Pinoy Version making waves

Pinoy Version making waves

THE Pinoy version was launched last September 13 during the book fair at the SMXC. Since then many have made comments about it, both for and against. In a way this is the first time that a version of the Bible has made waves in the public discourse. This itself is positive. It shows that people still care about the Bible and at the same time the comments inadvertently is a publicity itself about this version. Why the waves? What is this Pinoy Version?

Pinoy Version is a translation of the New Testament in the language that many people in the Metro Manila and many other Tagalog urban centers use in day-to-day conversation, especially among the educated young people. It is a translation in heterogeneous language, which in common parlance is referred to as Taglish. Allow me to take a sample text from Romans 15:14-15:

“Mga kapatid, sure ako na talagang mabuti kayo at matalino, at kaya nyong turuan ang isat-isa. Pero sa sulat na ito, nilakasan ko ang loob ko para i–remind kayo tungkol sa ilang bagay. Ginawa ko ito dahil sa sobrang kabaitan ng Diyos sa akin.”

In the Magandang Balita Version this reads:

Mga kapatid, lubos akong naniniwalang kayo mismo ay puspos ng kabutihan at may sapat na kaalaman, kaya’t matuturuan na ninyo ang isa’t isa. Gayunman, sa sulat na ito’y naglakas-loob akong paalalahanan kayo tungkol sa ilang bagay. Ginawa ko ito dahil sa kagandahang-loob ng Diyos sa akin.”

As a point of comparison, the New American Revised Version puts these verses this way:

“I myself am convinced about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and also able to admonish one another. But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you, because of the grace given me by God.”

It is up to you which version is more understandable to you.

The Pinoy Version is a project of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), which is an ecumenical body made up of Roman Catholics, mainline Protestant churches, Evangelical and free Churches in the Philippines whose mission is to spread the Bible in languages that people can readily understand at prices that they can afford, so that there be greater diffusion of the Bible among Pilipinos, believing that eventually this can bring about national transformation. The PBS has been in the Philippines for more than 100 years and it has translated and continues to translate the Bible into the many languages of our nation. It also makes versions that are suited for children, for the youth, for women and for serious study. It even came out with a diglot (two versions side-by-side) Bible of Greek and Pilipino.

We should know that New Testament is originally written in Koine Greek, a language which no one now uses. To make it understandable to people therefore, it has to be translated into the languages that people now use. These present-day languages are called the recipient languages. Since these recipient languages are in use, they change. Hence the English of Shakespeare is very different from present-day English. Even American English is different from British English. The same is true with Tagalog. The Tagalog used by Balagtas is very different from the Tagalog being used in MetroManila, which is also different from the Tagalog used in the towns around Taal lake in Batangas. Pinoy version is intended for the many people in the National Capital Region, especially the young who have at least reached high school education. Because of our exposure to both English and Tagalog, we tend to mix both languages but with Tagalog as the base language. This is what we call heterogeneous language – our Taglish.

We cannot say the Pinoy version is disrespectful of the word of God as we cannot say that our Taglish is disrespectful. It is characteristic of our Christian understand of God that He is a revealing God. He is a God who reveals himself, who makes himself known because he is love and he wants to be loved. God reveals himself in so many ways—in creation, in our consciences, in our experiences, in the people whom he sent, in the faith communities to whom he has entrusted his message, in the Bible, but most especially in His Son Jesus Christ who became like us, a man sharing our humanity without losing his divinity. When Jesus became man he spoke the language of his people. So the day-to-day language becomes the way that we can know God. Even up to know, the preaching that we hear in Church is in Taglish.

The Pinoy version has been a work that has taken around ten years. First, the Gospel of Mark was done and was circulated for people to comment and to see the acceptability of the version. Then the letter to the Galatians too was translated and circulated. The research showed that more than half the people consulted among different sectors and denominations gave positive feedbacks. The work then started, gathering a team of young people from various Christian denominations plus experts in the biblical languages. Each verse has gone through the scrutiny of the translation team seeing to the fidelity both to the original language (Greek) and to the present way that people speak and understand in Taglish. Street and tabloid words were avoided, but taking care that the emotions behind the original language be not watered down. Let us take Galatians 3:1-3

“O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (New American Revised Version)

“Mga hangal kayong mga taga-Galacia! Sino ang nakagayuma sa inyo? Maliwanag na ipinahayag na sa inyo kung paano namatay si Jesu-Cristo sa krus! Sabihin nga ninyo, tinanggap ba ninyo ang Espiritu sa pamamagitan ng mga gawa ayon sa Kautusan o sa pamamagitan ng inyong pananalig sa inyong narinig tungkol kay Cristo? Talagang napakahangal ninyo! Nagsimula na kayo sa Espiritu, at ngayo’y nais pa ninyong magtapos sa pamamagitan ng inyong sariling lakas!” (Magandang Balita version)

Wala talaga kayong utak mga Galatians! Di kayo nag-iisip! Nakulam ba kayo?! Di ba ang linaw-linaw naman na namatay si Jesus Christ sa krus?! Saguntin nyo nga ako, paano nyo tinanggap ang Holy Spirit? Sa pagsunod nyo ba sa Jewish Law o dahil narinig nyo at naniwala kayo sa mensahe ng Magandang Balita? Mga bobo ba talaga kayo? Nasimulan nyo na ngang maranasan ang kapangyarihan ng Holy Spirit sa buhay nyo, tapos ngayon, aasa kayo sa sarili nyong lakas?!” (Pinoy Version)

No translation is the exact copy of the original. In every translation some connotations are added and some are taken away because no language is an exact copy of another language. The best is to read the original language, therefore. The second best solution is to read several translations at the same time so that one may get a more complete understanding of the meaning of a text. What connotation one translation may lose, another may gain. Meanwhile let us not deprive those who can profit from the Pinoy version. If it does not suit the taste of one, then he/she can get a translation or version that is more suitable to him/her. What is important is that we all read the Bible in the version that best speaks to us. God speaks. We listen!

Let us end with this acknowledgement of Pope Benedict XVI:

The inculturation of God’s word is an integral part of the Church’s mission in the world, and a decisive moment in this process is the diffusion of the Bible through the precious work of translation into different languages (Verbum Domini 115)

The Pinoy Version is a translation of the Bible for today’s Tagalog speakers in many of our urban centers.