Translation and Diffusion


Lamin Sanneh uses Translation and Diffusion as terms to describe two types of mission work. Diffusion is the traditional (although not universal) form of Islamic mission. The assumption is that the culture of land of its origin (Arabia) is the ideal form for its missional expression. Translation is the traditional (but by no means universal) form of Christian missions. The message of faith is translated into the culture of the recipient. It will transform the culture… but not replace it with the host culture.

Quote from Lamin Sanneh in “Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture”, 2009 edition, page 35.

“As translation, mission begot faith and obedience to God, whole humility and humanity were conveyed in multiple cultural systems without these systems hardening into exclusive pillars of truth. This might suggest an arid, Spartan view of culture, but in fact it ennobled culture by introducing the safeguard of nondeification. God is not an interchangeable cultural concept, a pious projection of cultural conceit: God is in art, music, architecture, nature, and creation, for example, but these things are not God per se. God is not an abstract notion bounded by cultural restrictions. To the Jew, God must speak as a Jew, with a repetition of that particularity in respect to the Gentiles.”

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