Translations update – 2021

Bible available in more than 700 languages

At the start of 2021, a significant milestone was  reached when the full Bible became available in 704 languages for the first time. Spoken by 5.7 billion people, more than 70% of these translations have been provided by the United Bible Societies! Another 825 million people have the New Testament in their language, and 450 million people have Scripture portions.

However, 75 years ago when the United Bible Societies (UBS) was formed in the wake of World War II, the Bible translation landscape looked very different. At that time fewer than 200 languages had the full Bible, 230 had the New Testament, and 620 had Scripture portions.


Since that time, the number of languages with some portions of Scripture has more than tripled. Yet, today more than half of the world’s 7,359 languages still do not have any Scripture. “More than a billion people do not have the Bible in their own language. They are without the comfort of Scripture as they navigate the storms of life. That is why the task of Bible translation is so urgent,” said UBS Director General Michael Perreau.

To help reduce Bible poverty, UBS has created the Bible Translation Roadmap. It is a 20-year vision to complete 1,200 translations, which will make Scripture available in the languages of 600 million people for the first time. Three years in, 80 translations have been completed, 312 are in progress, and another 808 are yet to begin.

“Bible translation takes years of dedication and generosity and is the first step in a community gaining access to God’s life-changing Word,” said UBS Executive Director of Global Bible Translation, Alexander M. Schweitzer. “The availability of mother tongue Scripture makes it possible to develop Bible ministry programmes to meet the needs of the community, such as literacy or trauma healing. Bible translation transforms lives – that’s why we are committed to fulfilling the ambitious vision of the roadmap,” he said.

Bible Translation - Datooga
Peter Gasheka was excited at the launch of the Bible in his Datooga language on October 4, 2020 (Tanzania)

Bible translation continues despite Covid-19

Despite the challenges and disruptions caused  by COVID-19, Bible Societies around the world completed Scripture translations in 66 languages spoken by 707 million people last year.

Six language groups received the full Bible for the first time – five in Africa and one in the USA, where the Deaf community celebrated the completion of the American Sign Language Bible.

In Vanuatu, Hano speakers on Pentecost Island welcomed the long-awaited New Testament in their heart language at an event held at Angoro village, on North Pentecost, on 26th October 2020, with traditional songs and dances (watch in the video below).

Translation work began four decades ago but was disrupted numerous times by cyclones, which destroyed homes, livelihoods and, on some occasions, parts of the translation work. In the wake of Cyclone Pam in 2015, the translators had to live in tents for months after their home was completely destroyed. However, the translation manuscript survived, having been placed in a plastic container and put under a table just before the cyclone hit.

During the launch, one of the translators, Fr. Francis Gilu, who is now in his eighties, was in tears when he received his copy of the New Testament. “This is a miracle. I thought the text had gone missing!” he said.

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Inspired by the Great Commission, The United Bible Societies has the ambitious vision to complete 1,200 Bible Translations by 2038 which will make the Word of God accessible to 600 million People.