For example, “hard-hearted” can mean “stubborn” in Scripture, but translates better in many Asian languages as “without pity.” Such nuanced differences must be taken into account in order to make Scripture accessible. Furthermore, many theological concepts in Scripture are presented in abstract expressions, whereas Asian languages more often use concrete expressions.
The greatest challenge, he says, comes from cultural differences. In one Indonesian area, sheep do not exist. They are simply unknown, so the translator working with Arichea attempted to replace “sheep” with “pigs,” ending up with such phrases as “Behold the piglet of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
Worse, the parable of the lost sheep became the parable of the lost pig, and when the swineherd had found his lost pig, “He called all his neighbors together to rejoice, and they ate it.”
It was Arichea’s job to catch and correct such cultural and theological mistakes and miscommunications, and keep the new translations as true to the original text as possible, while still making them accessible.
A Reluctant Bishop
Early in the 1970s, talk began about Arichea becoming a bishop, but he wanted no part of it. A decade later, while he worked in Hong Kong as the regional translation coordinator for the Asia Pacific Region of the United Bible Societies, rumors that he would be nominated to the episcopacy were still circulating in the Philippines. Again, Arichea made it clear that he was not interested. But at the 1994 Central Conference, his name began appearing on the ballots, and on the eighth ballot, he was elected, in absentia.
It was hard news for Arichea to take. He was dedicated to his work with the United Bible Societies, and still had no desire to serve as bishop. Upon reflection, however, he decided that as a United Methodist elder he had no choice. If he had been appointed to the episcopacy, it was his duty to serve. He flew to Manila and was consecrated.
Arichea served as bishop of the Baguio Episcopal Area, in northern Luzon, from 1994 through 2000. He focused on the recruitment and training of church workers, the support of church workers, and reforms of the appointment process. He also worked to strengthen children’s ministries and ensure access to Scripture for families. Ruth was by his side, an important partner in all of his work.
His commitment to the United Bible Societies continued in the Philippines, most visibly as president of the Philippine Bible Society from 1997-98, and again from 2001-05. He currently serves as honorary translation consultant for the Society, overseeing a new project entitled the New Filipino Standard Bible.
“I am glad that I have a part in making the Bible an open book in many parts of the world,” he says.