Archive for the ‘Historic figures’ Category

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

Saturday, February 18th, 2017 by Alfred

On February 18th we commemorate the death of priest, theologian, and Bible translator Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546).

Luther is most famous for nailing his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg – 500 years ago this year – which many people cite as the primary starting point of the Reformation.

Yet Luther’s later work translating the Bible was also fundamental to the Reformation.

Luther loved the Bible but knew that, at the time, the Bible was not accessible to everyone. So he concluded that a new translation, in the common language of the German people was necessary.

His focus as he worked on the translation was to enable the ‘tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons’ to be able to read God’s word for themselves. Indeed, he was so committed to the ordinariness of the language in the translation, he would take trips into local towns and villages to listen to the way people spoke.

Luther’s translation marked a shift in the church’s approach to the Bible, as Philip Schaff notes:

“The Bible ceased to be a foreign book in a foreign tongue, and became far more clear and dear to the common people. Hereafter the Reformation depended no longer on the works of the Reformers, but on the book of God, which everybody could read for himself as his daily guide in spiritual life.”

It spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

Yet now over 1.5 billion people – more than the entire world population when Luther was alive – still do not have the Bible in the language they speak and understand best. Wycliffe Bible Translators is working so that all peoples around the world can engage with the Bible in the language they most understand.

Find out how you can be part of Bible translation.

John Wycliffe: c. 1328 – 1384

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 by Ruth

For God louede so the world, that he ȝaf his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf. *

Today commemorates the anniversary of the death of John Wycliffe.  He believed that ‘it helpeth Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s sentence’.

He was adamant that the Scriptures should be read in the mother-tongue of all people, as it had been for the original hearers:

You say it is heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in English. You call me a heretic because I have translated the Bible into the common tongue of the people. Do you know whom you blaspheme? Did not the Holy Ghost give the Word of God at first in the mother-tongue of the nations to whom it was addressed?

So, he and his team, translated the whole Bible into the common English of the time.  Every word was written by hand.

Wycliffe suffered fierce opposition.  Even after his death, great hatred towards his work continued, leading the Church to declare Scripture translation a heresy in 1412.  To suffer the punishment due to heretics, Wycliffe’s remains were recovered and burnt in 1428 (44 years after his death)!

Over 600 years after Wycliffe’s death, and 160 million people, speaking 1700-1800 languages, still do not have a word of Scripture in their language and may need some form of Bible translation to begin.  At least 1.5 billion people don’t have a complete Bible in the language they understand best. Find out how you can be involved in the continuing work of Bible Translation.

*John 3.16 in the Wyclif Bible.

Robert Moffat: 1795 – 1883

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 by Ruth

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Robert Moffat, a Scottish missionary to South Africa. He worked in one mission station, Kuruman, in the north of the country for half a century. It came to be known as a ‘fountain of Christianity’.

The station was subject to robbery and violence; and yet, just 5 years after Moffat began working there, church services were packed. Additional to this work, Moffat was also a self-taught linguist. Within a year, he had written a grammar of the Setswana (Tswana) language and begun translating Luke.

This was to become what one biographer calls his ‘greatest legacy’, and it was certainly the most exhausting thing he ever did: the Setswana Bible was completed in 1857. He printed it on a hand press, and it was the first complete Bible printed in Africa.

He recalled this exchange between the Christians and non-Christians at the Kuruman base:

When the heathen saw the converts reading the Book which had produced this change, they inquired if they (the converts) talked to it. “No,” answered they, “it talks to us; for it is the Word of God.”

“What then,” replied the strangers, “does it speak?”

“Yes,” said the Christians, “it speaks to the heart!” * From David J Deane’s biography.

Moffat left a legacy. Additional to the massive impact of the Setswana Bible, he was also profusely enthusiastic about calling others to God’s work. His life may seem chronologically and geographically separate from ours, but the call is the same for us as for him: people are waiting to hear God’s word in their own language. You can be involved.


David Brainerd (1718 – 1747)

Sunday, October 9th, 2016 by Ruth

David Brainerd was not an archetypal candidate for a heroic and inspiring missionary. Before going into ministry, he had already failed at farming. On to university, where he was expelled in his second year. He was ill throughout his adult life, having contracted tuberculosis, which eventually killed him. He also struggled with depression, even praying for death on occasions. His first two years in mission saw only two converts from the Native American communities amongst which he worked.

On this day in 1747, he died aged only 29, at the home of the theologian Jonathan Edwards. Edwards looked beyond these continual difficulties. He was so encouraged by the commitment of Brainerd’s life, he decided to publish a biography, recounting trials, turned-down-offers of a more comfortable life and 3,000 miles covered on horseback.

This book of Edwards’, The Life of David Brainerd, became his most popular work. Since its publication, it has never been out of print. John Wesley prescribed its reading for every preacher. Brainerd’s life, as retold in the book, has been cited by many missionaries as influential in their lives, including Henry Martyn, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Robert McCheyne and Jim Elliot.

His work at and expulsion from Yale were also major factors in the establishment of Princeton and Dartmouth Universities. And the Brainerd Hall is the only university building at Yale to be named after an expelled student. A lot of influence for a man who during his lifetime was seen to be a sickly and melancholic failure!

Brainerd’s life was not constrained by what he appeared to be. He knew that God invites anyone and everyone to participate in his work. God is doing amazing things around the world through Bible translation. You can participate by praying, giving, going or telling someone else about the 180 million people who still don’t have a single word of Scripture in their own language. Visit to find out more.

When tennis, fresh fruit and ??? were illegal

Thursday, October 6th, 2016 by Camilla

The 1500s were a very different time. Most of England’s population lived in villages and made their living from farming. In 1512, tennis became illegal, along with a number of other games. For a brief time during the plague of 1569, it also became illegal to sell fresh fruit (presumably possession of the stuff was a lesser crime). What is perhaps even more surprising, however, is that it was illegal to translate the Bible into the modern English of the day.

william_tyndaleSo why are we talking about the 1500s? you ask. It’s because of this dapper-looking chap. He is in fact none other than William Tyndale (pronounced ‘tindle’). It’s the anniversary of his death, and if you’ve never heard of him, you’re in for a treat.

Tyndale is one of our heroes here at Wycliffe Bible Translators. Like us, he believed that people (specifically, the English) should be able to read the Bible for themselves, in their own language. The difference is, in his time – the early 1500s – this was considered a very dangerous idea. Even the Church of England was against it.

Even though the Bible had been translated into an earlier form of English (Middle English) before, by John Wycliffe, translating the Bible into modern English was strictly forbidden. Tyndale went ahead and did it anyway.

Tyndale started his work in London, and later relocated to Germany for safety reasons. Three years after he started his work, copies of Tyndale’s English New Testament were being smuggled into England.

Tyndale ended up being arrested for heresy, imprisoned, and eventually strangled and burned at the stake for his crime – but not before several thousand copies of his New Testament had been printed.

Want more? Read about our history as an organisation!

Tyndale completed his work for his countrymen hundreds of years ago. But there’s plenty of work still to do: there are over 1.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to the Bible in their language. Why not connect with a Bible translation project that’s happening right now!