Professor John Mbiti, theologian and former director of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has recently become the first African scholar to translate the entire Christian New Testament from Greek to Kikamba, a local Kenyan language.
The translation, titled The Kikamba Bible - Utianiyo Mweu Wa Mwiyai Yesu Kilisto (the New Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ), was launched in December 2014 by Kenya Literature Bureau.
Mbiti, an Anglican priest and a New Testament scholar, has authored various publications on religion and ecumenism. His works include Bible and Theology in African Christianity, New Testament Eschatology in an African Background, African Religions and Philosophy and The Prayers of African Religion.
Originally from the Kikamba -speaking community of Kenya, Mbiti studied in Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States, earning his doctorate in 1963 from the University of Cambridge, UK. He also taught religion and theology at the Makerere University in Uganda. Mbiti served as director of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland from 1974 to 1980.
The New Testament as translated by Mbiti will be used in primary schools of Kitui, Machakos and Makueni, and will enable many in the Kamba community to read and understand the gospel.
In the past, Bibles were mostly translated by foreigners or teams led by them into the nearly 770 African languages, mainly starting from editions in colonial European languages. Mbiti’s translation makes one of the rare translations sourced from Greek, the original language of the New Testament.