British Jesuit to translate New Testament into Patamona

 A renowned Jesuit biblical scholar is embarking upon a unique experience this month, as he joins an ecumenical group attempting to translate the New Testament into Patamona.

Father Nicholas King SJ, who is tutor in biblical studies at Campion Hall in Oxford, is spending a week among the Patamona Amerindians in the Interior of Guyana, South America. He will be working with Fr Paul Martin SJ who is based at the Catholic Church at Kurukabaru in the Pakaraima Mountains, and a group of other Christian scholars, on a translation of the New Testament into the language that is indigenous to around 5,000 people.

"Patamona is an oral and aural language, more than a written language," says Nick. "No one has ever translated the New Testament into Patamona before, because the people in this part of Guyana speak English. I will be offering technical advice on the translation, so that the local Amerindians will e able to read the Good News in their native tongue for the first time."

Nick is fluent in Greek and his recent translation of the New Testament from the original was widely acclaimed. He is currently working on a new translation of the rest of the Bible. He joins a long line of Jesuit linguists who have bridged cultural differences by learning or promoting unfamiliar languages. Best known of these is probably St Francis Xavier who, on his arrival as a missionary in Japan, spent over a year learning Japanese. He also learnt to communicate fluently with the Paravas of southern India. In 1603, the Nippon Jisho ­ a unique Japanese/Portuguese dictionary ­ was published by the Jesuits, and in the first half of 18th century, Jean François Pons SJ pioneered the study of Sanskrit in the West. Jesuits are also well known for providing translations of Tupi-Guarani in South America ­ the language that gave us words such as tapioca and jaguar.

Guyana is part of the British Province of the Jesuits, who are this year celebrating 150 years of working in the country.

Source: Jesuit Communications Office

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