Anthropology can be a very academic study on how people live and what they do in a given situation. But it can also be used in a very personal and practical way. In anthropological workshops, local translators are asked questions and bring up their own queries about their culture. The discussions that follow can give great insight into why they believe something or how they understand different aspects of their own culture. Through these sessions the translators often realize that they have a word or phrase in their language which illustrates a biblical concept in a different way from our broad western society.
An Anthropology Workshop
In one particular workshop, Lubwisi translators were wrestling with the biblical concept of covenant. Western culture often thinks of the covenant of marriage being similar to the covenant that God has made with us. A ring is used to symbolize commitment in a marriage relationship. In the Lubwisi culture, however, the use of a ring seems meaningless. Their understanding of covenant was a blood pact between two people. To enter this pact two people take a coffee berry and cut it in half. Then they make a cut next to their naval and stick the half of the coffee berry in the blood. The other person would do likewise. Then they eat each other’s coffee berry. This covenant is a lasting pact between two people for life. If one needed help the other would have to come to his aid. If one hurt the other there would be dire repercussions.
Anthropology and Translation
Sometimes anthropology workshops take place on a more academic level, where general anthropology is introduced and biblical culture is compared with the target culture. Participants work in smaller groups and then present their findings to the entire group. The large group then provides a lot of stimulation and correction of individuals' perceptions. This gives the translators the big picture of biblical cultures as they work passage by passage and deal with the specific cultural dynamics involved.
When working in a cluster project anthropological seminars can be very useful in team building exercises so that good working relationships can be built with people from different language groups.