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Not all Greek to him (2/19/07)
By Melissa Nann Burke, York Daily Record
YORK, Pa. (AP, 2/19/07) — They cast the same in his teeth! Don't get it?
That's Dan Sindlinger's point exactly and why he spent the last seven years translating the New Testament from Greek into easy-to-read, contemporary English.
Sindlinger, who lives in Dover Township, believes the Bible should be a book anyone can pick up, read and comprehend.
He hopes The Better Life Bible will be that book for people confused by antiquated language, redundancies and unfamiliar jargon in other English translations.
Take, for example, Sindlinger's translations of a few key Bible terms. Instead of ``holy spirit,'' Sindlinger uses ``God's transforming power.'' Instead of God's word, law or truth, he often uses ``God's advice.''
And ``cast the same in his teeth''? You won't find it in Sindlinger's version.
It was an idiom in 16th-century England at the time when the King James Version translated the Greek word for ``insult'' in Matthew 27:44.
Sindlinger's goal was to make the New Testament so clear a reader wouldn't have to go to a pastor and ask, ``What does this mean?''
He didn't want them searching for an explanation of a parable or figure of speech, so he avoided idioms and slang. He replaced first-century place names with current ones. He included information implied but not explicitly stated in the Greek, and he dropped trivial details he thought might distract readers from the focus of a particular passage.
Sindlinger, 58, is a Bible translator by trade. He felt called into full-time ministry in the eighth grade.
In college, Sindlinger met a Bible translator, visited translation-project sites in Mexico and decided this was the ministry for him.
``We take the Bible for granted in our own language,'' he said. ``I felt compassion for people out there who didn't have any portion of the Bible in their own language.''
He trained for six years, earning his bachelor's degree from what's now Taylor University and attending courses at the Summer Institute of Linguistics. He studied Greek, Hebrew, linguistics and learned the techniques for the primary analysis and recording of previously unwritten languages.
Later, Sindlinger became affiliated with the Wycliffe Bible translators, a well-known, interdenominational Christian group dedicated to translating the Bible into every active language in need of one.
Sindlinger spent six years among the Gola people of Liberia, West Africa, working on a translation project. Like many missionaries, he relied on a network of churches and supporters to fund his missions, but it was exhausting work.
His wife soon became too ill for them to stay in Africa. Doctors advised she stay away from tropical climates in the future for health reasons.
Among the few projects that weren't in the tropics was in South Dakota among the Lakota Indians where Sindlinger next moved his family.
He worked on a project there for 10 years before moving home to York County, where he'd grown up in Thomasville.
With few opportunities to use his ministry skills, Sindlinger worked odd jobs at York Graphic Services Inc. in West Manchester Township and at the Harley-Davidson plant in Springettsbury Township to help put his three children through college.
On the side, he taught Greek and Hebrew in private lessons.
About seven years ago, his wife, Jeannie, took a nursing job that allowed Sindlinger to work full time on his English translation project.
He worked from the Greek in which the New Testament was written during the first century.
His translation is freer in form than most other English versions for the sake of the clarity he was trying to achieve.
He knew big-time publishers wouldn't be hip to his unorthodox translation, so Sindlinger published The Better Life Bible through a self-publishing company, Lulu.com. (It's available from the website and local bookstores.)
Sindlinger's pastor, Michael Loser of Dover United Church of Christ, reviewed drafts of Sindlinger's translation as he worked on it.
While most versions of the Bible are produced by a group of scholars, they tend to be conservative translations that hold to the church's prevailing interpretations of the original Greek, Loser said.
As all translators do, Sindlinger tried not to impose his own ideas on the text but convey the meaning and the context of the original Greek.
What Sindlinger did with particular effect is detect an underlying theme that comes through in every New Testament Scripture: ``God shows us how to have a better life,'' Loser said.
Sindlinger emphasizes what Jesus did and how Jesus wanted Christians to live their lives, Loser said.
``He's putting it out there as one interpretation of what God's trying to tell us in his message,'' Loser said of Sindlinger.
Expecting that some people will object, Sindlinger explains in his preface that no translation can occur without some interpretation:
``Some people may disagree with (this) interpretation, but that will hopefully motivate them to read other translations of the Bible and form their own opinion.''