Thinking Out Loud

June 28, 2021

The Christian Book of the Year for 2021

In 25+ years in and around Christian publishing, I’ve seen products come and go, but this is one time I think that a forthcoming retelling of the gospel story is going to be significant both in terms of sales and ministry significance.

The First Nations Version (InterVarsity Press) is just what the name implies. The term first nations is commonly used in Canada to describe the indigenous people and the term is catching on in the U.S. and other parts of the world. More than two dozen tribes had input into the production of this New Testament, which the authors claim is a dynamic equivalence translation containing additional words and phrases added for clarity as was found in The Voice Bible. However, I think of this as a contender for “Book of the Year,” and not “Bible of the Year” because it is simply so very different from other translations, particularly in its treatment of proper nouns (people and place names) that I expect that outside the communities for which it is intended, it will be studied more as an artifact of contextualization in sharing the Bible’s message. To that end, it belongs in a category with The Kiwi Bible or The Street Bible which we’ve covered here in years past.

Spearheading the project is Terry Wildman. As early as 2013, he published Birth of the Chosen One which was marketed for teens and described as,

A book for children of all ages. This is the story of the birth of Jesus retold for Native Americans and other English speaking First Nations peoples. The text is from the First Nations Version project…

In 2014, he released When God’s Spirit Walked Among Us, which was

A harmony of the Gospels combined into a single narrative. It retells the story of the Gospels using words and phrases that relate to the First Nations People, then also for English speaking indigenous peoples from all nations, and finally to all who want to hear the story in a fresh and unique way.

In 2017, he published Walking the Good Road: The Gospel and Acts with Ephesians. It was in delving into the annotation for this title that I found more information about the project:

The First Nations Version was first envisioned by the author Terry M. Wildman and with the help of OneBook.ca and Wycliffe Associates has expanded into a collaborative effort that includes First Nations/Native Americans from over 25 tribes. This book is the introductory publication of the First Nations Version of the New Testament. A translation in English by First Nations/Native Americans, for First Nations/Native Americans. This project was birthed out of a desire to provide an English Bible that connects, in a culturally sensitive way, the traditional heart languages of the over six million English-speaking First Nations people of North America. The First Nations Version Translation Council has been selected from a cross-section of Native North Americans-elders, pastors, young adults and men and women from differing tribes and diverse geographic locations. This council also represents a diversity of church and denominational traditions to minimize bias.

But who is Terry Wildman? It was only in the information provided for the forthcoming complete New Testament that I was able to learn more:

He serves as the director of spiritual growth and leadership development for Native InterVarsity. He is also the founder of Rain Ministries and has previously served as a pastor and worship leader.

The information above is on trade (book industry) pages I can’t link, but the website for Rain Ministries provided more details.

Rain Ministries is the home of RainSong Music and the First Nations Version translation.

Terry and Darlene currently live in Maricopa Arizona on the traditional land of the Tohono O’odham and the Pima. Terry’s time is divided between mentoring staff on Zoom for Native InterVarsity and working on the First Nations Version translation.

As RainSong Terry and Darlene travel North America and abroad, teaching, storytelling, sharing their music at First Nations gatherings, on Reservations, and also at Churches and Conferences…

Terry and Darlene founded Rain Ministries, a non-profit corporation based in Arizona in 2001, and have been actively involved in the lives of many First Nations people since 1998.

Their biography indicates they got their ministry start with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and given their current connection to Wycliffe Associates and OneBook (both arms lengths organizations of Wycliffe Bible Translators) and their involvement with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; I am led to believe that this is a well-anchored project theologically. Besides, I trust IVP to vet their books well.

Still there are going to be people who find things like the chapter titles (names given to the books of the Bible) and people names somewhat different. I would assume that, as with so many Christian endeavors, the people who might object the loudest are the people who are not the intended audience for this New Testament retelling.

I’d like to get into more stylistic details, but my exposure to the project is based on a sample booklet which only contained 19 pages of actual text, and was lacking the go-to chapters I look for in doing passage comparisons with new translations. I suspect that’s because so many people are asking for an advance look, they’ve decided to limit who gets what. Disappointing. I was also going to include an excerpt from the book at Christianity 201, but without a proper review copy, I decided not to discuss the actual content, and so you’re having to settle for this copy-and-paste presentation of information related to its publication so that you can keep your own eyes and ears open. Sorry I was unable to do more.

The book is being published simultaneously in hardcover and paperback editions. Where First Nations communities are nearby, I expect the FNV to be a popular outreach tool and as stated at the outset, perhaps the most significant title to be released this year, at least in North America.

 

 

November 10, 2012

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