Translating Scripture Engagement

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For several years now there has been a recurring discussion about what to call "Scripture engagement" in other languages.  Most of the discussion has focused on Spanish so far, where the phrase "el uso de las Escrituras" has been commonly used.  The conversation has been motivated by:  

    • "El uso..." fails to get at the point of what Scripture engagement is all about.  I explain Scripture engagement as interacting with God through Scripture, and interacting with one another about God's message to us in the Scriptures.  "Uso" comes out of a logical next step from a publishing and distribution perspective, but from an end-user perspective, mere use is not really the key.  Too often, a "plain vanilla" name results in an unfortunate kind of plain vanilla implementation.  Carrying a Bible to church, for instance, is "uso."  Memorizing it is a use of it, but in that regard I can't help but remember an atheist I knew years ago who had memorized large sections of Scripture.  Preaching from it is yet another use, but how many sermons have you heard that made you wonder if the preacher was actually living out what he was preaching?  
    • "El uso..." ('the use') is a phrase which "no tiene chispa" — literally 'it doesn't have spark,' the idea being that it is a phrase which fails to have a richness and vitality to it that energizes understanding and response.  Part of that is due to it being a nominal phrase, but more importantly because "uso" is such a generic word that it could mean anything at all.    

So, this ongoing conversation has been a search how to translate "Scripture engagement" in a way that is to the point of what Scripture engagement is about while also capturing something of the flavor of vitality and impact that Scripture engagement has for all of us.  

We long ago decided that a good translation of the term Scripture engagement will probably not be a literal form of the English term.  An example of this type of idiomatic, meaning-based translation would be the Spanish equivalent of the "Culture Meets Scripture" retreat:  La Cultura a la Luz de la Biblia.  That's an excellent example of a meaningful and thoughtful translation of the name of the retreat.  

At this point in the process, for Spanish we are trying out the term "Interacción Bíblica Integrada," not merely by asking people about it, but also by using it in actual practice.  We have chosen this name phrase for the following reasons:

  • “Interacción” is the point of what Scripture engagement is about:  interaction with God thru Scripture, and interaction with others about God's message in Scripture.  Additionally, we like the fact that although "Interacción" is a noun, it very obviously refers to an action.  And high on the list of what motivates us is that “Interacción” is much more about life than "uso."  This is particularly meaningful in social contexts where life is all about relationships; the word "use" on the other hand reflects a more utilitarian and informational orientation. The Bible does indeed have great utility and does indeed contain life-giving information, but as the "living and active" Word of God that "penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit" and "judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12), it is so much more than just information.
  • “Bíblica” is technically not correct as an adjective; in practice however, the term is used very loosely to mean anything that has to do with the Bible, so we are taking advantage of this very common style of usage. 
  • “Integrado” rounds out the complete form of the name phrase with a key concept of Scripture engagement, namely, that this interaction is not something additional in life, but rather than it is meant by God to be the core to everything. 
  • A shortened form of the name phrase can be “Interacción Bíblica,” especially once the fuller concept is understood.  Two words in the phrase rolls off the tongue easier than three.  
  • “IBI” is a pronounceable acronym. 

We recognize that for this name phrase to gain acceptability will require a process of awareness, consideration and trying it out. From that perspective it’s not as great as a name that would “just work” without any explanation; however, those kinds of names are very rare.  We will be interested to see if this name has what it takes to take on a life of its own.  

We also recognize that the full phrase “Interacción Biblica Integrado” has enough syllables that it doesn’t roll off the tongue. However, the more abbreviated form —“Interacción Bíblica”— is pretty easy to say. Although it takes a bit of getting accustomed to, once one uses it for a while it starts to carry the freshness and meaningful emphasis that we’ve been looking for and that carries more the concept of Scripture engagement.  

To date, reaction to on-the-ground use of “Interacción Biblica Integrado” has ranged from the occasional “eso tiene sentido” to  more commonly just accepting it as if to say “well, of course” or “Why not?”  Some North Americans who are non-native Spanish speakers have commented that it seems like a heavy phrase, but we haven’t yet heard any negative comments from native Spanish speakers.  

What's your thoughts on this?  

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