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Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (American Society of Missiology) Paperback – November 30, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1570758041 ISBN-10: 1570758042 Edition: 2nd

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Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (American Society of Missiology) + Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology + Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory
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Product Details

  • Series: American Society of Missiology (Book 42)
  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books; 2nd edition (November 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570758042
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570758041
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
"Translating the Message" may be the best book on missions to be published in years. Many reviewers have focused upon this book as a defense of the Christian mission enterprise. This is, however, an incorrect assessment of a deep investigation into the reception of the gospel message. Sanneh demonstrates that it is not the transmission of the message that is central, but the local acceptance and adaption of the good news in local languages and categories of interpretation.
In the course of his argument he also shows that the gospel cannot be otherwise, for it is the nature of grace to translate the message into local thought forms and thus be transformed by these local categories.
"Translating the Message" is essential reading for all who are interested in the advent of non-Western Christianity.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Gunia VINE VOICE on April 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
Translating the message is a theoretical book that primarily concerns itself with one area in the history of Christian mission work--translation. Sanneh attempts to demonstrate through an analysis of the history of Christian mission that a central characteristics of Christian mission is that it enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the world's various cultures; the Gospel adapts to it and the culture responds the the Gospel through resurgence, cultural pride, and a move toward righteousness

Sanneh first examines the early Church's apostolic missionary efforts to proclaim the Gospel among Greek-speaking gentiles. While there was an ethnocentric attitude on the part of Jewish Christians, God made his desire that the Gospel be preached to many cultures known primarily through the miracle at Pentecost and then subsequently through other miraculous signs as Gentile individuals and groups came to faith (e.g. Cornelius and his family). The Greek-speaking Gentile culture received the Gospel through vernacular preaching and found that it fit so naturally into their culture that they began to believe that when the Gospel came to these Greek-speakers, it came to its natural home. The result was a resurgence of cultural pride as they allowed the Gospel to shape them.
The experience of the early Church's missionary activity set a pattern that would be repeated throughout the church's life as it sought to spread the Gospel. As the Gospel was spread to Northern Europe and later to Asia, the Americas, and Africa, tension existed between Christians who advocated a conversion toed to cultural conformity (especially linguistic) and Christians who valued a conversion that allowed for a unique cultural expression of their new faith, especially in their native tongue.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on May 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
Translating the Message can be seen as a long historical reflection on Pentacost and its aftermath. The essence of how the Gospel relates to cultures lies in its "translatability," Sanneh argues. Jesus spoke in Aramaic, but the records of his life are in Greek. At each stage of translation, missionaries tend to demand that hearers learn their own "civilized" ways along with the Gospel. But the nature of that message mitigates against this cultural presumption, so that when the Gospel has been translated, indigenous people find biblical support for their own independence from the missionaries and their (not infrequently imperialistic) culture.

As Sanneh argues, while human beings may share foibles, in this respect Christianity contrasts sharply with Islam. The Koran was written in heaven in pure Arabic. Sanneh's point here is right on the mark: an Iranian friend of mine converted to Christianity partly because, when he went to Mecca, he was told that since his Arabic was so poor, he should divorce his wife! I'm not sure of the logic, but the upshot was that he recognized Arab culture as sautered to Islam. V. S. Naipaul's books describe how this works in places like Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. More and more, as education spreads and people want to read their sacred books directly, Muslims around the world are asked to become Arab.

Sometimes Christians have made the same mistake. What Sanneh explains well here, is that despite our stupidity, the Gospel itself, both its content and the very fact that it is translated, eventually encourages a plurality of Christian cultures to spring up.

If this pluralism matters so much, one reviewer asked, why has Islam also won the allegience of so many Africans?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mj on February 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
In his revised work, "Translating the Message," Lamin Sanneh, the professor of Missions and World Christianity and professor of History at Yale Divinity School, strengthens his argument that from the inception Christianity has identified itself with the need to translate itself out of Aramaic and Hebrew to contextualize its message to the diverse cultures and vernaculars of the world.

The main purpose of this book is to show that Christianity is not a surrogate of Western Christianity, neither had it spread because of its European arm; rather it has powerfully advanced because of its inherent nature of translatability. In addition to combining "history and theology" to attest his thesis, Sanneh also shows the striking differences between two missionary religions-Islam and Christianity, and their contrasting attitudes in the aspect of translatability. He emphasizes on the Christianity's translatability over non-translatable Arabic Quran and its faith, not to put Islam down by comparison, but to emphasize his main argument. Some will certainly feel that Sanneh did not give a fair shot to Islam in this book. Author's European, Asian, especially, African perspective of `mission and colonialism' have been very selective in making this book possible.

Sanneh's thought, even some sentences are repetitive in the book. Neverthless, this book is not boring. This monumental work is very helpful for both western and non-western readers in understanding how Gospel has made at home in all world cultures from its beginning that no particular culture today can claim to be authoritatively Christian.
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