The Bible has now been translated into 15 more languages worldwide since 2018. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators (@wycliffeuk), as of October 2019, 698 languages have the complete Bible (up from 683 in 2018), and 1,548 languages have a complete New Testament (up from 1,534). A further 1,138 have translated portions of the Bible (up from 1,133). But still more than 250 million people around the world are totally without Scripture in their language.
Active translation or preparatory work is progressing in 2,617 languages in 161 countries. Wycliffe and its partner organization SIL are involved in about three-quarters of this work.
“These are encouraging figures, and represent the tremendous work that translation teams are doing across the world,” says Peter Brassington, who compiles the statistics and helps Wycliffe to analyze them. “Changes year to year don’t always look dramatic on the surface, but Bible translation requires dedicated, long-term effort, and the translations finished now often started many years ago. I joined Wycliffe in 1996: the number of languages in which there is a complete Bible has doubled in that time.”
Reflecting on the past year, James Poole, executive director of Wycliffe, says: “Yet again, we have seen that when people get their New Testament or Bible in their language, it makes such a difference. Seeing the joy and excitement at the dedications of the Keliko, Wamey, and Nyakyusa New Testaments in this past 12 months reminds me how much it means to people to have the Scriptures in their language. As people read the word of God with full understanding so they’re transformed in a far deeper way.”
According to the statistics, the number of active languages (including Sign Languages) in the world stands at 7,353. Although 3,384 languages have some portions of the Bible, there are 3,969 (covering 252 million people) with not even a single verse.
“As the statistics show, there is still much work to do,” continues Poole. “Nearly 1.5 billion people don’t have the Bible in the language they understand best: that’s one in five of the world’s population. That’s why Wycliffe continues to work with urgency to translate God’s word into all these languages.”
The data are current as of 1 October 2019, and are compiled from data provided through progress.Bible by Wycliffe organizations, SIL International, United Bible Societies, and other partners. Population data are based on available information about first-language speakers in SIL’s Ethnologue.
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 363 people from the UK and Ireland serving 486 million people who speak 368 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,300 or so languages spoken worldwide today, only about 700 have the Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (one in every five 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.
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