New Bible translation released for Scots Gaelic speakers

Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison with Scots Gaelic-speaking TV presenter Cathy Macdonald who hosted an event in Glasgow to promote Gaelic language within the Church in March 2015(Photo: Church of Scotland)

New Bible resources have been produced for Scotland's Gaelic-speaking community, including an updated translation of the New Testament.

The translation project spanned 10 years and brought together representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church. 

New audio versions of the four Gospels in Gaelic are in the process of being recorded on the Isle of Skye, where there is a strong Gaelic-speaking tradition.

They are due to be released in autumn as part of the effort to support Gaelic speakers in their engagement with the Bible and their walk of faith. 

Rev James Stuart, minister of Killin, was the first to translate the New Testament into Scottish Gaelic in 1767, just two decades after the battle of Culloden.  

Until now, Gaelic speakers have relied on the 1801 edition that was produced by Rev Stuart's son, John, minister of Luss, by Loch Lomond. 

The new translation replaces the old Gaelic from over two centuries ago with the modern Gaelic more commonly spoken today. 

The resources are the work of the Scottish Bible Society, the Gaelic Books Council and the Church of Scotland's Gaelic Group. 

There are around 54,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland but there have been attempts by the Scottish Parliament to increase this number in recent years. 

The Church of Scotland has echoed this effort by establishing the Gaelic Group and, more recently, employed a dedicated Gaelic development officer to oversee the work of its Gaelic Language Plan over the next year. 

One aspect of the plan has been to survey the current use of Gaelic in the entire Church of Scotland and identify areas of potential growth for Gaelic-led ministry. 

The new translations replace the old Gaelic of the 1801 edition with the modern Gaelic more commonly spoken today(Photo: Church of Scotland)

Work on the Bible translations was helped by funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, an internal Church of Scotland grant, and from Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS). 

Rev John Urquhart, a Church of Scotland minister in the translation team, said: "It has been a decade since the Scottish Bible Society brought the translation team together to begin the New Testament project.

"Though we were drawn from different places and different churches, we all shared the same aim: that the Scriptures of the New Testament should be made available to Gaelic speakers in modern Gaelic, faithfully translated.

"Throughout our work, we kept our focus on fidelity to the Greek and the clarity of the Gaelic.

"The translators hope that putting the word of God into contemporary Gaelic will enable every person who reads it to hear God's voice speaking to them, and that through this they will come to know the peace and salvation that are to be found only through Christ.

"Our desire is that all praise, and honour, and glory, be given to God and to God alone."

Elaine Duncan, Chief Executive of the Scottish Bible Society, praised the "gifted, committed and passionate" translators for their work on the project.

"Their faithfulness, love of the Bible and handling of the Greek and Gaelic languages have been essential to the success of this project," she said. 

"We are thankful for the partnership and support of the Gaelic Books Council, and we pray that God's Word will be appreciated and understood more through providing the New Testament in the New Gaelic Translation."

Alison Lang, Director of the Gaelic Books Council, added: "It is appropriate that this new translation is being published in the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages, and we hope that churches, schools and individual readers will enjoy this beautiful book."

The scholarship that has gone into the new translation was recognised in a motion put forward in the Scottish Parliament last month by Alasdair Allan, MSP for the Scottish National Party. 

He said: "The Parliament warmly welcomes the new translation of the New Testament, and praises the huge amount of work that has been put into this by Rev John Urquhart, Rev Ruairidh MacLean, Rev John Lincoln and the late Canon John Angus MacDonald over the course of ten years.

"The Parliament also considers that this new publication represents one of the many ways in which the Gaelic world will be celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019."

The Gaelic NT New Translation is available to buy now online through the Scottish Bible Society and the Gaelic Books Council, or by calling 0141 337 6211.