Speaking the Truth in Blood
New Team, New Challenges!
Last week, I remotely joined a translation team in a different region from where I've been working while they began checking Genesis.
It's been a great opportunity for me to work with a team for whom much of the biblical imagery and culture is very similar to their own. Whereas the team I've been working with in Nigeria works harder at communicating biblical images and customs, this language group finds a lot of them already familiar.
Learning where to dig deeper was a challenge for me! As part of my consultant training, I led the checking session for Genesis 4 - the story of Cain and Abel.
When Blood Speaks
After the first fratricide in history, God asks Cain what happened to his brother. Cain shrugs it off with the now infamous rhetorical question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
But God points out, "Your brother's blood is screaming to me from the earth!" (team translation of Gen 4:10)
I don't know about you, but if I heard blood screaming, I would not stand there to see what it's saying - I would RUN! Talking blood is not normal! So I wanted to make sure that this personification makes sense in translation.
But speakers of this language didn't find it shocking at all. Their language refers to blood talking in other contexts, especially when someone is lying. There is even a well-known idiom about it:
"Your words say one thing but the blood in your face is shouting something else."
The Truth Moves To Action
Unlike me, the speakers of this language don't think twice about what it means when blood starts talking. It's familiar to them - talking blood calls out a liar. Of course Abel's blood would speak over Cain's lie!
When I realized this, I needed to reframe my question. Here, blood is not only betraying a liar. It's crying out to the God who acts on behalf of the oppressed.
God isn't just saying, "You're lying." His justice moves him to do something about it. We didn't need to change this translation because God's actions in the following verses convey his character. Even to the point of later giving his Son's life to right every wrong.
A God Who Acts
The God who acts, the God who cares enough to leave his throne for those crying out to him, is important to this community.
One translator shared that before encountering the Bible, he was "tired of knowing a God who isn't accessible, just big and holy, out there somewhere. But this is a new way. It's knowing a God you love, a God who will drink tea with you, who knows you."
Please pray for me and the translation teams as we try to dig deeper into the familiar and unfamiliar. Pray that these translations would show others the God who hears, knows, and loves each of us, wherever we are.