Tag Archives: bible

The State of the Realm Report


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Holy Crown of Hungary (Photo by LGS)

Well, for the umpteenth time, one of my new year’s resolution is to STOP PROCRASTINATING!!!!

So doing my annual end of the year report on the state of the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel about a week into the next year isn’t so bad, is it?  What’s a week past the deadline between friends.

However, the real problem is that when I looked back on 2013, there isn’t much to report.  Been a kind of quiet year in the Realm.    I guess that the biggest single event of the year was my enforced exile for 7 months while my nest was being repaired and renovated.  Something that I am quite glad is over and I am now comfortably installed in my spanking new mad scientist laboratory.

Don’t get  me wrong, it wasn’t a bad year.   Let’s just say it wasn’t a vintage year.  Lots of things went well for which I thank God but it wasn’t a vintage year.

No major achievements like winning the Nobel Prize (Drats and curses – wasn’t my “donation enough”?!?!);  world conquest (bummer) or winning the lottery jackpot (bummer-er).

And my other great desire …….. world peace?  The world didn’t do well in that regard at all last year.

As far as blogging is concerned, it also wasn’t a hot year for me.  I took leave from blogging for 4 months and I only managed 27 posts for the year.  Not very prolific at all.  That’s just about a post every two weeks.

So what can we look forward to in 2014?

Well, sadly in Malaysia, the year has already started badly.  Just two days into the new year, Islamic religious officers raided the Bible Society of Malaysia, arrested two people and confiscated more than 300 Malay-language bibles.  Some leaders also called for protests to be held outside churches.

This was the latest chapter in a saga which started just over 3 years ago in which Christians were told that they were no longer allowed to use some 35 words of Arabic origin which they have used in the Malay and the indigenous languages bibles for several centuries, contending that these words are for the exclusive use of Muslims and no other religion.

Christians comprise some 10 per cent of the country’s population of 29 million and the  Malay-language Bibles are widely used by the indigenous tribes in the states of Sarawak and Sabah (Christian majority states) and by the Orang Asli (indigenous peoples)  of West Malaysia which accounts for about 66% of all the Christians.

The use of the word “Allah” (the word meaning God) by Christians led to several churches being torched and vandalised in 2010 after a high court ruling allowing the Christians the right to use the word.

Ahead of a state election in Sarawak, the government agreed to a 10 point plan which basically assured that Christians that they could continue to import, print and use the Malay bibles as long as certain conditions were met.  This recent raid, arrests and confiscation of the Malay bibles seem to fly in the face of that agreement.

Whatever your religious beliefs, I hope you will join in and pray for tolerance, peace and respect between peoples of all faiths.

Here in the Realm, I have decided to focus on more achievable targets than world conquest.  I plan to post an average of 2 posts per week this year.  Wish me luck.  It’s only the first week and I am already behind on the strike rate.

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The bible is so readily available in the English speaking world today that many take it for granted.   Yet the history of the translation of the bible into English is one scattered with stories of sacrifices and suffering, even unto death.  Similarly, many paid with their lives to ensure that the bible was translated into other languages too, so that others may read about the Good News of God in their native tongue.

In Southeast Asia, the Malay language is the lingua franca of about 215 million people.  In Malaysia, there is an estimated 2 million Christians of which for some 70 % Malay is their mother tongue and main language.  For them, having a Malay bible is a cherished blessing especially as they have faced difficulties previously from certain authorities who have tried to ban it, confiscate it, limit its distribution and even defaced it.  At the moment, the Malay language bible or the AlKitab has been allowed into the country but pending court cases means that the matter has not been settled permanently.

A week ago, I attended a function that celebrated 400 years of the Malay translation of the bible.  I had to admit that I was surprised to learn that the Malay language was the first non-European language into which the bible was translated.  A Dutch East India Company junior trader, Albert Cornelius Ruyl, translated the Gospel of Matthew into Malay in 1612 which was only one year later after the release of the King James’ Version.  His pioneering work would lead to the first complete Malay bible completed in 1733.

Albert Cornelius Ruyl had no formal training in linguistics but seemed to be extraordinarily gifted, allowing him to accomplish this feat.  He also pioneered the principle of “cultural substitution” in bible translation, something that would not receive widespread acceptance until it was promoted again almost 300 years later.  All previous translations, when faced with something that was not known to the new language, a word was adopted and adapted from the source language.  However, the new word would still be alien in meaning and did not promote understanding.

So Ruyl did some cultural substitution.  For example, there are no “fig trees” such as those found in the Middle East on the island of Sumatra.  Instead, Ruyl used “pisang” or banana tree as a cultural substitute.  Similarly, “wolves” was replaced with “tiger” and foxes with “mousedeer”.  Now a fox and a mousedeer are very different species; the former is a predetor while the latter is a prey species.  But just as we understand a fox to be cunning, in Malay folklore, it is the mousedeer that is cunning, often using its wits to escape the tiger and the crocodile.

Anyway, I am awestruck by seeing how God has led His word to be translated into the languages of the world (although there remains almost 200 languages that do not have the bible in their language), by the sacrifices made by many to carry out this work and how the work continues today even to some of the most remote tribes in the jungle as well as by how the Word of God is transforming many of these tribes.  There were many at the function that testify how knowledge of God’s word has set them free from fear and given them joy.

I am reminded to read my bible more faithfully and not take for granted my access to it.