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Who is Translating the Bible? November 15, 2017

Posted by P, J, or J in Uncategorized.


Even before the New Testament had been completed, the words of Jesus were translated from Aramaic to Greek. After a while Latin took over as the leading language of education and of the church many but for most still not the language of the home.

In 2017 there is Bible translation happening in well over 2,500 languages.

There are a few big organisations involved, (and lots of smaller ones), some high profile networks (and lots of quieter ones). But at the end of the day the work is done by people (thousands of them).

A few links to websites and facebook pages of some of the organisations are at the bottom of this page.

I don’t know and couldn’t list all the people. Some also have their own websites or are mentioned openly in publicity and prayer letters. Others will go largely unrecognized by the people who benefit from their years of service.

Some translations are pioneered by the speakers of the language, either working alone or having secured outside help. Others are instigated by outsiders keen to help an ‘unreached’ people discover Christ for themselves, or strengthen an existing church by providing God’s word in a more accessible and more relational language.

Often there is opposition and hardship. Not everyone welcomes a new translation. Some are opposed to Christianity, others opposed to the idea that God might speak in a common language that doesn’t always sound as formal and respectful as befits the almighty God. Even if the community welcomes the translation there is an enemy who opposes it. Bible translation is a spiritual battle.

In nearly all cases it takes a team. Some are there at the start, some at the end, and some throughout the process.

Some are on ‘the frontline’, wrestling with the text of the scripture in Greek, Hebrew, and existing translations and commentaries, and with how to communicate the meaning in a different language and culture. Some are involved in the tasks of establishing how best to write down a previously unwritten language.

Some are involved in 1001 other tasks that ensure the translation moves forward and is published, distributed and engaged with.

There is an old, old story of workmen on what we’d now call a construction site. Some saw their individual tasks and the few coins at the end of the day, some had glimpsed the plans and the vision and went home each day knowing they were building a cathedral.

An old man serving the soup in a Wycliffe canteen was asked what he did. He poured out another bowl of soup and said, I translate Bibles.

Ultimately our role isn’t about translating Bibles it is about participating in the mission of God, so if you’ve read this far and have nothing to do with Bible translation, but participate in other areas of mission then that’s okay. You can get involved or just celebrate with us the huge progress that is being made.

If you are a full time, or part time worker in Bible translation; if you are a prayer supporter, or a donor, or an advocate; if you are simply a friend that offers a word of encouragement. – thank you for what you do.
You translate Bibles!

An incomplete list and links to some Bible translation organisations and networks

Wycliffe Global Alliance is an alliance of 100+ organisations.

Organisations in the Alliance with content in English include:
USA – Wycliffe USA, Seed Company, JAARS
UK – Wycliffe UK, Mission Assist
Canada – Wycliffe Canada
Switzerland – Wycliffe Switzerland
Ethiopia – Wycliffe Ethiopia
Ghana – GILLBT
Kenya – Bible Translation and Literacy

If you don’t (just) speak English you may prefer another site (and might not be reading this blog) but you can also use Google to translate any of those sites into other languages (understanding that Google won’t always be accurate or sound very natural).
United Bible Societies
There are national Bible Societies in most countries. The United Bible Societies website lists and links to to rather a lot. (click on the static map below to go to an interactive one on the UBS site).

Recently I explored the websites of the Bible Society of the South Pacific and the Bible Society of Chile. (Google compensated for my poor knowledge of Spanish and I was able to read about translation work for the Roma people in Chile.


And more…

find.bible attempts to list and link to scriptures in the 3,312 languages known to have scripture (plus products in quite a few dialects too). It also lists 31 member agencies of the Forum of Bible Agencies International and hundreds of other contributing agencies

This is still not the end of the list, nor the end of the work. As I said in the first section…

If you are a full time, or part time worker in Bible translation; if you are a prayer supporter, or a donor, or an advocate; if you are simply a friend that offers a word of encouragement. – thank you for what you do.
You translate Bibles!



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