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.