Custom Search 1

Jamaican Patois Bible will empower people, says clergy

LAUNCH: The Jamaican New Testament in Patois

A NEW version of the Bible’s New Testament, written in vibrant Jamaican patois, will be available in the UK, starting next month.

Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment, launched amid huge excitement and humour last night (Oct 9) at the Jamaican High Commission in London, features some of the Bible’s best loved stories, among them the life of Jesus and the Lord’s Prayer, told in the local language spoken by Jamaicans.

Beside the verses is an English interpretation.

The Bible, supported by the Bible Society of the West Indies and partner the UK’s Bible Society, is now available for pre-order at

People will be able to buy it outright from November 12 at a cost of £12.99. An audio version is also to be launched at the end of October.

Last night, scores of clergy, high profile Jamaicans in the diaspora and interested persons turned out to hear Bible passages read in patois.

The patois version results from a 20-year collaboration between translators from the Bible Society of the West Indies, the Department of Linguistics at the University of the West Indies and leading theological institutions in Jamaica.

The team faced years of fierce criticism, with some people arguing against spending money to make a patois version.

They also had to contend with a historical context where children were once discouraged from speaking patois in favour of English and where debate still rages over whether children should be taught in patois.

But they overcame the challenges to complete the project.

The New Testament was met with delight as the packed room heard famous Bible verses expressed in what many called “the language of the heart” for Jamaicans.

“I believe that it is timely,” said Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Ndombet Assamba, who referred to ongoing debate in Jamaica about the value of teaching patois to students.

GIFT: Jamaica's High Commissioner to the UK, Aloun Ndombet Assamba gets a copy of Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment from Rev Courtney Stewart, general secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies at last night's (Oct 9) UK launch

Greeting guests in patois before translating it into English, the High Commissioner said: “I think that this is a very important piece of work that has been done…

"For those of us who love the Bible, for those of us who read the Bible, for those of us who share the Bible and those of us who love the Jamaican language, this is excellent.”

Laurence Jones, Manager of the European arm of Jamaica’s investment unit, JAMPRO, agreed.

He said: “There are some thoughts and ideas that can only be conveyed to its maximum impact by use of Jamaican patois.

"I ask you to consider this. It is one thing to quote the shortest verse of the Bible, John 11. 13. Jesus wept. That’s in English but it is entirely something else to translate that verse into Jamaican; Jiizas put dung wan piece ah bawling.”

There was hope that this Bible would help instil pride in patois and convince naysayers that children should be taught using their mother tongue.

Jamaican-born Queen’s and Parliamentary Speaker's chaplain, Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who later read out her own patois translation of Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd , supported this.

Hudson-Wilkin said: “Just imagine someone in Downtown market in Montego Bay (St. James) or in Kingston. These are people walking wid dem basket pan dem head and dem ah rush round. Just imagine that they are hearing something depicted as the word of God.

EYE OPENING: An extract of the Lord’s Prayer in Patois and English from Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment

"They have to stop because it is not just any ordinary word of God. It is actually the word of God in their own language. That is quite empowering.”

She continued: “If they can hear the word of God in their language, it is giving them permission as it were to affirm who they are and what they are and what they say in relationship to God…

“There is also what is seen by the world as normal and what this means for us today is that we are now is that we are inhabiting that space of normality and that is important because for a long time we were outside that space…Now we can feel a sense of relevance in terms of having the Bible in our own language.”

Reverend Courtney Stewart, general secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, who outlined the challenges faced in getting the New Testament published, said he was confident Jamaican children would leave school knowing both patois and english.

Pointing to European countries such as Norway and Sweden, Stewart said those countries were affirmed in their native language, were not cut off from the world and learned other languages alongside their own mother tongue.

He said the same will happen for Jamaica.

“We are Jamaicans. Our heads are not so small that we don’t have the capacity to learn English and Jamaican and French and Spanish and Portuguese and Swedish and Norwegian. We can if we are affirmed and taught in our mother tongue and then like everybody else, we can transfer the learning from our mother tongue to other languages.”

Subscribe to The Voice database!

We'd like to keep in touch with you regarding our daily newsletter, Voice competitions, promotions and marketing material and to further increase our reach with The Voice readers.

If interested, please click the below button to complete the subscription form.

We will never sell your data and will keep it safe and secure.

For further details visit our privacy policy.

You have the right to withdraw at any time, by clicking 'Unsubscribe'.

Facebook Comments