Through of the hard work of an indigenous Bible translator, as well as input from council members, cultural consultants, and local respondents, there is now a native version of the scriptures that readers may use to glean more meaning from their reading.
According to CBN News, the First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament was published Tuesday, and this is thanks to Terry Wildman, the translator.
Wildman is the director of "spiritual growth and leadership development" at Native InterVarsity, as well as a pastor and an author.
He formed a music duet with his wife, Darlene, known as RainSong, which draws upon his Native American roots in its music.
Wildman stated that the concept of translating the New Testament was first formulated over two decades ago when he spoke with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW). He did not believe he was "qualified" to do the job, so he decided to hold off on it.
"For years I resisted writing a whole New Testament translation because I didn't feel qualified," he said at the time. "But about ten years ago, at a seminar on healing between people groups, people surrounded me in prayer, and I stopped resisting God's call. God gave me the credibility through the people God provided."
Nonetheless, according to Wildman, 90% of indigenous people cannot speak their own tribal language and have a similarly low level of reading skills in it. To overcome this challenge, he advised that a full English translation of the Bible may still be needed.
Wildman explains that this is the consequence of many decades of assimilation efforts by governments in North America, which tried to eliminate over 250 languages spoken in the continent.
"Although there is now a trend to teach the languages through schools and communities, without the first language speakers (elders) to bring out the deeper background to the meaning of words, much of these languages' richness is still missing," he said.
What to expect from the First Nations Version
One of the most important elements of the First Nations Version, he said, is the way the biblical characters' titles are presented.
"Just as in Hebrew culture at the time of the New Testament, names have always had special meaning in our Native cultures," Wildman explained. "So the FNV refers to Jesus as 'Creator Sets Free,' Abraham as 'Father of Many Nations,' and Peter as 'Stands on the Rock.' We also used words and concepts more relevant to a traditional Native worldview."
Depending on the context, "Temple" became "Sacred Lodge," while "sin" became "bad hearts" or "broken ways." 'Angel' was dubbed spirit-messenger,' 'apostle' was renamed 'message bearer,' and 'Christ' was renamed 'Chosen One.'"
One of the chief design considerations in this version of the Bible, which took five years to be completed, is how to honor the cultures and traditions of Indigenous Americans.
Among the featured cultures and traditions are "Apache, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Desert Cahuilla, Cayuga, Diné (Navajo), Hopi, Kalispel, Kiowa, Klickitat, Lakota, Mohawk, Métis, Miami, Muscogee, Nez Perce, Northern Cree, Odawa, Ojibwe, Pawnee, Plains Cree, Potawatomi, Tlingit, Tohono O'odham, Western Cree, Yankton Sioux, Spokane, Wascoe, Yakama, and Yaqui."
Wildman is also considering writing an Old Testament version of FNV.
"I've been praying about whether to tackle the Old Testament, or at least Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and maybe some prophets," he said.
The FNV Bible, according to one council member, "sounds so Native that some people will not believe it is the Bible." John 3:16-17 in the FNV Bible, for example, reads this way:
“The Great Spirit loves this world of human beings so deeply he gave us his Son—the only Son who fully represents him. All who trust in him and his way will not come to a bad end, but will have the life of the world to come that never fades—full of beauty and harmony. Creator did not send his Son to decide against the people of this world, but to set them free from the worthless ways of the world.”