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Campaign to distribute a modern Spanish Bible


Daniel Chaij, retired US diplomat, works to get Spanish-language Bibles into the hands of people who need them through the Emmanuel Bible Society.

Question: You are the president of the Sociedad Biblica Emanuel (Emmanuel Bible Society), which distributes Spanish-language Bibles. Where do you distribute the Bibles?

Answer: The origin of the EBS begins in the late 1960s when my father, Pastor Nicolas Chaij, retired after 41 years as leader in the publishing work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Latin America. He was a pioneer in church’s colporteuring work in South America, authoring what is still today the training manual for anyone engaged in canvassing.

My father founded the EBS and launched the first version of the Nueva Reina Valera Bible in 1985. The next version, called Nueva Reina Valera 2000, went to the publishers in 1998.  Shortly thereafter he turned over the Society’s presidency to me and effectively, given his advanced age, ended his involvement. 

Most recently, the Emmanuel Bible Society has produced the Nueva Reina Valera 21st Century Version.  The combined sales of all versions currently exceeds three million copies.

When the current inventory of the 21st Century Version is sold the number will reach four million. We named the present version “21st Century” with the hope that it will be the last one before Christ returns.

The Inter-American Division and the South American Division have adopted the EBS Bible as the Bible sold by all literature evangelists and the Bible that is made available to their church members in all Spanish-speaking countries. It is hoped that this will contribute to the usage of a common Bible by both pastors and laity.

Question: When did you start the society, and what inspired you to set it up?

Answer: The EBS was legally established as a non-profit corporation in the State of Florida on November 12, 1985. 

The Spanish language Bible used from the 1960s and 1980s was the Reina Valera version originally translated in the 16th century.  Some revisions began to appear over the years but our version, universally known as the Nueva Reina Valera, is today the Bible with the most current Spanish, in an easy to read and pleasant style. Note that it is not a translation but an updating of the language.

In updating the Bible, we corrected intentional changes that other Bible societies still continue to make such as substituting the word “Sabbath” with “the Day of Rest” thus facilitating the preaching that the day of rest is Sunday.

Another reason for organizing the EBS was that the Adventist publishing houses were hesitant to publish a Bible lest it be labeled as an “Adventist Bible” and be criticized as not faithful to the original, and biased with our beliefs. To overcome the possibility of such criticism, our Bible carries our logo and name as an independent, non-denominational version, but is printed by Adventist publishing houses.

Question: Who did the actual work of putting the Nueva Reina Valera Bible together, and what rules and parameters did the translators follow when making language decisions?

Answer: The Nueva Reina Valera Bible, in all three editions, is the product of revision by biblical experts after my father, Nicolas Chaij, spent close to 20 years bringing the old version not only into modern Spanish (the old version had a lot of archaic words) but also making revisions in words whose meaning had changed or were not conveying the correct message.  Then, more than 40 experts from different countries and churches – as well as some Jewish scholars – reviewed specific books of the Bible and validated the accuracy of the text.

The scholars who reviewed the text included the following Adventists among others: American Dr. William H. Shea, who oversaw Daniel; Argentinian Dr. Atilio Dupertuis, who revised both books of Corinthians; Dominican Dr. George W. Brown, who oversaw the book of Hebrews; Mexican Dr. Jaime Cruz Pereyra, who reviewed 1 & 2 Thessalonians and the book of James; and Spaniards Dr. Roberto Badenas, who revised the book of Romans, and Dr. Carlos Puyol, who oversaw the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.

Question: Who prints the Bibles and how are they distributed?

Answer: The South American Publishing Association of the South American Division prints the Bible for its territory (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador). 

The Inter-American Division does not have a publishing house but has an editorial office that contracts the printing of the Bible either in Colombia or Mexico.

Question: How many people work for the Sociedad Biblica Emanuel?

Answer: The EBS has no employees. The Board of Directors consists of four members, and all of us contribute our time and efforts.  Other than helping the Inter-American Division with sales campaigns in North America, the EBS does not sell, print or distribute the Bible – that function is done by the Adventist denomination in Latin America.

Question: The society is a not-for-profit organization. But I believe you are able to fund some scholarships. Can you tell us a little about that?

Answer: The EBS donates the royalties it receives from the sale of Bibles to scholarships for Adventist youth who want to be pastors, teachers, or nurses.  The Society income is quite low since it receives a very limited percentage of the wholesale price. 

To date, with the royalty income, we have been able to assist the following countries:

Argentina: 30 or more scholarships annually for youth studying to become teachers at the Alberdi Institute in northern Argentina.

Paraguay: 20 scholarships annually for nursing students at the Paraguay Adventist University.

Dominican Republic: The SBE is funding a summer school for all the Adventist church school teachers who did not study in our colleges and universities, giving them a refresher course in our beliefs. The Emmanuel Bible Society also provides 6 to 10 scholarships to ministerial students attending our Dominican Republic Adventist University.

Cuba: The EBS has made it our highest priority to provide scholarships for all the third and fourth year students at the Adventist Seminary of Cuba. The total annual number of scholarships varies, but averages 20-24.  As these students graduate they are hired as pastors and Bible workers, but the growth of the church is such that they continue to have a shortage of workers. 

It is hard to believe that the economic level in Cuba is such that the average monthly income of workers is $20-$25. This gives you an idea of why we consider Cuba our highest priority. Young people and their families can hardly afford to attend our Seminary, which is the only private educational institution in the country.

Question: Do you feel the Sociedad Biblica Emanuel is meeting its goals? Are there other projects you would like the society to get involved in the future?

Answer: Our goals are based on the royalties received. The recent recession, for example, has affected our income, but the Lord blessed us so the EBS could continue supporting the scholarships. 

We have other past and present projects:

Uruguay: It took three years to get the permission of the church to rent a building owned by them, across the highway from the Adventist Academy of Uruguay, where a bakery has now been established to give work, training and a future trade to Adventist youth.  The bakery will produce healthful, whole grain bread, which today is not available in Uruguay.  The EBS could not contribute funds to this project but we contributed a substantial amount of time in making it possible for the bakery to become a reality.

Cuba: We have launched a campaign called 25,000 Bibles for Cuba, based on donations. Two of our Board members are heading this project. We have circularized all the SDA Cuban-Americans and many friends of Cuba. The funds are coming in and we are in advanced discussions with some major givers, foundations and individuals, and have no doubt that the Lord will open the doors to all the funds we need.  The campaign will go on until April 2013. 

Donors are giving money directly to the Inter-American Division or to “Come and Reason Ministries.” (The Sociedad Biblica Emanuel does not have a current tax-exempt status, but we are filing to get our 501(c)3.)

Concurrently, we have sent a circular to all the Spanish churches in North America offering them the same Bible that we will be sending to Cuba. This is an opportunity for all our Hispanic members, both in the USA and Cuba, to have a Bible that gives them – in one volume – the hymnal, 20 Bible studies, references, and concordance.

Question: You are retired after a career working for the US State Department. What was that like?

Answer: I was born at home as a second generation Adventist.  My father was working for the church in Uruguay, as publishing secretary of the Mission.  He was then transferred to Argentina, Cuba, Costa Rica and then the US—always in the publishing field. He returned to Uruguay in 1954, as the South American Division Publishing Secretary and was subsequently called to the same job in the Inter-American Division from which he retired. As a missionary kid I lived in Uruguay, Argentina, Cuba, and Costa Rica (where I finished high school).  In the US I completed my studies at Andrews University (then Emmanuel Missionary College) and my MBA at the University of Southern California. I worked in the private sector until the US Department of State, through the Agency for International Development, hired me and sent me as a Foreign Service Officer to Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia, El Salvador and Costa Rica.  I managed our foreign aid programs for 27 years and retired in 1990.

Question: Do you continue to travel a lot for your work with the Bible society? I understand you had a car accident not long ago! What happened? You are very active for someone of your age. Do you have any plans to slow down?

Answer: Recently, I have cut down my travel and do more “desk work.”  Fortunately, the other Board members have been able to pick up the slack. The accident I had was in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina — the southernmost city in the world.  While recuperating, I had several opportunities to witness for the Lord with my rescuers and hospital staff.  The night supervisor, who was an Adventist, welcomed me into his home to convalesce.  Thank God I have fully recovered, and have not lost my yearning to travel.

Question: Anything else you would like to say?

Answer: I want to express my deeply heartfelt conviction, fruit of both my Foreign Service work and my work for the Church: The greatest contribution we can make is to assist our youth to get a Christ-centered education! More of them will stay in the church and more of them will be in heaven! The Lord will take men and women to heaven and not buildings. Let us use our resources to educate and train young people. 

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