100 year-long bible translation project

Jan 21, 2019 by

By David Luckman, Crosslinks Blog.

[Editor’s note: An amazing story from the history of Anglican mission.]

In 1925, the first Crosslinks missionaries set sail for the Canadian Arctic. For these young men and women, the language of the Inuit was difficult to command.

Known as Inuktitut, it was developed from a syllabic language invented by a Methodist missionary called James Evans. He served some of the native people groups of central Canada in the 1840s. They were nomadic peoples, setting up camp where the hunting was good, and so had no written form for their language. Evans wanted them to be able to read the word of God for themselves, but he found that he didn’t have enough time to teach Roman letters and numbers, due to the roving nature of the indigenous people.

By a combination of circles and triangles, Evans formed 36 characters, each of which represented a syllable. He got thin sheets of lead from tea chests, melted them into small bars and, using a pocket knife, cut out the syllabic type. Then he used soot from the fire to make ink, and birch bark served as paper. Rev Evans had created a printing press and he set to work translating the Bible using the syllabic characters he had created.

A few years later, two Anglican ministers serving in northern Canada, Rev John Horden and Rev E.A. Watkins, used the system created by Evans and adapted it to Inuktitut.

Read here



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