Why not encourage the writing of new bookits directly in Spanish by Spanish authors or write some ourselves? Yes. Why not! These are terrific ideas and, by all means, whenever feasible should be pursued.
That said, much of the world’s top Evangelical scholarship is read and written in English. This is not to disparage other work. It is simply to highlight a wealth of scholars and resources from which we can be much more selective than if we were limited to producing material from scratch. This is especially true when it comes to commentaries, where scholars often devote decades to the study of a single canonical book.
Translation allows us, relatively quickly, to provide world-class, truly Evangelical scholarship, that will in turn support the next generation of Spanish pastors and scholars. What is more, in the case of the ZECNT, translating allows us to provide a resource that – even in English – is leading the way in terms of its unique helpfulness to preachers.
But even with its evident advantages in terms of efficiency and quality, translating high-quality academic work has its own challenges.
Expense. Let’s face it. Quality academic resources are expensive to produce. They tend to be long. They tend to require greater effort to translate. They tend to sell fewer copies. All of this makes it an uphill battle for publishers who want to make these kind of resources available and still survive!
Quality of Translation. One way to fight these difficulties is to cut corners on translation. We have had many, many Spanish speakers tell us over the years how difficult it is to read many of the books that have been translated into Spanish. We have had this experience ourselves, and sense that some translations, probably in order to save on expenses, never got past the first-draft stage of translation. This may be acceptable if the translation is of the latest Christian fiction, but it will not due when serious, attention-to-nuance scholarship is the focus. For resources that are destined to be used as life-long, ministry-enabling tools, we believe that investing time and resources into multiple editing cycles is not only justified, but required.
Quality of Publication. What is quality? Books whose print is large enough to read without needing to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. Books that will stay open on your desk, so you don’t need to fight them while you study. Books that will last a ministry lifetime without falling apart. Sure, cutting corners on these matters is yet another way to save on cost – and it is done all the time! But the question is, again, why produce something that isn’t going to be as helpful or usable or long-lasting as it should be? To do so is, without perhaps even realizing it, to undercut the value of the entire effort. That’s why we prefer to make these resources affordable, not by “cutting corners”, but only by removing overhead costs that won’t damage the value of the end product.
Print & Digital. Finally, by delivering these commentaries in both print and digital formats we make them available to a wider user base, both in terms of access, as well as preference. In the first case, some countries have import laws that make shipping books difficult. Digital availability can help. In the second case, people have workflow preferences. Some may find it easier to work with a physical book on their desk; others may prefer the freedom of a digital version on screen. Having multiple formats increases meaningful access opportunities.
Next: Adding Value