The Pinoy version of the New Testament is sparking a lot of debate. Photo from Shopee
Culture Books

A Taglish version of the New Testament was just made available—and some people are angry

A recent post in the online store of St. Pauls have sparked arguments on what it means to be a Christian. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | Aug 16 2020

Two days ago, St. Pauls, which describes itself as “the apostolic trademark of the Society of St. Paul as an international congregation,” posted that copies of the Pinoy Version of the New Testament are now available for purchase in its online store. As the post caption explained in Filipino, this version makes use of Taglish, or the informal mix of Tagalog and English, as well as more contemporary and slang words in its verses. The reason: so that the scripture would be more relevant, interesting, and understandable particularly to the youth.

The post also gave everyone a glimpse of this version’s contents:

After ilang minutes, may nakapansin ulit kay Peter at sinabi sa kanya'Isa ka sa mga kasamahan nila.' Pero sumagot si Peter, ‘Hindi po ako 'yun, sir!" After one hour, may lalaking nag-insist, ‘Sure akokasama ni Jesus ang taong itokasi taga-Galilea din sya.’” (Luke 22:58-59)

Sobrang na-shock ako sa inyoAng dali n'yo namang tinalikuran ang Diyos. Imagine, sobrang bait n'ya at pinadala n'ya si Christ sa atin. Ang Diyos mismo ang pumili sa inyotapos ngayonine-entertain nyo ang ibangGospel?” (Galatians 1:6)

This ABS-CBN News report from 2018 gives more examples. 

But back to the St. Pauls Facebook post (by the way, the book is also being carried by Shopee at the same price as St Pauls: PhP 145.00). The comments section became a catechist battleground, with people toggling between welcoming the new translation to being downright offended that such a version exists. In its more than 600 comments, both sides dissecting the issue and sharing their views, a lot are prefaced with an impassioned “As a devout Catholic...”

Many of those who are for the Pinoy version think that this is but a natural evolution. If the point of the bible is to reach more people, they say, why shouldn’t it be made more accessible especially to younger generations. This is one of the main reasons why the bible is translated in the first place, they argue, and besides, scholars and members of the Church have already approved it. 

Some of those who are against the translation, meanwhile, call the Taglish version blasphemous. Catechism shouldn’t be adjusted to the reader, they rally, and add that this version sacrifices the richness of the passages and their contextual meaning. It takes away from the holiness of the scriptures, emphatically throwing around words like “binababoy” and “kanto.

Perhaps reacting to this cyber shouting match, St. Pauls shared more information about the version in a follow-up post.

The post explains that this most recent translation of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), which makes use of the heterogenous language Taglish, was completed in 2017. It says that it is faithful to the standards of the global group United Bible Societies (UBS), and makes use of the fifth edition of the Greek New Testament as its textual base. It emphasizes that it does not have any bias when it comes to the doctrine of any religious group. The post also says that a dynamic approach was used to interpret the scripture; this means that the translation is taken from the meaning of the Greek text instead of the word form. It is easier to understand this translation, it argues.

The making of this Pinoy version, the post continues, is an interconfessional project. This means that it was completed with members of different churches working together, making use of guidelines that has been set by UBS decades ago. (Looking at the scripture examples, however, we wonder about the exact composition of this work group and what voice they were going for. They sound like the Gospel according to St. Conyo of Taft Avenue/Katipunan.)

But again, back to the comments section of the St. Pauls post on Friday. Those who are for this atypically casual version have shared links to a 2018 piece written by current Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo. In the article, he gives additional historical context to the translation, which took around a decade to accomplish. The PBS, he shares, has been in the country for more than 100 years and has translated the Bible into our many languages and versions, including ones suited for children, youth, and women. (Though, we question the need to create a “female only” version. What does that look like—and may you tread lightly in your explanation?)

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“We cannot say the Pinoy version is disrespectful of the word of God as we cannot say that our Taglish is disrespectful,” Pabillo writes. “It is characteristic of our Christian understanding of God that He is a revealing God. He is a God who reveals himself, who makes himself known because he is love and he wants to be loved.” Pabillo ends his piece by quoting Pope Benedict XVI: “The inculturation of God’s word is an integral part of the Church’s mission in the world, and a decisive moment in this process is the diffusion of the Bible through the precious work of translation into different languages.”

We’re all for evolving with the times. But we also cannot help but think about the more tempered, less “Titas of Ayala Alabang” comments in the thread. These opinions point out that there is nothing wrong with making it Taglish per se, but perhaps the too-liberal word choices might sully the whole effort.

And who says that this is how their target reader talks anyway? Whose everyday tongue did they base this from? How can we trust an institution that has been criticized increasingly in recent decades for being out of touch to know how kids talk today?