Lessons From Translating The Bible

Inspiration, Perspectives

I worked for a major publisher for many years. For seven of those years, I was given a grand opportunity that most people never experience. I was the associate editor for a new Bible translation. It was my responsibility to manage the editorial part of the translation alongside the executive editor. During that time, I read every word of the Bible multiple times, as books were translated and as the necessary editorial and proofreading work was done. If the church had given an award for daily Bible reading, nobody could have touched me. I would have won hands-down.

I learned a tremendous amount about the Bible from that experience, and I learned more than just the process involved in producing a new Bible translation. I learned a lot about people, and specifically, how we are to treat each other.

Very early on, because of relationships I was developing with the contributors, I was hit head-on with the fact that not every Christian believes the same way I do, and that is absolutely fine. While some things in the Bible are nonnegotiable, other things are not totally clear so they are open to interpretation. The denomination of which I am a part does not have the market cornered on correctness—other people can be right too. Jesus told Thomas “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 nkjv). The theology of accepting Jesus as being the only way to heaven is the primary non-negotiable, since Jesus said no one. It doesn’t matter to me how often a person participates in the Lord’s Supper (Communion) or whether they have a premillennial or a millennial view of end times. The question is whether the person is a disciple of Jesus.

During the translation process I witnessed an incident firsthand where a high-profile figure (not involved in the project) treated one of the project’s contributors in a very non-Christlike way because he disagreed with the writer’s theology. It was done in a fairly public manner. The contributor answered his critic with love. It was then I decided that having differing theology with someone is no excuse for mistreatment of a fellow believer.

As we serve in ministry, not everyone we encounter will believe exactly as we do. Our objective should be to ensure the person knows Jesus personally, and our obligation? To show love to each other as God loves us.


Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee. The Voice, the version of the Bible Maleah helped translate, is available on Amazon

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