Bible Translation for the Punjabi Diaspora in North America
‘Punjabi’ refers to those who speak the Punjabi language, and share a cultural heritage of roots in India and Pakistan. Most of the speakers are in the Punjab region of India (29,102,477) and Pakistan (76,335,300), but there is also a diaspora of 10,000,000 worldwide.
In 2017, Punjabi Churches in Western Canada approached the Canadian Bible Society with a request to revise the Punjabi Common Language (CL) Bible. The Punjabi CL Bible was translated by the Bible Society of India (BSI) in the 1970s and bears a resemblance to the English Good News for Modern Man (GNT) translation, in terms of style.
Translations need updating and revising as biblical studies advance, languages change over time, and the church’s needs evolve in response to changing times. In consultation with Punjabi Christian churches and communities, it emerged that there were two distinct felt needs with respect to the Punjabi Scriptures:
- A need to update the existing Punjabi Common Language (CL) version by correcting the various spelling mistakes and inconsistencies, and by fixing serious omissions in the text.
- A need for a far-reaching revision of the Punjabi CL in the direction of a more formal, literary text.
In terms of 1, the light revision, one pastor describes his dilemma:
“There is no digital text available in Punjabi CL for my congregation to follow along while I preach. That's why I decided to retype the passages that I need and then project them, however, the Punjabi CL text has so many small errors which need to be corrected. Hope we can resolve this issue soon with the help of the group that is working on the project.” — Punjabi Pastor Balwant Bedi in Calgary
The pastor was correcting the text passage by passage as he preached! This is the need that the ‘updated’ CL would address. Further afield, God is bringing many Sikhs (the core religion of Indian Punjabis) to faith in our day, and the more formal, precise revision could be a key component in the evangelism and formation of many Sikh people who are finding faith in Jesus Christ.
Bible Revision in Three Steps
This entire project will span over 6 years, to be implemented in three phases.
Preparation Phase. Digitization of the whole Punjabi CL Bible text, currently underway through the combined efforts of the Bible Society of India and the Canadian Bible Society. The digitization, already well underway, will be completed in 2018.
Phase I: 3 years. CBS will work with the Punjabi Church in Canada to produce a corrected, updated version of the Punjabi CL text. This phase will take three years, since the changes are relatively superficial. Step 2 is getting launched now. A training event for project personnel will take place June 18-22 in Calgary, and the revision team will begin work in July 2018!
Phase II. 4 years. The deep revision of the text will take an additional four years. The result will be a more formal, accurate text (similar in style to the New International Version), one which can be used in Bible study and teaching. It is not intended to compete with the updated CL text, but to complement it. Both Bibles have a place in the church. Phase II will begin in July 2019, and will run concurrently with Phase I for two years. The entire project should end in July 2013.
How you can help
Revising a Bible translation is challenging work; it takes a dedicated team of local speakers, translator-revisers and consultants several years to complete. The estimated budget for this 6-year project is $530,000.
Will you partner with us to help us complete these two Punjabi Bible revisions within six years? If you wish to give to this project, here’s what your gift can do:
Phase I: Already Underway
- The cost of digitizing the whole CL Bible is $2600 (by having someone type it into our translation software, and then proofread the keyed-in text).
Phase II: Beginning in July 2018
- $33,700 will put the updated and corrected CL Pentateuch in Punjabi hands.
- $46,800 will put the updated and corrected CL New Testament in Punjabi hands.
- $167,240 will get the whole CL Old Testament updated and corrected.
- Please inquire for other specific books or sections of the Bible.
Phase III: Beginning in July 2019
- $69,200 will put the extensive revision of the whole New Testament in Punjabi believers’ hands.
- $247,300 will put the extensive revision of the whole Old Testament in Punjabi believers’ hands.
- Please inquire for specific books or sections of the Bible.
Thank you for your partnership in this important endeavor.
Help make God’s Word available to the Punjabi diaspora in North America with your gift today.