A Letter from Noah Park and Esther Shin, serving in Egypt
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Greetings from Cairo!
In this letter, I’d like to tell you about a new Bible translation project in Egypt. The Van Dyke version is the most common Arabic Bible in the Arab World. Its translation began in the mid-19th century in Beirut through the American Bible Society shortly after the arrival of American missionaries and was completed by an American physician Van Dyke by 1865. It has been accepted by the major churches like the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Protestant Churches. It can be compared to the King James Bible.
The primary problem of the Van Dyke Bible is that it is written in Fusha or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). MSA is literary Arabic and can be found in books, mass media and the law. MSA is taught in schools throughout the Arab World even though it is not spoken in daily life. Regional and vernacular Arabic in each country is significantly different from MSA. This is the reason why students even at the graduate level may have difficulty reading the Van Dyke Bible correctly. This gap between “speaking” and “reading” is even wider for Egyptian Christians, since their colloquial Arabic called Ameia is farther removed from MSA.
It is quite clear that a new translation of the Bible in Egypt is required for the Egyptian people of 100 million. However, this project has been postponed until recently for many reasons. Fortunately, for the past two years the Egyptian Bible Society has been hard at work on this new translation. Currently, about 75% of the initial translation of the New Testament has been completed. The Gospel of Matthew in Egyptian colloquial Arabic will be published by the end of this year. We are one of those who are looking forward to reading it since we have mainly studied Egyptian Arabic since our arrival in 2016.
The news about a new Arabic translation is much more exciting since all the translators are recent graduates from the Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETSC). They are not professionally trained Bible translators, but they took Hebrew and Greek and, with basic training, know how to translate the Bible with dictionaries and other English Bibles. They are fluent in English, MSA and Egyptian Arabic. When we heard about this project, we were so proud of them already making a difference in the church and society.
Especially, three translators are women graduates who took classes in biblical studies from Noah. Sandy and Elham are pharmacists, and Dina is an English literature major. Dina also worked as a teaching assistant at ETSC until last year and is now a fulltime employee at the Egyptian Bible Society. They all received the highest grade in Noah’s classes and proved that the Upper Egypt saying “Women are not smart” is completely wrong. Noah remembers that they were very diligent students who paid careful attention in class.
There has been some progress in gender equality in Egypt. More women attend colleges than before but resistance to female professionalism is still obvious. In our Arabic textbook, the first description of woman in a conversation is “sit bit” meaning a house woman or housekeeper with no salary. The situation is not very different in the Egyptian churches. They are basically male centered organizations where women’s ordination for pastoral ministry has been postponed. We often wondered what women students could do in the church after graduation. The three women Bible translators already showed that our worries were unfounded.
On a different note, ETSC has had two graduation ceremonies this year, one in April for the class of 2020, and the other in September for the class of 2021. When we came to ETSC five years ago, there were approximately 350 students. Now, with the online program, the number of students has grown to at least 500. More than 80 students graduated this year with different types of master’s degrees. ETSC also plans to launch a D.Min program next year. There is also a regional conversation going-on about a Th.D program with other theological seminaries in the Middle East under the auspices of Free University in Amsterdam.
During the last summer, we were blessed to see our son and get vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S. Now in mid-October, the six-month summer is almost over in Cairo. It is still warm during the day, but the temperature is comfortable in the evening. In the fall semester, we will still teach our classes online. ETSC originally planned to open the campus in the new academic year. With a slow progress of vaccinations, however, the plan changed. Students will come to the seminary in November for a month.
We thank you for your continued prayer and support, which bless our ministry at ETSC. We believe that the three women Bible translators are one of the examples that God is working in the Arab World through ETSC.
Noah Park & Esther Shin
Associates for Global Ecumenical Partnership in Egypt
Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:
Dear partners in God’s mission,
I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.
God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.
How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.
We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe: pcusa.org/missionyearbook.
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.
Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.
In the light of hope,
Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give please visit https://bit.ly/PCUSAmission
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
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Tags: Egyptian Bible Society, Egyptian colloquial Arabic, modern Bible translation, Modern Standard Arabic, Van Dyke Bible
Tags: Noah Park and Esther Shin
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