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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive A New Thing under the Sun: A Doctor of Ministry Degree in Bible Translation

Roy E. Ciampa 
 The work of translating the Bible into the languages of the world is being supported by thousands of Bible translators and translation consultants around the world. Some of the top consultants have Ph.D.’s in biblical studies or linguistics, but most project coordinators and consultants have some sort of master’s degree and a tremendous amount of experience. For some of them a Ph.D. remains the most appropriate next step in their academic training, but for others that may not be an option or the best choice.

After consulting with leaders in the field of Bible translation Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has built a Doctor of Ministry track that focuses on the key skills and areas of knowledge most used and needed by translation consultants.  Previously translation consultants who went on for further education had to choose between advanced training in biblical studies or in linguistics. This program provides a more multi-disciplinary approach in light of the particular training needs of this group of people. 

The first year of the program focuses on exploring recent developments in biblical studies and hermeneutics. The second year of the program has a focus on linguistics and the broad field of translation studies. The focus of the third year is on team building, conflict resolution and adult small-group education. 

The second and third years of this curriculum address educational aspects that are important to the work of Bible translation but which are not usually addressed in any formal educational programs. Bible translation has developed on its own trajectory in isolation from the broader field of translation studies, a dynamic and creative field which is developing important theories and research programs at various universities around the world. By introducing Bible translators and consultants to the field of translation studies, it is hoped that Bible translation will benefit from engaging the critical and creative work being done in that field. The focus of the third year of the Doctor of Ministry program reflects a recognition that the members of a Bible translation project may never be able to bring their translation project to completion despite their vast knowledge of the Bible and linguistics if the team working on the project becomes dysfunctional and/or if its leader is unable to help the team gain certain necessary skills or competencies. 

The Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program is a professional doctorate (as opposed to a research doctorate).   Primarily a distance-based program, it requires three two-week residencies, with studies and preparation done in advance, and a final, ministry-based D.Min. thesis project.  The first residency will take place in May 2010 in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. This Bible translation track has been developed in partnership with The Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, a premiere research entity for translation work associated with the American Bible Society. The second year two-week residency will take place in conjunction with the Institute’s Nida School for Translation Studies in Misano, Italy in May of 2011. The third residency will take place on one of the Gordon-Conwell campuses in May of 2012.

The co-mentors of the program are Dr. Bryan L. Harmelink, International Translation Coordinator for SIL International, and Dr. Roy Ciampa, Associate Professor of New Testament and Chair of the Biblical Studies Division at Gordon-Conwell. Dr. Ciampa has been actively involved in helping the Portuguese Bible Society with the revision of its contemporary Portuguese translation of the Bible.

Students in the Bible Translation track will benefit from significant engagement with the faculty and teaching staff of the Nida School, as well as the track co-mentors and other faculty of Gordon-Conwell. The goal is to equip students with the skills necessary to effectively deal with the complex challenges they face as they provide the Scriptures to the peoples of the world. 

Commenting on the new doctoral degree program, Philip H. Towner, Ph.D., Dean of The Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, notes, “One of the biggest challenges in the Bible translation mission comes in providing the training—at the highest possible level—that will ensure translators and translation consultants are equipped to accomplish the variety of tasks they are called on to perform. Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary’s new D. Min. in Bible Translation, under very qualified leadership and constructed around some strategic partnerships, promises to contribute significantly towards meeting this need.”

According to Freddy Boswell, Executive Director of SIL International, and Roberto Laver, the Executive Director of the Forum of Bible Agencies International, “The Translation Development Group of the Forum of Bible Agencies International heartily endorses the new Doctor of Ministry program in Bible Translation at Gordon-Conwell Seminary. It fills a niche need that is not met in any other program of its kind: state-of-the-art instruction on technical aspects of several integrated academic fields of study plus practical and hands-on application in the real world of Bible translation. The students and faculty are both professionals in this field, and we look forward to seeing the global cause of Bible translation advance as a result of this degree program!”

More information about the program is available by contacting Roy Ciampa at For admissions-related issues, please contact Peter Cooper, D.Min., Admissions Coordinator, at or 978.646.4163. Further information can be found at

Roy E. Ciampa, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary


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