THE Jamaican New Testament, the patois translation of the second half of the Christian Bible, was produced at a cost of US$350,000 — $32 million at the current exchange rate — the Bible Society of The West Indies revealed yesterday.
Translated Di Jameikan Nyuu Testiment, the work is the product of four years of research and testing. It is scheduled to be launched at Bethel Baptist Church in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew on December 9.
Ever since it started, the project has attracted criticism, with some detractors saying the monies could be put to better use. But reacting to those critics, general secretary of the local society Rev Courtney Stewart hit back yesterday by saying all the funds were raised overseas with the express intention of translating the text.
"All the funding came from abroad; we didn't raise any money here in Jamaica," Stewart told the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.
"Some persons have said that this is money we really are wasting and we could have used it to fix roads and for the school-feeding programme, and for hospitals and that kind of thing. The truth of the matter is that none of that money that we were able to pull could have been used to fix roads, fix hospitals, provide drugs and feed kids. That was money that was provided exclusively for translation," he stressed.
Among the donors he listed were the American Bible Society, Wycliffe Group of Companies, British and Foreign Bible Society, and Spring Harvest.
Explaining the rationale for a Jamaican translation of the New Testament, Stewart questioned whether people were really understanding the traditional text and whether churches could make a greater impact if the text was in their mother tongue.
"The main motivating factor behind that is that a major mission of the Bible Society is to make the Scriptures available to people at affordable prices and in their mother tongue, even though they may already be available in the official language," he said.
The Nyuu Testiment was the production of linguists from the University of the West Indies' Jamaica Language Unit (JLU) and exegetists from Northern Caribbean University, United Theological College of the West Indies and Jamaica Theological Seminary. It was also the subject of multiple islandwide focus groups.
"The JLU, which I head, provided linguistic oversight, checking the writing system, word use, choice of structure etc... Then, the translators having translated, it was sent to exegetists to check that the translation corresponds in exact fashion to the original," explained Professor Hubert Devonish.
The translated work carries the King James Version along the edge of each page, and is complete with information in both languages on some national emblems, messages from the Bible Society hierarchy, and a reading guide. Even the maps at the back have the names translated into patois.
Stewart said 2,000 copies of the text -- which is accompanied by an audio file -- will be available at the time of the launch, with an additional 3,000 expected by January next year.
"It took six weeks for recording -- nine hours per day, six days per week," said Bertram Gayle, one of the linguists who worked on the project. Editing, he added, took "another couple weeks".
Other patois works which the Bible Society has produced are A who run tings?, excepts of Scriptures focusing on the sovereignty of God (audio cassette, 1996), Di Crismus Story (CD, 2003) and Jiizas: di Book weh Luuk rait bout him (print and audio, 2010).
The Jameikan Nyuu Testiment was launched in the UK last month and is being printed in China.