From the first word in this volume to the last, I was gradually overcome with joy, and after each page my astonishment increased and my heart and emotions were filled with amazement.
How did we get involved in Bible translation?
Al Kalima was started in the late nineties by Arab author Mazhar Mallouhi in response to the expressed need of Arab readers for books to be published explaining the Bible. Our first book which tried to meet this need was An Eastern Reading of the Gospel of Luke, published in 1998, a beautifully produced hardback volume with introductory articles and verse-by-verse commentary. This was followed by a commentary on Genesis and A Sufi Reading of the Gospel of John. Apart from the physical appearance and presentation of the book, what marked these books out as different was that they addressed the issues that many Arab readers struggled with as they read the biblical text.
Before starting to write the commentaries we surveyed readers to find out what questions and comments they had about the biblical text, and what they would like explained to them. Then we had to decide whether the issue was a major one which needed a full explanatory article or was something that could be dealt with in a footnote. The whole process was overseen by an editorial committee of Arabs from Muslim and Christian backgrounds and the articles written by both Arabs and westerners.
For the biblical text we used existing Arabic Bible translations, but in the course of our research we found that none of these was easily comprehensible to our readers. This was not really surprising since Arabic translations almost exclusively addressed the Christian minority. Thus Al Kalima decided that we should try to produce a new version of the New Testament for the majority of Arab readers, who are unfamiliar with ecclesiastical jargon and traditions and who make up well over 90 percent of the population.
As we looked around for translation expertise to bring this vision to fruition we were greatly encouraged that various partners had come to the same conclusion as ourselves that a new translation for Arab readers would be needed. In 2005 we embarked on a collaboration with SIL and other partners which resulted in the publication in 2008 of True Meaning. The research methodology was the same as for our earlier commentaries, with major misunderstandings being addressed by introductory articles, on such issues as the meaning of the terms ‘Son of God’ and ‘Father’ as applied to God.
The second volume of the New Testament, Epistles and Revelation was published in 2016 and we have started work on a selection of stories from the Old Testament, which will cover all of Genesis, selected psalms and many other important passages.