Q. How did Wycliffe get its name?
A. In the late 1300s, John Wycliffe became the first person to translate the Bible into English. Before that English speakers had to learn Latin to read the common Bible translation. Wycliffe wanted the Bible available to every person. Cameron Townsend, Wycliffe Bible Translators’ founder, chose to name the organization after John Wycliffe because of their common passion: that every person should have a Bible in their heart language.
Q. How did Wycliffe start its work?
A. In 1917, while distributing Spanish Bibles in Guatemala, American missionary Cameron Townsend was challenged by his Mayan guide Francisco Diaz to translate the Bible into Diaz’s native Cakchiquel language. It was Diaz’s long-held dream for the Cakchiquels to have Scripture in the language of their birth. Surely, Diaz told Townsend, God could speak to the Cakchiquels just as he could to the Spanish speaking people. Townsend accepted the challenge and went on to learn the oral-only language,
create an alphabet and translate the New Testament. The project took 10 years and inspired Townsend, in 1942, to found Wycliffe Bible Translators, named for John Wycliffe, the 14th-century Oxford scholar who first translated the Bible into English.
Q. How long does it take to translate a New Testament?
A. A New Testament can take as little as 3 years, or more than 20 years, depending on factors like whether a written alphabet and language already exist. Most Wycliffe translators commit to living within the communities where they are translating, often in remote parts of the world, to do the following:
• Create an alphabet and written language from scratch (in oral-only cultures)
• Translate Scripture, along with health care information, school books and other materials helpful to a community
• Teach residents to read, often for the first time
Q. What version of the Bible do you translate from?
A. Our translations are meaning-based; they put the meaning of the Biblical text into the best idiomatic language of the receptor language. The translations are done in a way that is natural in the language, putting things in their cultural context to make the meaning clear. This differs from word-for-word translation which often results in stilted and poor translations. While preparing a text for translation, the translator will use the original Greek and Hebrew texts, but will also use an array of English translations in order to compare how other translators have handled the passage.
Q. What about people who can’t read?
A. To reach non-literates—those who are not yet able to read, or who are from cultures where information is transmitted orally—we provide audio Scripture; chronological Bible storying using key portions of the Old and New Testaments; and Scripture videos including Luke, Genesis and the JESUS Film.
Q. Is Wycliffe involved in work beyond Bible translation?
A. In addition to producing printed New Testament translations, Wycliffe has the privilege of working with like-minded organizations to meet the holistic needs of language communities. Depending on the community, this may include:
• Old Testament translation
• Non-print Scripture projects (audio or visual)
• Literacy training
• Empowerment through education in mother-tongue
• Trauma healing workshops
• Improved healthcare
• Access to clean water
Q. How many people are involved with Wycliffe?
A. Cameron Townsend recruited the first two students for linguistic and translation work in 1934. Wycliffe has since grown to include more than 6,600 career and short-term members. Nearly 3,000 additional workers are still needed in both language-related and support roles.
Q. How much of my donation goes to Wycliffe projects?
A. For every dollar contributed, 85 cents go directly to support Wycliffe projects. The other 15 cents cover general, administrative and fundraising expenses. This is great in comparison to many nonprofit organizations. Wycliffe is also a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability and adheres to their strict guidelines for fundraising. To further ensure godly stewardship, Wycliffe financials are audited annually by an independent agency. For more on our financial accountability,
Q. Is my gift tax deductible?
A. Yes, gifts to Wycliffe are tax deductible as allowed by the IRS.
Q. How did Wycliffe get its name?