Despite a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions across the world, the work of Bible translation has continued to progress, as this year’s annual statistics reveal as they are released on International Translation Day (30 September).
Now, more people have God’s word in the language they understand best than ever before!
Now, more languages have a Bible than ever before, and more languages have a New Testament than ever before.
And now there is more translation work happening than ever before.
Among the highlights from the past year are:
- despite the pandemic, Bible translators were able to launch more than one new translation every week*
- the number of languages with a complete Bible has risen to 717 (up from 704 last year)
- the number of languages with a complete New Testament has risen to 1,582 (up from 1,551 last year)
- a further 1,196 languages have some portions of the Bible translated (up from 1,160 last year).
(To put these figures in context, there are 7,135 languages, which rises to 7,378 once sign languages not yet recognised by the International Organization for Standardization are included.)
James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe, says: ‘These latest figures are so encouraging. It’s not just the increasing numbers – it’s what they represent. As we look back over the past year, we can rejoice with the many millions of people who can now read God’s word in their own language for the first time. That means they will be able to grasp the gospel message more easily, to know Jesus through the Bible, and be transformed by the power of God’s word.’
Many of these people who have received God’s word for the first time this year fully comprehend the significance of the moment.
At the triple launch of the Tafi, Logba, and Nyagbo New Testaments in August, Sylvester Nkrumah shared: ‘Without the word, it seemed as though God was so far away. Now we can say Jesus is no longer a foreigner, he is no longer a stranger, He is one of us and he speaks our language. He has moved into our neighbourhood and we can reach out to him.’
Issa Atche, who was part of the translation team that translated the New Testament into Guerguiko in Chad, said at its launch in December last year: ‘Truly, the Guerguiko New Testament is of great importance to the community. Today, we are very proud to have now, in our hands, the New Testament in Guerguiko.’
And a Sangu man in Tanzania, on receiving his Sangu New Testament at its launch at the end of last year, described it as being like the ‘key to entering heaven’ as now the Scriptures and the salvation message are much more accessible.
James continues: ‘This is what Wycliffe is all about – seeing people have the opportunity to know Jesus through the Bible. We keep hearing of individuals and communities being transformed by God’s word as new translations are made available.’
‘Despite this tremendous progress, we remain deeply concerned for the 1.5 billion people worldwide who still do not have the Bible in their language. That’s 1 in 5 people who do not have the same access to the Bible which we take for granted. This is not fair, and translation teams worldwide are working with urgency to rectify this injustice.’
Approaching a key milestone in world history
Despite the pandemic and its knock-on effects, efforts to translate the Scriptures into these remaining languages are accelerating. A number of factors are contributing to this, including the emergence of local translation teams and organisations, greater collaboration between global Bible translation organisations, the increasing availability of technology, the ongoing generous giving of supporters, and the development of key software.
If the current rate of acceleration can be maintained, projections are that in the next 10–15 years:
- 95% of the world’s population will have the Bible
- 99.95% will have a New Testament
- 100% will have access to at least some portion of Scripture (currently 145 million people have absolutely none).
James comments: ‘A key milestone in world history is fast approaching – when everyone will have at least some Scripture in their language for the first time! These projections give fresh inspiration and motivation for people to get involved in the work of Bible translation. Wycliffe remains committed to the urgent and long-term work of seeing the Bible made accessible to all people in their own languages.’
*When a Bible is launched, its New Testament is removed from the New Testament list. So in this past year, the launch of 13 Bibles means 13 New Testaments have been removed from the New Testament list – meaning that, actually, 44 New Testaments were launched in the past year.
Notes to Editors
1. For further information, call Alfred Thompson on the Wycliffe Communications Team on 07519 643446 or email@example.com.
2. Wycliffe Bible Translators seeks to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language that speaks to them best. It does this through a range of activities, including Bible translation, literacy and Scripture use initiatives. Currently, Wycliffe has 360 people from the UK and Ireland serving 530 million people who speak 350 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,300 or so languages spoken worldwide today, only 717 have the Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (1 in every 5 people) do not have the Bible in their language. As a result, translation of the Bible into people’s languages is one of the critical needs in world mission, to enable the growth of evangelism and discipleship ministries.
3. Wycliffe and its partner organisations are currently involved in about three-quarters of global Bible translation efforts.
4. Images. You can download the following images to accompany the press release, by clicking on the ‘Image’ link and then saving to your desktop. All images should be credited as follows: © 2021 Wycliffe Bible Translators.