Sacred Texts

In South Korea, a new translation makes Baha'i holy writings widely available

In Brief: 
  • The Korean Bahá’í community has now published a full translation of a major book of the Bahá’í sacred writings, the first such in Korean.
  • The work — Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh — is a well-loved compilation that addresses such themes as the purpose of life, the unity of religion, and the spiritual requisites of peace and civilization.
  • The Bahá’í sacred writings have been translated into more than 800 languages.

SEOUL, South Korea — An ambitious project to translate a collection of Bahá’u’lláh’s writings into Korean reached fruition with the book’s publication in February 2012.

The volume, known in English as Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is the first Bahá’í book in Korean to be widely available from bookshops and online retailers.

“The main reason for publishing Bahá’í literature in our language is to reach out to the whole of society with this new message for humanity,” said Hee Jin Koo, a member of the task force overseeing the publication.

First published in English in 1935, Gleanings is a well-loved anthology of some of the writings of Bahá’u’lláh. The selection includes extracts on such themes as the purpose of life, the unity of religion, and the spiritual requisites of peace and civilization.

The Bahá’í sacred writings are extensive, amounting to more than 100 volumes in their original Arabic and Persian. Since their revelation in the 19th century, the Bahá’í writings have been translated into more than 800 languages, reaching individuals in virtually every country.

While earlier translations of extracts from Gleanings were previously available in Korean and used by individuals and at Bahá’í meetings, the need was for a more accurate version that could be made widely available to the Korean public.

Work began in 2003. A small group began meeting to discuss a few paragraphs or pages each week. “A particular challenge was the translation of certain religious terms,” said So Jeong Park, who worked on the book.

To find a standardized vocabulary, the task force drew on words commonly used in Korea’s various religious traditions — including Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. For other terms, an original translation had to be devised.

In addition to the 410 pages of Bahá’u’lláh’s text, the new edition includes a preface on the history and teachings of the Bahá’í Faith and a lengthy glossary. The new book will be available in major bookstores, through libraries and universities, and via online retailers — including as an e-book. “It means everybody can download it onto their own gadget,” said Hee Jin Koo.

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