The Book of Jonah in the Style of Altai Epic Stories

A design for a performance in a local genre based on an oral bible translation

  • Bronwen Cleaver SIL


Oral Bible translation and biblical performance in local genres is a relevant topic in today’s world of Bible translation. This paper will present the design for a performance in a local genre based an oral bible translation, using the example of the book of Jonah orally translated into Southern Altai and turned into a performance in the style of a traditional Altai epic poem. The paper will initially examine the stages of oral Bible translation, and how Jonah was translated orally by the Altai oral Bible translation team. Then the author will discuss the plots of the Altai epics and the context in which they are performed. This is followed by an analysis of some of the oral rhetorical features of traditional Altai epic poetry, and a discussion about the role of memorisation and improvisation in performance of the epics. It will be demonstrated how the Jonah epic reflects some of the features of Altai epic poetry. Finally, the paper will assess the audience’s reaction to the performance of Jonah and draw conclusions for future experience and research. It is argued that this is one of the most effective way of communicating God’s message with this oral preference community.