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Bible Translation: Where we’ve been & where we’re headed next September 27, 2017

Posted by P, J, or J in Statistics.
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I marvel at where Google earth and streetview can take me. I can stand on roads in places where some of my colleagues went before there were even roads – in days when geography was still a major barrier to the gospel.


Click the map to go to Google’s page showing where there cameras have been. There are places today where geography is still a barrier, remote places that Google can only show from above, including some where there still aren’t roads to travel.

But there are also places where the barriers have more to do with safety, security and political or religious opposition.

You can get clues to some of the hard to reach places by looking at where the Google cameras haven’t been able to go yet.

You can also follow the work of organisations such as Open Doors which has worked with persecuted church for 60 years, first in the Communist bloc and then more globally.

For the last 25 years they have been providing data in the form of a World Watch list.


These are not places in which the gospel has not gone but in which it has gone and is being spread with great sacrifice. Even in places that are not physically easy to access, technology allows inroads to the gospel, and assists in connecting with fellow believers and hearing each others stories.

Radio programs still reach millions, the internet gives some people access to materials but may be blocked, monitored, or simply unavailable or affordable.

Digital access comes in many forms and where once the ability to print smaller Bibles was a breakthrough now entire libraries can be carried on an SD card smaller then a finger nail.

But a library is still only of use if the materials are in languages that people can understand and that connect with them.

Materials in the right language can cross barriers of understanding and cultural acceptability.

Last year Wycliffe Global Alliance reported that at least some part of the Bible has been published in over 3,200 languages. This includes traditional printed scripture plus an increasing number of languages in which there are also phone apps, audio scriptures and videos.

Both Faith Comes By Hearing and YouVersion were able to celebrate products in over 1000 languages, and Jesus film had material in over 1400 languages.

By November new figures will be released showing the progress and remaining needs. There is much to marvel at and still much that God is still doing.



Bible Translation statistics and stories November 28, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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In the 20 years I’ve been with Wycliffe, scripture has been made available in over 1000 languages for the first time ever!

For 20 years I’ve been both looking at the numbers and hearing the stories of the people involved in translation and of those who receive God’s word for the first time.

If you want to take a look at some of the numbers, a guided tour through this info graphic may be helpful.

Wycliffe UK’s latest magazine provides a glimpse into the some of the individual people and projects.
My (Peter’s) role has changed a little over the last 20 years.
In 1996 only a small proportion of Wycliffe supporters were online but it was becoming important to look to the future and build websites and communities to help raise people and funds.

In 2016 not only do most people in the developed world interact via the web in whole new ways on their phones but so do many people in the communities we work with.I recently read of a community of 60,000 people in a “very isolated area of the Northwest Region of Cameroon”.

It took me less than 30 seconds to find a facebook group for this community with 4,400 members.

I don’t know how many of the communities we work with have people online but I think we are now at the stage when more do than don’t.

Jennifer’s contribution has morphed over time too, although always centered around coaching an empowering others in their management and strategic leadership. Currently she is leading the HR thinking around the growth and development of staff, how the organisation can learn, develop and change more effectively and how staff supervisors can better provide guidance and support for their staff.

Working with Wycliffe means that we rely on financial support of churches and individuals (we’re required to raise 110% of of our income). Click here if you would like to donate or find out more.

New Bible Translation Statistics 2016: When is translation finished? November 19, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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Some scripture is now available in 3,200+ languages and the number without anything started is falling. So when will the task of Bible Translation be finished?

progress-2016aMany people  think the publication of a full Bible marks the end of translation, but this is rarely the case.

In August, a press release announced, “Beginning in the summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged” Fifteen years after it was first published this was a bold move not only implying that the text can no longer be improved but that the meanings of the words won’t change either. It was to have been unchanged “in the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” … 158 years and countless revisions after it was first published in 1611.

In September the publisher made another bold move and reversed the decision, acknowledging that it had been a mistake.



for more numbers and more explanations see wycliffe.net/statistics

Of the 636 languages in which there is a translation of the complete Bible, 303 of them are known to have ongoing translation work of some kind. Some are being revised to cater for changes in language or improvements to style or translation, in others entirely new versions are being translated.

Some people oversimplify the ministry of Bible translation and link it to the return of Christ implying that when translation is finished in the last language Jesus will return. Some even imply that he won’t return until the Bible (or at least some of it) has been translated into all 7000+ known languages (including ones where no one speaks them as their main language any more).

The truth is languages will continue to change, revisions will be needed and translation will continue until Christ returns. But we do know that at least 1700 more language communities have needs right now for Bible translation to begin. Even then the goal is not printed text or online products but people encountering and engaging with the living God through scripture.

Celebrating 1000 (and 3000) languages with scripture August 23, 2016

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics.
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You Version have just sent an email declaring that “The Bible App is the first app in history to offer 1000-languages-email text content in 1,000 languages!” …which makes a good headline even for those not impressed by the fact that scripture is available in an app in so many languages.

I’d mentioned in an earlier post that Faith Comes By Hearing was approaching the same milestone of having audio scriptures available in 1000 languages.

I also said that 2016 would be the year that marked publication of at least a portion of scripture into the 3000th language. This week I may learn whether that has already happened. Of course publishing scripture doesn’t always mean people know it exists even for those that are online. Often announcements on the facebook pages of YouVersion and Faith Comes By Hearing are met by requests from people wanting to see scripture available in their language only to be told that it already is.

Translation and publishing are vital steps towards promotion, distribution, and engagement with scriptures.

Meanwhile, far too many people are still in that ‘small’ percentage of the world’s population who still have no published portions of the Bible in their language. Many have translation work in progress, some communities have decided for themselves that they can access what they need in another language, but many still don’t even know what they are missing

…and too many of us don’t appreciate what it is we have!

2015 Bible Translation Statistics #3 December 2, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.
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The 2015 Bible Translation statistics are starting to be circulated. Former Wycliffe director Eddie Arthur blogged of the figures, “This is truly remarkable; a cause for celebration and thankfulness to God for making it all happen. It’s an immense privilege to be involved in this worldwide movement.”

I’d agree. Eddie goes on to say:

“I’ve just got a little niggling problem: to what extent can we say that people have access to God’s Word if they only have a book of Scripture or perhaps a New Testament …are we setting the bar too low? God gave us the whole Bible (including the difficult bits) for a reason, shouldn’t we be aiming to see it all translated into the languages of the world?”

Eddie has blogged on this previously, here and here with a valuable longer paper available here.

It’s a good niggle. Wycliffe’s new infographic spells it out “Having some scripture is not the end. Ongoing work is needed in thousands of languages.”

Eddie’s paper focuses on what bits of the Bible are important (all of them) rather than on which languages communities and agencies should focus on. (more on that in the infographic).

WordPress decided that readers of Eddies post would also like to see his post from 2009 when the number given for complete Bibles was 451 instead of the current 554. In the graphic above I’ve quoted numbers published for 2010. Caution should always be taken in comparing data from different years, and extreme caution taken in drawing graphs and making predictions about future progress, but one thing is clear – progress is being made and while not every project moves from portions to New Testaments to Bibles that certainly seems to be a trend.

Wycliffe has a vision for seeing translations started, and the start is just the beginning.

I’m privileged to have an ear to the ground as to what God is doing around the world in terms of Bible translation and a voice at the table in how some of us should talk about that. Here are a few challenges I flagged recently for when we talk about progress and remaining needs.

Definition of need – not as simple as “NT+ in 1887=no need”, “no scripture (in heritage language)=need”
Multilingualism – not as simple as “heart language” or nothing
Multiple dialects – not as simple as one product per language
Vision 2025 – to see translation begun where needed
Finished – There will be no more need for translation when languages stop changing, when each generation is the same as the last, when every one has all they need. Not ‘Christ won’t return until translation is done’ but ‘translation work won’t be done until Christ returns’


2015 Bible Translation statistics #2 November 26, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.
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Out of nearly 7,000 languages in use on the planet nearly 3,000 languages now have at least one book of the Bible, the rest don’t. So how many languages do you think still need scripture?

The answer involves a lot more than simple maths. (or ‘math’ for those speaking US English)

As promised in the last post Wycliffe Global Alliance now has a new info graphic of the latest statistics on Bible Translation progress. Click here for a version on prezi.com and check out your answer in the FAQs at wycliffe.net

2015stats_modified graphic

2015 Bible Translation Statistics: what they mean and what they don’t November 23, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Bible Translation, Statistics, wycliffe.

The latest Bible translation statistics have been available for a few weeks on www.wycliffe.net/statistics . The progress is exciting, the need is still great. The numbers often don’t quite mean what people think they mean (which is why we encourage people to read the answers to the FAQs listed below).

Apparently Nov 23rd was the International Day of the Bible. I don’t know how many nations marked that in some way but I do know that 2015 has been the first year that when many people groups or nations (see a nice long article The Meaning of Ethne in Matthew 28:19 ) , have had new (or any) portions of the Bible available in their own language. Meanwhile many nations are still waiting for a clear, understandable translation of the Bible into the language they know best.

Here’s my own mash up of the info graphics on the site. (Wycliffe Global Alliance currently has a designer working on an improved version of this graphic)


Click the graphic above to see the fine print a little larger. Read the detailed FAQs on wycliffe.net for more info on the following questions.

  1. Why don’t the numbers add up like I think they should?
  2. What is a scripture portion?
  3. Which will be the 3000th language with Scripture?
  4. Why does your Scripture count differ from the UBS Scripture count?
  5. How are languages defined and counted?
  6. How accurate are your population figures?
  7. How is translation need determined and counted?
  8. Why are some languages with existing Scripture listed as having translation needs? Why would Scripture need to be revised?
  9. Why aren’t all languages without a full Bible listed as needing translation?
  10. What is meant by the term “active language program”?
  11. What is Wycliffe’s approach or methodology toward Bible translation?
  12. Who is involved in Bible Translation?

There are lots of other questions that could be asked and a few that will covered in the coming months.

I’ll close with a few personal questions:

Do you know when was scripture first translated into your language? (and if you are still waiting do you know if translation has begun.)

When were the versions you use translated?

Are you working in, praying for and/or supporting the work of Bible translation?

Have you read anything encouraging or challenging in the Bible today?

Have you encouraged someone else recently with something from the Bible?

Click here to see what people shared on International Day of the Bible at


Is the UK still a Christian country? Don’t just look at numbers May 26, 2015

Posted by P, J, or J in Statistics.
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In a country where less than 25% of the population voted for the ruling party ‘only’ 64% consider themselves to be Christian but think of themselves as a threatened minority. Sometimes perceptions and percentages are very different things.

Pray and Bible photo from BBC article

The majority of people in the UK call themselves Christian – but it’s now a smaller majority.

Under the title “Is the UK still a Christian country?” a recent BBC article asked yet again “Are we losing our religion?” and concluded “The answer for the UK seems to be ‘Yes’, while the answer for the developing world is a resounding ‘No’.”

The picture chosen to illustrate the story was praying hands on a Bible. That’s a very good place to start but Jesus didn’t say “by this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you pray and read your Bibles”. From that ‘good place to start’ comes action and faith that is lived out and visible to all.

If current trends continue then by 2050 the number of people identifying themselves as Christian may fall as low as 45% and those claiming no religion may rise from 28% to 39%. The article looks at a few more statistics and comments before concluding: “Faith in politicians, government, the mainstream media and in many other institutions has diminished, yet the human search for meaning, identity and principles that unite us as a society has not gone away.”

It also advises “you have to be very cautious about predictions” and so I’ll be cautious about making any.

Predictions before the recent UK elections were interesting and mostly wrong. Conservatives won with 51% of the 650 seats but only 36.9% of the votes (still above second place Labour with 232 sets and 30.4% of the votes). Only 66.1% of those eligible actually voted so that means that only 24.4% of voting adults are being governed by the party they voted for. The Conservatives were pleased with this victory. Imagine how encouraged they’d be if they had 64% of the country even nominally behind them?

But paying lip service to Christianity isn’t enough. We like to judge our politicians on what they do not what they say. Christianity is the same. In the same passage that warns us about judging others Jesus himself said ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt7.22)

Christianity is not dying and it’s not going away.

Not everyone who used to call themselves Christians would have met Christ’s criteria for calling themselves his followers, and many of the current 64% would even struggle to say what ‘being Christian’ means to them.

A week before that very first Easter independent polls would have put Jesus’ popularity incredibly high. If their had been social media everyone would have been tweeting ‘that picture’ of him entering Jerusalem. A week later most would have deleted all traces of him from their profiles. Even Peter denied three times that they had ever been friends. Even after the incredible news of the resurrection his followers were still hiding away and fearing for their own lives. Then came the day of Pentecost and they burst out, speaking so that each person in the crowd heard in their own language and declaring all that had happened.

If you are part of the 64% in the UK or of the 32% globally that calls themselves Christian and don’t really know that story, look for it. (clue it’s in the Bible in the book of Acts). If you know the story tell it!

Above all, if you are a follower of Christ (especially in a community that won’t arrest or kill you for saying so) then don’t hide it, but recognize that people may listen to what you say but will also be looking at how you live.

Your country will not look like a Christian country unless the Christians look like Christians.

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