The Story of a Translation Linked to a Birthplace of Christian Evangelism
Our publishing house has been producing occasional passages in other languages since we were founded in 2007, including some Arabic script that appears in Najah Bazzy’s The Beauty of Ramadan and a handful of other books that feature passages in Spanish and Hebrew. Several years ago, under the guidance of our Director of Production Dmitri Barvinok, we also began releasing bi-lingual books in English and Russian with Russian-American writer Anna Krushelnitskaya. Anna’s first two volumes are Cold War Casual and the new collection of poetry, A False Nanny.
In addition, we’re currently finishing a Mandarin Chinese version of Dr. David Gushee’s best-selling book, Changing Our Mind, which will be available on Amazon in coming months.
But the most unusual editions we have released over the past 14 years are in the ancient language of Georgian, first an edition of Daniel Buttry’s Interfaith Heroes and now a translation of Dr. Gushee’s book.
As you can read on Wikipedia, Georgian is fascinating first of all because it is the main modern-day expression of one of the world’s “primary language families,” Kartvelian. It’s the official language of the nearly 4 million citizens of Georgia—and it’s far older than the English language in its spoken form.
While such details are fascinating to writers, editors and literary scholars—there also is a remarkable spiritual legacy evoked in transforming Dr. Gushee’s book into one of the world’s first Christian languages.
What does it mean to call Georgian “one of the world’s first Christian languages”? Well, the Georgian tongue, as a spoken language, was well known to Romans and its linguistic precursors stretch back many centuries before the Roman era. It’s the written language of Georgian that was associated with Christian evangelism. For people of the Gospels, literacy was vital, so Christian evangelists created a number of different written languages to spread those texts.
As you read this bit of history, you’re probably envisioning Western Christian missionaries heading East—perhaps from Rome or other points in the Western Christian world.
But, no! Quite the opposite! And, here’s why the Georgian language is so venerable. Historian Philip Jenkins describes this early history in greater detail in his Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died. Today in 2021, Western Christians think of themselves as essentially having carried Christianity directly from Jesus to Rome to Western Europe and the U.S. In fact, as Jenkins points out, if you had been alive in the mid 300s AD, the exciting explosion of Christianity was in Armenia and what is today Georgia!
In fact, as Jenkins points out, if you had been alive in the 900s, you would have thought of Christianity as a religion whose heartbeat was East and South of Jerusalem—in scholarly and spiritual centers across Asia and Africa many of which have entirely vanished today.
In post-Cold War Georgia, however, Christian leaders continue to play a vital role in that nation’s cultural life—sometimes with public tensions over how their spiritual vocation should be expressed today. This translation was thanks to the work of a Christian translation team within Georgia, approved by Dr. Gushee and our publishing house staff.
Now, this book is a historic milestone.
Here’s why: To see Dr. Gushee’s book about the importance of embracing diversity within Christianity published in the nation of Georgia—in the ancient Georgian language—is both an honor and a full spiritual circle representing the Christian teaching of an American Georgian, based at Mercer University in Macon, reaching halfway around the world to inspire Christians in a part of the globe that truly was a birthplace of the faith’s global evangelism.
Now, that’s a milestone!