27/11/2020

History of the Malay Bible – Alkitab

A Brief History of the Malay Language Bible

Adapted from the article, “A Bird’s Eye View of the History of the Malay Bible Translation” by Rev Dr Daud Soesilo

 

  In the year 1612, the translation of the Gospel of  Matthew in the Malay Language was completed. Its subsequent publication in 1629 was a very historic and significant event as it was the earliest translation of a portion of the Bible in a non-European language ever published, long before the translation of the Bible into the Chinese, Tamil, or Tagalog languages. What is even more fascinating is that this translation of the Gospel of Matthew is completed only a year after the publication of the King James Version Bible.

From this humble beginning, great efforts to produce a Bible in the Malay Language for the people in this region continued on. Together with the assistance of Jan van Hasel and Justus Heurnius, Ruyl continued his Malay translation. This resulted in the printing of the Four Gospels and Acts in 1651. A year later, the Psalms in the Malay Language prepared by Jan van Hasel and Justus Heurnius was printed. After the translation of Genesis was printed in 1662, Rev Daniel Brouwerious went on to produce the first complete Malay translation of the New Testament in 1668.

It was not until 1733 that the first complete Malay Language Bible, Elkitab: Ija Itu Segala Surat Perdjandjian Lama dan Baharuw, translated by Melchior Leijdecker, a Dutch medical doctor with theological training, was published. Twenty-five years later, a five-volume Malay Bible in Jawi script was published in 1758. Leijdecker’s Malay Bible provided an important beginning and his work was extensively revised during the 19th century by translators in what is now known as Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia.

Indjil Jonnes ( Gsopel of John ) in High Malay 1932

Meanwhile in Indonesia, a Dutch Mennonite missionary, named Hillebrandus Cornelius Klinkert printed the Malay Four Gospels in 1861 and the New Testament in 1863, in the low Malay of Semarang, Central Java. He was assisted by Encik Mumin in the Riau Islands off Sumatra. They translated the Gospel according to Matthew in 1868, the New Testament in 1870, and then the full Malay Bible translation in 1879. Thus, this represents the second major effort in translating the Bible into Malay.

The Malay Language Bible has since been revised numerous times to meet the language needs of subsequent generations of Malaysians and also to avoid confusion and misunderstanding brought about by the subtle differences as languages continue to evolve. Between 1880 and 1929, the Singapore branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society expanded major efforts in translating the Bible into the Malay Language. The most prominent of these was the translation by London Missioary Society missionary, William Girdlestone Shellabear, who gave us the first Malay Bible translation specifically in the Malay of what is now called Peninsular Malaysia in 1912. In this version Jesus was rendered as Isa al-Maseh. Shellabear is also widely remembered for his work in the translation of the New Testament into Baba Malay, or the Peranakan Malay.

 

 

 

 

The Leydekker Malay Old Testament 1858

In 1929, the Netherlands Bible Society, British and Foreign Bible Society, and the National Bible Society of Scotland combined their effort in producing a Malay Bible translation that could meet the needs of both Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia. This new translation was intended to replace the previous Bible translations made by Leijdecker (1733), Klinkert (1879) and Shellabear  (1912). For this purpose, a German missionary named Werner August Bode, working in Tomohon, Minahasa, produced a Malay New Testament in 1938, and several Old Testament books such as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Psalms.

In order to meet the needs of Indonesian Christians in an independent Indonesia, the Indonesian Bible Society, which was founded in 1954, printed the Terjemahan Lama, “Old Translation”, in 1958, as a stop gap measure until a fully Indonesian Bible translation became available. This comprised Klinkert’s Old Testament (1879) and Bode’s New Testament (1938). Meanwhile, Father J. Bouma of the Roman Catholic Church in Indonesia, came up with a new Indonesian translation of the New Testament published by Arnoldus in Ende, Flores in 1964. Dr. Cletus Groenen worked on a translation of the Old Testament until 1968 when the Roman Catholic Church decided to stop its own translation project and join the Bible translation programme of the Indonesian Bible Society.

In 1952 a team headed by Dutch Dr J. L. Swellengrebel (1952-59) initiated the work on a truly Indonesian Bible translation. Beginning in 1962, an Indonesian, Dr J. L. Abineno, headed this team until the completion of the project. The New Testament was printed in 1971, and the full Bible was published in 1974. It also included the Deuterocanonical edition. This version called the Terjemahan Baru, “New Translation”, was the first truly ecumenical Bible translation in Indonesian. The translation approach taken in this translation was based on the ‘formal equivalence’ translation method, which as far as possible, attempts to retain the form of the original biblical languages

It is helpful to point out that in October 1997, the Indonesian Bible Society launched the newly revised New Testament of the Terjemahan Baru called Perjanjian Baru Terjemahan Baru Edisi ke-2, “New Testament: New Translation, Second Edition”. This was prepared by a team of biblical scholars who are experts in biblical Greek. Furthermore, in the final stage of the revision effort, numerous biblical scholars and heads of churches from all over Indonesia gathered in Cipayung, West Java, to discuss the revision before the text was finalized.

Although the Terjemahan Baru was being used in the Malaysian churches, it was eventually realized that a truly Malaysian Bible translation was needed to communicate the Good News accurately, without confusion and misunderstanding brought about by the subtle differences between the Indonesian and Malay Languages.

Consequently, the Bible Society of Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia  printed the first Malay Common Language New Testament, Perjanjian Baru: Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden, “New Testament: Good News for Modern Man”, in 1974. It was mainly the labour of love of a West Malaysian pastor of Indonesian background named Rev. Elkanah T. Suwito. The full Malay Bible, Alkitab: Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden, “Bible: Good News for Modern Man”,  was published by the Bible Society of Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia in 1987. This particular translation was based on the translation method called ‘Dynamic/Functional Equivalence’ that emphasizes the transfer of the meaning and function of the original biblical languages rather than retaining the form.

Applying this translation method, a new Indonesian Bible version was prepared by a team of translators. As a result, Today’s Indonesian New Testament was published by the Indonesian Bible Society in 1977. Thus, Alkitab Kabar Baik Dalam Bahasa Indonesia Sehari-hari, “Good News Bible in Indonesian Everyday Language” was published in 1985, and the Deuterocanonical edition was published in 1988. This Indonesian dynamic equivalent Bible translation is also being used by some churches in Malaysia.

Not long after the distribution of the first edition of Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden printed in 1987, the Bible Society of Malaysia was asked to consider revising this translation. A meeting was held with the Bible Society of Malaysia Language Committee.  It was then decided that the revision would be carried out to correct some of the deficiencies found in the 1987 Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden.

A revision workshop was held at the Bible Society of Malaysia in December 1989 where a set of guiding principles to be followed by the revision team were agreed. The workshop participants also recommended a team of revisers, reviewers and readers representing West and East Malaysia since 78% of the users of Malay Bible live in East Malaysia. The revision work itself did not commence until May 1990. The revision team consisted of three revisers, a number of reviewers and readers plus a stylist representing various denominations from across the nation and ranging from church leaders, faculty members from   Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM), the Sabah Theological Seminary (STS), and the University of Malaya, plus some language specialists, and numerous Malay speaking school teachers and lay persons.

The Revised Malay New Testament and Psalms, Perjanjian Baru dan  Mazmur, was soon published in 1995. Toward the end of 1996, the Revised Malay Bible, Alkitab Berita Baik, came off the press together with the first ever Malay Deuterocanonical Books. It was launched and dedicated  at the Trinity Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya, on 25th January 1997.

It is important, however, to point out that the 1996 Alkitab Berita Baik is not a brand new Bible translation, but rather a fully revised translation.  The new revision retains the translation style of the 1987 Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden where the text is based on the dynamic/functional equivalence method which emphasizes meaning rather than form. It is important to stress that this revision team was not commissioned by the Bible Society of Malaysia to produce a formal equivalence translation like the English Revised Standard Version or the existing Indonesian formal equivalence Bible translation known as the Terjemahan Baru.

In June 2011, a decision was made to initiate a formal Bahasa Malaysia Bible translation project. A workshop led by three Bible Translation Consultants from the United Bible Societies for potential translators was organized by the Bible Society of Malaysia. Eleven translators participated in this workshop, and a draft translation of the letters of Philemon and 2 John was completed. Subsequently, the team began the translation of the Gospel of Luke as a pilot project. The translation was completed and reviewed in December 2011. A final check and typesetting were carried out in January 2012 and it is now being printed with the hope that copies of this translation will be available in early March 2012. Copies of the Gospel of Luke were  distributed among leaders of Bahasa Malaysia speaking churches for review. The standard of the formal translation was accepted by these church leaders, the Bible Society of Malaysia is proceeding with the task of translating the entire Bible, a project that is anticipated to take 12 years.

As we celebrate 400 years of the Malay Language Bible in 2012, we are also reminded that a formal Bahasa Malaysia translation is timely to cater for the needs of the Malay Language congregations so that serious and deeper study of the Bible can be carried out. Much prayer support is coveted for this very crucial and important task of Bible translation. It is our prayer that this new formal translation can be used for the nurture of the Malaysian churches nationwide, especially for those who are first or second language speakers of Bahasa Malaysia, and those who continuously use the national language at school, at work, at home and at play, in mass and worship services, as well as in other church functions and activities.

Acts of the Apostles in Malay Arabic

 

Injil Markus ( Gospel of Mark) in Baba Malay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Formal Alkitab BM Gospel of Luke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timeline of the Translation and Publication of the Bible in the Malay Language

First Major Effort to Translate the Bible into the Malay Language

1611 The King James Version is published.
1612 The Gospel of Matthew translated into Malay Language by Dutch tradesman, Albert Cornelisz Ruyl.
1629 The Gospel of Matthew by Albert Cornelisz Ruyl is published.
1651 The Four Gospels and Acts by Albert Cornelisz Ruyl, Jan van Hasel and Justus Heurnius is printed.
1652 Psalms translated by Jan van Hasel and Justus Heurnius printed.
1662 Translation of Genesis printed.
1668 First complete translation of the New Testament in the Malay Language.
1733 First complete Bible in the Malay Language, Elkitab, Ija Itu Segala Surat Perdjandjian Lama dan Baharuw, by Melchior Leijdecker, a Dutch medical doctor with theological training and his translation committee.
1758 5-volume Malay Bible in the Jawi script published.

 

Second Major Effort to Translate the Bible into the Malay Language

1861 Dutch Mennonite missionary Hillebrandus Cornelius Klinkert prints the Malay Four Gospels in the low Malay of Semarang, Central Java.
1863 Klinkert prints the entire New Testament in the low Malay of Semarang.
1868 The Gospel of Matthew is translated into low Malay of Semarang.
1870 The entire New Testament is translated into low Malay of Semarang.
1879 The full Malay Bible is translated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Bible Translations for Indonesia and Malaysia

1912 First Malay Bible translation for Peninsular Malaysia by William Girdlestone Shellabear.
1929 Netherlands Bible Society, British and Foreign Bible Society, and the National Bible Society of Scotland collaborate to produce a Malay Bible for both Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia.
1938 The New Testament and several Old Testament books were produced in Malay by German missionary Werner August Bode.
1958 The Old Translation, Terjemahan Lama, printed by the Indonesian Bible Society.
1964 Indonesian translation of the New Testament by J. Bouma.
1971 First ecumenical translation into Indonesian based on formal equivalence called Terjemahan Baru for the New Testament printed.
1974 Publication of both Old Testament and New Testament of the Indonesian translation, Terjemahan Baru.
1974 The New Testament, Perjanjian Baharu: Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden, printed by the Bible Society of Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia (BSSBM).
1977 Today’s Indonesian New Testament published by the Indonesian Bible Society.
1985 Alkitab Kabar Baik Dalam Bahasa Indonesia Sehari-hari is published
1987 The complete Malay Bible, Alkitab: Berita Baik Untuk Manusia Moden is produced by the Bible Society of Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia (BSSBM).
1988 Alkitab Kabar Baik Dalam Bahasa Indonesia Sehari-hari Deuterocanonical Edition is published.
1995 The Revised Malay New Testament and Psalms, Perjanjian Baru dan Mazmur, published.
1996 Revised Malay Bible, Alkitab Berita Baik , printed by the Bible Society of Malaysia.
1997 Newly revised New Testament, Perjanjian Baru Terjemahan Baru Edisi ke-2, launched by the Indonesian Bible Society.
2011 Workshop for a formal Bahasa Malaysia Bible translation launched. Draft translation of Philemon and 2 John completed.
2011 The translation of the Gospel of Luke as a pilot project for the formal Bahasa Malaysia Bible completed.
2012 The Gospel of Luke, part of the formal Bahasa Malaysia Bible project,  printed in March 2012.