Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Projects: Bible Translation

Especially since 2000 there is a serious rethinking of models in terms of which the theoretical underpinning of Bible translation in the broader sense of the word could be better accounted for. Thus far the Centre has fulfilled an important role in this process. The model which has been developed and tested by the Centre, is used at the moment to lay the foundations for a new translation of the Bible into Afrikaans. See:

In this model the insights of Christiane Nord and Ernst-August Gutt play an important role. Nord's "functionalistic" model keeps account of the fact that the success of specific Bible translations is mostly determined by the degree to which the translations answer to the expectations and needs of the target language readers. It puts a great responsibility on translation agencies to have a thorough knowledge of the subjective theories of the target language audience (that is their traditions and perceptions concerning the Bible as a holy document), but also of the problem concerning the successful communication between an ancient text like the Bible on the one side and contemporary readers on the other side. It is in this regard that Gutt's view of Bible translation as (a difficult form of) communication is of value. Gutt explains the complexity of the process. In recent years, a need has arisen for a more sophisticated approach to linguistic meaning than the one that is assumed by Gutt and relevance theory (the communication theory on which Gutt's model is built). See: Van der Merwe (2012, and 2016a and 2016b).

The model which is proposed by the Centre, and which views Bible translation as a process of negotiation between two construals of meaning, viz. between that of the source text culture and that of host language culture, has, among others, the following implications:

  1. Translation of the Bible demands a team effort between Biblical scholars and translators.

  2. There is a need for translations of the source text in which Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic is translated as literal as possible in Afrikaans and/or English and then supplied with extensive information (text-critical, grammatical, lexical, cultural). This information should help translators (who are not source text experts) to understand the source text better.

  3. The type of knowledge that the above mentioned "Afrikaans" and/or "English" source texts requires, stresses some of the inadequacies of the existing source text grammars and dictionaries.

  4. It also highlights the need for all members of a Bible translation team to have a deep understanding, on the one hand, how their own language (and if it differs, the host language involved) is embedded in their (or its) contemporary culture and, on the other hand, how the source text languages are also embedded in the greatly different and remote Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic cultures of the Biblical world.

Current Projects


  • A Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew (CHJ van der Merwe)
    CHJ van der Merwe (and students of the Department of Ancient Studies) cooperate as co-workers in the project of the United Bible Societies edited by Dr Reinier de Blois.

  • A "scholarly" Hebrew-English Interlinear Translation of the Hebrew Bible (CHJ van der Merwe)
    This is a long-term project undertaken in cooperation with Logos Information Systems in Bellingham, USA.

  • A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (CHJ van der Merwe and JA Naud√©, University of the Free State)

  • Teaching the ancient languages more effectively (CHJ van der Merwe, A Kotze and GR Kotze)
    This is a long-term project to improve the method and content of the ancient languages in the light of current developments in Cognitive Linguistics, Applied Linguistics and Computer-Assistant Teaching and Learning (e.g. blended learning).


  • Bible translation as intercultural communication: a theoretical and practical reflection (CHJ van der Merwe)

  • Translation and ownership of the Bible in Africa (J Punt)

By keeping up with the latest publications in the field of Bible translation, attending conferences and workshops, serving on relevant committees and boards and/or being involved in translation projects, members of the Centre stay abreast of the needs and challenges of translation agencies.

Prospective doctoral students are encouraged to launch projects that address these needs. When these students have graduated, they often do research on a part-time basis on topics that emerge from their doctoral projects as research associates of the Centre.