Posts Tagged ‘bible translators’

By Bill Gardner with Richard Gretsky

Many people think that Bible translation has been a recent phenomenon that really only started in the last 150 years or so. But the reality of Bible translation’s history might surprise you.

Bible Translation Through the Ages - John Wycliffe

Bible translation actually began even before Jesus was born! Around 200 B.C. many Jews were living in Egypt where they no longer fluently spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, but instead spoke Greek as their mother tongue. (Egypt had been conquered by Alexander the Great.) Since the Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew with a few sections in Aramaic, they decided to translate it into Greek, beginning with the Torah (the five books of Moses). This Greek Old Testament became known as the Septuagint, and was used widely among Jews and then among Christians. In fact many of the quotes in the New Testament are from the Greek Old Testament.

At first the early Christian church used the Greek Old and New Testaments. But after a couple centuries, people decided they needed the Bible in their own languages, so the whole Bible was eventually translated into some of the most widely spoken languages in the world (i.e. Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, etc).1 But as those languages changed over time (e.g., Latin became various Romance languages like French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish), their translations became archaic, “holy” translations, which most people no longer understood at all.

After another 1,000 years a second major wave of Bible translation happened, around the time of the Reformation. While John Wycliffe had earlier translated the Bible from Latin into English, William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale translated the Bible into early modern English from Greek and Hebrew. Around that time, Martin Luther did the same for German and others did so for Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc.2 With the invention of the printing press in the early 1400s, people could more easily access, read and understand the Bible. It led to transformation in individuals, communities and societies all across Europe.

The third major wave of Bible translation began about 200 years ago. During the 19th century, God’s Word was translated into almost 500 languages all across the world.1 The 20th century saw the birth of Wycliffe Bible Translators and other Bible translation organizations, and significantly saw more than 1,000 new Bible translations. And the pace of Bible translation has continued to increase during the 21st century.

Bible Translation through the Ages - Africa

Today, we have the honor and privilege to participate in a movement that God has been orchestrating for centuries. By serving, praying, and fiscally supporting the work of Bible translation, we truly make a difference.

Let’s all work together so that soon all people groups can hear God speak to them in their own language.
[1] Silzer, Peter. “An Overview of Bible Translation Through History.” Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, 2005.

2 Scriptures of the World: A Compilation of the 1,946 Languages in Which at Least One Book of the Bible Has Been Published since the Bible Was First Printed by Johann Gutenberg. London: United Bible Societies, 1990. 41.

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By Melissa Paredes

“I want you in full-time ministry,” God told him.

This calling came out of the blue for Steve. After all, he was enjoying his life and work as a band and choir teacher near Spokane, Washington. He and his family had a great community of friends, and they even saw themselves staying in Spokane long-term. But it seemed God had other plans for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen recalling the day he heard God’s voice, Steve admits he was hoping for more details from God. After all, he didn’t feel qualified spiritually, and his particular gifts didn’t seem to fit the mold of full-time ministry. Steve thought about possibly going to Bible college to further his education, but that wasn’t something he really wanted to do — he’d already received an education and loved what he did! He was confused by God’s call and didn’t know what it meant for him and his family.

A year later, Steve happened to meet a Wycliffe recruiter who told him about the remaining need for Bible translation in almost 2,000 languages. But Steve still didn’t see where he fit. “There’s no way I could be a Bible translator!” Steve shared. And isn’t that what he would have to do if he worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators?

But then Steve learned something exciting — something that seemed to answer that haunting question of where his gifts fit in ministry. The recruiter told him that Wycliffe needs teachers, particularly for missionary kids. Even music teachers!

This news struck a chord with Steve. He had a set of gifts and qualifications that could be used right away, and in full-time ministry!

So in 2006, Steve and his family moved to Papua New Guinea where he now teaches at Ukarumpa International School. And through teaching, Steve’s making a difference in the lives of his students, their families and even those who are still waiting for the Bible in their own language.

Steve Blake 1

“I’m helping God’s Word reach new places, new hearts,” Steve shared. “It’s cool to hear parents say, ‘We wouldn’t be missionaries here if it wasn’t for the school.’ These parents are able to focus on translation, literacy and other work because they know their children are being given a solid education.”

And it’s true. When people like Steve use the gifts God has given them for his glory, they’re contributing to the work of Bible translation. Every role is important in this work — even teaching music to missionary kids. It’s just a matter of faithfully answering God’s call when you hear his voice.

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By Hannah Weiand

Where in the World - Pair (Elyse Patten)

A key thing to note is that Wycliffe USA is just one of many organizations working in partnership around the world to make Bible translation happen. Many of these organization are part of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, which includes more than 45 Wycliffe member organizations and more than 60 partner organizations serving in more than 93 countries. For perspective, there are only 197 countries in the entire world, so together we’re working in nearly half of them! You can see the list of organizations within the Wycliffe Global Alliance here.

One interesting feature of the Alliance’s website is a tool that lists the languages of the world, by country, and whether or not they have any Scripture. Although it doesn’t specifically tell you where personnel are working, it can give you a broader scope of the work that is both being done and still needs to be done. So if you have a specific country in mind, and want to know if Bible translation is being done there, this tool can help.

This post is part of our Wycliffe 101 series. Click here to read the previous post, or here to start at the beginning.

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By Melissa Paredes

The Bigger Picture

Prayer is one of the most significant ways you can help people get the Bible in their heart language. You may not clearly see the answers to your prayers, but some people do. Bob and Betsy Eagar are among them.

In November 1982, Bob and Betsy were living in Atlanta with their two school-age children, Melanie and Rob. That’s when they first heard about Wycliffe’s Bibleless People Prayer Project (BPPP), a program that helps people pray for specific language groups that need Bible translation.

“I thought it would be really important for our family to pray for one of those Bibleless people groups,” Betsy shared, “[that] somebody would go to them and translate the Bible for them.”

They were assigned to pray for the Iyaru (name changed for sensitivity), a language community in Southeast Asia. The family started praying that the Iyaru people would one day receive the Bible in their heart language.

Years passed. Melanie and Rob grew up and left home for college. Then one day Bob and Betsy learned that Wycliffe was sending a husband-and-wife team to the Iyaru people to start a translation project! Their names were Craig and Sarah Marshall, and they were working to raise financial support so they, along with their four children, could move to Southeast Asia.

Excited to see their prayers being answered, Bob and Betsy decided to support the Marshalls financially. They also began receiving Craig and Sarah’s updates and prayer letters, following the events of their lives and their work among the Iyaru people. This continued for many years. Then Bob and Betsy had the opportunity to meet the Marshall family face-to-face.

“They happened to be in this part of the United States,” Betsy shared. “They came and spent the night with us. And it was wonderful to get to meet them, these people that we had been supporting and praying for all these years! We were thrilled about that.”

The Marshalls were equally excited about meeting Bob and Betsy. “They welcomed us, and, with tears in their eyes, told us how much they appreciated us and our efforts out among the Iyaru,” Sarah shared. “They told us they felt so blessed being a part of our team, and we felt exactly the same way about them!”

Although this was the first time the Eagars and the Marshalls met in person, it wasn’t their first conversation.

“Once, about 10 years before we met them, [Betsy] called us soon after we landed in California and helped debrief us and give wise input,” Sarah shared. “We had just gone through several emergency situations that required our getting evacuated out [of the country], and she wanted to be sure we were okay and to help us process what we’d been through as a family. As a trained counselor she understood that we’d seen and experienced some crazy, unsettling times, and reached out to us even though we’d never met. Talk about being a supportive team member! We knew we had to meet these special folks even though we didn’t know others in the [south].”

It was a joyous occasion for both families to finally meet in person on that day in Georgia, but that’s not the end of the story for the Eagars, the Marshalls and the Iyaru people.

When Bob retired in the early 2000s, he began volunteering in the “JESUS” film department at Cru, in Orlando. Almost 10 years later — in the beginning of 2014 — he learned that Iyaru was on a list of languages needing a translation of the “JESUS” film. Bob excitedly shared the news with Betsy, Melanie and Rob. As soon as they heard, they decided as a family that they wanted to help fund that project too.

“To me, [this] is a cool thing that has happened in our lives,” Betsy shared, “that we have been a part of what God is doing, from praying for that people group to now being able to help the “JESUS” film be translated for them.”

Now in their 70s, Bob and Betsy still pray for and support work among the Iyaru. Their story began over 30 years ago, and only recently have they learned how all these pieces of the bigger picture came together. But after so many years of faithful dedication, the Eagar family is seeing just that, and it’s a beautiful thing.

To learn how you can partner with Wycliffe in prayer, visit wycliffe.org/prayer.

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By Melissa Paredes

One night Glenda had a dream.

She saw her son and nephew carrying a large box into her house. As they drew near, Glenda noticed that they were crying with joy. Glenda didn’t know what the box contained and was confused about why they were crying. She didn’t understand what the dream meant.

The next day she found out the meaning of her dream.

A ship arrived in Pelonk, a village in the Maskelyne Islands in Vanuatu where Glenda lives. Just as Glenda had dreamt, men carried the boxes ashore and tears streamed down people’s faces as they watched the men bring the cargo off the ship. Inside the boxes were copies of the New Testament in their own Maskelynes language.

A Dream Come True

As more boxes were unloaded from the ships, people covered them with flowers and laid hands on them in welcome, as if greeting an honored guest. They joyously received God’s Word in their language — something their ancestors had anticipated doing since missionaries first came to these islands in 1897. Now, over 100 years later, the people are finally able to read the Scriptures in their own heart language.

A Dream Come True3On Sunday, April 6, 2014, the New Testament dedication festivities began. For the next several days, people from all three Maskelynes villages gathered in the afternoon in Pelonk to enjoy music and drama. Then on April 9, the official day of the dedication, more people came from other islands and even other countries to celebrate with them.

Young people performed reenactments of the first missionaries’ arrival in their village, and skits about different Bible verses. The people’s pride in seeing their language published was evident as they read portions of translated Scripture. Later in the day chiefs from each clan made sure that everyone received a copy of the New Testament to take home and read for themselves. Participants could also purchase audio New Testaments.

A Dream Come True2

A very memorable part of the dedication was the unveiling of a memorial stone. The people wanted to commemorate the significance of the day in a special way and leave a visual reminder of the value of what they were celebrating. Just as Israel took stones from the Jordan River and placed them on the bank to remember God’s saving power for future generations, the Maskelyne people marked the dedication of the Maskelynes New Testament with a large stone.

Now people across the Maskelyne Islands — just like Glenda — are able to hold God’s Word in their hands and understand it with their hearts, pointing to the memorial stone as a reminder to the generations to come of that significant day when their dreams finally came true.

A Dream Come True4

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By Konlan Kpeebi with Richard Gretsky

Konlan works for the Ghana Institute of Literacy, Linguistics and Bible Translation (GILLBT) as translation coordinator and the Konni language translation project manager.

The Conversion of Lamini - Nangruma Church

Laminu comes from Nangruma, one of the Koma villages in Ghana that has neither a formal school nor a church. He learned how to read and write Konni in the Konni literacy class that was started in his village.

When the Konni New Testament was dedicated in 2006, he bought one for himself. As there are no churches in his village, we also gave him numerous Scripture guidebooks to help him and others in his village understand God’s Word. After reading through the books and portions of the Bible, Laminu was convinced that the Konni New Testament was truly the Word of God, and he therefore decided to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.

Because there was no church in his village, nearly every week for a year, Laminu rode his bicycle more than seventeen miles one way to Yikpabongo, another Koma community that has a church.

Finally, Laminu was able to start a small fellowship in his own village, and it continues to this day, six years later.

Laminu’s testimony proves that God’s Word translated into minority languages can lead people to Christ.

Please pray for Laminu as he runs the Christian race—dealing with physical ailments and discouragements from many locals who think he is a deviant and is being punished for turning to Christ. And pray that additional vibrant churches will spring up in the Koma area.

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By Konlan Kpeebi with Richard Gretsky

Konlan works for the Ghana Institute of Literacy, Linguistics and Bible Translation (GILLBT) as translation coordinator and the Konni language translation project manager.

The village of Nangruma, in Ghana, has no trained pastors. As a result, I usually visit them to share the Word of God. The members of this fellowship used to meet in a classroom, but the last time I visited them, they were holding their services in a dilapidated thatch shed. They told me they have been ejected from the classroom because some locals in the village accused them of always making noise.

I asked them whether they would like me to plead to the chief and his elders to release the classroom for them to continue to worship there. However, Nbatima, a man who’d accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior two years prior, gave me this Koma proverb: “Lagɩŋ juule yaa nyʋʋsɩ!” (Together, living has smoke!)

My beautiful pictureI asked Nbatima to explain the meaning of the proverb to me. He said that if you live together with another person under the same roof, and the other person does not like you, anytime you set your fire, because the other person does not like you, he or she will always complain that there is too much smoke in the room.

Idiomatically, this means once someone does not like you, he or she will always find fault with whatever you say or do.

Nbatima told me that if I should plead for them to be allowed to use the classroom, they would still find another excuse to complain about them or even eject them again. So, he said, they would continue to worship in the dilapidated shed until they were able to build their own structure.

The Word of God has enabled Nbatima and his fellow believers in Christ to know God in a way that has made them more tolerant of those around them, more content in their situation, and more hopeful for their future.

I am sure there will be many people in Heaven who came to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, because of Koma believers and their dedication to God and His Word.

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