Unity in Translation: The Role of Translation in Building Up the Unity of the Body of Christ

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Rosa Hunt


This is an article about the role that translation can play in building up the unity of the body of Christ. It rests on two fundamental assumptions: the first that Christianity is essentially a faith which has no existence independent of its translations; the second that the proclamation of the Christian message is truest to itself when expressed in the natural idiom of a culture. In this article, I examine the arguments supporting these assumptions. These fundamental theological axes are then related to a practical analysis of the power shifts which inevitably occur when translation of the Christian message occurs, with particular reference to Baptist congregations in Wales, and the potential for disunity generated by linguistic and cultural difference. This in turn leads to a consideration of what constitutes good practice in bilingual worship. I conclude that even in seemingly monoglot congregations, the social and linguistic background of individuals means that we are operating in an essentially multilingual and multicultural environment. There are two main ways of ensuring unity in such a situation — one is to impose a cultural and linguistic hegemony, and the second is to surrender control and seek to encourage the flourishing of multiple readings of the Christian message in line with the language and cultural idioms of those present. I suggest that the second way is truer to the model of translation which God demonstrated in the incarnation.

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Author Biography

Rosa Hunt

Revd Dr Rosa Hunt is Co-Principal of Cardiff Baptist College, and minister of Tabernacle (Y Tabernacl) Welsh Baptist Church, Cardiff.