The Impact of Bible Translation
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
“Our goal is not to just get a book translated. A book is not the end result. It's transformed lives.” – Bernie May, Seed Company Founder
Heart Words in Heart Language
One evening in Jos, we listened to the translators' stories of what the Bible in their heart languages has meant to them.
Most churches in Nigeria use a Bible in one of the official national languages: English or Hausa. While most everyone speaks these languages in wider communication, understanding concepts like love, hope, forgiveness, and mercy is difficult in a language that isn't your mother tongue.
Each translation project starts with Christian believers who long to experience God's Word in their own heart language. It isn't enough to have the Scriptures in your second or third language. Why not?
I'll let them answer.
He Who Has Ears, Let Him Hear
One Nigerian translator and pastor brought a recently translated text to a church of mostly elderly women. He read it aloud and then taught about that Scripture, all in their heart language. He said, "Afterwards, they begged me to stay. They had never heard God speaking their language before!" Years later, that one bible study has grown their church exponentially.
Another translator recalled the first time the gospel of Luke was read in his language. "The people in the church were amazed that the Bible was in their language." When word spread to the surrounding churches in the area, they sent him messages saying, "Bring the Bible back from Jos for us too!"
Revitalizing Endangered Languages and Hearts
Bible translation helps churches grow and understand their faith with new clarity. At the same time, many of the translators I talked to expressed how much it has done for their language communities.
"Before we started translating the Bible, people did not use our language as much as Hausa or English. Now, all the pastors use our language in church." Another translator implemented Worship God in Your Language Day at the school where he is principal, so that each student can sing praise in their heart language. He said, "It is teaching the students that their languages are important too, not just Hausa or English."
One language had no written form prior to the start of their translation project. Now, they can read and write it, bringing hope to the older generation of speakers and pride to the younger. "Now we have road signs around town in our language!" one translator laughed, "That is because of our Bible translation!"
Every Nation, Tribe, People, and Language
One of my favorite passages in Revelation attempts to paint a picture of where all this effort is headed.
"After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” -Rev. 7:9-10
There are over 7,000 languages spoken in the world this very minute. Of those, a mere 699 have the complete Bible. Over 2,000 don't have a single verse.
But God knows every language. He speaks and understands each one. He knows their names and, more importantly, the human hearts those languages represent.
Shouldn't they be given the chance to know him too?
Until All Have Heard,