Global Bible reach continues to grow

Bible reach in the key areas of distribution, translation and engagement continues to gather momentum globally.

In 2017, Bible Societies worldwide assisted in the completion of Scripture translations in 49 languages spoken by more than 580 million people.

For 20 of these languages, spoken by more than 14 million people, it was their ‘first’ ever Bible translation. Seven communities received the very first full Bible in their language, four received their first New Testament and nine communities received their first, or additional, portions of Scripture.

Languages change and develop over time. That is why Bible Societies are also committed to revising existing translations or providing new translations, when requested, giving new generations the chance to meaningfully engage with Scripture. In 2017, this resulted in 26 new translations and revisions, plus nine study editions, with the potential to reach more than 566 million people.

 

Why Bible translation matters

When a community receives the Scriptures in their language, something profound happens. People feel that God is speaking directly to them, from among them. “God speaks my language!” is a common joyful reaction as they start to experience the hope and transformation in the Bible.

While great strides have been made in Bible translation, with the full Bible available in the languages of around 81% of the global population, 209 million people across the world still do not have the chance to encounter any part of Scripture in their language. Much work lies ahead if at least some parts of the Bible are to be made available in these remaining 3,773 languages.


Sign Language Scriptures for Deaf Communities

Some 70 million Deaf people use sign languages as their ‘first’ or heart language. But only 10% of the more than 400 unique sign languages have any Scripture, and those that do have very little. No sign language has the full Bible; American Sign Language comes closest, with the New Testament.


Reaching People with Visual Disabilities

An estimated 285 million people are visually impaired, 40 million of whom are blind. Only 44 languages have the full Bible in Braille, with some Scripture available in a further 200+ languages.

Transcribing and printing Braille Scriptures is a significant undertaking: a full Braille Bible consists of more than 40 bulky volumes and costs around $825 to print. But despite the development of audio and other formats, Braille continues to be the most popular way for blind people to engage with the Bible.

In 2017, Bible Societies in 32 countries ran Braille projects to meet the Scripture needs of blind readers. Two languages received their first ever portions of Braille Scripture: Luganda (Uganda) and Khasi (India). A further four languages received additional Braille Scriptures: Oshikwanyama (Namibia), Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), Armenian (Armenia), and German (2017 Luther Bible). In Latin America, work was completed on the transcription of the Dios Habla Hoy version of the Spanish Bible, meaning that all 44 Braille volumes can now be printed on demand.


Scripture Access and Engagement

Developments in digital technology have provided unprecedented access to the Bible, and more people than ever before in history are engaging with Scripture – and sharing it, too.

The Digital Bible Library® (DBL), by the end of 2017, contained 1,735 Scripture texts in 1,269 languages spoken by 5.6 billion people. Audio Scriptures in the DBL nearly tripled in 2017 to 1,078 audio Scriptures in 732 unique languages spoken by 4.9 billion people.

The DBL, which is owned by United Bible Societies (UBS), makes the Bible accessible by providing Scripture texts to the public through partners such as BibleSearch and YouVersion.


Pray for this mission!

In summary, UBS, which includes Bible Society New Zealand, is working towards the day when everyone can access the full Bible in the language of their choice. Please pray for this mission and our vital partner organisations worldwide helping with this work.


Thai Study Bible will be the first of its kind

Thailand Bible Society’s (TBS) soon to be published new Thai Study Bible will be the first of its kind and sought after by the Thai church.

While there are other Thai Study Bibles on the market (translated from English), this TBS edition will be unique because of its Thai perspective and impartial stance on biblical interpretation, reported Dr. Pattemore (in picture, far right).

Thailand is a country with a high standard of education, and a growing Christian population. For many years now TBS has been working to produce a high quality Thai Study Bible.

Dr. Pattemore supports a team of TBS staff and biblical scholars who are writing notes designed specifically for the Thai context – not translated from another Study Bible. This has been a long and arduous task, but it’s nearing the point where the end is in sight.

UBS’s Paratext software enables Dr. Pattemore, who is fluent in Thai, to read and interact with the notes and the team of writers from wherever he is in the world. But opportunities to meet face to face and talk through theological and social issues are important too, he said.

Will you prayerfully consider how you can help support Bible Society’s translation projects by making a gift today?

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The Bible treasured in Papua New Guinea

“In Papua New Guinea the Bible is a huge treasure. It’s like you’ve given them a gift from the moon.”

“They walk around carrying their Bible in a special bag, like a priceless gift. They do this even when the pages are worn and ragged around the edges and falling apart.”

This is the observation of Salvation Army Commissioner Yvonne Westrupp, who has just returned from three years serving in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Joel Peter is Bible Society of Papua New Guinea’s (BSPNG) Translations Manager. He works to support Bible translations in nine languages. In his spare time he works on the translation of the Old Testament into his own Molima language. He says having the Bible in a people’s heart language is critical.

He says the translated Word of God helps his people understand God’s message of salvation and they can respond with faith because it grabs the heart of people.

“My people are glad to have the Bible written in our words, which is the most precious treasure we have.”

Joel says there is still a huge and growing spiritual hunger for the Bible in PNG. “There are many young people giving their lives to the Lord who are without Bibles. Churches, particularly from Milne Bay, are sending numerous requests to BSPNG asking for Bibles in Tok Pisin, Dobu and, of course, English, but Bible Society is unable to meet their needs.”

Joel has a message for you.

“We are so thankful for you and your continuous support of Bible translation in PNG. We are seeing lives changing. The ministry of Bible translation is a huge responsibility in a country like PNG because it is so linguistically diverse with more than 800 languages. May God our heavenly Father bless your hearts.”

Will you partner with us and help bring the Bible to people in Papua New Guinea and other countries in a language they can read and understand?

Make a donation now

Urak Lawoi Bible nears completion

Ethim is one of the Urak Lawoi, a minority fishing community on Thailand’s Andaman coast, whose land tenure is under threat.

Ethim (right) and Dr Stephen Pattemore learn the new software.

Pictured above; a Bible study group in Baan Nai Rai, an Urak Lawoi village on Lanta Yai Island, Krabi province.

Ethim lives in a corrugated iron house and has four years primary education. For years he has worked tirelessly from his bed as a voluntary Bible translator, working to make the Bible available to his people in their heart language.

He was paralysed after diving for salvage and getting the bends. He recovered the use of his upper body but his lower body remains paralysed. Bible Society New Zealand Translations Director Dr. Stephen Pattemore says he now faces a new hurdle but one he will take in his stride.

Ethim, along with all United Bible Society (UBS) translators, has to learn a whole new level of computing involving an upgrade from an existing version of Paratext (special translation software) to a new version. This means migrating all his already translated Bible text to the new software, a complex process. Despite this, the Urak Lawoi Bible is nearly ready for publication after some final checking.

Dr. Pattemore, who is now working on Bible publication plans, says Urak Lawoi is a threatened language, and the communities of Christians there include those who are illiterate, as well as those literate in Thai and Urak Lawoi.

The historical section of the Old Testament will be published in three volumes as diglot* editions in Urak Lawoi and Thai. But the whole Urak Lawoi Bible will probably be an electronic edition. “Smart phones are becoming increasingly popular and widely used in Urak Lawoi villages, and already Pastor AhLin reads his Thai Bible on the YouVersion app. So this seems to be the way to go,” said Dr. Pattemore.

Will you partner with us to make the Bible a reality for those, like the Urak Lawoi, that don’t have it in their heart language?

Make a donation now

God’s Word spreads further in the South Pacific

Children and adults alike from Kiribati and Tuvalu in the South Pacific are delighted to have Bible comic story books in their own heart language for the very first time.

“Their reaction was one of amazement and they were so appreciative,” said Charles Cleary and Seremaia Rareba from the Bible Society of the South Pacific (BSSP). “Please thank all the generous supporters in New Zealand for making this possible,” they said.

More copies of the Bible comic story book titled, The Man Who Trusted God, The Story of Abraham, with content from Genesis 12 to 22, are currently being distributed to Kiribati and Tuvalu churches and communities in Suva, Fiji, before being shipped to the islands.

The Abraham Bible story comics are part of Bible Society’s ongoing mission to reach the people of the South Pacific with the Bible in their heart language.

The next translation project to be finalised in the South Pacific will be the Hano New Testament in Vanuatu. Here, the Hano language is spoken by more than 6,000 people in the North Pentecost area of the island with 1,000 speakers in the main centres.

The last publication of the Scriptures in the Hano language was in 1988, consisting of the four Gospels. The New Testament is nearly complete now with final checking in progress.

It’s hard to imagine that many people in some of New Zealand’s favourite Pacific holiday destinations still do not have the Bible in their own language.

Tropical getaway destinations such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue and French Polynesia, many of which have multiple languages, are waiting for Bible translation projects to be completed or started.

Seremaia (left) from BSSP with Rev Kabong, a church minister from the Kiribati community, with some of the comics.

Without the Bible in their own heart language it’s much harder to connect intimately with God.

There is ongoing translation work on the Tongan Contemporary Old Testament. Text is also being prepared for Bible resources such as concordances and electronic Bibles, which will be distributed in Tuvalu, Kiribati, Niue, Tahiti and Tonga.

In Fiji, translation work continues on the Maumi and Korobubu-Ba New Testaments, with both projects due to print trial editions of completed books later in the year.

Finally, people experiencing trauma will be helped by the translation of biblical trauma healing materials into various South Pacific languages.

Apenesia Lewatoro joined BSSP because he was fascinated with translation work and had a heart to make God’s Word available in the language of his people.

He said, “Bibles were originally translated by the missionaries in the 1800s and one of the challenges now is people don’t understand the languages of the past. We’re working towards translating the Bible into today’s languages of contemporary Fijian, Kiribati, Tongan, and Samoan. Then people can understand God’s Word and make changes in their lives.”

“Thank you so much for your kind hearts in supporting Bible work in the South Pacific. God bless you all.

 


Bible helping save the Tokelauan language

This week is Tokelau Language week – seven days dedicated to maintaining and promoting the Tokelaun language.

A translation review team in action.

More than 7,000 Tokelauans live in New Zealand, with 50% living in Wellington as well as Tokelauan communities in Auckland, Taupō, and Rotorua. There are only 1,400 Tokelauans living on the island of Tokelau.

The 2006 Census reported that the Tokelauan language is one of the most-at-risk Pacific languages in New Zealand, along with Niuean and Cook Island Maori. Today only 34% of Tokelauans speak their heritage language.

A scene from the launch of the Tokelauan New Testament at Pahina O Tokelaua, Porirua, in 2009.

This is why our Tokelau Bible translation project is so important. Not only does it mean Tokelauans can read the Bible in their own tongue but it will also lead to the preservation of their language and, as part of that, their culture.

The completion of the Tokelauan Bible next year will be end of a 21-year project for head translator Ionae Teao. Ioane has dedicated his life to this project, which was initiated by the Tokelauan Society for the Translation of the Bible and supported by Bible Society New Zealand.

Listen to Dr Stephen Pattemore speaking on Radio New Zealand about the Tokelauan translation project (click on the logo)

The Tokelauan New Testament was launched in June in 2009 with great celebrations and accolades. Now as the finishing touches are made to the Tokelauan Old Testament next year, and publication set for early 2019, the Tokelauan community in New Zealand will again have cause for celebration.

To resource Tokelauan Language Week, we’ve made available our

popular Little Book of Hope in Tokelauan (picture right). This palm-sized booklet contains Bible verses grouped under the themes of peace, strength, unity and hope.

Ke manuia koutou i te Alofa o te Atua. Tokelauan for May you be blessed in God’s love.

 

More about The Little Book of Hope

New Scriptures and a translation centre for the deaf in Nigeria

“I am so happy – the Deaf can now hear God!”

These are the words of Pastor Luke Bello at the dedication of 110 Chronological Bible Stories in Nigerian Sign Language (NSL)* – the mother tongue of most of the country’s one million Deaf people.

Olugbenga Lakanmi

The dedication took place on September 30 during the official opening of the Deaf Bible Translation Centre in Ibadan, a city in south-west Nigeria.

Mr Bello, himself Deaf, is a leader in the Christian Mission for the Deaf Church in the village of Ikire, Osun State. Speaking through an interpreter, he explained how he had been concerned for a long time that there were no Scriptures available in NSL.

So glad to witness this moment!

“I wondered how Deaf people could ever truly understand God and his love for them,” he said. “But now we will use these Bible stories in our language to teach them. We have waited for so long for this, and I am so glad to witness this moment!”

Another member of the Deaf community, Olugbenga Lakanmi (pictured right), was so excited to hear about the Deaf Bible Translation Centre that he travelled 120km from his home in Lagos to attend its opening.

“I feel so great to see the wonders of God! Not only do we now have part of the Bible in our language, but this new centre has been built for our benefit. When we watched one of the Bible story videos we really liked it. It is so much easier for us to understand than trying to read it in written form.” Olugbenga Lakanmi


Just the beginning

As a visible sign of its commitment to serving the largely unreached Deaf community, the Bible Society of Nigeria opened the Deaf Bible Translation Centre on September 30, 2017.

Mr Bello and Mr Lakanmi were among more than 120 members of the Deaf community who attended the event. They were delighted when Bible Society of Nigeria General Secretary Dr Dare Ajiboye, who is passionate about reaching the Deaf and had learnt some NSL especially for the occasion, signed a greeting to them. He explained the Bible Society’s commitment to giving everyone in Nigeria access to God’s Word. He added that the 110 Chronological Bible Stories in NSL and the opening of the translation centre were just the beginning of a project to reach the country’s Deaf people. He reminded the gathering that this work will require much commitment, including ongoing funding.

Management of the project to translate the Bible into NSL was formally handed over to the Bible Society by DOOR International during the event. By 2020, the Bible Society plans to have completed 240 Bible stories or Portions in NSL, which is about 18% of the full Bible.

*The very first Scriptures in NSL – 32 Bible stories – were made available in late 2014.

Story by Benjamin Mordi, Media and Programmes Manager, Bible Society of Nigeria


Te Paipera Tapu (the Māori Bible) – a labour of love

Te reo lover and speaker Brenda Crooks (pictured below) is one of only 5,000 people in New Zealand able to speak Māori and also communicate in sign language, our country’s two official languages alongside English.

“It’s the language of our country, it’s beautiful, it’s poetic and it’s a window into this culture. There are things that can be expressed in Māori that can’t be expressed in any other language,” says Brenda, who grew up as a small child with a desire to learn about Māori culture.

“I grew up on the West Coast of the South Island which is very European, so I believe my longing to learn about Māori culture was a God-given desire.”

Now as Māori Bible Kaituitui Co-ordinator (Kaituitui meaning ‘to stitch together’) at Bible Society New Zealand, Brenda is combining the two passions of her life, Te Reo and the Bible.

After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Studies in her early 30’s, Brenda joined Bible Society almost directly. She has been working on the Māori Bible ever since. She spent 11 years painstakingly modernising Te Paipera Tapu (the Holy Bible in Māori) text with the addition of macrons, paragraphs and punctuation.

“When the current Māori translation was first printed in 1952, it didn’t need macrons because there were native speakers.  So marking the vowel length for today’s readers is very helpful,” she said.

More recently Brenda has worked on Tāku Paipera, the first Māori Bible story book for children and Bible Society’s first dedicated Māori Bible app.

However, it is the new translation of Te Paipera Tapu begun two years ago, which is now her main work. First published in 1868 with three further versions in 1889, 1925 and 1952, the 1952 edition is the version most Māori communities and speakers have used for more than half a century.

“For Māori readers, we want to give them an informal translation that speaks to them in their own natural heart language,” she explained. “The current translation is very close to the King James Version, which in Bible-speak means it’s quite formal language.

“The purpose of translating scripture in the first place into mother tongues is to make it more accessible and to open up the treasure of scripture to all who want to seek it,” she said.

To date, Luke, two epistles, Jonah, Genesis and Ruth have been completed in modern Te Reo Māori, but it can take up to 12 years to complete a full Bible translation.

For Māori, it means the Bible will be more accessible to young Māori second language speakers. It will be the translation that serves the next generation – and that, for Brenda, will make it all worthwhile.

Read more about the Māori Bible and our translation projects…

The Māori Bible story Our translation projects

Scripture access at an all-time high

Last year Bible Societies worldwide finished Bible translations in 61 languages spoken by more than 428 million people.

30 first translations

Thirty languages now have the Word of God for the very first time. This includes 17 communities who now have their very first Bible, six communities who have a New Testament and seven who have their first or some additional Scripture portions. This means 95 million people now have biblical material for the first time ever.

31 New Translations, revisions and study editions

In addition to these climatic firsts, Bible Societies were also busy revising and updating existing translations. In 2016 this resulted in 28 new translations and revisions plus three study editions with the potential to reach more than 333 million people.

There are currently 6,880 languages in the world spoken by more than 7.4 billion people.

Some 648 languages spoken by more than 5.1 billion people now have a complete Bible and a further 1,432 languages (spoken by 657 million people) have a New Testament. This leaves 434 million people with only some portions of Scripture and a further 253 million people with no Scripture translated in their language at all.

United Bible Societies is committed to working towards the day when everyone can access the full Bible in the language of their choice. Bible Societies are currently working no more than 400 translation projects around the world.

The Digital Bible Library

The Digital Bible Library (DBL) is central to our strategy to make the Bible as widely and easily accessible as possible. By the end of 2016, the DBL contained 1,474 Bibles, New Testaments and portions in 1,134 languages. There are also now 403 audio scriptures in 345 languages.

These languages are spoken by more than 5.2 billion people.

The DBL is owned and maintained by United Bible Societies in partnership with other Bible agencies and with the support of the Every Tribe Every Nation alliance. It makes the Bible accessible by providing digital Scripture texts to the public through partners such as BibleSearch and YouVerion.