Happy Bible Translation Day!
September 30 is National Bible Translation Day in the U.S. and has been since 1966. Surprised? Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, suggested the idea to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Bible Translation Day was born!
You may be unfamiliar with this celebration, but never fear. Here are the historical background and some ideas for commemorating and celebrating the work of bringing God's Word to every language.
Saint Jerome's Day
September 30 is the feast day of Saint Jerome, and it's no accident that Townsend chose this as Bible Translation Day. Jerome served the church as a priest, theologian, historian... and translator! In the 4th century A.D. he translated the Scriptures into Latin, the common language of the church at the time.
In order to complete what later became known as the Latin Vulgate translation, Jerome traveled to Jerusalem to learn more about the Hebrew Scriptures. In this era, most educated Romans were familiar with Greek, but spoke Latin in everyday use. Before Jerome's translation, the Latin version was riddled with errors and confusing language, based on the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures rather than the Hebrew texts themselves.
Jerome's time of study in Jerusalem testifies to his belief that beginning with the source text would produce a better final translation. Today, the Vulgate is recognized as the standard Latin translation. In Jerome's time, his translation made the Scriptures more accessible to believers.
After completing his translation, Jerome went on to write many commentaries, histories, and theological treatises. He is one of the most prolific authors of Christian theology and history, second to St. Augustine of Hippo.
Bible Translation Day
So how can Christians today build on Jerome's legacy of biblical scholarship and translation and the belief that all tribes, languages, and people ought to have access to God's Word?
Read the Bible in Your Language
First, open the Bible! Be mindful today of the fact that generations of men and women have worked to translate God's Word into words you can understand. Read it! Listen to it! Share it! Jesus himself said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
Meditate today on a passage, story, or verse that has had an impact on your faith. Write it down, draw a picture, or share its impact on your life with a friend. As St. Peter and the prophet Isaiah remind us, God's Word endures forever and that's worth celebrating!
Pray for Bible Translation Efforts Today
Thank God that he has raised up translation workers in centuries past and today who are passionate about bringing his Word to the nations! Thank him for the impact the Scriptures have had on your own heart and for speaking to you in a way that you can understand.
Then, pray. Pray earnestly for the translation projects going on right now in hundreds of languages around the world: that his Spirit would guide them to translate clearly and accurately, that he would raise up more workers for this work, and open hearts to receive the translated Scriptures.
Pray also for the bibleless people groups of the world. There are speakers of over 2,000 languages still waiting for Scripture translation to begin in their heart language. Pray for God to meet them where they are and bring the resources needed to make these translations a reality.
For more ideas on how to pray for Bible translation efforts worldwide, check out this list.
Bible Translation Day is a great occasion to learn more about the global efforts and consider how you can be a part.
There are many roles to fill on a translation team and not all of them require a proficiency in linguistics or another language! Educate yourself on the current roles and needs - you may be surprised to find your fit.
Commit to praying regularly for Bible translation efforts beyond today. Pick a day of the week or time in your schedule to pray for a specific people group, project, or church.
Share what you know of Bible translation with your family, friends, and church. Share your own Bible, and learn where you can find Bibles in other languages for those in your community who may need them.
Bake a Cake!
In my family, it's not really a celebration without cake. Currently, the Bible has been translated into 700 languages! That means the speakers of 700 languages worldwide have God's Word in words their hearts can understand. If that's not reason to celebrate (with cake), I don't know what is. Happy Bible Translation Day!