Ukraine: Joy over new Bible Translation

Copies of the Modern Ukrainian Bible Translation. Photo: Ukrainian Bible Society
Copies of the Modern Ukrainian Bible Translation. Photo: Ukrainian Bible Society

An everyday language translation, grounded in ecumenical partnership 

(LWI) - “What joyful news for all Christians of Ukraine,” says Pavlo Shvarts, Bishop of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (GELCU). “We now hold the long-awaited new full translation of the Bible in modern Ukrainian in our hands.” 

The new translation was officially launched by the Ukrainian Bible Society http://www.ukrbs.org/  in May this year. It is the result of a long-term effort that started in 1992 and includes the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, which were translated from old Hebrew and ancient Greek. 

“Martin Luther emphasized the authority of the Bible,” says Shvarts. “And he also emphasized the necessity of translating the Bible into the everyday language of common people.” 

“Languages are under constant transformation,” the bishop explains. “Therefore, we require new translations of the Holy Scriptures from time to time, so that the Word of God remains clear and understandable by the people in modern society.” 

The GELCU has already had positive experiences using the new translation for Bible classes and personal devotions. Now it was decided to use it officially during the church services and for quoting Bible passages on the church’s website and social media. 

The publication of the Modern Ukrainian Bible Translation is “the result of teamwork – that is why we can confidently call it interdenominational and ecumenical,” says Shvarts. Also, “translators were striving for a balance between the literal meaning of the text, and its adaptation to the Ukrainian literary and cultural context.” 

“I am proud that our small church is among the members of Ukrainian Bible Society and hope to continue our fruitful cooperation,” says Shvarts. The Ukrainian Bible Society was founded in 1991, two months before the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Today, twenty churches are members, among them Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and other protestant churches. 

One of the leading figures of the translation process was Rafail Turkonyak, Archimandrite of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He is an “expert in ancient languages” and “biblical enthusiast” who also has great skills in the Ukrainian language, acknowledges Shvarts. 

To ensure input from interested parties, the Ukrainian Bible Society had published preliminary versions of some books of the Old Testament and had invited suggestions for editing. “This is a good practice that allows the reader to work with the text and to contribute to creating a high-quality translation,” Shvarts is convinced. 

The GELCU is a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) through the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Russia and Other States.