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Published Date: November 3, 2023

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Women and Words: Women Pioneers in Bible Translation with Dr. Boaz Johnson

Dr. Boaz Johnson explores women Bible translators such as Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922) who, as a child, memorized thousands of Sanskrit texts. After coming to faith as a Christian, Pandita mastered the ancient languages and produced a Bible in Marathi—a very popular dialect in India. The work was completed on her compound called Mukti—meaning salvation. In all of history, there was never a translation of Scripture like Pandita’s that was entirely the work of women: from translation to printing, binding, and distribution. Pandita’s work inspired a contemporary of hers, Katharine Bushnell, MD (1855-1946). A medical doctor, missionary, and anti-trafficking activist, Bushnell encountered prostituted girls in India and elsewhere in the world. Bushnell was convinced that poor Bible translations were part of the cause since they portrayed women as inferior to men. Both women, Ramabai and Bushnell, did significant work to expose and upend the demeaning of women noted in failed Bible translations, a topic Dr. Boaz Johnson addresses throughout the podcast. Another woman mentioned was Frances E. Siewert (1881-1997). Holding academic degrees such as Litt. B., B.D., M.A., Litt. D., Siewert is credited as the visionary who initiated the Amplified Bible.

Dr. Boaz Johnson expressed enormous appreciation for the team he works beside especially the women Bible translators from countries outside the US. Their scholarly expertise, coupled with their experiences as women from varied ethnicities and cultural backgrounds brings fresh perspectives to their translation decisions. One example was their decision to translate Ezer Kenegdo in Genesis 2:18 as “one who walks ahead of the other” in a posture of defense and protection. Ezer Kenegdo a phrase most often used of God’s rescue of Israel. This is also how God describes woman in Genesis 2:18: one who protects and defends the man. Dr. Boaz Johnson then connects the characteristic of women’s defensive protection noted in other biblical women like Ruth, the Proverbs 31 woman, and the wife of Job. 

The episode ends by considering the women who suffer, the Mary’s of Scripture who through pain and trials become wise, strong, and prophetic leaders.  

The opinions expressed in CBE’s Mutuality Matters podcast are those of its hosts or guests and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CBE International or its members or chapters worldwide. The designations employed in this podcast and the presentation of content therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of CBE concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.