The Good Book


In 1897, the head of the British and Foreign Bible Society went to Cambodia and found no Bible in the Cambodian language. He returned to Bangkok, Thailand, and hired two Buddhist priests to translate the Gospel of Luke. It was handwritten and was sent to San Francisco, California, to be printed. Thai Sol, who lived in a Catholic village, brought it to Rev. David Ellison, a C&MA international worker in Cambodia. Of course, the version was too Buddhist. Later, a man from the French Embassy translated a small portion of the Bible into Cambodian.

In 1925, Rev. Arthur Hammond, Mr. Leanor Peterson and Rev. Ellison assembled a committee to begin translating the Bible. The main Cambodian translator was Hom (pronounced “Hum”).

In 1952, Arthur and Esther Hammond and Rev. Harold Sechrist helped oversee the publishing of this Cambodian Bible at the Missionary Training Institute (now Nyack College, Nyack, N.Y.). Parts of the manuscript had been lost when the international workers had to evacuate during the brief Japanese occupation of Cambodia, and this work had to be redone. Type had been ordered from France, so the Bible was brought to the United States where good supplies and proper printing facilities were available. A student, Cliff Westergren, was the printer, and about a dozen women students set the type. Ten perfect proofs were made of the Bible, and ten of the New Testament in a different format were made and sent to London, where the British and Foreign Bible Society printed it. (This translation is still used throughout the Cambodian-speaking world.)

In 1954, two containers of the newly printed Bibles arrived in Phnom Penh. With much joy, Rev. Hammond opened them on the porch of the guest home, and they were distributed to the pastors who had graduated from the Bible school. Revs. Hammond and Ellison each received one as well. Later, more copies arrived. A gold-bound Bible was presented to Norodom Sihanouk (king of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and from 1993 until his voluntary abdication in 2004). He was known to read and quote from it. In a discussion with his officials about the international workers, Sihanouk remarked, “I have their book, and it is good.”

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