Bengali Bible Translation

Language classification:
Bengali is mainly spoken in West Bengal state and it is an Indo-Aryan language. Bengali speaking areas are also extended to Bangladesh where it is a national language. The common script (Assamese-Bengali-Manipuri) which owes its origin to Brahmi and is a descendant of the 'Kutila' variety of Gupta script of Eastern India is used in writing Bengali. There are two distinct styles of literary expression: the first known as sadhu bhasha, commonly translated 'chaste language', a dignified style which adheres as closely as possible to Sanskrit in its vocabulary, having a somewhat rigid syntax. The other is known as the chalti bhasha. Hinduism is the main religion. Christians are a minority.

Total population:  69,595,738 
Literacy: 68.64%

Beginning of Bible translation: One of the pioneers of prose writing in the sadhu bhasha was William Carey, whose most notable work of translation was that of the Bible into Bengali. The New Testament was published in 1801, republished in 1806. The Old Testament was ready in 1809. In 1844 Yates' revision of Carey's Old Testament was published. By this time he had been joined by Dr. Wenger, who commenced further revision in 1847, and by 1862 the whole Bible was brought out, a fourth revision by Wenger appearing in 1874.


Present state and/or future of Bible translation in the language: The Odia Bible in Common Language translation was published in 1995. A re-edited version with references had been issued in 1997, and this version has been used for every reprint.
Any important translation issue: William Carey describes, “I employ a pandit...with whom I go through the whole in as exact manner as I can. He judges the style and syntax, and I of the faithfulness of the translation. I have, however, translated several chapters together, which have not required any alteration in the syntax whatever: yet I always submit this article entirely to his judgment. I can also, by hearing him read, judge whether he understands his subject by his accenting his reading properly and laying the emphasis on the right words. If he fails in this, I immediately suspect the translation...” One independent translation of the New Testament which did appear was prepared by Christian Bomwetsch who arrived in India in 1846 to work with the C.M.S. A version of Romans was published in 1867 and in later years he made a translation of the New Testament which was printed in 1885. This was an early attempt to get away from so-called 'Christian' Bengali.
Present state and/or future of Bible translation in the language: We do not foresee any more attempts than the Common Language translation of the Bengali Bible which was published in April 1999. One can understand that in addition to the ordinary Bengali spoken by Hindus, there is a form of the language spoken by the Muslims in Bangladesh containing a large admixture of Urdu words; the terminology thus differs in many respects and naturally not least so in religious matters, from Bengali proper. The Bangladesh Bible Society has the Bible published in Bengali: Musalmani which has now been made into Common Language as well. Bengali Bible in Common Language produced by the Bangladesh Bible Society has preference over the one produced by the the BSI.


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