Hebrews 4:12 says: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
One of the most powerful experiences I had during this Bible translation time in Guinea-Bissau was witnessing this verse come to life.
My team of Djola-Bayote-Aramme speakers were wrapping up their translation of the sixth chapter of Galatians when João Manga stopped and exclaimed: “This is amazing! It’s as if the apostle Paul is speaking directly to our Bayote churches right here today!” When I asked him to explain what he meant, this is what I learned:
|Translating Galatians into Djola-Bayote-Aramme|
Bayote tribal customs continue to run deep in their local culture. One of those is a major animistic ceremony that happens every few years in which young and old men alike must go through the tribal rites of circumcision. Unlike the Old Testament Jewish case, where God had both spiritual identity and health considerations in mind for circumcision, the Bayote see this strictly as a sign of tribal loyalty and, most likely, a means of appeasing the demons and spirits. As a result, Bayote Christians have resisted participating in the ceremony.
Doing so, however, has brought with it significant persecution. Last year, a mob attacked and totally destroyed a brand-new church claiming it was being built as a place to hide boys in order to keep them from the circumcision rites. So, when my friends read in Galatians, Paul’s strong admonition not to follow those who were trying to promote the old legal Jewish regulations of circumcision, but to find salvation in the cross of Christ alone, they said, “This is exactly what our people need to hear today! Paul says, ‘Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised… they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.’” (from Gal 6:12-14)
Furthermore, they exclaimed that being able to read these words of Paul in their own Bayote language dialect brings not only new relevance to the Bible but will also be a tremendous encouragement to stand up in the face of community opposition.
If you’re interested to hear Joao Manga personally share this story, here's a YouTube link to a short video interview I did with him where he explains just how impactful Galatians will be for his people: