There are many things to consider when a Bible translator chooses a first passage to translate. Someone who is just learning the art of translation may want to start with a short book. The book of Jonah, a Bible story (such as the Joseph story in Genesis 37-50), or one of Jesus’ parables, are all good choices. Narratives such as these present fewer translation challenges than sermons or epistle material.
Another consideration when choosing what to translate first is what the local church might be ready to use. Often a gospel, such as Mark, is selected. Once companion study material is also prepared, the book of Mark provides a fast-paced, clear overview of Jesus’ ministry ready for the local church to use in preaching and teaching.
In some contexts, the book of Genesis is chosen as a first book, especially for groups that are largely followers of Islam. This book provides common ground between different religious traditions, and sets the framework for understanding the gospel more clearly.
If the group is planning to produce the JESUS film, the book of Luke may be worked on first since it provides much of the source text for this film’s script. The book of Psalms is also of great interest to certain groups who are keen to use Scripture in worship and hymn-writing.