The translation team chooses to focus on the heart

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Translators in the Bena language community met a challenge in those words from Jesus. “The Bena word for ‘poor‘ would be understood only in a context of physical needs,” said Elizabeth Broomhall, the team’s Translation Advisor. “The translators’ preference was to eliminate this word, and put the focus right onto the spiritual meaning.”

After working on the passage together, the team ended up with “Vafuunyililwe avakwiwona vakeepile u-Nguluvi mu numbula,” which translates (roughly) back into English as, “Blessed are those who see themselves as short of God in the heart.” 

“My perception,” added Broomhall, “is that this verse is based on longing for God himself, and not only what he can bless us with.” Now, the team believes it has a good draft translation they can test in their language community.

This story was written for SIL Tanzania by:

Kenny Grindall (Communications Coordinator)

SIL International is a global partner among academic and professional organisations which offer language development services. SIL works alongside speakers of more than 1,700 languages in over 100 countries. Active in Tanzania since 1989, the organization makes its services available to all without regard to religious belief, political ideology, gender, race or ethnolinguistic background.