Statistics show progress in work of Bible translation despite pandemic

The latest statistics about the work of Bible translation have been published, and show that the work continues to accelerate despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

There are more languages with a Bible than ever before.

Among the highlights are:

  • the number of languages with a complete Bible has broken through the 700 barrier and now stands at 704
  • the number of languages with a complete New Testament is now 1,551
  • a further 1,160 languages have some portions of the Bible translated, up from 1,138 last year.

James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, says:

‘These are encouraging figures, and show how the task of translating the Scriptures into the world’s languages is making significant progress, even in the midst of a global pandemic. We are so thankful to God for his ongoing provision for and blessing on the work of Bible translation in these difficult times.’

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, translation teams have largely been able to continue working. Some have managed to keep working face to face, with suitable social distancing and other safety precautions. Other teams have worked remotely, making use of state-of-the-art translation software for remote teams, and utilising video conferencing to meet together virtually.

James says:

‘Seeing how translation teams have adapted to their new circumstances in order to keep the work going is truly inspirational. Crucially, it means that we are still making good progress in getting the Scriptures to those who do not have them in their language.’

The 704 Bibles mean that approximately 6 billion people now have the Bible in the language they understand best.

James continues:

‘Each new translation is exciting because it means more people are able to access the Scriptures in the language that speaks to them best. That accessibility is key to helping people truly comprehend the gospel message – and to seeing lives transformed by Jesus, which is what the work of Wycliffe is really all about.’

Lives transformed, like this believer from the Ifè people of Togo:

‘For a long time I have heard teachings and sermons on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I even read that portion of the Bible several times and in different versions. But when I read the crucifixion scene in my own language, I shed tears! The words chosen to describe the scene were accurate and natural, and were very moving. Tears flowed, even without me realising it!’ However, about 1.5 billion people still do not have the Bible in their own language. James says: ‘That’s a terrible injustice, one that all those involved in the work of Bible translation are desperately seeking to put right.’

Approaching a key milestone in world history

A number of factors are helping to accelerate efforts to translate the Scriptures into these remaining languages. These include the emergence of local translation teams and organisations, greater collaboration between global Bible translation organisations, the increasing availability of technology, the ongoing generous giving of supporters, and the development of key software.

Current projections are that in the next 15 years:

  • 95% of the world’s language groups will have the Bible in the language that speaks to them best
  • 99.95% will have a New Testament in the language that speaks to them best
  • 100% will have access to at least some portion of Scripture (currently 255 million people have absolutely none).

James comments:

‘We are fast approaching a key milestone in world history! These projections provide fresh inspiration and motivation for people to get involved in the work of Bible translation. As an organisation, Wycliffe remains committed to the urgent and long-term work of achieving these aims, and continues to work so that the Bible might be accessible to all people in their own languages.’

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