Previous article in this series: December 15, 2018, p. 141.
A number of people ask about the translations that are on the Covenant PRC website (www.cprf.co.uk/languages.htm), so let me tell you first how this foreign language witness started.
The translations began in large part as a response to criticism. It was said, scurrilously, that our congregation in Northern Ireland was merely Dutch or merely American, as if God’s truth were nationalistic and not heavenly! So we decided to demonstrate the catholicity of our apostolic faith and spread the Word further.
A key person in this is Felipe Sabino, a brother from Brazil, who for many years has translated a lot of Reformed material into Portuguese, including Protestant Reformed literature. Here is a quote that he thought may be useful for the RFPA Annual Meeting:
Since I have come to know the Reformed faith, books have been a very important means by which I have grown in the knowledge of the Word of God. Knowing how much material there was in English, I started translating into Portuguese so that as many people as possible would be able to benefit from the excellent books that I was reading. Those written by Prof. Herman C. Hanko are the first ones to come to my mind. I have translated a great deal of the RFPA’s materials and they are all available on my website, which, by God’s grace, has become one of the most accessed websites of Reformed theology in Portuguese. This work has grown into a publishing house and we have already had the opportunity to publish at least one RFPA book in Portuguese and we hope to do more. My prayer is that God may be glorified through it. Making good theology available has been fundamental in the work of Reformation in Brazil. We pray to God to keep blessing our efforts, as well as those of our brothers in the RFPA.
The CPRC translations webpage started with Portuguese translations by Felipe Sabino, plus Protestant Reformed translations which were on www.prca.org and other websites that I located through search engines. Then we added online versions of our creeds in different languages: the Ecumenical creeds and the “Three Forms of Unity” (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dordt). From these very humble and small beginnings, we are now approaching 2,600 translations in about 130 languages.
So how does the RFPA help with this translation work? First, it contributes some of the materials that are translated: excerpts from the RFPA’s books and Standard Bearers. Other translated Protestant Reformed materials include pamphlets, essays from the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, articles from the Beacon Lights, Reformed Witness Hour sermons, our catechism books, our Reformed forms for baptism and the Lord’s Supper, etc., and even some reading sermons! Our translation webpage also includes “Covenant Reformed News” articles, pieces from the British Reformed Journal, BRF books and so on.
Second, the RFPA assists us by providing some of the books that we mail as a thank you to our translators. Sometimes when we post the books to a translator, especially if he or she is in North America or South America, I will ask Paula Kamps to mail the books directly from the RFPA.
Accuracy of our translations
A very natural question and one I often hear is, How do we know that these translations are accurate? My answer comes in many parts.
First, some of the translations on our website are (lawful) copies of the standard online versions of the Ecumenical creeds, the “Three Forms of Unity,” and our Reformed liturgical forms. This takes care of about 400 of our translations.
Second, other materials on our website have been overseen by or obtained through various Protestant Reformed bodies. The RFPA itself has provided us with Russian translations of Doctrine According to Godliness, The Voice of Our Fathers and Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel (the latter is ongoing), and the Slovakian of Marriage, the Mystery of Christ and the Church. We have several pamphlets in Spanish produced under the auspices of the Evangelism Committee of Holland PRC. We gained some Korean translations of Standard Bearer pieces through brethren who are friends of Prof. Ron Cammenga and Rev. Bill Langerak. We reckon that this warrants our confidence in the accuracy of a few more score of our translations.
Third, many of our translations have been produced by members of our own churches or sister churches. Our webpage contains many translations in Dutch and Spanish by members of the PRC. Saints in the CPRC and the Limerick Reformed Fellowship (Ireland) have produced translations in Albanian, French, German, Greek, Irish and Italian. We can stand over these. The Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC) in Singapore has produced Chinese translations, which they have sent to us electronically. Members in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP) have helped us with Tagalog translations.
Fourth, we have translations on our website from brethren in other bodies that have close links with us. We have some German translations from saints in the BERG, a congregation in Giessen, that is pastored by Dr. Jürgen Klautke, who has spoken for the PRC and who is in touch with the PRC Contact Committee. We have over fifty articles and over a hundred audios by Rev. Titus in Burmese. Pastor Titus was trained by Rev. Jason Kortering, and he and his congregation in Myanmar have been visited over many years by delegations from Michigan’s Hope PRC. Last time I saw John VanBaren, one of Hope’s elders, he gave me a memory stick containing many more translations and audios by Rev. Titus. Once our whole website is revamped, my wife, Mary, plans to add these to our Burmese page.
Fifth, I have met other translators personally, either in Northern Ireland or at BRF conferences or in their own country. I am thinking here of translators who have rendered our works into Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, both from Portugal and Brazil.
Sixth, there are other trustworthy men and women with whom I have had online contact for several years, including saints in South Africa (Afrikaans) and a sister in the Philippines who has sent us a number of Hiligaynon translations.
Seventh, there are other languages in which we have two or more people who can check each other’s work. This holds for our translations, for example, in German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish and even Swahili! To give a more concrete example, a brother in Germany translated the Belgic Confession into Armenian, the first time, I believe, it had been rendered into that language. I sent the opening articles of the translation to a Christian lady in Northern Ireland who is from Armenia, so that she could look over it. She said it was a good translation, though she did recommend a few improvements, which the brother implemented.
Eighth, our translations are self-correcting to some degree. Maybe it is a bit like Wikipedia in this regard, although Wikipedia has a lot more pages and readers than we have! There have been people who have notified us of mistakes in the translations and we have made the corrections. This even happens with our English articles, for typos are hard to eliminate in any language! I also recall an instance when I removed a translation (in Swahili) at the recommendation of a man whom I judged dependable. The brother from Kenya informed me that the quality of the translation was too low.
There is one final and highly significant factor. We do not give our translators money. If we did, we would run the risk of someone doing sloppy work merely for the cash. Instead, we give our translators books, including RFPA books. What use are our books to those who have no interest in the truth or who disagree with us theologically?
It would take a very high degree of malice and duplicity for someone to take the time deliberately to mistranslate, say, a Standard Bearer article in order to deceive people who would read it on our website. We believe in total depravity, but most people also operate according to a degree of self-interest. Besides, the corrupted translation would have to be in a language that we could not check beforehand. Even if such a translation did make it onto our website, eventually someone would probably notify us of its errors and we would remove it.
Apart from God’s Word, there is nothing in our fallen world that is infallible. We are content that we are taking reasonable precautions and that these translations are a blessing to saints all around the world in many languages.
(to be concluded)