A New Key

Dr. Solomon Sule-Saa presenting a summary of his research to September conference

Dr. Solomon Sule-Saa presenting a summary of his research to September conference

I have written before about Solomon Sule-Saa, a Ghanaian who has done extensive research on the impact of translating the Bible into the Konkomba and Bimoba languages of northern Ghana. In a summary of his research presented to a conference in September, he said of the Konkomba and Bimoba peoples:

“The Bible now provides the key to understand the world”

I have heard my share of sermons on Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”

But I do not think that I have heard a better description of one way to put that verse into practice – that the Bible should be the key through which I interpret the whole world.

Translating the Bible into new languages is often billed as effective evangelism, and it is. But it is much more than that. Beyond bringing people to Christ, these translations are transforming individuals and communities through renewing people’s minds.

Dr. Sule-Saa's doctoral thesis which explored the impact of the translation of the Bible in two languages of northern Ghana

Dr. Sule-Saa’s doctoral thesis which explored the impact of the translation of the Bible in two languages of northern Ghana

During an ethnic conflict which was so serious the Ghana army had to intervene, the Bimoba lost confidence in the neutrality and good will of the Ghana government. They saw no way forward but to continue fight for their rights. In a war council, several leaders quoted from the translated Bible, arguing that that Jesus way is the way of reconciliation. So, abandoning their own wisdom they agreed to engage in peace talks moderated by the government they no longer trusted. It worked. They got what they were seeking through negotiation. Now that is faith – following the teachings of the Bible when your life and your livelihoods are at stake. This story shows that the Bible in these languages is doing more than influencing the decisions of individuals. It is also affecting the decisions made by the chiefs for the whole group. Now that is being transformed.

If you liked this, you might also like Tome, Patois, or Feeling the Gospel in our bones.

Bimoba traditional dance

Bimoba traditional dance


Tome. That is the right word. Dictionary.com says it means “a very heavy, large, or learned book.” I do believe that this book qualifies.  And if the size is not enough to make it a tome, look at the title:

The Impact of Vernacular Bible Translation on the Dabomba and the Konkomba of Northern Ghana in the Light of Lamin Sanneh’s Conception of Mission as Translation

Sounds like the title of a doctoral thesis. Oh yeah, that’s what it is. So, I am not going to try to talk you into reading it. But, I have been given the job of scanning it and that is a tedious job. So if you want to come help …

So, why am I doing something crazy like scanning a dusty old tome? We,ll, buried in the academic-speak of this imposing, but unappetizing volume, is some startling information. It documents the dramatic impact the translation of the Bible has had in two languages in northern Ghana, the Konkomba and Dagomba. Before the translation, both peoples rejected Christianity, seeing it as a faith of outsiders. Numerous attempts to evangelize them failed. But once the Bible was translated, many Konkomba and Dagomba put their trust in Christ.

But (just like in the TV commercials) there’s more! The gospel of Jesus Christ has transformed these communities. It has broken down relationships of servitude and brought peace to tribal disputes. In 2010 I talked with the author of this tome. He told me that his research shows that Bible translation “creates more positive transformation than all government programs combined and for much less money. See my blog About GILLBT for more details.

There are only a handful of copies of this thesis, so I am scanning it in preparation for publishing it. More people need this information! The bad news? It will be published as is for scholarly consumption. The good news? We are also planning a readable version for everyone. So, I’m off to scan another 50 pages or so.