Whether or not you’re interested in religion, you can’t help but realize what an arduous task translating the Bible must have been for those who did it. The Bible in its full form has been translated into 450 languages, and sections of it have been translated into more than 2,000. Obviously, most of these translations were completed before the early 1900’s, so there was no technology to assist in the translations. Translators worked through the piece word-by-word for years at a time. They couldn’t just hop on the Internet and use a translation services to help them along. In 1928, Franciscan priest Gabriele Maria Allegra began translating the Bible into Chinese, and he is finally being recognized for his efforts this month.
Chinese Translation Took Forty Years
In 1928 when Allegra began the translation, one of the only ways to accurately translate to a foreign language was to immerse yourself in that culture. He moved to China in 1930 and started studying the language in preparation for his Chinese translation. When the Sino-Japanese war began in 1940, he had to move to Beijing, and his entire first draft was lost on the journey. He had to move again to Hong Kong in 1949 when the communists took over, and in 1968 he finally released his Chinese Bible.
Allegra to be Beatified on September 29th
Though Allegra passed away in 1976, he will finally become beatified for the hard work he did as a Chinese translator this month. Beatification is when the church “blesses” you as a priest. Allegra was supposed to be beatified in 2002, but tensions between China and the Vatican prevented the Italian procession from taking place. Father Gabriele Maria Allegra was considered the “Saint Jerome of China”, and his translation is still the one that the Chinese use.
Translating the entire Bible in the modern world would be as simple as choosing from a myriad of potential translation services and sending the text to them. Translators in the past had to learn two languages to their full extent and use that knowledge to work with idioms and phrases they may have never even heard before. A lengthy and colloquial document such as the Bible would be extra difficult. The task of translation was considerably more difficult before the advent of modern technology, so it’s appropriate that Allegra be recognized for his efforts, though his beatification is belated.