SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.28 issue2Morality and religion in African thought author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand



Related links

  • On index processCited by Google
  • On index processSimilars in Google


Acta Theologica

On-line version ISSN 2309-9089
Print version ISSN 1015-8758

Acta theol. vol.28 n.2 Bloemfontein Dec. 2008


Towards the design for a new Bible translation in Sesotho



T.J. Makutoane; J.A. Naudé

Rev. T.J. Makutoane and Prof. J.A. Naudé, Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339, Bloemfontein, 9300, South Africa. e-mail: The authors wish to express their thanks to Ms. Marlie van Rooyen for her endless assistance and input to edit the text and technical matters of this article




The purpose of this article is to suggest a means of translating the Bible and other religious texts to provide for the needs of a community consisting to a large extent of members not able to read written texts. Colonialism in Southern Africa introduced the Bible and Western text-based literacy. Bible translators have focused their efforts on preparing a clear, natural and accurate written/printed text, with the expectation that audiences will understand the message if it is in their own language. Such translations depend on the reader's ability to understand a written text. Literacy is essentially about control of information, memory, beliefs and distribution. Users still living in an oral culture are excluded. Continuing oral traditions and indigenous forms of cultural expression were and still are beyond the control of literacy. Within these communities, the African oral story-telling tradition survived in several forms within the narrative discourse. In view of the fact that these religious communities consist predominantly of members not able to read writen texts, another vehicle for the transfer of religious thought in Bible and religious translation is suggested. A new trend in Bible translation will consider the requirements of the hearer as well as those of the reader. (The translation has to be read out aloud, heard and listened to.) This trend is reflected in the recently published Contemporary English Version (1995), Das Neue Testament (1999), The Schocken Bible, Volume 1 (1995) and the Nieuwe Bijbel Vertaling (New Dutch Version) (2004). This article's key issue is that of a translation strategy applicable to the audiences in question. Walter J. Ong mentions nine qualities of oral culture in which he characterises orally expressed thought and expression as opposed to literate thought and expression. The implementation of the features pertaining particularly to the Sesotho oral culture is suggested for the Bible and the religious translation process in Sesotho. These features will assist hearers to grasp the meaning when the translation is read out aloud to them in church or privately.

Keywords: Bible translation, Orality (Walter Ong), Sesotho Bible

Trefwoorde: Bybelvertaling, Oraliteit (Walter Ong), Sesotho Bybel



“Full text available only in PDF format”




Barker, K.L. 1999. The balance of the NIV. Grand Rapids: Baker.         [ Links ]

Barr, J. 1974. After five years. A retrospect on two major translations of the Bible. Heythrop College 15:381-405.         [ Links ]

Berger, K. & Nord, C. 1999. Das Neue Testament und frühchristliche Schriften. Frankfurt: Insel Verlag.         [ Links ]

Bruce, F.F. 1978. History of the Bible in English. From the earliest versions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]

Buber, M. & Rosenzweig, F. 1925-1962. Die Schrift. Zu verdeutschen unternommen. Berlin: Verlag Lambert Schneider.         [ Links ]

Cole, M. & Scribner, S. 1974. Culture and thought: A psychological introduction. New York: Wiley.         [ Links ]

Coleman, R. 1989. New light and truth. The making of the Revised English Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]

Cook-Gumprez, J. & Gumprez, J. 1981. From oral to written culture. The transition to literacy. In: M. Whitman, (ed.), Writing: The nature, development and teaching of written communication: Vol. 1 (Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum).         [ Links ]

Daniell, D. 2003. The Bible in English. Its history and influence. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.         [ Links ]

Fillmore, C.J. 1979. On fluency. In: C.J. Fillmore, D. Kempler & S.-Y.W. Wang (eds.) Individual differences in language ability & language behaviour (New York: Academic Press), pp. 85-101.         [ Links ]

Finnegan, R. 1970. Oral literature in Africa. Backgrounds, characters, and continuity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.         [ Links ]

Fox, E. 1995. The Five Books of Moses. The Schocken Bible, Volume 1. New York: Schocken Books.         [ Links ]

Goody, J & Watt, I.P. 1963. The consequences of literacy. Comparative studies in society and history 5(3): 304-345. Reprinted in: J. Goody (ed.) 1968, Literacy in traditional societies (New York: Cambridge University Press), pp. 27-68.         [ Links ]

Havelock, E.A. 1963. Preface to Plato. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.         [ Links ]

Kee, H.W. 1993. American Bible Society Symposium papers on the Bible in the twenty-first century. Philadelphia: Trinity Press.         [ Links ]

Kubo, S. & Specht, W.F. 1983. So many versions? Twentieth-century English versions of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker.         [ Links ]

Kwame, B 1995. Christianity in Africa: The renewal of non-Western religion. Martknoll: Orbis Books.         [ Links ]

Lews, J.P. 1981. The English Bible from KJV to NIV. A history and evaluation. Grand Rapids: Baker.         [ Links ]

Maile, M.L. 1958. Moiketsi. Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg: Via Afrika Publishers.         [ Links ]

Manaka, V.S. 1982. Lerole le lefubedu. King William's Town: Thandapers.         [ Links ]

Metzger, B.M. 2001. The Bible in translation. Ancient and English versions. Grand Rapids: Baker.         [ Links ]

Mofokeng, S.M. 1979. Pelong Ya Ka. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.         [ Links ]

Newman, B.M. 1996. Creating and crafting the Contemporary English Version: A new approach to Bible translation. New York: American Bible Society.         [ Links ]

Newmark, P. 1988. A textbook of translation. London: Pergamon.         [ Links ]

Nida, E.A. & Taber, C.R. 1969. The theory and practice of translation. Leiden: E.J. Brill.         [ Links ]

Nida, E.A. & Taber, C.R. 1974. The theory and practice of translation. Leiden: E.J. Brill.         [ Links ]

Niditch, S. 1989. Eroticism and death in the tale of Yael. In: P.L. Day (ed.), 1989. Gender and difference in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press), pp. 43-57.         [ Links ]

Niditch, S. 1996. Oral world and written world. Louisville: John Knox Press.         [ Links ]

Nord, C. 1997. Translating as a purposeful activity. Manchester: St. Jerome.         [ Links ]

Ong, W.J. 1967. The presence of the Word: Some prolegomena for cultural and religious history. Yale University Press: New Haven.         [ Links ]

Ong, W.J. 1982/1988. Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. Routledge: London.         [ Links ]

Orlinsky, H.M. & Bratcher, R.G. 1991. A history of Bible translation and the North American contribution. Atlanta: Scholars Press.         [ Links ]

Porter, S. 1999. The Contemporary English Version and the ideology of translation. In: S.E. Porter & R.S Hess (eds.), Translating the Bible. Problems and prospects (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press), pp. 18-46.         [ Links ]

Sekese, A. 1979. Pitso ya Dinonyana. Lesotho: Morija Printing Works.         [ Links ]

Smit, A.P. 1970. God made it grow. History of the Bible Society Movement in Southern Africa. Cape Town: The Bible Society of South Africa.         [ Links ]

Thomas, K.J. 1990. Seeking a methodology for exegetical checking of audio Scriptures. The Bible Translator 41(3):301-311.         [ Links ]

Wendland, E.R. 2002. Towards a "literary" translation of the Scriptures: With special reference to a "poetic" rendition. In: J.A. Naudé & C.H.J. van der Merwe (eds.), Contemporary Translation Studies and Bible Translation (Acta Theologica Supplementum 2), pp. 164-201.         [ Links ]

Wendland, E.R. 2004. Translating the literature of Scripture: A literary-rhetorical approach to Bible translation. Dallas, Texas: SIL International.         [ Links ]

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License