Aramaic Bible Translation Project Part II: The History of the Aramaic Bible Translation Project
Did you know that an American missionary to Peru, Dr. Esther Matteson, decided to start translating the Bible into modern Aramaic in the 1980s, and ultimately started the Aramaic Bible Translation project? As a young woman in the 1940s and ‘50s, Dr. Matteson helped translate the Bible for the Piro tribe in Peru, and later worked on other Bible translation projects as well. However, her heart yearned for modern Aramaic speakers to have a better translation of the Bible after she met some during a research trip to Turkey in the 1980s. Soon after her trip, she moved to Detroit, Michigan and began working on a modern Aramaic translation of the Bible for the Chaldean community. A Chaldean priest named Abuna Jacob Yasso joined and eventually directed the project.
Dr. Matteson desired the Bible to be translated into other modern Aramaic dialects as well, so started to explore ways to raise the funds for such a large project. With the help of friends, she managed to officially create a not-for-profit organization in 1993 called Aramaic Bible Translation (ABT). This organization soon teamed up with a Bible-translating organization that is now called The Seed Company, and is itself associated with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Today, ABT is working on translating the Bible into five different modern Aramaic dialects.
While working on the Chaldean Bible, Dr. Matteson met Dr. Peter Talia, a pastor of Assyrian Christian Church, which used to be located on the corner of Foster and Washtenaw avenues, but is now at 3300 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Together, they teamed up, and Dr. Talia formed a new branch of the Aramaic Bible Translation project, which focused on the Assyrian dialect of Aramaic. In 2001, Mar Dinkha IV, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, endorsed ABT’s translation, thus increasing the publicity of the translation amongst Assyrians worldwide. Dr. Talia was the main translator for the Assyrian dialect until his passing in 2002. During his time working on the project, he recruited Homer Ashurian, one of our previous ACF (AUAF at the time) Board Members, onto the team. Mr. Ashurian served as the main editor, translation checker, and eventual head translator until his passing in 2016.
To learn the history of Assyrian Bible translations, click here to read our previous post about it. Next week, we will post about the current status of ABT’s work. In the meantime, we wanted to let you know that ACF has been a major funder and supporter of the modern Assyrian Bible translation project. ABT desires this project to be a team effort among Assyrians from throughout the world, so you are welcome to support this project too. Your support does not have to be financial, but can be as simple as reading what has been translated so far, and providing your feedback to the team. ABT is also seeking additional board members who have a heart for the Word of God in Assyrian. Click here to learn more information about the project and how to contact ABT.
By Esther Lang
I want to give a special thanks to the Assyrian Bible translator, Demsin Lachin, for providing me with the information that I needed to write this post.
Aramaic Bible Translation. https://www.aramaicbible.org/ (accessed February 16, 2021).
Assyrian Christian Church. http://www.learnassyrian.com/church/ (accessed February 16, 2021).
Combs, Craig. “A Long Obedience: Celebrating the Life and Work of Esther Matteson.”
“Present with the Lord.” Moody Alumni News. 2013-2014. https://www.moody.edu/siteassets/content/alumni/alumni-news-magazine/alumni-magazine-pdfs/moody-alumni-2013-winter.pdf (accessed February 16, 2021).
The Seed Company. https://seedcompany.com/ (accessed February 16, 2021).