Translation Projects

Translation of the Bible remains a core task of Bible Societies around the world.

Only 542 of the world’s 6901 languages have a Bible—that means hundreds of millions of people still don’t have the Bible in their own language.

Imagine what it must be like to finally be able to read the Bible in a language you understand, and to be able to share his Word with others!

This is why we’re currently working on two important translation projects here in New Zealand and supporting a number of other projects overseas.

Māori translation Tokelauan translation International projects Support Bible translation


New Zealand projects

Bible Society Translation Assistant Brenda Crooks speaks at the 2009 launch of Te Kawenata Hou (The New Testament) at Poroporo Marae in Whakatane.

Te Paipera Tapu – The Holy Bible in Māori

Bible Society has played an important role in te Reo Māori translation of the Bible since the first missionaries began this important task.   From the funding of the first printing of the Scriptures in Māori in 1827 through to the launch of the 2012 reformatted edition of Te Paipera Tapu, we continue to ensure Māori speakers can easily access the Scriptures in te Reo.

The current Māori Bible text dates back to 1952 when it was first published.  In the late 1990s, a project began to make the 1952 text more accessible to the modern reader through the introduction of paragraphing, punctuation and speech marks, section headings and, most importantly, macrons to indicate long vowels.  Te Kawenata Hou (the New Testament) was published in 2009 and the full Bible, Te Paipera Tapu, in 2012.

Today, this 1952 text remains a taonga (treasure) for the Māori church.  The language of this edition is classical, comparable somewhat to the King James Version in English.  For this reason, Bible Society and key Māori church leaders have embarked on a long journey to produce a brand new translation of the Bible for young Māori speakers and families.  This new edition will sit alongside the 1952 text.

In 2014, to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Bible on Aotearoa’s shores, Bible Society published the first milestone in this project – two brand new sample translations of Te Rongopai a Ruka (The Gospel of Luke).  These two sample translations take different styles and allow comparison between a more word-for-word style and a thought-for-thought style. This publication is still available from Bible Society (phone us on 0800 424 253 or email to purchase).

Following feedback from this publication, several small teams were formed in 2016 to begin translating other sample Bible texts.  These will be collected and published for further comparison with the view of informing a translation brief for the final full Bible translation project. Translating the full Bible is expected to take more than 10 years due to Bible Society’s vigorous and thorough checking processes.

If you’d like to be involved in this significant project, please contact our Translations Director Dr Stephen Pattemore.

The launch of Ko Te Feagaiga Fou (the New Testament in Tokelauan) at Pahina O Tokelau in Porirua, 23 May 2009.

Ko Te Tuhi Paia – The Holy Bible in Tokelauan

The Gospel first came to the small Pacific Island of Tokelau in the early 19th century.  It was brought from Samoa by missionaries.  Because of this, Tokelauans began using the Samoan Bible as there was no Bible available in their language.  In the 1970s, some tentative translation work was carried out but it was not until the 1990s that a long-term project was begun in New Zealand which was facilitated by Bible Society.

In early 1996, Bible Society New Zealand hosted a translators workshop attended by up to 70 people including representatives from Tokelau.  From this, three translators were chosen. The project was officially launched at an inter-denominational church service held at PIC Porirua in June 1996.  In 1999 the Gospel of Mark was published and three Gospels were published in 2003.  Thirteen years after the launch of the project, Ko Te Feagaiga Fou (The New Testament) was published by Bible Society.

The full Tokelauan Bible is on schedule for publication in 2019.  For more information on this project, please contact our Translation Director Dr Stephen Pattemore.

International translation support

Launching the books of James and Mark in the Maumi language in Fiji, June 2012.

In 2018, Bible Society is supporting Bible translation projects in more than 20 languages.  These include:

  • Eastern Pacific Islands
    • Tonga – contemporary Old Testament translation, West translation
    • Niue Bible translation
    • Tahitian Bible translation
    • Samoan contemporary Old Testament
    • Fiji – Koronubu-Ba New Testament, Maumi New Testament, Urdu New Testament, Fijian Bible dictionary
  • Papua New Guinea
    • Tok Pisin translation
    • Aekyom translation
    • Gogodala translation
    • Koita translation
    • Magi translation
    • Motu translation
    • Pa’a translation
    • Vula’a translation
    • Yuna translation
  • Burkina Faso – Birifor translation
  • Thailand – Urak Lawoi translation, Pwo Karen translation and the Thai Study Bible

If you’d like to make a gift towards our translation programme for 2018, use the secure form below.


Each year, we support translation projects around the world including the Tokelauan and Māori translations in New Zealand. If you’d like to make a donation to help us continue this translation work, you can use the secure form below. Your gift will help support these translation projects and ensure that people can continue to have access to the Scriptures in their heart language.