Bishop Tomas A. Camacho of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa has accomplished the
significant task of translating the
Christian Greek Scriptures
into the Chamorro language. It's taken him 21 years to complete his works which
includes the translations of prayer books.
is easy to understand Camacho's meaning when you consider it took him 21 years
to translate books that were written between 2 B.C.E. to c. 96. C. E.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke,
& Apostle John, Acts of the Apostles, Romans, 1 Corinthians,
2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2
Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews,
Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation.
In an interview at his office in Chalan Kanoa, Camacho spoke of the
dedication it took to accomplish the task, saying "It was out of necessity," that
he decided to translate the bible.
"In 1976, June... 1, 1976, we were one
diocese and Bishop Flores assigned me up here. When I came here, the old
American Capuchin had translated the liturgy - that means all the readings, some
of the old testament, new testament, in his own translations which is sort of
analogized and I found myself, a Chamorro from here... to use that, the people
would laugh at me." Camacho found the translation graceless for someone who
spoke Chamorro, "It's awkward, I still have copies of those here," he said.
Bishop Tomas Camacho set out to improve upon the translation, considering at
first to revise the work, but after taking into account how much time and effort he
would have to spend in comparing the work, he decided that it was
better for him to start from the very beginning.
Camacho started his translation effort with the Sunday readings. "So,
what I did was translate the readings of the Sunday .... every Sunday I
translate the whole thing, little by little." It took three years for him to
translate the A-B-C cycle of readings for Sunday. After recognizing his
accomplishment, Bishop Camacho decided he may as well translate more. "My
goodness! I said to
myself, I have translated so many of it I might as well translate the in-between.
little-by-little I forced myself to finish this, finish that, finish that and a
few years ago I completed the whole - all the letters, St. Paul's letters and
all that, the four gospels and had it bound. Just five or six copies. That's all
I have," he said.
After completing the translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, Camacho needed someone to
review his work, "I wanted somebody to go over it, so I assigned Father Roger
Tenorio, about five years ago - I assigned him to do that. So he got himself a
group of people to help, then Father Roger died. That is where we are right now.
It's been translated but it hasn't been reviewed," the bishop said.
Regarding the earlier publications of the gospels, Bishop Camacho said, "Matthew was ... reviewed by the Bible Society of
Micronesia and they latter reviewed this (holding up a book) and they published this," he said of
the book of Mateo. The bishop pointed out that it took one year for the review
and approval of Mateo to be published, "But then I discovered that one chapter
Camacho went on to say he published the books of San Marcos, San Lucas and
San Juan without review, "They haven't been reviewed," he said. It
appears that in the interest of time, he allowed the other three Gospel books
to be published without review. Secondly, there were organizations and a family
from Tinian who were willing to pay for the publication expense of the remaining
Gospels. He said, "The American Board of Catholic Mission paid for San Marcos,
the Marianas Printing Services, Inc. Saipan paid for the publication of San
Lucas, and the CNMI Catholic Charities Appeal paid for the publication of San
Juan." He also said, "Acts of the Apostle was paid for by the Hofschneider
family in Tinian. I printed enough to distribute to all the homes."
Bishop Camacho said, "I revised, the orthography of the Historia Sagrada, a
bible story book, to make it more readable. I brought it up to the orthography
I was familiar with. That, and the Debosinario, the book of prayer," he
said. When asked
if he was working on any more translations of the bible, Bishop Camacho said, "I
completed Genesis and I think I am now in Deuteronomy."
Bethany Martin, editor of Isles Magazine published by the Seventh Day
Adventist Micronesian Mission asked Bishop Camacho,
"What method did you use in
translating those (books)?" Bishop Camacho replied, "When I was in Inajaran in
1970-71, Bishop Flores received this invitation from the United Bible Society
people that held the workshop on how to translate the Bible in Chuuk, so I
attended a one month workshop on how to translate the bible." The invitation was
opened to different religious denominations made up of protestants and Catholics
got together at Xavier High School in Chuuk, and for one month, we learned how to
translate the bible."
Martin asked Camacho what method did the United Bible Society use in
teaching them how to translate the bible? "To be faithful to the original
documents..." answered the Bishop. Martin asked if Camacho went back to check the Greek and Hebrew
texts in translating or if he only used the English version, and Camacho said, "Oh, no, no, no.
I used the English version."
He explained that he only took two years of Greek, and therefore wasn't
able to rely on that language to translate and said he never had
instructions in the Hebrew language. "I used the American Bible... partly
because... then I switched ... and before that I used... it wasn't a Catholic
Bible," he said, "It was the Standard, the American Standard is what I used." Why the
Standard? We asked. Bishop Camacho replied, "I find it less complicated...," he said
chuckling. "You know what I mean."
At this point in the interview, the Bishops' assistant brought in the copy of the
Chamorro Bible that the Bishop had in his vault. We quickly identified it as
being the reprint of the 1908
identical to the
bibles that Pastor Neil Culbertson of the
Presbyterian Church on Guam (left) is holding in his hand in the photo.
Needless to say, many others are often surprised when they learn that what
they have is a 1951 republication and not the
1908 original Price Chamorro Bible.
Culbertson also thought at first that the bibles in his possession were the
original Price editions, but they are not. They have one similarity - both are
technically portions and not the complete bible since only six books of the
sixty-six books of the Bible were translated in the Price publication and five
books in the 1951 reprint.
Still recognizing their value, Culbertson said he would like to donate one of
his copies of the 1951 reprint somewhere it could benefit the most people. We
suggested he donate one copy to the Marianas Areas Research Center at the
University of Guam.
Bishop Camacho was under the same impression Culbertson was under, thinking
he had possession of the 1908,
Francis Marion Price publication of the bible. But Camacho learned the afternoon
of the interview that what he has is the 1951 republication which is not a
bilingual bible nor does not have the book of Psalms. Even though the title page
Y Salmo Sija" in the title.
These facts do not dismiss the value of the Bible they have possession of. Instead, it
makes priceless the Price translation.
The title page of the 1951 republication reads:
Y Cuatro Ebangelio Sija
Checho Y Apostoles Sija
Testamento Nuebo Y Señotta Yan Y Satbadotta Si Jesucristo
Y Salmo Sija
But the book cover reads:
Y Cuatro Ebangelio Sija
Checho Y Apostoles Sija
The Bishop discussed the difficulty he has reading the 1951 republication, noting the difference in the orthography
of then and now. He pointed out that the
Novenas are similarly difficult because they have the same orthography. "I have
all the Novenas in my computer, and I am trying to revise them, but it's very
Bishop Tomas A. Camacho assignment to Saipan has been a
blessing, providing him the opportunity to translate scripture into the language
of his people. He said, "I am very fortunate that, when I first came up here in
1976, they offered orthography up here..." saying he took a course on
orthography conducted by Henry Sablan, someone the Bishop said, "Is an authority on orthography here in the
CNMI. In fact, Henry just came out with the updated orthography and he gave me
a copy in Christmas time. He presented a copy to the governor, and most likely
the Department of Education would get a copy of that."
Congratulations Bishop Camacho on your fine work. It is our hope
that you will have your translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures reviewed
for scriptural translation and approval of the orthography and then published so
that the Bible can be available to anyone who desires to read God's word in the