Roma Bible translation

What does our ministry of Bible translation look like? What is Bible translation for the Roma, why do we do it, how do we do it, and for whom do we do it?

I have two goals in this blog post. I want to share a passage of Scripture with you, and at the same time, I’d like to show you, in a small way, some of the questions we ask and challenges we face, and fun things we get to learn when we translate the Bible.

What I would like to do here is to show you some of the ins and outs, the nuts and bolts of Bible translation, to explain how it works, as we work our way through a passage of Scripture. I want us to look at our Bible passage today through the eyes of a Roma person. Imagine that you are, for example, a Roma who has never read the Bible before in your mother tongue, and you are encountering our passage for the first time. Let’s say you are a young lady who only finished elementary school, you rarely read a book, and you have never been to church. Let’s give you a name, “Džemila“.

Here you are in this picture. You live at home with your dad and grandpa in the Roma village and here you are reading a Bible story for the very first time.

Let’s keep that in mind as we turn in your Bibles to Luke 24:13-49:

Commentator N T Wright says about this story that as a  “drama it has everything. Sorrow, suspense, puzzlement, gradual dawning of light; then, … unexpected actions, astonished recognition, a flurry of excitement[1]” He  calls it a “spellbinding tale” (Luke for Everyone).

Let’s read Luke 24:13-49.

Luke 24:13–49 (NASB) — 13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad.

 18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

 28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.

 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

 36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

41 While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The overarching truth I want to point out is the importance of the Scriptures and the importance of God’s power to withhold or to give an understanding of the Scriptures.

From this passage, I would like to point out 4 truths, and 4 points of application.

  1. Truth #1: People need to have the Scriptures and to hear and respond to the Scriptures – thus the need for Bible translation

You see the context here in Luke 24. Jesus has risen from the dead, but most of the disciples don’t know that yet. This includes two disciples who had been in Jerusalem and were now walking home to a village called Emmaus. As they are walking, Jesus comes up and joins them, but they don’t know that it is Jesus.

They are very sad because they do not understand why things have turned out the way they did. They thought that Jesus would be the triumphant Messiah, come to free them, but it turned out that he was arrested and killed.

Jesus joins them and rebukes them because they had not paid attention to the Scriptures

Let’s look at the first few verses that set the stage and give us the context. And at the same time, allow me to point out some of the issues we deal with when translating a passage such as this into the Roma languages.

Verse 13 starts out, woodenly, “And behold two of them”

“Behold” is not a word we use in normal speech. In our efforts to make the translations for the Roma sound more natural and be understood more clearly, we ask ourselves how we can best explain “behold”. It is woodenly, “look (2nd person singular), as a command. But Luke is not telling Theophilus to literally look somewhere or at something. He is using this phrase to show surprise or to introduce an event that the reader would not necessarily expect. We might say, “and suddenly” or “and unexpectedly”. In other words, here is the next event in the story and it is not really what we would have guessed would come next. If we translate as “behold”, it sounds archaic. If we translate as “look”, our listeners might be confused. Many translations just leave it out since it sounds odd, but it is helpful to try to represent it in translation because it introduces an element of surprise, or at least makes it clear that there is a new and unexpected event in the story. One way to do this is to render this part of the verse as:

“Now listen, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.”

Or “But pay attention—two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.

Or “Now it happened that two of them…”

The next phrase in v. 13 is “two of them.” To whom is that referring? The previous paragraph, vv. 1-12 had just described the women going to Jesus’ tomb and finding it empty. And then it went on to tell how the women told the eleven apostles and the others, and how Peter ran to the tomb and found it empty.

The very next reference says “two of them,” but from the context, it becomes clear when we see the whole story that it doesn’t mean two of the women or two of the eleven apostles. All the way back in v. 8, it referred to “the Eleven and all the rest”. These two are some of “the rest”.

 So it means, two of Jesus’ followers. For that reason, one of our Roma translations says “two disciples,” and four of the Roma translations are even more specific and say “two of Jesus’ disciples.”

Verse 13 says that these two were going to a village, “sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem.” Most of us don’t use the term “stadia,” so we don’t know what this means.

In our English Bibles, we need to translate this as “about seven miles.” In the Roma translations, in Europe, where people use the metric system, not the imperial system, we translate it as “about 11 kilometers”.

By the way, numbers can present a challenge in Bible translation. In three of the translations, the Roma use a Roma word for eleven, but in one of the translations, they use the Croatian word for eleven since younger people are better at counting in Croatian than in their Roma language. Or, more accurately, they might be able to count in their lower numbers in their Roma language (e.g., 1-5, or 1-10), but as the numbers get higher, they understand Croatian numbers better. So actually, one of the translations uses the Croatian number spelled out and then our Arabic number in parentheses, and one uses the Roma number, but to make it easier, also adds the Arabic number in parentheses. These are issues in Bible translation that you have to think through to make sure that people will understand the Bible when it is translated. And because of the fact that most of the Roma prefer to listen rather than read, we have to translate in such as way that the meaning it is clear to them if they listen to the audio and are not able to see the footnotes or other devices we might be used to in writing that make the Bible easier for us to understand.

The end of v. 13 says, word for word “the name of which Emmaus”. We have no problem, I think, understanding what is being said, but it is not natural English. If you ask my wife where she grew up, since it is small town you probably have not heard of, she would mostly likely say, “in Albia, a small town in Iowa”. It would  not sound natural in English to say, “in a small town, the name of which Albia.” In Greek, it was perfectly natural, but not in English, nor in Croatian or the Roma languages. In Croatian, you would probably say “in the village Emaus”, which is how two of our Roma translations handled it, or “in a village called Emaus”, which is how two other Roma translations render it. One Roma translation says “the place Emaus” just to make it clear to the listener that Emaus is a location, and not the name of a person or a river, or mountain or something else. These are little details you have to think about when translating from one language to another. In this case, it does not really change whether the translation is accurate, but it does help it to sound normal to the Roma ears. This is important because when we hear something spoken that does not sound natural we assume either that 1) the person doesn’t know our language very well, [so God doesn’t speak Arli correctly!] or 2) they are trying to emphasize something by speaking in a unique way. But here, that is not the issue. Luke is using a normal way to name a village, so we should probably also use the most normal way in English, Croatian and in the Roma languages to describe a location such as the village, Emaus.

So we have only looked at one verse (v. 13) and already we have seen the challenge of translating the Bible into the Roma languages. Let’s move on though, to discuss the first truth, which is that people need to have the Scriptures and to hear and respond to the Scriptures.

Verses 25-27 say: Luke 24:25–27 (NASB) —25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

The disciples did not understand what had happened to Jesus, so they were distraught. Why? According to Jesus, it was because they did not believe the Scriptures. Jesus’ point is that if they had known what the Bible (which at that time was what we call the Old Testament), they would have known that these things had to happen. He rebukes them for not knowing the Scriptures.

This brings out this first truth I want to emphasize that people need the Scriptures and need to hear and respond to the Scriptures. Just as the disciples on the way to Emmaus should have known these things about Jesus, all of us and all the world should know these things about Jesus from the Scriptures.

Unfortunately, hundreds of languages around the world still do not have the whole Bible translated. And I emphasize the whole Bible, because Jesus here is specifically referring to what we call the Old Testament and though many languages have portions of Scripture or at least the NT, many lack the Old Testament.

90% of the languages of the world do not have a full Bible. Over 2,100 languages do not even have a single verse.

That’s why we do Bible translation and that is why, I trust, you pray for Bible translators and support them with your finances. It is of utmost importance that people have the Scriptures.

But, making sure that the Scriptures exist in a language, is only half the battle. People must also read or hear it and respond to it. The disciples on the road to Emmaus had not done that. Either they had not read or listened to the Scriptures, or if they had, they had not believed them. Let’s look more closely at vv. 25-27.

Verse 25 says, word for word, “And he said to them”. That seems like a simple sentence but in Greek the “he” is emphatic. In Greek, as well as in Croatian and our five Roma languages, the subject “he” is already embedded in the verb, and understood when you use the verb. So the fact that Luke added “he” here indicates that he is emphasizing it. Croatian and the five Roma languages work the same way. If you add “he,” it makes it clear that it is being emphasized. In English, we would need to make that more explicit by translating something like, “But he” or, “And he himself said.” In practice, in order to make it clear who the speaker is, since the disciples had just been speaking, our five Roma translations have “Jesus said to them.”

The next thing Jesus says is a bit difficult to translate.  More woodenly, word for word, Jesus said, “O unintelligent ones and slow in heart to believe.”  This is tricky because words have different connotations, and it is often tough to get the connotation correct across languages. For example, if I call you an “idiot” or “imbecile,” you will likely take offense since these are, in essence, insults. If I say you are “stupid” or “unintelligent,” I’ve made a statement about your mental abilities, or rather lack thereof.But, if I say in English that you are “foolish”, I’m not implying that you are not intelligent, but rather that here in this case, you are not behaving as you should, not behaving wisely or responding properly. Commentator NT. Wright says “senseless” and pastor Philip Ryken says “clueless” (REC). I think RC Sproul is correct when he say,  “When he calls them foolish he doesn’t mean that they were slow in their minds or unable to reason properly due to insufficient evidence, rather he was making a moral judgment. The problem was not their rationality, but their hearts; they were still cold to the truth of God.”[2]

In Croatian it is sometimes translated as “mindless” and that can easily come across as an insult, implying the person is pretty dumb. So, in Croatian, this verse is often translated as “without understanding,” which is a good rendering. It is difficult to find the correct word in our Roma languages.  One of the Roma translations used a Roma word meaning  “stupid,” one used a Roma word meaning “mindless ones,” one used a Roma word meaning “foolish”, and two opted to use the Croatian phrase “without understanding.” This illustrates the tightrope we walk when there is not a word in the language for precisely what we are aiming for. At times, we use a Roma word so that it will be clearly understood and sound natural to Roma ears, but sometimes we use a Croatian or Serbian word since it captures the accuracy better. In English I would probably not translate this as “idiots” because it does not sound appropriate to have that in the Bible for public reading. We could translate it with something like, “You don’t understand!”

But that is just the first word. The second term is a phrase which if rendered word for word would be  “slow in heart.” Does this mean that they have a slow heartbeat, low blood pressure? Someone who is not familiar with this idiom might think that is what Jesus is saying. “Slow in heart” is an idiom. I started to say that it means “dull of mind,” but I realized that that is an idiom as well. We say that someone is “dull” or “sharp,” meaning that they do or do not understand or “catch on,” another idiom. BTW, someday you should try to go an entire day without using even one idiom, and you will be surprised how many idioms are part of our normal speech. We know what they mean and don’t think about them often, but when you are forced to explain something in another language which does not use that idiom, you realize how much idioms are ingrained in us.

“Heart” is idiomatic in the sense that it is not referring to the organ in our body which pumps blood, but many languages have no problem understanding that it means “mind” here. This includes Croatian, Serbian and the Roma languages. But “slow in heart” is not referring to speed or quickness.” So three of the Roma translations say, “It is hard/difficult for you to believe the prophets.” One has, “you don’t believe the prophets at all” and the other Roma translation has “you are lazy in your hearts to believe the prophets.”

Jesus holds the Emmaus disciples accountable for not knowing the Scriptures and he rebukes them. All people need the Scriptures, and all people need to listen and pay attention to them. All the more reason to make sure we make every effort in praying, giving financially, and going personally, to get God’s Word to all people. There is a great need for Bible translation.

Let’s move on to the second truth:

Truth #2: People can only understand Scripture when they see that Jesus is its fulfillment.

Verse 27 says Luke 24:27 (NASB) — 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Jesus is the pinnacle of Scripture. The OT foreshadowed Him and predicted His coming, and in the NT He fulfills it. Without this understanding, the Scriptures do not make sense. As commentator Bruce Barton said, “Christ is the thread woven through all the Scriptures, the central theme that binds them together.”[3]

The first part of v. 27, if translated word for word, is, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets”. We need to be careful. He is not beginning with the person Moses or with the persons of the prophets. He is starting with the books which they wrote. In our case, three of our Roma translations translated fairly woodenly “from Moses and the prophets,” but one Roma translation has “beginning with Moses’ books and in the books of the prophets.” This is a helpful way to translate it since a Roma who has not grown up in the church or with the Bible will not know this. Our “Džemila“ would not undertand this.

This is what we often refer to in Bible translation as “implied information.” For example, when Jesus speaks of Moses and the prophets here, he is referring not to the people, but to what they said or wrote, and sometimes in Bible translation it is helpful to spell that out.

Another translation challenge comes later in v. 27. It says “in the Scriptures.” That is a good translation and it makes sense to us because we do not use the word “scripture” except in cases like this when referring to the Bible. However in Croatian, Serbian and one of the Roma languages, the word used for Scripture is the general word for “letter”, as in “he mailed a letter to him.” In three of the Roma languages it is an even more broad term that can refer to anything written, including a book. So, if we translate into the Roma languages word for word, it would say that Jesus taught them from “all the writings”, or “all the letters” or “all the books”. An unchurched Roma would take that to mean all the things written down, in general, not the OT Scriptures. So in three of the Roma languages we translated “in the Holy Book” and in one it says “in the holy writings”. What Jews at the time of Jesus understood instinctively will not be clear to most Roma, so we need to spell it out.

Drop down to v. 44 where we also see this point being made.  Luke 24:44 (NASB95) — 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Often when we are translating into one of the Roma languages, we come across words that they do not have in their language. A good example is “fulfill,” as in this verse (v. 44). It is a correct word and is an accurate rendering of the Greek, but they do not have that word in any of the five Roma languages. So in cases like this, we have to decide whether to use a Croatian or Serbian word and put it in the grammatical form that fits in the Roma language. That is what two of our Roma translations did:  they used the Croatian word for “fulfill.” Two of our translations used the closest word they have in their language, which is more like “fill” than “fulfill,” but it is the closest they have. One of the translations, which perhaps did the best job here, used Roma words and translated it as “happen,” in the sense of “all that is written … must happen.” When Luke says it was fulfilled, he means that what was predicted “happened, it took place, it came true”.

Let’s look next  at v. 46: Luke 24:46 (NASB) — 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day”.

Jesus showed the two Emmaus disciples how the OT Scriptures predicted that he would suffer and die and then rise from the dead. The truth I want to point out is that the Bible, properly understood, points to Jesus and is fulfilled in Jesus. By application, the goal of our Bible translation work is not merely to publish a book, as important as that might be. Our goal is to point Roma to Jesus Christ. Our aim is that Roma will believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, as the Emmaus disciples eventually did, and that the Roma will do what the disciples of Jesus did at the end of this chapter (in vv. 52-53), it says that they worshiped Jesus, they had great joy and they blessed God. That is where all this is heading. That is why we translate the Bible. That is why you pray for that, give for that, and some of you may even go and do it yourselves.

This reminds me of:

John 5:39 (NASB) — 39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;

This is the goal of Bible translation—to testify about Jesus and to see lives transformed.

Christ is the message of the Bible. Christ is the goal of Bible translation. The goal of Bible translation is that every man and woman, and boy and girl, be transformed into the image of Christ. That is why we do what we do.

J. C. Ryle, who was a preacher in the late 1800s, an Anglican bishop in Liverpool, UK), wrote:

“Christ was the substance of every Old Testament sacrifice, ordained in the law of Moses. Christ was the true Deliverer and King, of whom all the judges and deliverers in Jewish history were types. Christ was the coming Prophet greater than Moses, whose glorious advent filled the pages of prophets. Christ was the true seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent’s head,—the true seed in whom all nations were to be blessed,—the true Shiloh to whom the people were to be gathered,—the true scape-goat,—the true brazen serpent,—the true Lamb to which every daily offering pointed,—the true High Priest of whom every descendant of Aaron was a figure.”[4]

“Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole book. So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge. Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty. The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.”[5]

Let’s move now to the third truth.

3. Truth #3: God must open people’s minds for them to understand the Scriptures.

A theme that runs through Luke chapter 24 is eyes, hearts and minds being closed or being opened.

Verse 16 says, Luke 24:16 (NASB) — 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.

Verses 32-32 say, Luke 24:30–32 (NASB) — 30 When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining [lit. opening] the Scriptures to us?”

Verse 45 says, Luke 24:45 (NASB) — 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

In v. 16, it says that the Emmaus disciples’ eyes were “prevented from recognizing” Jesus. Then in v. 31, it says that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” In v. 32, it says that Jesus “opened” the Scriptures to them.  And in v. 45, when Jesus spoke with the apostles and the other disciples, it says that “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

We see this theme in Paul’s writings as well, that people are blinded to the truth about Christ, and that only the Spirit of God can open their eyes, or open their minds so that they can understand.

Bible translation and Bible teaching are essential, but at the end of the day, people will not understand unless God gives them understanding. They will not grasp the meaning of the Bible and believe in Christ unless he opens their hearts. The longer I have been a missionary, the clearer this has become to me. We can wear ourselves out translating and explaining and teaching—and often, that is exactly what we need to do—but it will not yield eternal fruit unless God opens hearts to believe.

Look at a few other passages of Scripture with a similar theme:

2 Corinthians 4:3–6 (NASB) — 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

One of the clearest passages is:

1 Corinthians 2:10–14 (NASB) — 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.  , 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

God must open people’s minds so they can understand the Scriptures. The Lord first hid himself from the Emmaus disciples, but soon after opened their minds, opened the Scriptures and opened their understanding. God is the one who must open hearts to understand the Bible.

Let’s return to Luke chapter 24 and look at some challenges when it comes to translating these verses:

In v. 16, a wooden translation would be, “now their eyes were held to not recognize him.” Yet, to say that their eyes were “held” is not literal, as in holding something in your hand. Of course, if I held your eyeballs in my hand, you certainly would not be able to see or recognize me, but that is not what happened here. That wouldn’t make sense. In English, we would probably understand it if it said “their eyes were held from recognizing,” but that is a metaphorical use of “hold” and will not work in many other languages. In Croatian, and indeed in three of our Roma translations, they use a term that woodenly can mean „their eyes were abridged, or shortened,“ but that means „prevented“ or „forbidden.“ It is a different way of communicating the figurative, non-literal meaning. In two of the Roma languages, we didn’t have a clear way to say this figuratively or as an idiom, so we dropped the metaphor and translated it, „their eyes were not allowed to recognize him. “

You may notice that this construction is passive: „their eyes were restrained or prevented from recognizing. “ Some languages do not use passives as often as we use them in English, or as often as Greek uses them, so some translators prefer to specify who is doing the action here. Remember how I said that much information in communications is implied and not necessarily made explicit. Some translations want this to be explicit because a passive „were prevented“ is not clear in some languages. Some call this a „divine passive, “meaning that even though God is not specifically mentioned, He is the one at work here. Thus some would translate as „God prevented them from knowing that it was Jesus. “

I think this is true in this instance, but there are three challenges in Bible translation when we interpret a passive and try to make it clearer by changing a passive verb into an active verb.

  1. One is that we are interpreting, because we do not actually know. It would be consistent with the rest of Scripture to say that God did this, I think, but this text does not actually say that.
  2. Secondly, a person’s theology can influence in an unwarranted fashion what we put in a translation in cases like this. Some would say it is „obvious“ that God is the actor in this case, but others would sharply disagree, saying that this is claiming something that God would not do. Translations must be clear, but they should not be theologically biased.
  3. Thirdly, when you make the subject explicit, you change the emphasis of the sentence. The emphasis apparently is not on who or what prevented them from knowing, but rather that they were prevented. So in an effort to make a Bible translation clear, we need to be careful that we do not distort it by putting an emphasis where the original text did not, or by failing to communicate the main point of a phrase.

The point here is that there are several challenges in translatng v. 16 that you might not have thought of before. Having said that, the point remains that the Emmaus disciples did not understand that it was Jesus who was speaking to them.

In v. 32 there are two translation issues of which we should be aware. First, it says that their hearts „burned“ in them. Does this mean they had heartburn, or reflux? Did they need Tums? We know somewhat instinctively from the context and from general Bible use what this means, but Džemila might not.

Remember that we are translating this for Roma with very little education, and very little exposure to literature and to the Bible.

When we read that the Emmaus disciples’ hearts „burned“, we gather that it means they were excited or somehow stimulated or stirred (by the way, “stirred” is also an metaphor), but not all Roma will catch that. In some languages, if your heart is burning it means you are angry or that you are in misery.  Some translators suggest that we drop out the literal “burning” since it is metaphorical, and translate it as “we felt excitement” or “how amazing it was.”

The second issue is “he opened the writings.” This does not mean that Jesus had a book or a scroll and that he opened it. It means that he explained it or interpreted it for them in such a way that they could understand it. “Opened” is metaphorical, so some translations say “he explained the Scriptures”.

As a side note, it is interesting the Jesus emphasized the written Word. He could have just said, “Hey, guys, look! It’s me!” But he first hid his identity from them and then took the time and the painstaking effort to go through the Hebrew Bible to explain to them how these Scriptures predicted his death and resurrection. Once again, I am reminded of the importance of Bible translation as a necessary step, and of the enormous importance of reading or listening to God’s Word, as well as the essential ministry of teaching what the Bible means. It was the Spirit of God that opened their minds, but it was through the Scriptures. Jesus quoted and explained to them the written Scriptures.

God’s Spirit uses the Scriptures to open hearts and minds so the world can see Jesus.

 In fact, I would love it if this was said of my life, as a simple mission statement: “That God would work gloriously through us to translate the Bible, teach it to Roma, and that through this they would see Jesus Christ.” I would say that was a fantastic job description and goal, and if at the end of each day, what we did was one step in seeing that accomplished, I would say it was a very good day indeed.

Let’s move to the final truth:

4. Truth #4: The Scriptures must be proclaimed to all nations – thus we need missions.

Let’s look at the last few verses. Vv. 47-49 say, Luke 24:47–49 (NASB) — 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus says not only that his death and resurrection were foretold in the OT (v. 46) but that the fact that repentance and faith will be proclaimed to all nations (v. 47) was also foretold in the OT. God is a missionary God from first to last;

Philip Graham Ryken, says the following:

We see this missionary promise in every part of the Old Testament. We see it in the Law of Moses, which promised that God would bless all nations through the son of Abraham (see Gen. 12:2–3; 17:1–7; cf. Gal. 3:16, 29). We see it in the Prophets, who said, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6).”

We see it perhaps most clearly in the Psalms. Psalm 22, the same psalm that prophesied that Christ would suffer a God-forsaken death, also made this promise: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Ps. 22:27).

We find the same global promise in many of the praise psalms: “The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (Ps. 98:2; cf. 96:3; 97:6; 100:1).” Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, Reformed Expository Commentary, 685–686.

So Jesus said that his death, his resurrection, and the message of repentance and forgiveness must be proclaimed to all nations. That’s why we do missions.

So what do we do with this information I have just given you this morning. How can we apply this:

Closing Applications

So, we have seen four truths in this passage and I would like to challenge you with 4 application points from those 4 truths:

  • Pray for the Scriptures to be translated into all the languages which still need it and that many will hear and obey the Scriptures

The Emmaus Road disciples needed the Scriptures, and it is equally true that all the people of the world need to have them, too.

2.
  • Pray that people will see Jesus as the point of Scripture.

The Scriptures find fulfillment in Jesus and point us to Him

  • Pray that God will open minds so that people can understand the Scriptures.

Only God can open minds and hearts so they can understand the Scriptures and know Christ.

  • Pray that this message of Jesus in the Scriptures will be proclaimed to all nations.

Jesus said that it had been foretold that he would suffer, that he would die, and that the call to repentance and forgiveness will be proclaimed to all nations.

Many of you pray for us regularly and we greatly appreciate that. If you don’t, I invite you to sign up to get our daily prayer requests, which will help you to pray for very specific ways that these 4 application prayer points can take place among the Roma of Croatia and Serbia.

I send prayer requests out on social media, in print and by e-mail. There is a sign up sheet on the back table and you can also find  all this information at our website, toddlprice.com. Please pick up our prayer card.

And thank you so much for your faithful love, support and prayers!


[1] Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 292–293.

[2] R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 420.

[3] Bruce B. Barton et al., Luke, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), 562.

[4] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 501.

[5] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 501.