Bible translations into Mongolian

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Monte Corvino is said to have translated the New Testament and Psalms into Mongolian in the thirteenth century. His work has been lost, as have any Nestorian translations into Mongolian that might have existed.

Since those days, the first translation of the Bible into Mongolian was the work of Edward Stallybrass and William Swan (missionary) (1791–1866) both of the London Missionary Society, who translated the New Testament into the literary Mongolian language. Their translation was published in 1880 in Mongolian type in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was reprinted in 1881 in Manchu type.[1]

Joseph Edkins and Joseph Schereschewsky, together with a Mongolian llama revised Swan and Stallybrass’s translation of Matthew into colloquial Khalkha Mongolian. It was published in 1894. [2]

In 1899 the British and Foreign Bible Society agreed to bring out a revised gospel, by David Stenberg (of the Scandinavian Mission) and Mr. Netsegaard (of Urga, today called Ulaanbaatar), based on Swan and Stallybrass, which he found too high. It seems that Stenberg managed to revise into colloquial Urga Mongolian at least Matthew’s gospel.[3][4] He was working on revising all four gospels and Acts, however his work was cut short when he was killed during the Boxer Rebellion. It is unclear if any of his work survived it.

The New Testament of Swan and Stallybrass was revised by Stuart Gunzel together with four Mongolians and 8,000 copies were printed in 1953 by the Hong Kong Bible Society. This was reprinted in 1988 by the Hong Kong Bible Society. In 1994 Living Stream Ministry reprinted this, using the Cyrillic script instead of the classical Mongolian, but changing nothing else.[5]

In 2009 the ABPPM foundation published a revision of the Bible as “The Classical Mongolian Bible”. The old Testament is based of the 1840 British and Foreign Bible Society text, and the New Testament is based of Swanson’s 1950 text. The biggest revision that was done was the substitution of the words “Yehovah Tenger” for “Burhan”.

Missionswerk Unerreichte Völker e.V. (M.U.V.) spent 14 years translating the New Testament into a classic literary Inner Mongolian; this was published in the classical Mongolian script as “Ibegeltü nom” in 2003 and also released on the Internet.[6] They have also translated Psalms and Genesis, however lack of funds halted further progress.

John Gibbens, with the help of his wife Altaanchimeg (Altaa) translated the New Testament into Mongolian, their version being published on 11 August 1990 by the United Bible Societies in Hong Kong. This was a “self-interpreting” translation, and included Old Testament quotations, Old Testament allusions, and explanatory notes within the New Testament text, rather than footnoting them.[7] It also uses explanatory terminology for many religious terms, rather than using the Mongolian words deemed sullied irrecoverably by Buddhism.

The Mongolian Bible Translation Committee (Монгол Библи Орчуулгын Хороо) began translating the Bible in 1991. The New Testament was completed in 1996, and the complete Bible in 2000. This has become the most popular translation in Mongolia, being used by most Christians there. The Translation Committee became the Holy Writing Bible Society (Ариун Бичээс Библийн Нийгэмлэг) and revised the Bible in 2004, 2008 and 2011.[8] This is currently the most used translation in Mongolia. This translation uses Mongolian terminology, and is much more literal. It is however, perhaps too literal—and people often complain that it is in “translated Mongolian”, without native Mongolian expressions, and sometimes hard to understand. ABBN uses the name Mongolia United Bible Society (MUBS) in English. They are currently working on a new translation.

The word Бурхан (Burhan) for God, provoked controversy, as did terms for many religious words. The Gibbenses (with Bible Society of Mongolia, who kept the registration in their name when they split from United Bible Societies), continued work on a translation of the Bible that uses descriptive terminology, instead of the Mongolian terms, which they feel have been used in other senses by Buddhism (for example they use words like Ертөнцийн Эзэн (Lord of the World) instead of Burhan). Proper nouns are also often spelled differently (for example, the Translation Committee uses Иохан and Марк, and the Gibbens use Иоган and Маарх). Another difference from the Mongolian Bible Translation Committee’s translation is that they do not translatr from Nestle Aland, but from the Textus Receptus. The New Testament is a revised version of the Gibbens 1990 translation, revised to be no longer self-interpreting. So far[when?] the New Testament is complete, and work is ongoing on the Old Testament. Gibbens owns the Монголын Библийн Нийгэмлэг (Bible Society of Mongolia), where he and publishes his work.

In Inner Mongolia there are at least three modern Bible translations. Wycliffe Bible Translators completed a dynamic equivalence translation, using the word Deed Tenger, instead of Burhan, for God. Another translation, Ariun nom, which uses Burhan for God is also used quite commonly by Inner Mongolian Christans. A third translation, sponsored by the three self Church and Amity press is being translated by Bao Xiaolin. A trial version of this editions New Testament was released on 23 September 2013. This version is being translated from Chinese, and creates a lot of non-Mongolian expressions from Chinese.