History of the Translation


The Mizo Bible celebrated its Golden Jubilee on September 6, 2009, fifty years after the first complete Mizo Bible, titled as Pathian Lekhabu Thianghlim (literally ‘God’s Holy Book’) (Old Version) published under the auspices of the then Bible Society of India and Ceylon was released in 1959. This was the outcome of a joint venture of the churches in Mizoram which extended for sixty four years. Subsequently, the first Mizo Bible underwent re-edition twice and some minor corrections in the course of the later re-prints. In the meantime by the early 1960s a new project was launched to prepare new Mizo Bible translation, Pathian Lekhabu Thianghlim (Contemporary Version) which was published in 1995. More recently a Mizo Study Bible was prepared using the text of the new translation. By 2010 the latest re-editing work on both the old and the new Mizo Bible translations have been completed. In the course of time, besides the main line Mizo Bible translation and publication works, the Bible Society of India has also been undertaking some other special projects in Mizo Bible related publications. The Aizawl Auxiliary of the Bible Society of India is the umbrella body and the common platform of sixteen denominated churches in Mizoram that have jointly taken up Mizo Bible translation and its related projects. Here, we will give a survey of the history of the Mizo Bible published under the auspices of the Bible Society which has become “The Book” so dear and valuable for the global Mizo speaking community.


The dramatic religious, socio-cultural transformation that took place in Mizoram as a result of the impact of Christianity within the 20th Century was said to be foreshadowed in the prophetic dreams of Mr. Darphawka from South Mizoram. The impending phenomenal change was foretold to this native Mizo through dreams by the last quarter of the 19th Century before the Gospel was brought to this land. It was in the year 1891 that Rev. William Williams, the first person from overseas to set his feet on Mizoram soil with a mission motive paid a brief visit to this land. Rev. Williams worked as a missionary under the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Foreign (Presbyterian Church of Welsh) Mission based in Khasi Hills. He came to Mizoram to survey the prospects of launching a mission in the region. Following his report, the General Assembly of his church in Wales decided to open a mission field in Mizoram. Unexpectedly, while Rev. Williams himself was preparing to go to Mizoram as a missionary, he died of typhoid on May 24, 1892 at Shella, Khasi Hills and his body was buried at Shillong.

After almost two years had passed from the death of Rev. Williams, two pioneer missionaries to Mizoram, namely, Rev. J.H. Lorrain and Rev. F.W. Savidge, whom the Mizos later named them as ‘Pu Buanga’ and ‘Sap Upa’ respectively, arrived at Sairang village, near Aizawl on January 11, 1894 by a boat via Tlawng river. These two pioneer missionaries turned out to be the living symbols of the embodiment of the Gospel in the region. Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge belonged to the Congregational Church and the Methodist Church respectively who joined the High Gate Baptist Church, London in 1890. the came to Mizoram as members of The Indian Aborigines Mission, patronized by a wealthy man from Leeds in England by name Robert Arthington Jr., who had a fervent zeal for evangelization of the world. Significantly and appropriately, to mark the date of the arrival of the two pioneer missionaries at Sairang. January 11 has been observed as the Missionary Day in Mizoram and is declared a State holiday by the Mizoram government.


The Bible Society compiled the Mizo Old Testament and the 6th Edition of the Mizo New Testament (1950) into a single volume and printed the first Mizo Bible in 1959. This Bible measures 21 cms. in thickness. The Old Testament comprised of 913 pages and the New Testament 419 pages. In the beginning 5,000 copies were printed and a single copy cost `5/-. When the BMS missionaries in the South, such as, Rev. Carter and Rev. Raper returned to England they also printed some copies there, and in 1963 additional 5,000 copies were printed in India.

In preparing the first Mizo Bible, the translators based their translation mainly on the Revised Version (1885), and even the verse, chapter and paragraph divisions were based on this English versions. However, for the English text, the translators were given freedom even to make use of the King James Version (1611). It appears that as a method of translation basically the translators were trying their level best to maintain “literal (word to word) translation,” however, it is most probable that the translators in the North emphasized on faithfulness to the English text whereas the translators in the South were concerned more on how the text is rendered into a fine Mizo language. It can be inferred that the translators took extreme care in their translation work and that they apparently made use of the original Hebrew and Greek texts as far as possible. The Mizo Bible translation work was completed as a result of the dedicated works and joint venture of the churches in Mizoram led both by the Welsh Mission in the North and the Baptist Mission in the South.


In the translation of the Old Testament, more members were added to the translation team in both the North and the South. The Bible portions were divided among the translators in such a way that those in the North will translate all the books of the Prophets and those in the South will translated the rest of the Old Testament books. However, as the translation work progressed this plan could not be fully accomplished. All throughout the translation of the Old Testament books, the Bible Society paid `100/- each per month as honorarium for two of the translators.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the only overseas missionaries who stayed back in Mizoram were Rev. Savidge in the South and Rev. F.J. Sandy in the North. By 1918, Rev. Sandy completed translating the books of Hosea, Joel, Amos and Obadiah. The books were printed at Loch Printing Press, Aijal with the permission of the Bible Society authority. Before he died in 1926, Rev. Sandy was also said to translate the book of Micah, and Rev. Dr. Peter Fraser translated the book of Jonah. After the War, in the North a Translation Committee was formed under the leadership of Rev. E.L. Mendus, a Senior Missionary. The members were: Rev. Chhuahkhama, Rev. Saiaithanga, Rev. Thanga, Mr. Muka (Synod Evangelist), Elder Ch. Pasena, Elder Vanchhunga and Rev. Liangkhaia. Sometimes even other missionaries such as Rev. Samuel Davies and Rev. B.E. Jone also helped them in the translation work. This Committee edited Rev. Sandy’s drafts on the Minor Prophets. Even later on it became a tradition that a Senior Missionary should head the Translation Committee.

The translation work was disrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-1945). When the War was ended, the North and the South expanded their respective Translation Committees. In the North, by 1947, Rev. Liangkhaia was transferred from Saitual Pastorate to Mission Headquarters, Aijal to be in-charge of ‘Literature and Translation.’ Rev. Liangkhaia then translated the rest of the Old Testament books which were assigned to the North such as: Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Habakkuk and Malachi. Three editing groups were formed to look into the drafts made by Rev. Liangkhaia, such as, (1) Rev. J.M. Lloyd (Leader), Mr. Muka (Synod Evangelist) and Rev. Chhuahkhama; (2) Rev. B.E. Jones (Leader), Rev. Liangkhaia, Elder Ch. Pasena and Elder Vanchuanga; (3) Rev. Saiaithanga, Rev. Thanga and Rev. Zairema.

In the South, the translators translated and made drafts of the following Old Testament books: Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Zathanga – (1) Genesis, (2) Psalms and (3) Isaiah; Rev. Challiana – (1) Exodus, (2) Joshua, (3) Judges, (4) 1 & 2 Kings, and (5) 1 & 2 Chronicles; Rev. Chuautera – (1) Leviticus, (2) Numbers, (3) Deuteronomy, (4) Ruth, (5) 1 & 2 Samuel, (6) Ezra, (7) Nehemiah, and (8) Esther. After Rev. Lorrain had left Mizoram for England on retirement, the senior missionaries among the remaining ones such as Rev. W.J.L. Wenger, Rev. F.J. Raper and Rev. H.W. Carter headed the Bible translation team. The translated books of the Old Testament which were ready for print were printed as single book or combined. The whole translation work was completed on August 26, 1955, at 2.00 p.m., which was an important landmark in the history of the Mizo Bible translation.


After Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge stayed for one and half years in Mizoram they became more familiar with the native language. Then they started translating the Bible which they thought was almost an impossible task in the beginning. The Bible translation commenced with the Gospel of Luke in the afternoon of August 21, 1895. Subsequently, they continued translating the Gospel of John and the book of Acts of the Apostles. Considering the context in which they worked it was quite appropriate to begin the translation from the Gospel of Luke which emphasizes the universal significance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then to continue with the Gospel of John which beautifully attests the love of God for the World and then to take up Acts of the Apostles which vividly describes the life and ministry of the Church in the earliest stage of Christianity. In fact this is the typical sequence usually followed when the Bible has been translated for the first time in the Mission fields.

Initially, in the translation works, Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge were assisted by two first native literate leaders namely Mr. M. Suaka and Mr. Thangphunga who were the first to learn the skill of writing and reading from the missionaries. In the meantime the team worked on an English – Lushai Dictionary. It is interesting to note that the two native leaders who helped the missionaries in translation works later became chiefs near Aizawl at Durtlang village and Chaltlang village respectively. It is also worth noting here how Rev. Lorrain describes the busy schedule with which they engaged themselves on one of those days which certainly would be typical of the rest of those busy days thus: “Translation work from 9-11 AM, correcting manuscripts with Suaka. All afternoon Fred and I busy ourselves at manuscripts. Times between are occupied with making faith copy of corrected sheets and keeping Dictionary entered up – for we are even now fitting new words daily.” The Bible translators wanted to see that the translation was carried out with utmost care and that the message was intelligible to the natives. At one point of time they would even read easy parts of the translation to the children in Sunday School to make sure that they were properly understood.

On August 31, 1897, after Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge worked in Mizoram for three years and seven months, Rev. D.E. Jones (Zosaphluia), a missionary sent by the Welsh Mission arrived at Aizawl to work in Mizoram. Earlier, Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge were asked by their home mission to withdraw from the region in accordance with Arthington’s policy of moving missionaries every two or three years. As Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge were eager to continue to work in Mizoram they came to realize that the Welsh Mission had formally adopted Mizoram as its Mission field in 1892 and that Arthinton’s agent in India, Mr. St. Dalmas had already handed over the field to the Welsh Mission. Having become deeply attached to the work, the people and the land, the two pioneer missionaries offered their service as evangelists to the Welsh Mission. As their offer was not acceptable to Welsh Mission arrangements were made by both the parties so that Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge waited for the arrival of Rev. Jones who was officially appointed as a missionary in May 1897. Thus they engaged themselves together in translation and other mission works for a while before the pioneer missionaries left Mizoram on December 31, 1897.

As they left Mizoram, Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge took along with them the Mizo translation of the Gospel of Luke, Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles, and they left the manuscripts with the Bible Society at Calcutta for printing. However, for unknown reason, the manuscripts kept laying at Calcutta for months without printing and finally were sent back to Rev. D.E. Jones at Aijal who immediately despatched them to England for printing. There, perhaps with much persuasion by the Welsh Mission leadership. The British and Foreign Bible Society, London printed the first books of the Mizo/Lushai Bible such as, The Gospel According to Luke and The Gospel According to John in 1898, and The Acts of the Apostles in 1899. The Gospel of Luke arrived first by post in June 1899 followed by The Gospel of John and Acts of the Apostles. In the midst of all these Rev. Edwin Rowland (Zosapthara), another Welsh missionary had arrived at Aijal on December 31, 1898 to assist Rev. D.E. Jones. The former helped the latter in Bible translation apart from his main assignment in running the Mission Schools.

In the meantime, being overburdened with financial constraints caused by the great earthquake of 1897 and most probably also being impressed that the North and South Mizoram were completely different countries, the Welsh Mission handed over the South in the hands of the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) in 1902 in spite of disapproval expressed by Rev. Jones and Rev. Rowlands as they foresaw the possible problems that this decision could bring forth (especially due to denominationalism) in the future for the people of this region. However, as the BMS mission in the South was inevitable, on the suggestion of Rev. Rowlands, the BMS invited Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge who were working among the Abors and Miris at Sadiya (now in Arunachal Pradesh) under the American Baptist Society, and wee sent back to Mizoram in 1903 to work this time as BMS missionaries after a gap of six years. Thus the South had become under the BMS mission whereas the North continued to be under the Welsh Mission.

After spending sometime for settlement Rev. Savidge and Rev. Lorrain resumed their New Testament translation work initially with the help of the two native leaders namely, Mr. Darruma and Mr. Darchhunga. Later on the main translator Rev. Lorrain was assisted by Rev. Zathanga in the translation work whereas Rev. Savidge, Rev. Haudala, Rev. Challiana, Rev. Chuautera and Rev. Khawnghinga assisted them in correcting the manuscripts. In the North, Rev. Jones translated the books of Matthew, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Hebrews and Revelation. Rev. Rowlands translated Mark and probably made drafts of Philippians, Colossians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. However, as the need for revisions was felt to maintain consistency, in consultation between the North and the South all the New Testament translations done by the translators in the North had been reworked by translators in the South. Members from the North such as Upa Thanga and Upa R. Dala also helped them in the editing of the drafts.

The NT translation and editing of the drafts were finally ready for print in 1916. In these works Rev. Lorrain and Rev, Zathanga were the key persons. According to the Bible Society records the first complete Mizo New Testament was published by the Calcutta Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society in June 1916 in which 1000 copies were printed at Calcutta. It was reprinted in July the same year, in December 1917 and also in 1919 which was title Kan Lalpa Leh Chhandamtu Isua Krista Thuthlung Thar with the English title below which reads, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


The need was felt to revise the New Testament translation and the new editions were published in the subsequent years. The 2nd Edition with few references was published in 1926, the 3rd Edition in 1931, and the 4th Edition in 1937. the 5th edition was probably published in 1941, and the 6th Edition in 1950 with 10,000 copies. In the earlier editions, the translators found it difficult to find the proper Mizo renderings for some key words. For instance, “God” was translated as “Jihova,” and “circumcision” as “peritem” which were later more conveniently changed to “Pathian” and “serhtan” respectively. There were also some misspelled Mizo words which were rectified in the later editions. For example, in all the earlier editions, the letters “sh” were used instead of the more appropriate “s” usage, and the letter “h” was almost always omitted in the middle and at the end of the words even where it was supposed to be there