Muslim and Christian scholars collaborate on ground-breaking gospel translation and commentary
In a ground-breaking endeavour, Arab author Mazhar Mallouhi has brought together Christians and Muslims to produce a new translation of the Gospels and Acts in Arabic. The result of their collective efforts was published in Beirut in March under the title The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ.
The goal of the project was a translation of the gospel message that would speak clearly and naturally to the hearts of Arabic speakers unfamiliar with church terminology and traditions. The volume features a culturally-relevant translation of the four Gospels and the Book of Acts in modern literary Arabic, with footnotes providing essential cultural background information to the text. There is also a collection of 26 articles on topics of particular interest and relevance to Arab readers, as well as introductions to each of the Gospels and Acts, illustrations and maps.
The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ made its debut at a book fair in North Africa in April. Mr. Mallouhi took 500 copies of the book to the fair and returned with only forty. “There was a great interest in the book, and I was interviewed by three television channels,” commented Mr. Mallouhi.
Mazhar Mallouhi has been writing Arabic books with a spiritual message for forty years. Within the past ten years, Mr. Mallouhi and Al-Kalima, the company he founded, produced commentaries on Genesis, Luke and John. In the preparation of these commentaries, as well as the new translation, Mr. Mallouhi has placed great value on the contribution of Muslim followers of Christ, as well as Muslim and Christian scholars and religious leaders.
Although there have been Arab Christians since New Testament times and Arabic translations of Scripture from an early time, the Crusades caused a polarization between Muslims and Christians that left the two communities significantly different, not just religiously, but culturally and linguistically as well. Since that time translations of the Bible produced in the Arabic Christian community have utilized words borrowed from Greek or Syriac instead of the more natural Arabic words that would be used by those with no church background.
Although the Sharif Bible (sharifbible.com) uses more natural Arabic terminology, surveys conducted by Al Kalima revealed the need for a translation that would bridge the gap between the Muslim worldview and that of the Bible. To this end, a team of Muslim and Christian translators and reviewers was assembled to produce a new meaning-based translation of the Gospels and Acts.
A church leader in the Middle East, who is himself experienced in translating and explaining the Bible, said that The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ “remains distinctly faithful to the intended meaning taken from the Holy Scriptures.” He added, “This book takes its place in the ranks of other Arabic Bible translations, completing their heritage of striving to communicate the Word of God to the hearts and minds of people.” Rick Brown, a Bible scholar and missiologist, praised the translation for using “the true language of the readers rather than loanwords that are misunderstood and expressions that sound awkward and foreign”. He said it “affirms the cultural identity of the audience while clearly communicating the biblical worldview.”
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