Thirteen years in the making, a new edition of Te Paipera Tapu (the Holy Bible in Māori) has been launched at Te Rau College in Gisborne.
A team from Bible Society New Zealand has been reformating the Māori Bible for a new generation of Māori speakers. So a sense of joy and excitement at the launch was balanced by reverence and awe at the journey the Māori Scriptures have taken from the early 1800s to today.
The new edition is a reformatted version of the current Māori translation, first published in 1952.
To help Māori speakers, particularly second-language speakers, to better understand the text, Bible Society has added macrons to indicate long vowels.
Along with macrons, the entire Bible has been reformatted into paragraphs, replacing the King James style in which each verse begins on a new line.
“This task is much more difficult than it sounds, especially when it comes to books like the Psalms,” Dr Stephen Pattemore, Bible Society’s translation services director, said.
“Paragraphing brings a much more familiar look and feel to the text for today’s readers, who are likely to encounter paragraphs in almost everything they read.”
Another small but detailed task was the insertion of speech marks. The 1952 edition did not have these, and so that made it difficult to tell when someone was speaking.
The new version also includes other carefully revised punctuation, section headings and maps, all aimed at aiding understanding.
“These changes are more than the ‘emperor’s new clothes’,” Dr Pattemore said.
“They all help to make the text clearer and the message more understandable. That, combined with larger font and clearer print, makes a huge difference.”
“The reformatting work is a means to an end,” explained Salvation Army Commissioner Donald Bell, who spoke at the launch as Bible Society New Zealand president.
“The desired outcome of this project has always been to encourage and aid Māori in their engagement with the Bible. With the publication of this edition, we pray that more Māori will encounter God through the Bible and share his love in their communities.”
The service was conducted entirely in Māori with four Bible passages read from the new edition. At the conclusion of the service, Archbishop Brown Turei blessed the new edition as it begins its journey to the hands of Māori speakers everywhere.
Earlier, Commissioner Bell reported a marked increase in demand for Māori Scriptures since the reformatted New Testament was published in 2008.
High pre-release demand for the full Bible edition shows there is no abating in the popularity of the Māori Bible.