The first translations of parts of the Bible into Ossetic appeared as long ago as the 18th century. But still the 550,000 speakers of this language in Russia’s North Caucasus are waiting for the full Bible. A significant step towards this goal has been made with the launch of Book of Genesis in a translation directly from Classical Hebrew.
Back in 1998, news reached the Bible Society in Russia that a group of Ossetians had begun work on producing a modern translation of the Bible into their native language. Their initial efforts had attracted a lot of interest from Ossetia’s Christian communities, but had also indicated that the translators were not well equipped to undertake this challenging task. So this is where the Bible Society stepped in.
Bible Society staff visited Ossetia. In Vladikavkaz, capital of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, seminars were held to select suitable candidates to undergo a course in the fundamentals of Bible translation. A two-year course in St Petersburg followed, while two team members also took a course in Classical Hebrew language in order to be able to translate the Old Testament from the original text.
Launch of Book of Genesis
So, with these firm foundations, the work began in 2002. And on October 11 a significant landmark was reached with the launch of the Book of Genesis at the Republican Library in Vladikavkaz. Among the large numbers who attended were journalists, Church representatives and intellectuals. As well as ’round table’ discussions about the new publication, the event also offered talks by linguists, scholars, writers, poets and Bible Society representatives and readings from Genesis in Hebrew, Russian, German and Ossetic.
Some 1,000 copies have been printed, all of which have been distributed free of charge to libraries and Christian communities in North and South Ossetia and in the towns of Beslan and Tshinval. Bible Society staff made a special visit to provide copies to the Epiphany Convent in Alan, which has a rehabilitation centre dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attack in Beslan in 2004.
The Bible Society aims to complete the full Ossetic Bible within the next five to seven years.