Dr. Robert Galveston Bratcher, 90, died peacefully on July 11, 2010, at home at the Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill. He was born to Baptist missionaries Lewis Malen Bratcher and Artie Porter Bratcher in Campos, Brazil, on April 17, 1920. Bob grew up in Rio de Janeiro, and then attended Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, graduating in 1941. He continued his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, earning Th.M. and Th.D. degrees (1944, 1949). He served as pastor in Rising Sun, Indiana, and then as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy during World War II. From 1949 to 1956, Bob and his wife June served as Southern Baptist missionaries in Brazil, where he taught New Testament and Greek at the South Brazil Theological Seminary in Rio. In the later 1950s, Bob continued his studies at Victoria University in Manchester, England, and began his distinguished career as a Bible translator.
Working for the American Bible Society, employing an approach to translation known as “dynamic equivalence,” and rendering the text in simple, everyday English, Bob Bratcher produced an English translation of the New Testament that was published in 1966 as Good News for Modern Man: The New Testament in Today’s English Version; by 1971 it had sold 30 million copies, and by now over 100 million copies have been distributed. Bob went on to chair a team of scholars that translated the Old Testament in the same accessible style, leading to the publication of The Good News Bible in 1976. These translations have been deeply meaningful to many around the world; they also have been controversial among some fundamentalist Christians. Bob Bratcher’s contributions to Biblical studies extended far beyond his initial translations. He made extensive contributions to a common-language Brazilian Portuguese translation of the Bible, published in 1988. Working with United Bible Societies, he wrote or co-wrote numerous “Helps for Translators,” each one focusing in detail on issues involved in translating a particular book of the Bible, including Psalms, The Gospel of Matthew, and Revelation. He also wrote scholarly essays on translation issues, among other works, and lectured all over the world. Bob was a faithful and active member of Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill since he moved to the area in 1975. He served the Binkley community as a teacher, preacher and wise elder, and will be dearly missed. He also was a strong proponent of compassion for the less fortunate, justice for the oppressed, and world peace. Until his death he helped prepare meals monthly at Community House in Chapel Hill. And classical music, good writing, and, especially, poetry spoke to his heart.
Bob Bratcher was remarkably dedicated to his family, each member of which he loved deeply. Mourning his passing are his wife of sixty-five years, June Heaton Bratcher; his brother, Rev. Dr. Edward Bratcher; his children, Meredith, Priscilla, and Stephen; his grandchildren, Scott, Sara, Margaret, Joseph, Rosalind, and Vickie; his great-granddaughter, Hailey; cousins, nieces and nephews, and in-laws; and friends and colleagues around the world.
There will be a memorial service at Binkley Baptist Church on Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 3:00 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Robert G. Bratcher Fund at the Interfaith Council for Social Service, 110 W. Main St., Carrboro, NC 27510, or to Binkley Church, 1712 Willow Dr., Chapel Hill NC 27514.
Published in The News & Observer from July 14 to July 18, 2010