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Nov 16, 2006

A Better Way to Say It

Written by Waller

John A and Lubwisi team checking MarkThe team and John A consult on
the translation of Mark (Bwisi, Uganda)
How do you translate Jesus' saying, "You can't put new wine in old wineskins" in a culture that has never seen wine or a wineskin? The Babwisi people brew beer in pots, but new beer never breaks the old pots. The excess carbon dioxide just bubbles off and the pot and brew are unharmed. If you explain what wineskins are and why you can't put new wine in them, it becomes a lesson in viniculture. What about putting an explanation into a footnote? Babwisi people have never used a footnote. Probably, no one would ever read it.

What was Jesus talking about? He wasn't really talking about wine or wineskins at all. He was explaining why his disciples could not follow the Pharisaic custom of fasting twice a week. So the team translated, "My disciples can not follow your old customs because my new teaching is incompatible with your customs." The smiles and murmurs of approval when that was read to the people showed the appreciation they felt at being able to understand that passage for the first time.

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