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Thursday, September 2, 2010

A man of many love languages

Bob Bratcher could read the Bible in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, but he spent a good part of his life trying to make sure others could read it in whatever language was easiest for them.
Along with being a brilliant biblical scholar, Bratcher was a father and husband, faithful friend and committed volunteer.
On the July day he died at age 90, Bratcher had been working on a guidebook for Portuguese-speaking translators, handwriting his notes about 2 Corinthians on a yellow legal pad at his Chapel Hill home.
"He was a man of deep faith whose spirituality touched all he did," said Napier "Nape" Baker, a member of the same men's group for a quarter of a century. "It was as though the words over which he so lovingly labored as a translator became the very fabric of his being."
Born to Baptist missionaries serving in Brazil, Bratcher grew up in Rio de Janeiro before graduating from Georgetown College and later Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Kentucky. Along the way, he met June Heaton at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly near Asheville. It was the summer after she graduated high school. He was five years older, on staff making $7 a week.
"I knew at once he was the one I wanted to marry," June Bratcher said. "He didn't know, of course. I let him figure it out for himself."
But first, she began college, and he started work on an advanced degree at Southern. Within two years, they were married. World War II was in full swing, June Bratcher recalled, and life had a sense of urgency. Bob Bratcher was about to become a Navy chaplain.
"I didn't think ours was a hasty marriage. We were quite serious," she said, 66 years later. "As it turned out, it was just the right thing for us."
They and their expanding family would eventually travel back to Brazil, where Bratcher and June were missionaries and he a teacher; to Manchester, England, for post-graduate work; to Louisville, Ky., and Long Island, N.Y., where his work in translation began in earnest.
Bratcher had always loved languages, and building on that, his work followed two paths. One was actual translation, first of the New Testament, for the American Bible Society. The resulting "Good News for Modern Man: The New Testament in Today's English" produced a version in simple, everyday language that has sold more than 100 million copies since being published in 1966. Bratcher led a team of scholars who then translated the Old Testament in the same way, and the "Good News Bible" was published in 1976.
In his second major area of translation, Bratcher worked with United Bible Societies to produce aids for those who were trying to translate the Bible into other, less widely spoken languages. Bratcher would provide guidance through a language the translator spoke that would then allow conversion of the text into a third language
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