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I was first made aware of the crucial cultural factor in Bible translation during a three-week TAPOT workshop led by Eugene Nida at Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda) in 1969. After benefitting then from five years of apprenticeship training under another one of the old masters, Jacob A. Loewen, my official United Bible Societies consultancy work in Zambia began on June 23, 1977. Ten years later I felt confident enough to put down some of my thoughts on the subject of The Cultural Factor in Bible Translation in the UBS Monograph (#2) title of that name. However, that book had a very narrow theoretical and contextual focus; it certainly did not deal with everything that needed to be said about “the cultural factor” as it relates to the production of a given Bible translation in a specific language and social setting. Older now, and hopefully somewhat wiser, in the present paper I revisit this topic from a much broader point of view. I therefore briefly explore the importance of the cultural factor when producing—that is, planning, organizing and managing, training staff for, composing, supplementing, evaluating and revising, publishing (in the wider sense), and promoting—a translation of the Scriptures today. It will be possible only to touch upon each of these essential aspects of the overall process in this article, which is further biased by my limited ethnic and experiential background. But I hope to raise some relevant issues and stimulate discussion by colleagues who work in a much different cultural environment within the translation fellowship.
Journal of Translation