Finnish Bible Society is a modern and traditional 200-years old society. We translate and publish the Bible in different languages. We promote awareness, influence attitudes and raise interest towards the word of God. We enhance human rights, literacy and involvement.
Our goal is to connect people with the word of God
- in a language that the heart understands
- with a price that everyone can afford
- in a form that corresponds the needs of the person using the Bible
Finnish Bible Society is one of the official missionary societies of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. We are the oldest Christian organization in Finland and the oldest book publisher. We work on an ecumenical basis.
Locally and globally
The themes of our international work are the translation of the Bible, literacy work and the Bible engagement. Finnish Bible Society is part of the global network of the United Bible Societies that works all over the world in 240 countries and areas.
Our work is based on supporting the local Bible Societies, churches and people in the countries and areas where we work. We do not send our own employees to do the translation, distribution or awareness work but support, educate and consult the local people and churches. We are also responsible for monitoring the quality of the work that we support.
Leader in Bible publication
The Bible Societies publish the Bible in multiple forms for different churches, in different languages, and for different age-groups all over the world. Finnish Bible Society is the leader in Bible publication in Finland.
Finnish Bible Society sells the Bible in about hundred different languages. They are available in our Bible web store www.pipliakauppa.fi or different resellers all over Finland.
We promote the Bible in many different forms, for example as books, and in audio and digital format. The Bible or at least a part of it is also available in braille writing and in sign language. Our work includes also the aspect of helping people to understand the Bible. This is done through different campaigns and materials that we publish.
A new launch in Finland
Ground-breaking New Testament translation for smart phone users warmly welcomed in Finland
Finnish Bible Society’s ground-breaking translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into Finnish, especially aimed at smart phone users, was completed in October 2020 after two and a half years of work. UT2020 (New Testament 2020) is aimed at people of all ages who want to read or listen to the New Testament on their phones.
“UT2020 represents a new direction in Bible translation,” says UBS Global Translation Advisor Rev. Dr Seppo Sipilä. “Recently we have become more acutely aware of what the digital revolution means for Bible publishing from the point of view of the end-user. We have reached a considerable milestone on the journey towards increasing quality in global Bible translation.”
“Globally, translations of the Bible have first been published as a printed book and then exported into a digital format for distribution online,” adds Finnish Bible Society Director of Communications and Fundraising Terhi Huovari, who also served as the UT2020 project coordinator. “UT2020’s approach is different: the digital reality, the user environment and the end-user experience were key to the translation process from the very beginning. UT2020 uses the Finnish of the 2020s – language used by people living in a fully digital world.”
Representatives from all church denominations welcomed the new, truly ecumenical translation at a launch ceremony in Helsinki. Due to the exceptional circumstances, the audience participated via livestream.
“If you thought the Bible was of no interest to Finns, you were wrong,” one magazine wrote, referring to a flood of coffee break and social media discussions.
The Bible as a topic of conversation
The UT2020 project was widely featured from mid-2020 in national media, including TV and radio news, newspapers and magazines, and in social media. The experts who worked on the translation have been in great demand, invited to visit parishes and take part in other events, as well as webinars.
“UT2020’s reception shows that the Bible is still relevant,” says Finnish Bible Society CEO Rev Dr Markku Kotila.
Within two weeks of the launch, the new translation had been accessed 100,000 times on the Bible Society’s website www.raamattu.fi. Three months later, that had tripled, far surpassing the number of times that the 1992 translation was accessed over the same period (188,000).
The new translation has also led to many more people downloading the Bible Society’s Piplia app. By the end of January 2021, there were 16,000 new subscribers. On average, users spend more than an hour on the app. The long contact time is explained by the fact that the text is also available in the app as an audiobook.
No religious jargon
“People have a right to know what the original text really says. Most of the New Testament is in ordinary language. There are only a few occasions when it uses special archaic language. Jesus did not use religious jargon,” Markku explains.
UT2020 therefore uses language that is both everyday and natural, as well as rich and nuanced. At the same time, the sense of the original language is conveyed as correctly and accurately as possible, while minimising the use of special religious terms or old words that are no longer used in daily communication.
“Our aim was that the translation could be read without consulting a dictionary or Google, or needing help from a theologian,” says Terhi.
The word vanhurskas (righteous), for example, is not found in the UT2020 translation. Instead, the words ‘fair’, ‘just’, or ‘innocent’ are used, depending on the context. Vanhurskas is a special term used by the first Finnish Bible translator, Mikael Agricola, in the 16th century and has had a historical place in theological discussion. However, it has never been comprehensibly rooted in Finnish, but simply passed on from one translation to another.
“The old translation is like an old tube TV – you can still watch it, but the picture is blurry,” notes Lauri Thurén, Evangelical Lutheran Professor of Exegesis at the University of Eastern Finland, who served on the UT2020 ecumenical steering group. “The new translation is a high-definition TV – you can see what’s going on all the time.
“This new translation also sheds more light on the parables of Jesus. Now he himself has a clearer voice, because nothing has been added to the translation that isn’t really there. It may come as a surprise to many people that there’s nothing sacred or stiff about the Bible’s original text.”
A translation for reading, speaking or hearing
A key impulse in the new translation was also that it should flow well, whether read, spoken, or heard. This criterion has also had an impact on the wording of the text. The audiobook has been warmly received.
Actress Krista Kosonen, whose voice appears in the audiobook, said that she thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the recording of the new translation.
“It has been absolutely wonderful,” she notes. “Somehow it’s been a rather calming job. Metaphors aside, all the stories are true and beautiful and open the heart.”
Target users’ language skills guided the translation
Before translation work began, Finnish Bible Society invested much time in conducting background research and formulating new translation principles. This new approach, developed in connection with the pilot project, DigiMarkus, applies the user-centric translation model to Bible translation for the first time, while also solving how to translate an ancient text into modern Finnish for smart phone users.
The translation was especially shaped by the language used by people aged between 15 and 25. A fictional persona was created, based on various studies. She was called Elisa and is in her mid-twenties. Throughout the translation process, the guiding question was, “What would Elisa think of this?”
However, the target group is not limited to those in their twenties. UT2020 is intended for people of all ages who want to access the Bible on their phone.
“Beautiful, clear Finnish without the old stiffness. A joy to read!” commented Eila, 68, one of many readers who have sent feedback.
As well as ensuring that the language is understandable and natural for the users, careful consideration was given on how best to format the text for use on a smart phone screen, especially when browsing and navigating around the user interface.
Regular dialogues were held with end-users in order to achieve a translation that is faithful to the original language and which resonates with the language awareness of modern people.
Draft translations were presented to selected groups of ordinary readers at various stages, and nearly 3,000 responses were received. They represented people from all walks of life: students, military conscripts, employed and unemployed people, pensioners, men and women of all ages from across the country, regular Bible-readers, and people unfamiliar with the Bible. Their feedback was taken into account during the final editing of the text.
If you would like more information about how this translation was carried out, please feel free to contact:
Terhi Huovari, UT2020 Project coordinator and Director of Communications and Fundraising, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 40 546 9016
Seppo Sipilä, Global Translation Advisor, email@example.com, tel. +358 40 707 3704
Markku Kotila, CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +35810 838 6512
Finnish Bible Society (Suomen Pipliaseura)
Maistraatinportti 2 A (Länsi-Pasila)
PO Box 54
Telephone 010 838 6500
Bible sales 010 838 6520
Fax 010 838 6511
info (at) piplia.fi
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