New Bible translations clear up confusion in Philippines


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sometimes they make the funniest commercials when a speaker lands in an awkward predicament after botching a language translation. But when it comes to translating the Bible, the consequences are no laughing matter.

Biblica Bible translations recently eliminated one of those instances with an updated translation to the old Cebuano Bible, which was created to minister to Philippines' second-largest language group. The Cebuano, which targets 16 million speakers, incorrectly refers to marital sex using a word that refers to illicit sex, pakighilawas, bringing a negative connotation to Bible passages that don't exist in the original languages.

Because the meaning of the older Cebuano and Tagalog translations—which reaches 22 million alone—often caused confusion, church leaders asked Biblica to work on new Bible translations based on the same principles of accuracy and modern language used by the New International Version of the Bible.

The final products, taking 18 years to complete, are bringing God's Word in contemporary language to the two largest people groups of the Philippines.

Biblica unveiled the updated translations during a March celebration that was attended by 630 Christian leaders and featured award-winning author Philip Yancey. Joining Yancey were Biblica International CEO Keith Danby, and Biblica Asia Pacific Group Vice President Somporn Sirikolkarn.

"The launch of our Tagalog and Cebuano Bible editions was truly blessed by God through His mercy and grace," said Bishop Leo Alconga, Biblica East Asia Area executive director.

In addition to the Tagalog and Cebuano Bibles, Biblica also completed the Hiligaynon Bible in 2007 to reach the 8 million Filipinos who speak it as their first language. Sirikolkarn said Biblica plans to begin translation of the Ilocano language next, spoken by nearly 10 million Filipinos.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous nation in the world, with more than 98 million inhabitants in its 7,100-island chain. It shares with East Timor the distinction of being the only predominantly Christian nation in the East Asia region.

With Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines an ongoing threat to the nation's stability, Biblica officials said they believe the new translations will help communicate God's love and mercy in clear language to people throughout the country. Much of Biblica East Asia's outreach is centered on the predominantly Muslim island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

Across the globe, Biblica ministers in 55 countries and has translated the Bible in more than 100 languages during its 200-year history. It is also the translation sponsor and ministry publisher of the New International Version of the Bible, the most widely read and trusted contemporary English translation.

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