You TubeFacebookTwitterflickrGoogle plus
Friday, 26 April 2019 09:33 am

First steps in 20-year project to create new Maori bible translation

MAORI church leaders and Bible Society representatives meet next month to begin the long journey to a new Maori translation of the bible.

The new translation is expected to take 13 to 20 years to complete, with the first two years spent planning the direction.

Bible Society engagement advocate Stephen Opie says the Maori community needs to decide, and talk about what kind of translation is needed.

“A new Maori translation steering committee has been established to launch stage one of the project.”

The key aim of the committee is to determine – through extensive consultation with Maori communities throughout the country – what kind of translation is needed and how that will be done.

The committee compromises three Maori Anglican Church representatives, one Maori Catholic church representative, one Maori Presbyterian Church representative and two language and translation experts, along with Stephen Opie representing the Bible Society.

Chairing the steering committee is Reverend Don Tamihere ,who is the kaihautū (dean) of Te Taapapa ki Te Tairawhiti (Anglican Ministry Training School).

Reverend Tamihere has a masters degree in biblical studies and has studied the original languages of the Bible, Greek and Hebrew.

He says he feels very strongly about the new translation.

“I have had passion for Bible translation for a long time. I wrote my thesis on using Maori concepts to translate the Bible.

“When you involve so many different churches and different denominations, each of us come with particular sensibilities.”

The original Maori translation is a reworking of a much earlier translation begun by the first Anglican Missionaries, who were based up north of Auckland.

“All of Maoridom treasure the 1952 version.  It’s become a repository, a waka huia, a treasure box for our language,” he says.

The original translation was written in Auckland’s regional dialect. The 1952 translators made a decision to respect their dialect and worked with it.

Translators from other regions put aside their own particular way of saying things and stayed true to the original translation.

The issues surrounding the new Maori translation is the dialect and also the different denominations and their expectations.

“I think given that we have so many denominations involved and so many different ideas, the project will have to be expanded to produce more than one translation,” he says.

“The Bible Society has invited us to consider completely reworking it,” he says.

Stephen Opie says the Bible Society’s role is not to do the translation work, but to support the Maori church to do the work.

“We provide support through the provision of infrastructure and translation expertise,” he says.

The new translation will most likely be for young people and young families, something that a second language speaker could read well.

Wellington South Baptist youth pastor Eugene Fuimaono says he bought the Maori Bible because he is passionate about the bible and he is trying to learn the Maori language.

“The version I have has the English next to it,” he says.

“Even though it is not trans-literally translated, it is still helpful to my learning in sentence structures.

“It’s really important to me to speak and read Maori. It’s not just a fanciful thing, it’s a necessity.”

Reverend Tamihere says in English you can have the modern young slang that older people won’t speak, but the Maori world tends to be more uniform in the language and uniform appreciation of the beauty in ways of saying things.

“If we approach it with a more poetic understanding I think the younger generation would appreciate that.

“But certainly the way you package it, everything to the way it’s laid out, to the cover, to the way it’s promoted, would help us reach a younger generation, I guess.”

That does not mean, however, using the language of youth.

“Younger language is primarily a western idea,” says Reverence Tamihere.

“It’s not really an issue that Maori face.

“We are very keen amongst those of us that meet to find a more Maori way of doing it.

“It’s the nature of language. We can’t translate the Bible word for word, it has to be concept for concept.”

Reverend Tamihere pays tribute to the work of the 1952 translators.

“Apirana Ngata, one of our great Anglican lay people, would often just meditate and ponder and reach deep within his memory to find a phrase from a song or a haka that’s explains something a certain way.  And it’s that conceptual translation that we really need to drive for.

“Really, translating an English idea is not going to cut it in the Maori world. You really need to have something that is very Maori in its origin and it expression to do the Bible justice.”

The steering committee will meet May 24 at Reverend Tamihere’s school Te Taapapa ki Te Tairawhiti (Anglican Ministry Training School).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

is a Whitireia journalism student.
Email this author | All posts by

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Radio News