On the task list of books to be translated, 1, 2 and 3 John did not raise any immediate flags. Just as they did with the preceding books, the team set their focus on producing the most accurate translation possible.
With eager anticipation, translator Moses began the adventure of unlocking the mysteries held in John’s Epistles. A few verses into 1 John, the mystery of Jesus came into focus.
“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.” — 1 John 1:1-2 (NLT)
It was challenging to translate this passage in which rather than refer to Jesus directly, John used metamorphic language to describe Him. Moses leaned into his 11 years of translation experience and his theological degree to develop several questions, “Why did John choose to use the ‘unknown’ subject in the epistles? What theological importance does it communicate to my people? Is it relevant to have it the way it is?” Tapping other translators for help, the team mulled over the answers to Moses’ questions. They tossed around suggestions, reviewed John’s Epistles in light of John’s Gospel and offered many prayers.
“Upon realizing that man cannot wholly define who God is, I have come to appreciate why John introduces his Gospel and the Epistles the way he did,” Moses said. “John’s work is a great work for the Church in the face of many false teachings apparently being scientifically supported. Therefore, any biblical portion that is powerfully expressed like the above needs to be appreciated as it is.”
For years to come, people will read the Lugungu translation of 1 John and struggle with the same questions. Because of God’s faithfulness, they will find the same answer — a personal revelation of Jesus.