Monday, April 20, 2009


My Turkish friends inform me that it is traditional to commemorate each pilgrimage through a holy book. To stop and give thanks that you have been permitted to live long enough to complete that reading.

I finished my second read-through of İncil on May 20, 2008. Yesterday (April 19, 2009), I finished my third read-through. In other words, this time through took a day less than 11 months.

Can I claim a reading knowledge of bir güzel dil (one lovely language!) yet? I guess that depends on how honest I want to be on my resume.

When I was learning Italian, Esperanto, and Afrikaans, I dove into the New Testament, dictionary in hand, after minimal preparation. A two-tape Berlitz introduction to Afrikaans. An excellent computer-based multimedia course in Esperanto, downloaded from this site. Or, a handful of introductory Italian resources, as described here.

However, my first trip through İncil came only after I'd spent 18 months working my way through most of a first-year Turkish textbook. It's a hard row to hoe[1], since there are so few cognates between Turkish and English. A famous aphorism, attributed to Kemal Atatürk, goes biz benzer biziriz -- we resemble ourselves. Now, it's true that turkic languages are spoken all the way from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. This is the fifth largest language family on earth, after English, Chinese, Spanish, and Hindi. However, Turkish is nowhere near the Ind0-European family of languages.

I am now back to the beginning of my trek, at John's Gospel. John uses simple language to express profound truth. John tends to use a repetitive, poetic cadence, no matter which language you read his writings in. I carry copy of the Turkish gospel of John in my bike bag, along with spare innertubes and a few tools. Every now and then I'll ride a 16 mile loop, with a pause at the 12 mile point for a milkshake and a page or two of Yuhanna.

Yet, as many times as I've read this text, in as many different languages, each time through brings fresh insights to light. I've changed, for example, and understand things that a younger was unaware of.

Thanks to all of you who are keeping me company on this adventure. The best is yet to come!

[1] an agricultural idiom, for a difficult task.

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