Study Groups and Translations

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Gaétan Charland

By Gaétan Charland, associate trustee, Québec, Canada

When I found The Urantia Book in 1979, I was shown a French version of the fourth part of the book “La Vie et les Enseignements de Jésus.” At that time, I had no interest in reading the story of the life of Jesus as I had read his story in the Bible; it was the other parts of the book that were of interest to me.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the French version of The Urantia Book was not available due to some problems with the printing. Fortunately, knowing English as a second language, I was able to read the original version.

It took me a year and a half to complete a first reading. In 1987 I attended my first study group, and the host of that group was reading from the English text. It was only in 1999, when I started my own study group, that I became acquainted with the French translation of The Urantia Book, as all the other readers in the group were reading it.

It was a bit disconcerting because some of the words in the French did not convey the correct meaning of the English. For example, “la pensée” was used for “the mind.” “Le mental” would have been a better choice. Interestingly, this word—along with many other words and phrases—did not bother the other readers in the group because they had not read the English.

Fortunately, the French translation has been revised twice since its publication in 1962. Work on the first revision began in 1978 and was completed in 1994. The second revision began in 2012 and was published in 2014.

When the latest revision was published, the members of my study group and I would compare it to the previous French version and to the original English text. I remember one reader who was profoundly attached to his first book, and he waited a few years before switching to the new revision. As the study group host, I never put pressure on him to acquire the newest revision, but through study and comparisons with the original text, he finally made the transition. When asked why, he said the new version made more sense in better understanding the meaning of spiritual, philosophical, and religious concepts.

I realized that the sentimental attachment we have to our first Urantia Book might become a hindrance to the desire to expand our cosmic consciousness and enhance our spiritual perception. That goal might be eclipsed by a lack of understanding if the words—such as Thought Adjuster, fusion, and many others—do not carry the exact meaning of the original words. There is always room for improvement regarding our human efforts to translate a book of such immensity and profound teachings and concepts. This handicap in translation, while inevitable, is a key reason for the ongoing revision process.

After getting acquainted with how translations and revisions are done at Urantia Foundation, I have gained the utmost respect for those loving and tireless workers who devote so much of their time to make The Urantia Book available to people of different languages and cultures.

I am astounded by the number of readers and the amount of time in years that was devoted to the latest revision of the Spanish text. In my opinion, the quality process and efforts involved in this revision surpass by far any revision process done to date by Urantia Foundation. No one individual can achieve this quality of work; teamwork is essential in the process of translation and revision.

The revelators of The Urantia Book explain this better than I can, so I take the liberty of sharing with you this passage from the Foreword:

IN THE MINDS of the mortals of Urantia—that being the name of your world—there exists great confusion respecting the meaning of such terms as God, divinity, and deity. Human beings are still more confused and uncertain about the relationships of the divine personalities designated by these numerous appellations. Because of this conceptual poverty associated with so much ideational confusion, I have been directed to formulate this introductory statement in explanation of the meanings which should be attached to certain word symbols as they may be hereinafter used in those papers which the Orvonton corps of truth revealers have been authorized to translate into the English language of Urantia. 0:0.1 (1.1)

First, can we just take a moment to appreciate the work of those celestial translators? Now imagine the work involved in translating the English text into another language, the difficulty of finding the right words, of expressing the right meaning for a difficult spiritual concept, the long hours spent revising, consulting with others, and praying for enlightenment when in doubt.

Let us be thankful to, and appreciative of, those loving souls who have dedicated so much of their time to make the revelation accessible to us in the language that we speak. Let our reading be guided by the Spirit of Truth and the love of the Father.

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