THE Bible Society of The West Indies is defending its recently completed translation of the New Testament into patois as a step in the right direction.
According to Reverend Courtney Stewart, a patios Bible will result in the scriptures reaching a wider audience and will be understood by the masses due to its presentation in the language of the people.
"Our experience has been that the scriptures make the greatest impact on people when they hear it in their mother tongue. As far as the language is concerned, people having the scriptures in their mother tongue find affirmation, actually it builds your self-esteem," Stewart told reporters and editors yesterday at the weekly Observer Monday Exchange.
The patios version of the New Testament will be launched locally on December 9 at Bethel Baptist Church in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew.
It was launched in England last month and according to Stewart, Jamaicans in the United Kingdom were very receptive.
"We saw that in England, for example, where people were celebrating that this is their language," he said.
The concept has drawn criticism from some sectors of society who have called it a waste of money and a trivialising of the word of God. Critics also say the move would limit the country's development and set back efforts by educators to get children to read, write and speak proper English.
But noted linguist Professor Hubert Devonish shot down any criticism of the patois Bible and suggested such talk bordered on hypocrisy.
"Has the traditional method worked? The method of excluding Jamaican, pretending that the children are English-speaking, has it worked? While many Jamaicans will deny the language their behaviour is contradictory because you can't turn on the radio right now without hearing Jamaican. This process doesn't undermine it, it actually helps it," Devonish said.
According to Rev Stewart, the demand for the patois Bible is encouraging.
"We are having people from Canada calling and asking when are they getting their supply. People calling us every single day, wanting to know how much it costs and when can they get a copy. People have actually come by the Bible Society wanting to purchase a copy," he said.
To assist members of the clergy and their flock to better appreciate, comprehend and dispense the scriptures in patois, the society has been conducting bilingual classes islandwide and have designed a programme to help pastors read and write the form of the dialect used in the text.
There are more than 80 translations of the Bible in the native tongues of people worldwide.