time. They draw us into something larger than ourselves, giving a true account of what we experience—to some degree on a day-to-day basis.

Some of the best stories are truly scary, because they accurately portray how and where evil lurks . . . within each one of us. We must choose the good or choose the evil every day. At some point in each epic tale, the protagonist is marked by an event that leads them to choose the good above all else, though the temptation to take the easy way out is always in the shadows just out of sight.

Today, on Bible Translation Day, it’s worth remembering that the Bible is just such a story. We hear the song of creation at the very beginning of the story. The creation is good, very good. But just off screen, temptation awaits the moment to offer an easier way to knowledge or power or control. The rest of the Bible’s pages tell of the seesaw battle between the forces that would twist and mar and destroy God’s good creation, and the deliverers that the Creator sends to preserve that beauty for a day when it can shine fully again.

Most sacred texts around the world share stories that can inspire in similar ways, narrating the battles among various forces. The outcomes are quite different, from endless cycles of struggle, to nothingness, to an ultimate restoration of all that is good. This last telling is the story of the Bible, with a creation that is now marked with the memory of struggle and woe, yet is full of joy. At the time of full restoration, the Book of Revelation tells us, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”

The key twist in the plot is when the Creator himself arrives on the scene with only glimpses of the glory one would expect. Sure, angels are there, as are distinguished people with expensive gifts, but almost no one gets to see in that moment that this is the reception of the newborn King of creation. As Jesus grows and works and teaches, we begin to see a character unseen in any other story. It’s not just that this story is true or gives a true picture of the struggle of good and evil. It is actually the arrival of Truth, loving people and restoring them, inviting them to take up their part in the story, as it was always meant to be.

Jesus models a life of humble service and self-sacrifice, which drains evil forces of their power, and we are invited to live the same way. His ultimate sacrifice, letting his innocent blood be shed, defeats sin and evil powers once for all, and his resurrection from the dead shows all of creation that this is true. And daily we live, battling these powers to bring God’s goodness to his good, yet twisted and suffering, creation.

Bible translation, then, is incredibly important. Translators the world over try to take the ancient stories told by the Hebrews and put them into language that speaks to the hearts of their own people. Simply telling people three facts about sin and salvation may lead some to faith, but most people are left unstirred. It is stories that move us, not facts. Translators have a similar task to the ancient storytellers to weave tales that stir hearts, and they have the added gravity of accurately telling how Truth came into the world to save us.

For the story of the Bible to make us rage and weep like we do with the very best epic tales, translators must ground their readers in the narratives of ancient Israel, in the message of the New Testament, and in the glorious story of how Truth saves us. They must also connect to the story we live in every day—the choice to serve self or to serve others, to do evil or to do good. The story of the Bible is true not just because events happened in history, but because it is truer than true, because it captures the deepest struggles of every human community and every human heart.

Today we celebrate great Bible translators all around the world who toil to craft God’s word, using words in their heart languages to communicate God’s epic story of creation, un-creation, and re-creation to the hearts of their hearers. The task is not yet complete. Every Tribe Every Nation’s All Access Goals (link: https://eten.bible/who-we-are/#defining-the-goal) aim to have at least a portion of God’s word in every single language around the world within the next 10 years. That itself is an epic struggle against time, lack of resources, lack of training, and enemies who do not wish to see this task completed. Every week, we hear stories of translators’ homes being ransacked by mobs or police, or translators being kidnapped or killed because they are doing this essential work.

Please join us as we pray for, train, support, and fund these dear sisters and brothers who are today’s epic storytellers. In the age to come, when all things are made new, we will get to sit with them and hear the battles and struggles they went through, whether fighting against electrical or Internet outages, hunger, swords, guns, hatred, or heat. It will be a humble joy to know that we played a small supporting role as they told the story of the Creator’s work of making all things new.

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John Dunham
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