why this project?

problems with existing nepali bible translations

The most popular Nepali version of the Scriptures is connected with the United Bible Societies—an ecumenical organization that works closely with the Roman Catholic Church and regularly utilizes liberal, humanistic, and apostate translators. Though common, this translation is relatively expensive (especially for Nepalis living in rural villages) and difficult to obtain in vast quantities for distribution purposes. With regard to the text itself, it is little more than a questionable rendering of an early edition of the corrupt English NIV—the same version (along with many other modern English translations) that extricates complete verses, complicates passages, diminishes key Scriptural doctrines in scores of places, liberally utilizes the dubious technique of dynamic equivalence, and abounds with private interpretation. Because the NIV has served as the foundation for this standard Nepali Bible (We will henceforth refer to this translation as the NBS), the problems of this English translation and its underlying Greek/Hebrew textual bases (i.e. critical eclectic editions—such as that put out by the ecumenical United Bible Societies—which ridiculously claim to reproduce the “original ” text, are collated by unbelieving skeptics and apostates, and bear historical affiliation with Roman Catholicism and scribal corruption) have been thrust upon the Nepali people as their only real option.

There are also many glaring blunders unique to the NBS. Consider a few examples:

  1. The same Nepali word used for “rock” in Matthew 16:18 is used in John 1:42 in reference to Peter, thereby very “popishly” equating the apostle to the foundation of the New Testament Church.
  2. The Nepali word used for “judgment” in places like Hebrews 9:27 is a very human term that connotes debate and the possibility of appeal. At the Judgment of God, there is not debate, and there certainly is no appeal.
  3. The word used for “Scripture” literally means “religious books” and does not even come close to connoting the holy words of God. Therefore, usage of this term implies that the writings of false religions are valuable.
  4. The Nepali term used for “evil spirit” or “demon” is the term for “ghost” (i.e. the spirit of someone who is dead).
  5. The connection between Jesus’ proclamation of Himself in John 8:9 as “I AM” and the name of God found in Exodus 3:14 is completely lost in the translation.
  6. Hindi words that are not typically understood by Nepalis are found in scores of places. John 9:34 and 10:34 contain just two of many examples.
  7. Translational and grammatical inconsistencies abound. An example of the former can be found in comparing Leviticus 23:34 with 23:42,43, while an example of the latter is seen in John 3:15-16.
  8. The word used for “miracles” literally means “symbol” or “sign” and does not necessarily connote a supernatural occurrence. This is especially problematic in the context of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
  9. Translations of “blasphemy” or “blaspheme” inherently connote a Hindu concept, thereby implying that it is actually possible to blaspheme a false idol.
  10. The word used for “fornication” only references adultery. Such does not even come close to capturing the true meaning of passages like I Corinthians 6:18. Fornication includes all sexual sin.
  11. The subtle reference to Christ’s deity in John 7:34 is missing due to incorrect translation.
  12. Numerous times, a word is used for God that is inextrickably tied to Hinduism and can only connote “god” (i.e. one among a pantheon). A glaring example of this can be found in Psalm 14:1. The implication is: “A fool hath said in his heart this is no god,” or “there are no gods.”
  13. A horrible translation of Psalm 138:2 says that God’s Word AND His name are lifted above all things. However, the Hebrew clearly says that God has lifted His Word ABOVE His name, thereby binding Himself to His promises. Here, the NBS simply copied and translated the NIV’s ridiculous “dynamic equivalence.”

There is another translation that can be characterized as a worthy attempt at translating the textual tradition behind the English King James Bible into the Nepali language, a foundation of sorts with a sound textual basis upon which others can build.  This work, which began in the 1980’s, is based OUTSIDE of Nepal near Darjeeling, India (Henceforth, we will refer to this translation as the DRJ); has been endorsed by the Trinitarian Bible Society in London, England (a longtime defender of the traditional text behind the King James); and has always represented a noble effort despite limited resources.

Unfortunately, work on the DRJ began in a place where the dialect befits a small segment of Nepali-speakers that live outside the borders AND before the Nepali language had been fully developed and/or simplified into its present written form.  The work then continued over a space of more than twenty years without needful revision as the Nepali language continued to evolve.  Thus, in the DRJ, there are many instances where the diction does not reflect the common Nepali tongue.  On numerous occasions, in fact, difficult Hindi terminology is unnecessarily used in an effort to preserve the correct meaning of the text. Add to this countless instances of slang terminology, grammatical complexities, over-literal translations of the King James text that are meaningless in Nepali, and unusual vocabulary/dialect (as opposed to that which is more commonly understood by the people of Nepal), and what you have is a Bible translation that is very difficult for the average Nepali to comprehend, thus, we believe, feeding the unfortunate Nicolaitan mentality (see Revelation 2:15) that already festers in Nepali “churchianity.” Granted, the DRJ does not share the textual problems found in the aforementioned NBS, but the linguistic problems are real and numerous; these can and should be remedied.

Consider some problematic instances found particularly in the Gospel of John:

  1. In Project Jagerna’s first edition of the Gospel of John (2007), at least 938 problems from the DRJ needed to be resolved. About 68% of these were related to grammar, syntax, spelling, and word order. Close to 20% of these were translational problems. 10% represented awkward vocabulary, and the remaining 2% involved adding explanatory footnotes for linguistic understanding.
  2. In Project Jagerna’s second edition of the Gospel of John (2012), more than 100 additional problems carried over from the DRJ had to be remedied.
  3. The translation of “born again” in John 3:3,7 utilizes a confusing linguistic form that implies process (as opposed to the instantaneous regeneration wrought by the Holy Spirit by grace through faith). The same is found in the NBS and seems inexcusable when one considers how easily this can be translated into Nepali.
  4. John 4:6 connotes that Jesus sat in the well as opposed to on the well.
  5. John 9:31 and 10:8 are missing the noun modifiers for two possessive adjectives.
  6. The DRJ frequently confuses “for” and “because” as in John 1:17, 3:16-18, and 16:3.
  7. Questionable grammatical inconsistency abounds (e.g. John 3:18; 7:17; 8:41-44; 18:17,25,39; 19:24; and 21:7).
  8. Private interpretation as opposed to faithful translation appears. An example of this can be found in John 1:26,31,33 where John’s baptism is described as “in water” (an interpretive reference to baptism by immersion) as opposed to “with water” (the correct translation). Though the Scriptures teach that baptism by immersion is the proper reflection of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this teaching is not found in these verses. And, man, regardless of how good his intentions might be, has no business changing the text to suit his theology (whether or not the theology is biblically sound).
  9. Illogical and nonsensical translation is appears in places like John 1:19; 3:18; 10:13; 11:3; and 13:3,11,16,27.
  10. John 10:30 utilizes a weak word that detracts from Christ’s deity.
  11. Numbers are typically spelled out in the DRJ, but in John 12:1 and 19:24, the symbol is used—one of many examples of inconsistency.
  12. In John 12:16 and 18:15-16, a verb is used in the active voice when it should be passive.
  13. In several instances, the DRJ has Jesus addressing human beings with a high, honorific form of address that is normally reserved for addressing deity in the Nepali language. The theological implications of this are especially dangerous in John 2:10 where Jesus is addressing Mary, his mother. Other examples can be found in 8:10; 11:43; 20:13-15; and 21:15-17.
  14. Interrogatives are used when the passage calls for demonstratives (e.g. John 9:30, 12:42).
  15. Incorrect verb tenses are rendered (e.g. John 11:13, 16; 12:9).
  16. Punctuation errors are frequent (e.g. John 11:7).
  17. Examples of poor translation can be found in John 3:16, 20-21; 4:22; 5:22; 6:19; 8:41; 10:17-18; 12:21,26,42; 13:2,11,19; and 18:39.
  18. Hindi words abound (e.g. John 1:20; 12:32; 13:38; 18:25,27; 19:39; 20:5-7; and 21:15).
  19. The use of spoken slang (as opposed to grammatically correct written forms) are plentiful (e.g. John 4:43; 7:14; 8:9; 11:44; 12:13,16,19; 13:18,19,39; 14:29; 15:26; 18:35; 19:5; 20:3,11; 21:7).
  20. Examples of typographical errors can be found in John 8:9,59.
  21. Time references that refer to an hour of the Jewish day are incorrectly translated “o’clock” (e.g. John 1:39; 4:6,52; 19:14).
  22. John 6 alone contains at least 40 grammatical/syntax problems, 24 translational errors, and 6 instances of peculiar vocabulary.

Apart from issues of translation, the DRJ is very expensive and extremely difficult to obtain outside of Kathmandu (i.e. because the project has been and continues to be based OUTSIDE of Nepal).  The price for a complete Bible is nearly double that of the NBS. Simply put, the DRJ is impractical for the Nepali people. Thus, a fresh attempt to produce an accurate translation of the Authorized King James Bible into the common tongue of the Nepali people, an attempt that seeks to fully and finally remedy the problems of DRJ, is desperately needed. This being said, we are very grateful for the pioneering work done by the translators of the DRJ. Using the DRJ as a textual basis, Project Jagerna is traveling a path already well-prepared in many ways. It can be said that the DRJ translators, in terms of the road that will provide a pure Bible for Nepali-speaking people, have have cut down trees, moved some difficult stumps out of the way, framed bridges over rivers and canyons, and have truly carved out a roadbed. What is needed now is grading, the last stages of bridge construction, paving, and finishing-touches that will make said road easily travelled for all Nepali-speaking people.

cost and availability of existing nepali translations

The cost of existing Nepali Bibles and their limited number makes it difficult for local churches, Nepali Christian laborers, and/or foreign missionaries to do large-scale Bible distributions. There are sizeable areas of Nepal and pockets of Nepali people outside Nepal’s borders where the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains relatively unknown, so widespread free distribution of the Word of God is desperately needed. Also related to this problem is the fact that many Nepali Christians (especially those in the villages) do not own a personal copy of the Scriptures. 

the need for reformation in nepali churches

In many Nepali churches, unbiblical traditions have assumed precedence over Scriptural truth, false doctrine runs wild, and church leaders are known for dictatorial dominance over their flocks (in direct disobedience to I Peter 5:3). With regard to the latter, the average Christian will not evangelize and/or seek to plant new churches because he has been led to believe by his “clergy” that he is not qualified to do so. There is a “churchianity” that festers in Nepal, and reformation is desperately needed. Ultimately, this is a result of biblical ignorance amongst average Nepali Christians. Many do not own their own personal copy of the Bible, so these are apt to be easily deceived by false teachers and false traditions. Unbiblical traditions and false doctrines in the churches must be battled with the pure Word of God. True reformation can only come when the laity are able to personally compare what they have been taught with the very words of Scripture. It behooves us to mass produce an accurate, readable, and pure translation of the Holy Scriptures into Nepali and to do everything in our power to get this into the hands of every Nepali Christian. The open-air preaching, printing, and mass distribution of the pure Scriptures brought reformation to Roman Catholic-dominated Europe in the Dark Ages. We believe that the same can happen in Nepal.