Published on 25 October 2013

Allah Impasse

Allah is used in the Malay translation of the Bible used by the Roman Catholics in East Malaysia and Indonesia, i.e. where the people including Christians use Malay in their religious as well as other transactions. A gross error would be for the government to stop them from continuing to do so.

But to stop the use ofAllah in future publications of Christian discourse  in/by The Herald is the right decision. They should revert to the norm in Christian teaching – i.e. use the terms God,The Lord and translate this into Tuhan in Malay.There shouldn’t be a problem reeducating the Malay-speaking Roman Catholics in Sabah and Sarawak thatTuhan Yang Maha Agong (The Lord Almighty) is another name they can use to refer to God.

In the process, they can be led to see that the Muslim Malays also use another word for God.The adherents of all religions will learn something new and be more enlightened about the religious universalities they share, while knowing that the God in their scriptures have different attributes.

The government should strike a compromise – allow the use of Allah in Sabah and Sarawak where the Roman Catholics are Malay-speaking and use the old Malay translation of the Bible, but for future publication of The Herald in Malay, require them to revert to the norm for Christian discourse in the English bible.

Meantime, the Institut Terjemahan Negara and Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka in collaboration with Christian and Islamic religious experts proficient in Arabic, English, Malay (and Hebrew) should work on the translation of the Bible into Bahasa Malaysia which Malaysia can call its own.
Datin Halimah Mohd Said

President, Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason



Published on 13 January 2010

The challenge of translating religious concepts

BEING trained in linguistics, in particular translation theory, I see the “Allah” issue as one involving semantics and the translation of a key religious concept – God. The word for the Muslim concept of God (Allah) has been transposed or borrowed to represent the Christian God in the Bahasa Indonesia translation of the Bible.

Cultural and religious concepts are the hardest to translate. Many words are culturally loaded and have evolved in the holy books and its teachings among the multilingual community of followers. They are often embellished and reinforced by their distinctive sociolinguistic environment and have acquired specialised contextual meanings.

In the lexicon of a language some words have a direct referential or denotative meaning – the most obvious being a name. “Ali” refers to or denotes the person of Ali. Others have a referential meaning as well as a connotative or implied meaning eg “pig” refers to the pig (animal) but it can be used to imply the pig’s characteristics such as “gluttony” as in “You are a real pig”. However this expression would be culturally offensive to a Muslim or Jew to whom the pig is taboo. Similarly the idiom “like a pigsty” should not be translated literally and would need a translation relevant to the particular language and culture.

“Allah” is a culturally loaded concept in Islam both in the language of the Quran and the language of its Malay Muslim adherents in Malaysia. It is imbued with many meanings including the 99 attributes of God familiar to the Muslims. To juxtapose “Allah” in the culturally distinct Christian milieu is to translate what is basically an untranslatable concept – both of the unity in the Muslim understanding of God and the Trinity in the Christian conception of God. These concepts are highly complex and abstract in themselves. Why confuse people further with a poor translation?

In translation theory there is the notion of “untranslatability” and when a concept is untranslatable the translator resorts to employing the generic term supported by notes or an explanation. In this case the generic Malay word for the concept of the universal God “Tuhan” can be used in the Bible translation with notes and an explanation about the Trinity.

Translators must demonstrate the highest linguistic sensitivity and exercise the greatest caution when they translate important texts and documents. Not only must they be specialists in the subject area but linguists in their own right. Ideally, the translator must be a native speaker of one of the two languages involved and have a mastery over the other.

Halimah Mohd Said
Kuala Lumpur


12 Responses to “GOD & ALLAH”

  1. October 22, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    It appears odd. In the Negara Ku and Rukun Negara the word for God is Tuhan. Oh, what a web are we in.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    November 1, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Email comment:

    Dear Editor,

    It was interesting to read Datin Halimah”s letter which was published more than three years ago and in it she rightly justify’s her explanation that linguistically it is not easy to exactly “translate” GOD, either to Bahasa Malaysia or otherwise

    The translators of the original “gospel” also had a difficult time translating from the words that Jesus spoke from the original Aramaic to Hebrew to greek ,to latin and susequently to english and other languages

    The word Allah come from two words of Arabic “al” “the” and ilah “god” to al-lah meaning “the god”, This word also exist in Hebrew and Aramaic The Hebrew Bible mostly uses the plural word Elohim. The Aramaic word is “Elaha” in the Aramaic Bible its “Alaha” . The Syrian Church also used the word “Alaha”, both meaning ‘God’. In the Guru Granth Sahib scripture “Allah” is used 37 times.

    In pre-islamic times in Arabia the pagans used the word to refer to the supreme deity. Before Islam came to Arabia, among the pagan Arabs, “Allah” was not considered the supreme or only god, he had children and companions a belief that was wiped out during the spreading of Islam in Arabia.

    In Islam, the name “Allah” is the only divine name, and all others names refer back to Allah .Allah is unique, the only God,creator of the universe and omnipotent.

    Arab Christians today use terms such as Allah Al-Hab (God the Father’) to distinguish their usage from Muslim usage.

    There are both similarities and differences between the Quaran and The Hebrew Bible when describing God/Allah

    Datin Halimah says that the concept of the Trinitarian God is”untranslatable” into Malay and any attempt at translation would confuse rather than edify, but I believe we are missing the point here, Its really not a question of translation here but a question of how the powers that be can justify forbidding the use of the word when it has
    been used for thousands of years both by pagans, hebrews and aramaics

    Let not the “blind” lead the “blind” in this frivolous exercise of “I am better than you” surely we have more important things to do as a nation , Allah is with us as we move forward to build a united 1 Malaysia.

    Burnard Anthony Faleel
    USJ 1, Subang Jaya

  3. 3 Patrick C AUGUSTIN
    November 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    A comparison of 3 translations of the Latin (L) , English (E), Bahasa Malaysia (BM) & Halima (HMS)

    (L) Ave Maria, gratia plena,
    (E) Hail Mary, full of grace,
    (BM) Salam Maria penuh rahmat
    (HMS) Ya Mariam, penuh dengan limpah kurniamu

    (L) Dominus tecum,
    (E) our Lord is with thee,
    (BM) Tuhan besertamu,
    (HMS) Allah di sisimu

    (L) benedicta tu in mulieribus,
    (E) blessed art thou among women,
    (BM) Terpujilah engkau diantara wanita,
    (HMS) Kamu dirahmati di kalangan hawa

    (L) et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus.
    (E) and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    (BM) dan terpujilah buah tubuhmu Yesus,
    (HMS) Dan kerahmatan tunas rahim mu, Isa

    (L) Sancta Maria mater Dei,
    (E) Holy Mary, mother of God,
    (BM) Santa Maria Bunda Allah,
    (HMS) Mariam yang suci, Ibu kepada Allah

    (L) ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
    (E) pray for us sinners, now, and in
    (BM) Doakanlah kami yang berdosa ini
    (HMS) Doa’kan kami yang berdosa,

    (L) et in hora mortis nostrae.
    (E) the hour of our death.
    (BM) sekarang dan selama-lamanya.
    (HMS) Kini dan pada saat kematian kami.

    (BM) Bahasa MalaysiaMalaysian is the national language of Malaysia, where it is spoken by 8.7 million people. It is almost identical to Bahasa Indonesia, spoken almost as a lingua franca in Indonesia. This translation has been provided by Mr. Gregory Matanjun, webmaster for the Sacred Heart Parish in Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

    The Bahas Indonesian version and the Bahasa Malaysia version are nearly identical from the same web site. The source material for the translation was not given.

    Both BM and BI are a fra cry form Halima’s attempt.

    (HMS) https://ninitalk.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/god-translated/
    Datin Halimah Mohd Said
    President PCORE

    The Arabic redention can be found using this link

  4. 4 ninitalk
    November 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Dear Mr Augustin

    Please explain what you mean by
    “Both BM and BI are a fra cry form Halima’s attempt”


  5. 5 Patrick C AUGUSTIN
    November 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Firstly the use of Maria against Mariam , they are the wrong useage as it depends on the context , please see belwo.

    Confetio Deo ( I Confess )
    (L) Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem
    (E) therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,

    Ave Maria ( Hail Mary )
    (L) Ave Maria, gratia plena,
    (E) Hail Mary, full of grace,

    Then compare line by line using the English as a guide. The differences in Dominus from Dei.

  6. 6 ninitalk
    November 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Maryam (Bahasa Arab: مريم‎, Arami: מרים, Maryām, kemudian Ibrani Miriam), juga Mary atau Maria, adalah ibu Nabi Isa a.s./Jesus Christ dan didakwa tunangan Yusuf oleh penganut Kristian.[1] Beliau disebut lebih kerap dalam al-Qur’an dari keseluruhan Perjanjian Baru.[2] Dia juga menjadi satu-satunya wanita yang namanya disebut dalam al-Quran, malah Surah Maryam dinamakan bersempenanya.

    Maryam in Arabic is Mariam in Bahasa Malaysia
    We are talking about a Bahasa Malaysia translation from the English version of Hail Mary (and the Bible)
    which is used in Malaysia.

    Mr Augustin – I do not know Hebrew or Latin, do you? In your Bible reading do you use the Hebrew
    or the English version? Do you say your prayers and sing the psalms and hymns in Hebrew, Latin or English?
    How many Malaysian Christians/Roman Catholics know the ancient languages which the great Prophets
    spoke and in which the Bible was written?

  7. 7 Patrick C AUGUSTIN
    November 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    “Sing Your Praise to God”, ( KDN 0.1780/B/(273)) , Published by Bishop James Chan for The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei in 1985. The first edition came out about 1970.
    The liturgy is rendered in 3 languages , Mass in English , Mass in Bahasa Malaysia and Mass in Latin and many hymns in the 3 languages.

    “We are talking about a Bahasa Malaysia translation from the English version of Hail Mary (and the Bible)
    which is used in Malaysia – quote Halima M S” .

    Therein lies your problem.

    The translation is not from English to Malay. The Bible Society of Malaysia in making the Bahasa Melayu sehari hari ( everyday Malay ) translation starts from the Hebrew and Greek text is never from English. The same is followed for any other language translation. The Tamil Roman Catholice bible is not translated from English but from the Hebrew and Greek.

    At St Francis Xavier we do say some of our prayers in Latin on some of the Sundays. During Easter and Christmas the Gloria is sung out in Latin with bells ringing. We use one ancient chant in Greek when we proclaim the Kyrie otherwise the same is sung, chanted in English. We do not use Hebrew.

    The Latin can be used as a starting point in translating a prayer. It over rides English.

  8. 8 ninitalk
    November 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    So many points are moot, especially in translation Mr Augustin.
    Read Nida on Translation Theory and Bible translation

  9. 9 Patrick C AUGUSTIN
    November 13, 2013 at 10:24 am

    13th November 2013

    It puzzles me that after 400 years of the Bible in Malay it is now proscribed because it is now found that it can cause confusion to Muslim Malays ( only in Malaysia ) or that it was made with incorrect translations.

    The rich history is recorded in http://www.bible.org.my/updates/body.php?id=57 .

    Christianity in these region is well documented after the advent of the Portuguese. The history of the Nestorian Christians brought here by Arabs, Persians and Turkish traders up to about 900 years after the common era has been lost. The Nestorians left behind a Christian legacy which the Portuguese built upon.

    In the history on bible translation into the vernacular of different times and nations , the thrust has been to make a translation that is accessible to the common man.
    This resulted in the Latin Vulgate by Jerome.
    Definition of VULGATE
    1 capitalized : a Latin version of the Bible authorized and used by the Roman Catholic Church
    2 a commonly accepted text or reading
    3 the speech of the common people and especially of uneducated people.

    When the Dutch conquered the Portuguese , they found in their midst Malay speaking Christians. The approach in making available Bible translations in Malay, was to use low or bazaar Malay as opposed to High Malay.

    The recent Bahasa Melayu Al Kithab has described itself a Bahasa Melayu sehari hari ( everyday Malay).

    Your attempt at translating the Hail Mary is faulted by FIRSTLY not referring to the Latin to determine that it is canonically correct and SECONDLY and not using everyday Malay.

    When unfair laws are foisted on people , they mock it in many ways. In the Yemen it was said that Jews were not allowed to ride camels lest they be higher than the general population when riding camels, and so become higher than others temporarily. They mocked this by swaying side to side, like when riding camels, when praying in the synagogue.

    Patrick C AUGUSTIN

  10. 10 ninitalk
    November 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Don’t be puzzled Mr Augustin – try to view the issues from a wider perspective than just traditional Christian developments, be it in the West or Indonesia and East Malaysia. Try to accomodate modern and local religious developments everywhere, including Muslim Malay sentiments in West Malaysia. Surely you and the rest uphold the basic tenets of Christianity to treat your neighbours with greater understanding and compassion. If you and the people behind The Herald can extend this gesture, the impasse over Kalimah Allah can be amicably resolved. There is already a compromise offered – but people will not concede! Why so adamant? Do you mean to cause discord?

    Re my translation – I have the right to offer it as one out of thousands of others that ordinary worshippers will make for themselves. Pasar/Bazaar Malay? Please Mr Augustin – I did the New Testament when I studied Scripture in the Seremban Convent. It was definitely not in colloquial English I beg your pardon! The Hail Mary and Our Father etc recited by the Irish nuns and echoed by the students were in Standard English not Latin.

    Please stop expecting me to revert to the Hebrew, Greek and Latin versions of Christian texts. I know what I know about Bibles in English. Check this out with the rest of your congregation too because I know that Bible translation groups are large, running into 100 or more, with experts having different language combinations checking with each other throughout the phases of a long period running into years.

    Are you telling me that in Malaysia, the translation of the original Hebrew Bible into Tamil and the other local languages was easily done – by a couple of translators, expert in Christianity and proficient in all the languages? I don’t believe this is the case.

    I concede that the translation of the Bible or Quran for that matter should be translated clearly and correctly done so that the people who use it understand all its nuances. For this reason I prefer the Muhammad Asad English translation of the Quran because the imagery is translated more clearly that in some of the other translations. The Malay translation uses standard Malay not colloquial Malay.

    Here lies the rub – if you translate it into pidgin/creole/pasar/bazaar language you cannot maintain complete fidelity with the original. In fact these non-standard language varieties have less lexical and syntactical capacity (vocabulary, structures etc) to carry the full semantic explications of these complex religious texts

    And apart from evangelising and converting, surely you want your Christian worshippers to be lifted higher in their understanding of Christianity in the Bible

  11. 11 Patrick C AUGUSTIN
    November 13, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    13th November 2013

    “Are you telling me that in Malaysia, the translation of the original Hebrew Bible into Tamil and the other local languages was easily done – by a couple of translators, expert in Christianity and proficient in all the languages? I don’t believe this is the case. Quote Halima”

    The example of Tamil was an illustration and not done in Malaysia.

    The Bile Society of Malaysia is more than 2 translators and its focus is the Bible in Bahasa Melayu.
    The Bible Society of Malaysia
    2 Jalan SS 20/10,
    Damansara Kim,
    47400 Petaling Jaya
    Selangor MALAYSIA

    Your basic error has been translating the English version of the bible into Malay.

    You did not check out the Bible Society of Malaysia and its history at http://www.bible.org.my/updates/body.php?id=57

    For your ease of reference it is appended below.

    Not too many people realize that long before Bible translations in Chinese, Tamil or Tagalog became available, Matthew’s Gospel had already been translated into Malay by a Dutch tradesman named Albert Cornelisz Ruyl. The text was completed in 1612, only a year after the English King James Version was released, and was printed in 1629. It is fascinating that this Matthew’s Gospel in Malay is the very first non-European translation of a Bible portion. An original copy of this Malay translation of Matthew’s Gospel entitled: Iang Testamentum Baharu: Evangelium Mulkadus Bersuratnja Kepada Mattheum is now found at the Public Library of Stuttgard, Germany.

    Ruyl continued his Malay translation with the assistance of Jan van Hasel and Justus Heurnius and their edition of the Four Gospels and Acts was printed in 1651. This was followed a year later by the printing of the Psalms in Malay, prepared by the latter two authors. After the translation of Genesis, printed in 1662, the Rev. Daniel Brouwerious went on to produce the first complete Malay translation of the New Testament in 1668; unfortunately this translation suffers from the excessive use of Portuguese loan words.

    Melchior Leijdecker, a Dutch medical doctor with theological training, gave us the very first complete Bible in Malay in 1733. He translated the New Testament (printed 1731) and then the whole Bible while based in Batavia (now Jakarta) with the assistance of a review committee. The publication entitled: Elkitab, Ija itu segala Surat Perdjandjian Lama dan Baharuw was printed in Amsterdam in Roman script. Twenty-five years later a five-volume Malay Bible in Jawi script was published in 1758. Leijdecker’s Malay Bible provided an important beginning and his work was extensively revised during the 19th century by a series of translators who were based both in what is now called Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia.

    Meanwhile in Indonesia, a Dutch Mennonite missionary, named Hillebrandus Cornelius Klinkert printed the Malay Four Gospels in 1861 and the New Testament in 1863, in the low Malay of Semarang, Central Java. He was assisted by Encik Mumin in the Riau Islands off Sumatra. They translated the Gospel according to Matthew in 1868, the New Testament in 1870, and then the full Malay Bible
    translation in 1879. Thus, this represents the second major effort in translating the sixty-six books of the Bible into Malay.

    Between 1880 and 1929, the Singapore branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) expanded major efforts in translating the Bible into Malay.

    The most prominent of these was the LMS missionary William Girdlestone Shellabear who gave us the first Malay Bible translation specifically in the Malay of what is now called Peninsular Malaysia. In this version Jesus was rendered Isa al-Maseh.

    Shellabear is also remembered for the New Testament in Baba Malay.

    In 1929, the Netherlands Bible Society, BFBS and the National Bible Society of Scotland combined their effort in producing a Malay Bible translation that could meet the need’s of both Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia. This new translation was intended to replace the previous Bible translations made by Leijdecker (1733), Klinkert (1879) and Shellabear (1912). For this purpose, a German missionary named Werner August Bode, working in Tomohon, Minahasa, produced a Malay New Testament (1938), and several Old Testament books such as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Psalms.

    In order to meet the needs of Indonesian Christians in an independent Indonesia, the Indonesian Bible Society, which was founded in 1954, printed the so-called Terjemahan Lama “Old Translation” in 1958, as a stop gap measure until a fully Indonesian Bible translation became available. This comprised Klinkert’s Old Testament (1879) and Bode’s New Testament (1938). Meanwhile, Fr. J. Bouma of the Roman Catholic Church in Indonesia came up with a new Indonesian translation of the New Testament published by Arnoldus in Ende, Flores in 1964. Dr. Cletus Groenen worked on a translation of the Old Testament until 1968 when the Roman Catholic Church decided to stop its own translation project and join the Bible translation programme of the Indonesian Bible Society.

    In 1952 a team headed by Dutch Dr. J.L. Swellengrebel (1952-59) initiated the work on a truly Indonesian Bible translation. Beginning in 1962 an Indonesian, Dr. J.L. Abineno, headed this team until the completion of the project. The New Testament was printed in 1971, and the full Bible was published in 1974. It also included the Deuterocanonical edition. This version called the Terjemahan Baru“New Translation” (INT) was the first truly ecumenical Bible translation in Indonesian. The translation approach taken with this and most earlier translations was based on the ‘formal equivalence’ translation method, which as far as possible, attempts to retain the form of the original biblical languages.

    It is helpful to point out that in October 1997, the Indonesian Bible Society launched the newly revised New Testament of the INT called Perjanjian Baru Terjemahan Baru edisi ke-2 “New Testament: New Translation, Second Edition” (INT97). This was prepared by a team of biblical scholars who are experts in biblical Greek. Furthermore, in the final stage of the revision effort, numerous biblical scholars and heads of churches from all over Indonesia gathered in Cipayung, West Java, to discuss the revision before the text was finalized.

    Although the INT was being used in Malaysian churches, it was eventually realized that a truly Malaysian Bible translation was needed to communicate the Good News accurately, without confusion and misunderstanding brought about by the subtle differences between Indonesian and Malay.

    Consequently, the Bible Society of Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia (BSSBM) printed the first Malay Common Language New Testament Perjanjian Baru: Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden “New Testament: Good News for Modern Man” in 1974. It was mainly the labour of love of a West Malaysian pastor of Indonesian background named Rev. Elkanah T. Suwito. The full Malay Bible Alkitab: Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden “Bible: Good News for Modern Man” (TMV) was published by BSSBM in 1987. This particular translation was based on the new translation method called ‘Dynamic/Functional Equivalence’ that emphasizes the transfer of the meaning and function of the original biblical languages rather than retaining the form.

    Applying this new translation method, a new Indonesian Bible version was prepared by a team of translators. As a result, Today’s Indonesian New Testament was published by the Indonesian Bible Society in 1977. Thus, Alkitab Kabar Baik Dalam Bahasa Indonesia Sehari-hari “Good News Bible in Indonesian Everyday Language” (TIV) was published in 1985, and the Deuterocanonical edition was published in 1988. This Indonesian dynamic Bible translation is also being used by some churches in Malaysia.

    Not long after the distribution of the first edition of TMV (1987), the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), was asked to consider revising this translation. A meeting was held with the BSM Language Committee. It was then decided that the revision would be carried out to take care of the following deficiencies (references are based on the TMV):
    Spelling errors or misprints, for instance, the word for mengikut ‘to follow’ was printed as mengikat, meaning ‘to tie up’ (Dan. 3:21); Allan instead ofAllah (Is. 40:9).
    Patterns which follow the English Good News Bible (GNB) too closely – often word-for-word, such as in Mk. 1:7, Aku tidak layak bahkan menunduk dan membuka tali kasutnya “I am not worthy even to bow down and untie his thongs.”
    Usage which reflects more Indonesianism rather than a Malay one, for example, barangsiapa rather than sesiapa ‘whoever’ (Mk. 3:29); mulaiinstead of mula ‘begin’ (Mk. 1:21).
    Mistranslations, for instance, Sabtu ‘Saturday’ instead of Sabat ‘Sabbath’ (Ex. 20:8); a worse example is found in 1 Sam. 24:4 berehat ‘took a rest’ rather than membuang air besar ‘to relieve himself’
    A revision workshop was held at the BSM office in Petaling Jaya in December 1989, where a set of guiding principles to be followed by the revision team were agreed. The workshop participants also recommended a team of revisers, reviewers and readers representing West and East Malaysia since 78% of the users of Malay Bible live in East Malaysia. The revision work itself did not commence until May 1990. Once it began, it was realised that, in addition to the above categories, it was necessary to work on key theological terms, including the names of God.

    The revision team consisted of three revisers, a number of reviewers and readers plus a stylist representing various denominations from across the nation and ranging from church leaders, faculty members from Seminari Theologi Malaysia (STM), the Sabah Theological Seminary (STS), and the University of Malaya, plus some language specialists, and numerous Malay speaking school teachers and lay persons.

    The Revised Malay New Testament and Psalms Perjanjian Baru dan Mazmur was soon published in 1995, with a print run of 5,000 copies. Toward the end of 1996, the Revised Malay Bible Alkitab Berita Baik (TMV96) came off the press together with the first ever Malay Deuterocanonical Books. It was launched and dedicated at the Trinity Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya, on January 25th, 1997. This edition has sold rapidly and by April 1997 BSM reported that it had less than 9,000 copies left in stock from the initial 35,000 copies (25,000 copies of the Protocanon edition and 10,000 copies of the Deuterocanonical edition). Thus, BSM had plans to reprint TMV96.

    Adding Footnotes
    In the first edition there were neither footnotes nor cross references, but subsequently footnotes have been added (i.e. alternate rendering, exegetical, cultural, historical and geographical notes) plus cross references following the Good News Bible and Today’s Indonesian Version (TIV new layout). At the request of those who would like to have the formal features of the original texts, one more level of footnotes has been introduced to indicate the literal rendering for certain key terms. For example, to be true to the dynamic/functional translation method, the phrases ‘the Kingdom of God’ or ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ have been translated meaningfully according to their context. Thus, in the body of the text, these phrases are translated contextually either as (a) ‘the rule of God’ (Mt. 6:10, 33 etc.), (b) ‘becoming God’s people’ (Mt. 13:38), or (c) ‘God’s New World’ (Mk. 14:25; Lk. 13:28 etc.). However, to help readers who are looking for the formal features of these terms, footnotes such as: “literally ‘Kingdom of God’”, or “literally ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ ”, were added.

    In addition, similar footnotes for theological terms such as truth, righteous, faith, grace, peace, etc. have been added. A further complication is the fact that in the formal equivalence of the Indonesian Bible translation (INT), the two Greek words ‘aletheia’ and ‘dikaiosune’ are both translated into one word kebenaran. Thus, in a dynamic/functional equivalence translation, the term ‘aletheia’ has been translated meaningfully according to its context (a) ‘trustworthy’ (Jn. 5:31), (b) ‘God himself’, or ‘what God is really like’ (Jn. 1:14; 8:32; 14:6), (c) ‘what is true about God’ (Jn. 4:23, 24), (d) ‘God’s will’ (Jn. 3:21), (e) ‘God’s faithfulness’ (Jn. 1:17), or (f) ‘purity’ (Gal. 2:5), with a footnote “literally ‘truth’”. A similar procedure was used with ‘dikaios’ and ‘dikaiosune’.

    The Use of “Allah”
    In respecting the unanimous decision of the Heads of Malaysian Churches both in the 1985 meeting (sponsored by the Bible Society of Malaysia) as well as in the 1989 Kuching Consultation of the Heads of Churches (sponsored by the Christian Federation of Malaysia) for keeping the name ‘Allah’, BSM as the servant of the Malaysian churches felt obliged to honour that decision. There is also a scholarly basis for this since the Arabic loanword ‘Allah’ is the cognate of the Hebrew names of God ‘El’, ‘Elohim’, ‘Eloah’ in the Hebrew Old Testament. Arab Christians from before the dawn of Islam have been praying to ‘Allah’, and ‘Allah’ was used by Christian theologians writing in Arabic. So, the Christian usage of ‘Allah’ predates Islam. In addition, ‘Allah’ is the name of God in the old Arabic Bible as well as in the modern Arabic Bible (Today’s Arabic Version). Thus, Christians in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and other places in Asia, Africa etc. where the languages are in contact with Arabic, have been using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to the Creator God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Last but not least, in Malay and Indonesian, the word ‘Allah’ has been used continuously: first, in the printed edition of the Matthew’s Gospel in Malay (Ruyl, 1629); then, in the first complete Malay Bible (Leijdecker, 1733), and in the second complete Malay Bible (Klinkert, 1879) and the translations since.

    The Language of the Court
    One further concern the revision team had to deal with was how to reflect the language of the court in a dynamic/functional equivalence translation using everyday language. By definition the language of the court is not common language. The Indonesian translation could move away from the old language of the court because royal institutions have disappeared from the national life. However, in the Malay translation it is appropriate to retain and develop the language of the court because the monarchy and sultanate in Malaysia are still well and alive. As a matter of fact, all oral and printed literature (including the daily newspapers and magazines which use common language) preserve and glorify the language of the court. Considering that the language of the court is part of the Malay common language, the revision team decided, after lengthy discussions with the revisers and stylist, to use court language sparingly where appropriate, specifically with texts relating to the palace life. After all, the old Malay translation of 1879 also reflected this kind of language. Even the first edition of TMV uses the language of the court, for example, Mk. 6:21: ‘pada hari keputeraan Herodes’ ‘on Herod’s birthday’, cf. ‘pada hari keputeraan Raja Herodes’ ‘on King Herod’s birthday’ (TMV96).

    The Need for a Stylist
    All in all, the end result of a translation or a revision project depends to a certain extent on the availability of a well-rounded stylist who can look at the discourse, readability and naturalness of the translation. This is especially true in revising a translation of the Bible in the Malaysian national language which has many dialects in both Peninsular (West) Malaysia and East Malaysia, which also differ considerably from each other. For instance, Sabah Malay is influenced by Brunei Malay and moreover the religious language of Christians in East Malaysia has been greatly influenced by Indonesian pastors, evangelists and Bible teachers. However, there is one thing in common between Peninsular and East Malaysia – both have access to the national radio and television. Thus, finding a stylist who was in this line of communication proved to be the most effective solution. A newscaster who worked with national television enthusiastically accepted our invitation to serve as a stylist for our revision project. With her experience in mass communication, a translation which is readable and with language style acceptable throughout Malaysia has been produced. She also served as one of the translators of the Malay Deuterocanonical Books.

    A Fully Revised Translation
    It is important, however, to point out that TMV96 is not a brand new Bible translation, but it is a fully revised translation. The new revision retains the translation style of the TMV (1987), that is, the text is based on the dynamic/functional equivalence method which emphasizes meaning rather than form. It is important to stress that this revision team was not commissioned by BSM to produce a formal equivalence translation like the English RSV or the existing Indonesian formal equivalence Bible translation (INT). Indeed BSM has planned for a formal equivalence Malay Bible translation project, but it will only commence later.

    Although Malay and Indonesian originate from the same stock, both being Malay based, they have developed into two distinct national languages of two different sovereign countries, namely, Malaysia and Indonesia. Generally speaking in the process of the development of these two languages, Malay was more influenced by English, whereas Indonesian by Dutch. Indeed these two languages differ significantly in spelling, choice of vocabulary, the use of certain pronouns and terms of address in palace life, terminology, grammatical constructions as well as style.

    The following are representative examples of the difference between Malay and Indonesian. These are not meant to be exhaustive, but to illustrate the point under discussion. Due to the lack of space, we will only focus on a few words; however, readers are advised to see for themselves the context of the verse in question and even the wider context in the respective Bible versions. English gloss is provided for each word of which the Malay sense is significantly different from the Indonesian counterpart.

    The problems of the spelling of certain lexical items in these two languages linger on even though the Indonesian and Malaysian governments adopted a common spelling system in 1972.

    Examples are illustrated below:

    Gen. 28:6
    Gen. 42:18
    Ps. 107:17
    Prov. 1:10
    Mk. 14:65

    Choice of Vocabulary
    The selection of words in any language is influenced by many factors, but it is universally true that this choice of words is quite arbitrary – that is, as long as the speakers within the speech community agree on the sense of a certain lexico-grammatical form. This is also true with Malay and Indonesian; each language has its own preference of words and compound words. This is illustrated below:

    Gen. 28:6
    puas hati
    Gen. 24:40
    Ps. 107:34
    Jer. 22:14
    Dan 2:49

    Pronouns and Terms of Address
    A language always reflects its cultural background, thus the use of pronouns and terms of address in Malay and those in Indonesian display their different outlook and practices in their respective speech communities. This is illustrated in the table that follows:

    Indonesian (INT)

    Gen. 41:1, 7, 45
    ‘he’ (in reference to the king)
    Gen. 41:16
    ‘I’ (a subordinate to the king)
    Mt. 20:21
    ‘your’ (a mother speaking to Jesus)
    Mt. 27:11
    ‘you’ (Pilate speaking to Jesus)
    Mt. 27:11
    ‘you’ (Jesus speaking to Pilate)
    Lk. 15:12
    ‘Father’ (son to his father)

    Same Word but Different Meaning
    The most subtle problem for average Malaysians to read Indonesian texts is the fact that often the same word is used in Indonesian and Malay but with completely different meanings. Consider the following words as they occur in the Indonesian Alkitab, with the gloss of the Indonesian meaning in the centre column, while in the right column we have the counterpart sense commonly understood by average Malay readers and listeners.

    Indonesian Meaning
    Malay Meaning
    Ex. 14:20
    pasukan (TIV)
    Job 7:2
    ‘child ’
    Is 62:12
    ‘the redeemed one’
    1 Cor. 10:5
    Gal. 2:2

    Similarly average Indonesians will read words in the Malay Bible with the more usual Indonesian sense, such as banci in Lk. 2:1-2 (TMV96) will be understood by average Indonesians as ‘transvestite’, for the Indonesian equivalent issensus ‘census’. Likewise mengintip in Ps. 10:8 (TMV96) will be understood by average Indonesians as ‘peeping’ rather than ‘to spy’, for in Indonesian the term is memata-matai or mengintai. The Malay word memansuhkan in Rom. 3:31 (TMV96) is meaningless to ordinary Indonesian readers.

    However, for Malaysians who are used to reading the Indonesian Bible formal translation (INT), now with the availability of the Revised Malay Bible (TMV96), it is recommended that at least they will also read and compare it with the TMV96 both in personal devotion and especially in preparation for study of the Bible, preaching and teaching. For the INT is a window to look at the form of the original biblical languages (e.g. in Prov. 25:21-22 and Rom. 12:20 engkau akan menimbun bara api di atas kepalanya ‘you will heap coals of fire on their heads’; in Rom. 12:2 berubahlah oleh pembaharuan budimu ‘be transformed by the renewing of your minds’ ), while TMV96 is a window to look at the Malay equivalence of the original languages in terms of meaning and function (Prov. 25:21-22, Rom. 12:20 perbuatan kamu akan memalukan mereka ‘your action will make them ashamed’; Rom. 12:2 biarlah Allah membaharui cara kamu berfikir ‘let God change the way you think’). In the same way that the TIV works for the Indonesian audience, so TMV96 functions for Malaysian readers.

    Needless to say, a Bible translation is always prepared and revised from time to time to meet the needs of a specific target audience at a certain time in history. The Bible has been translated into Indonesian for Indonesian readers of a particular generation, and it has been revised from time to time. The latest revised translation in Indonesian is there to facilitate faithful communication of the Good News in the most natural and readable Indonesian of today and at the same time to avoid archaisms and misunderstanding. Likewise the Bible has been translated into Malay and has been revised for Malaysian readers of different generations. Thus, this TMV96 was prepared with today’s Malaysian Christians in mind. It is intended for those who are well versed in the national language, those who have been educated in Malay for the last thirty years, and those who have become more fluent in the national language than in English, Chinese, Tamil, or their respective mother tongue. The message of the Good News as expressed in the original biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek remains the same; but in the most recent revised translation, the grammar, choice of words, spelling and style have been updated to reflect the most current usage of Malay and to facilitate proper comprehension of the message of salvation.

    Final Remarks
    In the final analysis, the effectiveness of a Bible translation will be determined by how clearly it communicates the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, who is the source of life and salvation, to the Christian communities, especially the Malay-speaking pastors, teachers and members of Christian churches who live and worship in Malay on a daily basis. Thus, to complete the picture, the following are some comments that BSM has received from our external reviewers and the end users of this Revised Malay Bible:
    “I bought the ‘TMV: Malay New Testament (Revised)’ a few months back and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bible Society for its ‘efficiency’. Since receiving it, I’ve been reading it with an open heart. I must praise the ‘translation team’ because not only has the team succeeded with the spirit of the Word but with its grammar and spellings as well. Indeed, I’ve never, and I repeat … never … read such good Malay in any Christian literature before. Thank you Bible Society and thank you translation team for delivering a ‘NATIONAL’ Bible into our hands, the national Church.”
    ~ Br. Donny in Kuantan, Pahang

    “I am so glad to have and to be able to use a copy of the recently released Revised Malay Bible.”
    ~ Rev. Samamadin Uloi,
    Priest of St. Patrick’s Anglican Church, BM Section, Tawau, Sabah

    “Personally I feel that the Revised Malay Bible is very helpful. So far, I have not found foreign expressions, they are in common language. So it is only right if Malaysians should use the Malay Bible.”
    ~ Pastor Kusam Yontok,
    Evangelism Coordinator of the SIB Church, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

    “I am responsible for translating the OT readings for the Timugon Murut Mass (NT we have already). Recently the readings have been from the Psalms. Even though all my education has been in Malay medium and I have used the Indonesian Alkitab since I was small, I encountered difficulty understanding the Psalms in Indonesian. Prose text in Indonesian is one thing, but poetry is much more difficult. Fortunately BSM has just released the whole Bible in Malay and this has made my job so much easier! I can understand the idiom of Malay poetry much easier than Indonesian, and that means the translations into Murut are much better. Thank you BSM!”
    ~ Mr. Tony Wong, primary teacher, youth leader and translator of Murut Liturgy in the RC parish of St. Anthony, Tenom, Sabah

    “I am active in two of the outstation chapels in our parish and need to have a good understanding of exactly what the Bible is saying in order to help others understand it. The arrival of the Malay Alkitab is a tremendous help to me personally and to those to whom we are reaching out. It is a relief to finally have a Bible that is in a language that we fully understand – the language that is taught in our schools. Syabas BSM!”
    ~ Mr. Alvin Tikoi, lay leader in the RC parish of St. Anthony, Tenom, Sabah

    In conclusion, as the Malay proverb goes: Tak ada gading yang tak retak (literally ‘There is no ivory without cracks’, meaning ‘Nothing is perfect’), so this Revised Malay Bible (TMV96) is like other translations – it can still be improved. In common with other living languages, Malay vocabulary, grammar, discourse and style are never stationary. They change from time to time, and it is the usage of the Malay native speakers that brings about such change. So, BSM, as the servant of the Malaysian churches, cordially welcomes comments, corrections, and suggestions for improvement. Let us for now give this Revised MalayAlkitab a chance to be used for the nurture of the Malaysian churches nation-wide, especially for those who are first or second language speakers of Malay, and those who continuously use the national language at school, at work, at home and at play, in mass and worship services, as well as in other church functions and activities.

    Patrick C AUGUSTIN

  12. 12 ninitalk
    November 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Most informative thank you Mr Augustin. Really appreciate your input- Halimah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

October 2013
« Sep   Nov »



%d bloggers like this: