Bible translations into Mongolian

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In spite of academic uncertainty, some speculate that perhaps translation of the Christian Bible into the Mongolian language could perhaps go back as far as 1305.

Early translations[edit]

In a letter dated from 8 January 1305, Giovanni da Montecorvino wrote that "I have got a competent knowledge of the language and character which is most generally used by the Tartars. And I have already translated into that language and character the New Testament and the Psalter, and have caused them to be written out in the fairest penmanship they have."[1] His work however, seems to be lost, as has any other translations Nestorian missionaries or Christian Mongolian tribes may have translated. One difficulty with this is that there is scholarly uncertainty whether this translation was into Mongolian or into another language Mongols used in order to relate with other peoples.

Moravian translations into Kalmyk Mongolian

In line with the missionary movement of the Moravians in Germany, missionaries were first sent to Mongolian speakers in 1785. The first Bible translations that still exists today of the Bible into Mongolian was the work of the Moravians. Isaak Jakob Schmidt, as a Moravian missionary, is renowned still today as a scholar of Mongolian and Tibetan. He had been a merchant amongst the Mongolians and had a very thorough knowledge of the culture and language. SCHMIDT, I. J. 1827. New Testament in Kalmyk. [s.l.]: [s.n.]. This translation appearing in 1827 was based on all the years of work and study since 1785. Since the translators were accustomed to Martin Luther's translation of the Bible into German, they then produced an idiomatic translation. This version did not use terms from Buddhism or shamanism to refer to God.

Swan and Stallybrass[edit]

The second translation that still exists today of the Bible into Mongolian was the work of Edward Stallybrass and William Swan (missionary) (1791–1866) both of the London Missionary Society (LMS), who translated the Old and then the New Testament into the literary Mongolian language. STALLYBRASS, E., W. SWAN, R. YUILLE and I. J. SCHMIDT. 1840. Old Testament in Mongolian. Khodon, Siberia, STALLYBRASS, E. and W. SWAN. 1846. The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ : translated out of the original Greek into the Mongolian language. London: British and Foreign Bible Society. Joseph Edkins and Joseph Schereschewsky, together with a Mongolian lama, revised Swan and Stallybrass's translation of Matthew into colloquial Khalkha Mongolian. It was published in 1894. [2] The missionaries who worked on this translation said that they used Buddhist monks to help them in the work. The whole uses Buddhist terms for God. At that time, Mongolians around them saw Christianity as a new form of Buddhism.

In 1899 the British and Foreign Bible Society agreed to bring out a revised gospel, by David Stenberg (of the Scandinavian Mission) and Mr. Netsegaard (of Urga, today called Ulaanbaatar), based on Swan and Stallybrass, which he found too classical in style to be understood by the common person. It seems that Stenberg managed to revise into colloquial Urga Mongolian at least Matthew's gospel.[3][4] He was working on revising all four gospels and Acts, however his work was cut short when he was killed during the Boxer Rebellion. It is unclear if any of his work survived this.

The New Testament of Swan and Stallybrass was revised by Stuart Gunzel together with four Mongolians and 8,000 copies were printed in 1953 by the Hong Kong Bible Society (HKBS). This was reprinted in 1988 by the Hong Kong Bible Society. In 1994 Living Stream Ministry reprinted this, using the Cyrillic script instead of the classical Mongolian, but changing nothing else.[5]

In 2009 the ABPPM foundation published a revision of the Bible as "The Classical Mongolian Bible". The old Testament is based on the 1840 British and Foreign Bible Society text, and the New Testament is based on Swanson's 1950 text. The biggest revision that was done was the substitution of the words "Yehovah Tenger" for the Buddhist term Burhan.

Translations in Inner Mongolia[edit]

Ibegeltü nom[edit]

Missionswerk Unerreichte Völker e.V. (M.U.V.) spent 14 years translating the New Testament into a classic literary Inner Mongolian; this was published in the classical Mongolian script as "Ibegeltü nom" in 2003 and also released on the Internet.[6] They have also translated Psalms and Genesis, however lack of funds halted further progress. The products of MUV have consistently identified God using the term Burhan.

In Inner Mongolia there are at least three modern Bible translations.

Mongolian New Translation[edit]

The complete Bible in the 'Mongolian New Translation' was translated and published as "Ariun Nom" in 2012. This version was printed in the classic Mongolian script, using the term 'Burhan' for God, like majority of previous translations into Mongolian. The translation is a balance between word-for-word and dynamic eqivalence.

Inner Mongolia 'Deed Tenger' translation[edit]

Another is a dynamic equivalence translation, using the word Deed Tenger, instead of the term 'Burhan', for God. They published the New Testament as Shine Geree in July 2007.

Amity Press translation[edit]

A third translation, sponsored by the three self Church and Amity press is being translated by Bao Xiaolin. A trial version of the four gospels was published in 2011, and a trial version of the New Testament was released on 23 September 2013.[7] This version is being translated from Chinese, and creates a lot of non originally Mongolian expressions and vocabulary from Chinese.

Translations in Mongolia[edit]

Bible Society of Mongolia[edit]

An organisation called the Монголын Библийн Нийгэмлэг (Bible Society of Mongolia) was started in December 1990 by Mongolian nationals. However, the work began in 1971. The scriptures produced by Bible Society of Mongolia have an important difference from other versions, in that they do not use traditional terms based on Buddhism or shamanism for God or key terms. There is no mingling of Bible belief with Mongolian traditional religions.

In Ulaanbaatar, in 1972, there were no Christian believers, no part of the Bible anywhere available and no missionaries. Whilst translating the Gospel of Mark with Mongolian State University lecturers of Mongolian language and linguistics, the need was to find the best term in Mongolian for the One who is supreme, who is spirit, who has personality, who has complete and unfathomable wisdom and knowledge, who is one only, who from nothing is the creator of all, who is everywhere present, and so on. The lecturers were asked to name that in Mongolian. They immediately rejected the term Burhan (the word by which Mongolians refer to Buddha and anything Buddhist or idolic) and the shamanistic Tenger (sky) as being nothing like that. In the end, a small English – Mongolian dictionary was found which had:

   god             Burhan, tenger
   God          yertöntsiin ezen (lord of the universe)

This term was later compared with ‘LORD of all the earth’ in Joshua 3.11,13; Psalm 87.5; Micah 4.13, Zechariah 4.14; 6.5. The meaning is somewhat similar. That dictionary had been compiled by a Mongolian linguist who in the 1960s had been to UK to study English and who had spent a vacation at the house of a church minister. The Mongolian university lecturers concurred that this term was usable, faithful to the Bible meaning and the only term available.

1979 Part New Testament in Mongolian[edit]

This was based on the Bible text in Greek and was done mainly in Ulaanbaatar. Work on this version started in 1971, whilst Mongolia was strongly Communist (Socialist), before there was even one Mongolian believer. The translation was based on the translation principles of Wycliffe Bible Translators, but not done as a project of that organisation. It was the first three Gospels, Acts and some epistles. It was the first part of the Bible to be translated into Mongolian in modern times. It was checked and approved for publication by members of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Published in 1979, it was financed by Open Doors. Copies were first brought into Mongolia in the pockets of Dr Kingsley Reid. An article in the Mongolian newspaper Literature and art (Utga zohiol urlag) of 16 November 1984 told of copies of this being found in numerous places in Mongolia. These had been brought in by tourists. However, Mongolians showed next to no interest in the Bible, neither in Mongolia nor amongst Mongolians studying or working in the countries of Eastern Europe. This was what the nineteenth and early twentieth century missionaries had found. The newspaper article told of the Hong Kong-based team from Youth With A Mission (YWAM) who visited Mongolia and bravely handed out copies of the part New Testament and tracts in Mongolian on the Government Square. Doing this publicly was the plan, as the Gospel is nothing to be ashamed of, but to be openly proclaimed to all regardless of risk. It was believed this had to be modeled in Mongolia. The article went on to tell that three of the team, Jill Walsh (USA), Irmgard Schuhmacher (West Germany) and Antonio Villaraza (Philippines) being arrested, interrogated, and the next day, the whole team expelled from Mongolia. It seemed to be a complete failure. It was not. The Mongolian Ministry of the Interior closed the colleges and universities for a day and lectured students about the dangerous attempt there had been to bring down the Communist (Socialist) regime in this way. Some students questioned that, saying if such had been the case, why had the tourists merely been expelled from the country instead of having been given long prison sentences? Afterwards some students went to the Square to see if such would happen again. This article and others in Mongolian newspapers gave large amounts of space to tell what had happened and quoted the Bible. This whole was used by God to turn Mongolian disinterest into the desire to obtain the part New Testament. Copies available in such as Hungary were rapidly taken and read. This brave event was used by God to change attitudes to the Bible which Mongolians had had down the long centuries.

1989 book of Job (Iovyn tüüh)[edit]

In 1987 the Mongolian Union of Writers requested a translation of the book of Job. The translation was based on Hebrew and checked and approved for publication by a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators and was published by the Union of Writers in their journal in 1989.

1990 New Testament (Shine Geree)[edit]

The translation work, based on the Biblical Greek text, carried on the work began in 1971. From the outset specialist Bible translation consultants of Wycliffe Bible Translators and United Bible Societies advised, checked the translation against the Biblical Greek text. The help of these agencies has been invaluable. Of note was the translation workshop in Cuiaba, central Brasil set up by Wycliffe Bible Translators under the leadership of the renowned Greek exegete, Harold Greenlee. Numbers of Mongolians helped to edit the text. The translation was also partially supported by Living Bibles International and Open Doors. The New Testament in Mongolian was published on 11 August 1990 by the United Bible Societies in Hong Kong, using a donation from the Scottish Bible Society. Since Mongolia had no support for explaining the Bible, and since there was no Old Testament available, the aim was to produce a "self-interpreting" translation of the New Testament as a first approach, and then to produce a tight meaning based translation of the whole Bible.

The Bible of 2015[edit]

This is a tight meaning based translation based on the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Biblical texts. In 2001 Wycliffe Bible Translators and United Bible Societies drew up a formal agreement with Bible Society of Mongolia to carry out a full Bible Translation Consultant check of the whole. The Bible was machine translated and then consultants of Wycliffe Bible Translators and United Bible Societies thoroughly checked it against the Biblical texts and approved it for publication. It is widely available. This Bible has an important difference from other versions, in that it does not use traditional terms based on Buddhism or shamanism for God or key terms. It does not mingle Bible belief with Mongolian traditional religion. This Bible has been very well received and is fast becoming popular.

Mongolia Union Bible Society (MUBS)[edit]

The Mongolia Union Bible Society aims to work with the Christian congregations in Mongolia, regardless of denomination. In April 2016, MUBS became a member of United Bible Societies (UBS) which represent 147 Bible Societies around the world. UBS is in the historic tradition of the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), which had published the nineteenth century work of Swan and Stallybrass. Accurate information on UBS and who they are can be found at their website.[8] The products of MUBS have consistently identified God using the term Burhan.

Ariun Bibli[edit]

The Mongolian Bible Translation Committee (Монгол Библи Орчуулгын Хороо) began translating the Bible in 1991. The New Testament was completed in 1996, and the complete Bible in 2000. The Translation Committee became the Mongolian Union Bible Society (Ариун Бичээс Нийгэмлэг) and revised the Bible translations in 2000, 2008 and 2011 and 2013.[9] The 2004 and 2013 text is available on YouVersion.[10] This has become a popular translation in Mongolia, being used by most churches there. It attained that, being the only whole Bible available in Mongolian up until 2015. This translation uses native Mongolian terminology, and its style is more literal than other translations. For some people it is too literal — and some people complain that it is in "translated Mongolian", without native Mongolian expressions, and sometimes hard to understand.

Mongolian Standard Version[edit]

To address the problems of the Ariun Bibli the Mongolian Union Bible Society (MUBS) has started working on a new translation from the original Greek and Hebrew called The Mongolian Standard Version. This translation is scheduled to be completed in 2026. The translation team is being led by Dr. Bayarjargal Garamtseren. More details can be found on the website [11]

FirstBible International[edit]

Bill Paterson and Oyumaa of FirstBible International are currently working on a translation of the Bible. The Trinitarian Bible Society (TBT) published their gospel of John in 2012.[12] This is translated from using the Textus Receptus as the source text.[13] The translation of the New Testament was finished in November 2015[14] but has yet to be published. This version calls God by the term Burhan, which is now the most widely used term for God amongst Mongolian Christians.

Mongolian Bible Translators Group[edit]

This started work in the late 1970s, and in 1993 published Matthew, Mark and Luke, 1998 the New Testament and whole Bible in 2016, which is from the Biblical languages. The products of Mongolian Bible Translators Group have consistently identified God using the term Burhan.

Mongolian Mission Team[edit]

Since March 2009 the team has been working full-time on translating the King James Bible into the Mongolian language. As of March 2013 the New Testament has been completed. As soon as a final read through is completed the New Testament will be printed. This version calls God 'Shüteen' (object of worship).

Comparison of Translations[edit]

Translation John 3:16
United Bible Society, 1990 Ертөнцийн Эзэн хүн төрөлхтөнд үнэхээр хайртай учраас ганц хүүгээ илгээсэн юм. Учир нь, мөнхийн зовлонд орох ёстой хүмүүс хүү Есүст нь итгэвэл мөнхийн амьдралд орж чадна.
Gunzel Cyrillic, 1994 Бурхан дэлхийг ийнхүү хайрлаж ганц Хүүгээ өгсөн нь Түүнд итгэх хүн бүр үл мөхөн, мөнх амьтай болохын тулд болой.
Unknown organisation, New Translation, 1999 Ертөнцийн Эзэн Хишгээд үнэхээр хайртай учраас ганц хүүгээ илгээсэн юм. Учир нь Мөнхийн Зовлонд орох ёстой Хишгээ хүү Есүст нь итгэвэл Мөнхийн Амьдралд орж чадна."
Ibegeltü nom, MUV, 2003
Cyrillic transcription
Бурхан орчлон дэлхийн хүмүүсийг тэр мэт хайрламой, тэгэх түүниӣгээ ганц үрээ хүртэл өршөөн. Хэмээх бүхий түүнийг сүсэглэн шүтэгчийг эс сөнөөх бөгөөд харин тэд нарт мөнхийн амь насыг хүртээмой.
Ариун Библи, 2004 (АБН) Бурхан ертөнцийг үнэхээр хайрласан тул цорын ганц Хүүгээ өгсөн. Ингэснээр Хүүд итгэгч хэн ч мөхөхгүй, харин мөнх амьтай болох юм.
Ариун Библи, 2011 (АБН) Бурхан ертөнцийг үнэхээр хайрласандаа цорын ганц Хүүгээ өгсөн тул Хүүд итгэдэг бүхэн мөхөхгүй харин мөнх амьтай болох юм.
Mongolian New Translation (MNT), 2013
Cyrillic transcription
Бурхан ертөнцийг хайрлаад цорын ганц Хүүгээ өгсөн, ийнхүү Түүнийг итгэгч бүхэн мөхөхгүй, харин мөнх амьтай байх боллоо.
Translation "Ibegeltü nom" 2003 Swan/Stallybrass 1880 "MNT" 2013 ABPPM, 2009 Shine Geree 2007
ᠳᠡᠭᠳᠦ ᠲᠡᠭᠷᠢ ᠶᠢᠷᠲᠢᠨᠴᠦ ᠢ ᠦᠨᠢᠬᠡᠷ ᠬᠠᠢᠢᠷᠠᠯᠠᠴᠦ ᠂ ᠴᠤᠷ ᠤᠨ ᠭᠠᠠᠨᠴᠨ ᠬᠥᠤ ᠪᠠᠨ ᠦᠭᠬᠥᠠᠰᠠᠨ ᠃ ᠡᠨᠡ ᠨᠢ ᠲᠠᠬᠦᠨ ᠳᠤ ᠢᠲᠡᠬᠢᠬᠦ ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ ᠪᠤᠯᠭᠠᠨ ᠢ ᠰᠥᠨᠥᠬᠢᠬᠦ ᠦᠬᠢᠢ ᠂ ᠮᠦᠭᠬᠢ ᠢᠢᠨ ᠠᠮᠢ ᠲᠡᠢ ᠪᠤᠯᠭᠠᠠᠠᠣ ᠢᠢᠨ ᠲᠦᠯᠥᠬᠢ ᠶᠤᠮ᠃

See also[edit]



  1. ^ da Montecorvino, Giovanni. "Report from China, 1305". Medieval Sourcebook. Fordham University/Paul Halsall. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Taveirne (2004), p. 144.
  3. ^ Canton, William A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, p. 179
  4. ^ Centennial Pamphlets, Issue 22. American Bible Society. 1916. 
  5. ^ Hogan, Brian There's a Sheep in My Bathtub
  6. ^ "Inner Mongolian New Testament 2003". Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  7. ^ Yeo, Tan Tan. "A Bible Translator Raised From The Line Of Genghis Khan". UBS China Partnership. United Bible Societies China Partnership. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  8. ^ UBS website
  9. ^ Mongolia Union Bible Society
  10. ^ Mongolian on YouVersion
  11. ^ Mongolian Standard Version
  12. ^ "Mongolian Gospel according to John". Trinitarian Bible Society. Trinitarian Bible Society. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Keen, Charles. "Partnerships". First Bible International. First Bible International. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  14. ^ Patterson, Bill. "Bill Patterson: November 2015 Prayer Letter". Mount Abarim Baptist Mission International. Mount Abarim Baptist Mission International. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  15. ^

External links[edit]