1 Cor. 14:8 is translated in English as “And if the bugle (or: “trumpet”) gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” In the translation into Binumarien this verse resonated deeply with the translators.
Lynette Oates (1992, p. 278) explains: “[Translation team member] Des read the verse from 1 Corinthians, ‘If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for the battle?’
“‘That’s exactly right!’ Sisia[, another translation team member,] commented energetically. In the old days, a fight leader would give a battle call and everyone of his followers would immediately drop what he was doing, grab his bow and arrows and race off with him to battle. If he didn’t give a clear call, people would say, ‘What does he want?’ and not go. But if his call was unmistakable they would go.’
“He paused. Des could tell by his expression he had something else to add. That’s exactly what this work we are doing is all about. The Book in another language, Kate or Pidgin [two larger languages in Papua New Guinea with existing Bible translations that are difficult to understand for Binumarien speakers], is like an unclear call to us. We just don’t understand it. But in our own language it is clear. We know exactly what it is saying to us.’
“They translated several more verses till they came to the words, ‘I’d rather speak five words with my understanding than ten thousand with an unknown tongue’ [in 1 Cor. 14:19].’ Sisia reacted as if he had received an electric shock. He began to bounce up and down on his stool. He rocked his body from side to side and threw his hands about.
“‘That’s absolutely right!’ he almost shouted. If only those who first came had given us this Book in our language, we’d be better people today. Five words in your own tongue is better than words and words and words in someone else’s.’
“He continued to fling himself around. Paul would rather have five words in a known tongue than thousands in an unknown one. Paul’s right! He’s always right! If only we’d had just a few words in our own tongue from the beginning, things would have been so much better!'”
For the Old Testament version of a term that is often translated in English as “trumpet” see translations with a Hebraic voice (Joshua 6:3-5).