Why We Translate Theological Resources
The right kind of book can fast-track a student’s education, and that’s why translations of key theological works are prized resources on the mission field.
John MacArthur explains this in a conversation with TMAI President Mark Tatlock regarding their joint effort to see Biblical Doctrine translated into multiple foreign languages. An excerpt of their discussion is below:
• Mark Tatlock:
“John, a big part of your ministry and a big part of ours overseas has been not only preaching and training but writing and publishing…One book particularly that you worked on was Biblical Doctrine, and the way that we approached that in terms of foreign language translation was a real game changer for us in thinking about how to go forward. Could you tell us a little bit about the background and development of that project?”
• John MacArthur:
“Many places in the world aren’t at a point where they can develop a theology textbook,” MacArthur began.
“If you started from ground zero, it would take decades and decades to be able to get the maturity that it would take to go through the whole Scripture and to frame up a full systematic theology. And we knew that, but we were also hearing it from the people out on the field. They desperately needed a theology. They needed something that was complete and could be translated and given to them as a theological textbook. So that’s really what was behind doing Biblical Doctrine.”
“What is in Biblical Doctrine could be found in multiple places in the English language,” he went on to explain, “but in other parts of the world that was just not that available. So it just leapfrogged over decades and decades of trying to develop that.”
He concluded, “It’s impossible to state how crucial a tool this is—to have a complete systematic theology. It covers everything. It’s the best gift you can give church leadership.”
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To this day, our schools see the immense benefits that translated resources bring to the lives of pastors and laypeople alike. So, whether they’re working with books on preaching, counseling, parenting, or church history, our teams are continuing toward their goal of bringing more of the world’s biblically sound books into the language(s) of their people.
“It’s impossible to state how crucial a tool this is—to have a complete systematic theology. It covers everything. It’s the best gift you can give church leadership.”
But in the context of training men to be pastors, translation isn’t everything TMAI is aiming for in these publishing initiatives. It’s only the first of two steps in our strategic approach to publishing.
Rick Kress, the director of TMAI’s Global Publications Department, summarizes how translation projects serve an even greater goal for the development of our students:
“The benefit of translating foundational works—like Bible expositions, Bible study notes, systematic theologies, and other resources—is that those kinds of books help train people to handle the Scriptures properly. Then, once indigenous authors are trained in that way, they are more equipped to go and write the kinds of books that apply Scripture to their own cultural context.”
“So really,” he concluded, “the goal is to equip and enable indigenous authors.”
Why We Train Indigenous Authors
On top of the education-accelerating benefits of translations, the long-range benefit of our investment into publishing is that of enabling writers, the kinds of men who will lead their churches into the future through clear and compelling writing.
A former missionary explains the benefits of such books in this way:
“In the same way that we believe ‘A missionary is good but a national is better,’ we could say that ‘A translation is good, but a book written by a national is better.’ When you can write from an understanding of what your audience is living on a day-to-day basis, and when your readers understand that you get exactly where they’re coming from, then that resource is going to be so much more effective.”
In God’s grace, we’ve been able to see our own graduates and faculty members being fruitful with their knowledge and writing for their own communities. Two examples are below:
• An Unnamed Graduate
While TMAI has several graduates who have become authors, security concerns prevent us from disclosing their names or locations at this time.
“In the same way that we believe ‘A missionary is good but a national is better,’ we could say that ‘A translation is good, but a book written by a national is better.’”
Notably however, one graduate went on to write the first-ever exegetical commentary on Genesis in his language to articulate and defend a literal, six-day creation from the Hebrew text. After doing so, the book has since transcended the borders of this man’s country and made its way into a neighboring country, where believers there saw its value and began translating it into their own language as well.
To this day, his work has never been in English, but it has never needed to be. It is effectively strengthening believers in this unique part of the world, and this is exactly the kind of fruit that we hope to see more of from our graduates in the future.
• Dr. Benedikt Peters (EBTC)
Another indigenous author of note is one of our own professors, Dr. Benedikt Peters (pictured above).
Peters is a German national who speaks and preaches in over 10 languages. After working for a Christian publishing house for several years, Dr. Peters now serves a local church in Arbon, Switzerland, teaches classes for EBTC’s Master of Divinity program, and continues to write numerous theological books.
Below is a sampling of his work:
- Exegetical commentaries on John, Zechariah, Job, Romans, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, 1–2 Peter, Jude, and Psalms
- Pastoral and theological works such as The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, The Holy Spirit, and Peacemaker: What We Can Learn from George Whitfield and John Wesley
Dr. Peters embodies the kind of faithful writing ministry that many of our students could join him in. And because disciples become like their teachers (Matt 10:25), we’re excited to see what kinds of authors the Lord may raise up through Dr. Peters and the many other professors around the world who are helping to lead His church into the future through writing.
This Is Why We Publish
Because books are so critical to the speed, depth, and longevity of any training ministry, our field teams have amassed a long list of resources that they are looking to translate in 2023—and you can help them advance this publishing work.
If you would like to financially support TMAI’s indigenous publishing efforts and invest in resources that help raise indigenous writers and strengthen their churches, please click HERE.
Recently Completed Projects:
- Portions of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series (33 vols.; multiple languages)
- Basics of Biblical Greek Workbook by Robert Mounce (Russian)
- Growing Your Faith by Jerry Bridges (Armenian)
Current Project Highlights:
- Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays (Arabic)
- Romans by Thomas Schreiner (Russian)
- Knowing God by J. I. Packer (Vietnamese)
- Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur (Albanian)
For a list of additional projects and initiatives, please visit here.