By Warren Nunn
It’s hard for English-speakers to imagine not having a Bible to read.
Until modern Bible translation work began early last century, millions of people did not have access to God’s Word.
Wycliffe Bible Translators has played a significant role in many of the 2,500 language groups who now have access to at least the New Testament in their mother tongue.
It started in the early 1900s when a young man, who was selling Spanish Bibles in Central America, was challenged by a Cakchiquel person who asked: “If your God’s so smart, why can’t He speak my language?”
That young man, William Cameron Townsend, dedicated many years to learning the Cakchiquel language and translating the Bible for those people.
Bible Translations Can Take Decades
Brisbane-based Ian Stoodley, who is a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, spoke with 96five’s Alex Milne about the ongoing impact of a ministry that has brought the Bible to people from many tribes, tongues and nations. (Listen to the interview in the podcast player above).
Ian explained how involved and time-consuming it was for each translation.
“Translations, just of the New Testament, can take about 30 years.”
It takes about two years for an individual to learn a language before translation can begin.
“Many of these languages are not written yet,” he said.
“It’s even recording the sounds and analyzing them and figuring out which sounds are significant; figuring out a way of writing them down.”
Wycliffe Materials Archived For Others to Use
All those materials are kept and archived for later use … about 42,000 items in total.
“It includes some literacy material and materials that are good for the community,” Ian said.
“So it might be health material that’s translated as well as Scripture.”
Ian worked as a librarian and archivist with Wycliffe Australia in Cameroon, Africa, in the 1990s.
Now he has taken up a different role of Associate Director of Language and Culture Archives, joining Wycliffe’s global archives team.
Having materials archived was vital to them being re-used, he said.
Ian gave an example of how the children of translators took materials back to a village in which their parents had served in Ecuador.
They encountered visitors from a neighbouring village who were excited to discover that Bible materials were available in their language.
“So these children were able to pass on materials,” he said.
Some Facts About Wycliffe Bible Translators and the People They Reach
- WBT relies on prayer and financial contributions to support its members.
- WBT believes God loves to speak to us in the language we understand best – our heart language!
- WBT supports national organisations involved in the Bible translation movement.
- Did you know there are over 7,000 languages in the world? The thousands of different languages, cultures, and art forms are evidence of God’s creativity.
- More information at Wycliffe Bible Translators.