Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Better Way to Produce a Bible Translation

For hundreds of years, the King James Version was the standard translation of the Bible across all of the Anglosphere. The early and mid-20th Century saw renewed interest in up-to-date and accurate translations, leading to the creation of the ASV and RSV. But in recent years, it seems like there's a new translation out every week. Bible translation is big business, but it is typically not approached with a business mindset. So I figured, 'hey, I could start milking the cow of the Christian Stuff Industry if I think of a better way to translate the Bible.'

You see, Bible translation is not approached as a business enterprise, but as a scholarly endeavor. But if you go strolling through your local LifeWay superstore, wading through Thomas Kinkade prints and Precious Moments figurines, you can readily grasp that this is not a current model.

Bibles are expensive because translating a Bible is an expensive process. It requires a carefully-formulated process of gathering top-notch scholars in Biblical languages, checking each others' work from the original manuscripts. In terms of costs of production, it all boils down to this: exorbirent labor costs.

And that, my friends, is where we can cut costs. Businesses thrive only when they strive to lower their costs so that they can increase their profit margins. And other Bible translation projects will not be able to compete with the prices that I can offer customers due to one simple change: cheap Mexican labor.

I am, of course, referring to the business institution of the maquiladora -- a factory lying just over the Mexican side of the US-Mexican border. For years, US-based companies have shipped parts to maquiladoras for assembly where labor costs are far reduced, and finished goods back into the US duty-free. Americans benefit by having cheaper goods; Mexicans benefit from having increased industrialization.

So here's what we do. Acquire a maquiladora, such as those used for assembling small machines like household appliances, and begin shipping Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts to them. The workers will then translate the documents into English and ship finished Bibles back into the United States. Here is an illustrative diagram:

What are the savings? Well, the average maquiladora worker earns about $0.90 an hour. Match that up against the $5.15 per hour wage that American holders of Ph.Ds in Biblical languages earn by waiting on tables, driving taxis, or pastoring churches. Our Bibles should cost a fifth of what other Bibles cost. That means that LifeWay customers will be able to slip that Prayer of Jabez collector's edition beer stein into their shopping carts all because they purchased our Bible instead of the Holman Christian Standard, or whatever else is the hottest American-produced translation on the market. And that, my friends, translates into profit.

7 comments:

TN Rambler said...

Where do I go to invest?

John said...

I'll e-mail you with my student post box number. Cash only.

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I can't BELIEVE no one has thought of this before! So obvious...

tim said...

Plus, you can speed up the process through distributed translation. All those old translations took long, long times to make. The Septuagint took 72 days to do just the Torah, according to legend, and the rest of the OT took *centuries* more. The King James Version took years.

Personally, I don't think they thought the whole thing through from an efficiency point-of-view. So in keeping with your maquiladora inspiration, try applying modern manufacturing methods:

The Bible has almost 8,000 verses. So you hire 8,000 Mexicans, and give each one of them one verse. Voila! You're done in a few minutes!

Stephen said...

Too funny, but I wonder if the readability would be anything like some of the signs in Chinese Restaurants?

John said...

Stephen, as the popularity of Eugene Peterson's The Message shows, today's Bible customers aren't particularly concerned about quality control.

truevyne said...

Brilliant! You are onto something.