In 2022, the third consecutive year marked by global disruptions, Bible Societies around the world completed Scripture translations in 81 languages used by 723 million people.
From Brazil to Bangladesh, 57 language groups – a total of 100 million people – received first Scripture translations. New or revised translations were completed in another 25 languages used by over 623 million people. These provide Scripture access to language communities whose needs are no longer met by previous translations.
“The unique and powerful story of UBS has Bible translation at its heart. Our translation teams are at the forefront of our mission as they strive to unlock the transforming power of God’s Word for their communities. It is a laborious task which requires sustained commitment and dedication – truly a ‘labour of love’. May Paul’s words to the Corinthians encourage each one of our translation colleagues to ‘remain firm and steadfast’,” comments Dirk Gevers, UBS Secretary General.
First translations for 100 million people
- 100 million people received first translations
- 14 first full Bibles and 5 first New Testaments
In 2022, 100 million people received first Bible translations. Among the 57 first translations published by Bible Societies last year, there were 14 first full Bibles.
Five communities from three continents welcomed the first New Testament in their language – one in Latin America, one in Africa, and three in Asia.
From 5 million Ethiopians who speak Arsi Oromo to 6,000 Indonesians who speak Taghulandang (Sangir dialect), almost 13 million people received a first translation of the full Bible in their heart language.
First or additional portions of Scripture were also made available in another 38 languages across the world, including colloquial Egyptian, spoken by 77 million people, and Lule Saami, spoken by 2,000 people in Sweden.
A Bible translation completed in record time
The Bible Society of Nigeria (BSN) translated the first full Bible into Okun in just five years, breaking its previous translation record – completing the Igala Common Language Bible in 11 years. The Okun ‘language’ is a variant of the Yoruba language. The Iroyin Ayo version is the Yoruba Bible in Common language produced by the Bible Society of Nigeria in 2005. Due to the Okun language’s proximity to Yoruba, the Iroyin Ayo was adopted as the Base Text for the project.
While it stands as a distinct translation, the Okun Bible is in many ways an adaptation of the Iroyin Ayo version of the Yoruba Bible, albeit using Okun nuances. At the dedication service of the Okun Bible which took place in November 2022, BSN President Bishop Dr. Timothy Banwo urged Okun speakers from all walks of life to read the Bible in their language regularly.
First full Bible for Vietnam’s second-largest people
The Tày people are the second-largest ethnic group in Vietnam with a population of over 1.8 million who are scattered across the country’s 63 provinces and cities. There was a great need for the Tày Bible among the Tày Christian communities who had a deep desire to learn the Word of God and share the Gospel in their heart language. The first Tày Bible, published at the end of 2022, is the answer to their prayers.
5.9 billion people have the full Bible in their language
- 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible
- 51% of the world’s languages have no Scripture at all
Thanks to the efforts of Bible Societies and other Bible translation agencies, the full Bible is available in 733 languages spoken by 5.9 billion people, as of the start of 2023. Over 70% of these were translated by the United Bible Societies Fellowship.
Another 1,622 languages have the New Testament, and 1,255 have portions of Scripture.
Altogether, 7.2 billion people have some Scripture in their mother tongue.
A total of 3,776 languages – more than half the world’s languages – used by 201 million people, still have no Scripture at all. 1.5 billion people do not have the full Bible.
That is why United Bible Societies and other Bible translation agencies are continuing to work towards the goal of making Scripture available in every language. Greater collaboration, developments in technology, and investment by donors have all led to unprecedented momentum in Bible translation in recent years.
A vision to complete 1,200 translations by 2038
To steward this momentum, since 2018, the United Bible Societies Fellowship has been focused on a bold vision – to complete 1,200 Scripture translations by 2038. Of those, 880 are first translations, and another 320 are new or revised translations.
So far, 133 translations have been completed and 333 are in progress. Work on the remaining 734 is yet to begin.
“The effort and resources needed to translate the Bible text into a language spoken by millions of people, or a language spoken by a few thousand, are still the same. We are committed to completing well over 1,000 Bible translations by 2038. Although the last three years were challenging on a global level, we will persevere and endeavour to complete the task. We are continually grateful to Bible translators for their hard work and to donors for releasing funding for translation ministry,” declares UBS Executive Director Bible Ministry Alexander M. Schweitzer
New and revised translations to engage new generations
Languages change over time and Scripture translations can become outdated and hard to understand, particularly for younger generations. In 2022, Bible Societies provided new or revised Scripture translations in 25 languages used by more than 623 million people.
New or revised full Bible translations were published in some major languages, such as Marathi (83 million speakers), Kurdish (15 million speakers), and Kyrgyz (more than 5 million speakers). Revised portions of the Book of John were also provided for the 320 people who speak Skolt Saami in Finland. Translations are also provided for language communities from the diaspora. The Eastern Punjabi community living in Canada received a revised translation of 1 Corinthians to Colossians – a good example of engaging with diaspora communities.
Old manuscripts receive a new lease of life
The translation of the Bible into Ge’ez was done around the 4th and 5th centuries and it has been serving Ethiopian Christianity for the last 15 centuries, having a significant impact on the socio-political and scientific history of Ethiopia. The Bible Society of Ethiopia took the initiative to collect the manuscripts from various sources as it was mandated and requested by the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
In June 2022, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarch, His Holiness Abune Matthias, presided over the dedication of the newly compiled and published Ge’ez Bible and remarked, “It is a new day for Ethiopia. I feel that we have joined the Christians of the 4th and 5th century as they first received the Word in the language that spoke to their heart. Now we have welcomed the Word that our Christians yearned for a long period of time and it is a treasure that has come to our homes.”
Eight Study Editions deepen understanding
Study Editions also help people understand Scripture more deeply. Eight languages spoken by more than 451 million people in Europe (Dutch, Slovenian, Portuguese), Latin America (Q’eqchi’) and Asia (Bengali, Gujarati, Thai and Vietnamese) received Study Editions last year. Four full Bible study editions were published in Bengali, Gujarati, Dutch and Portuguese.
Marathon launch for new Slovenian Study New Testament Bible
Due to popular demand, the Bible Society of Slovenia created the ‘Journaling New Testament’ – a study New Testament Bible designed to help Slovenians deepen their personal faith in God.
Since its public launch in January 2022, this long- requested edition has become the catalyst for the creation of several new Bible study ‘Ecclesia’ groups, springing up without even any direct initiative from a local church.
Among other features, it contains blank space for written responses to the text (thoughts, prayers, drawing), new references with links to related verses in other parts of the Bible, colour appendices, and a list of eighteen major Christian themes with corresponding Bible passages.
Scripture portions in 20 sign languages
Only around 60 of the world’s 400 sign languages have some Scripture, and only one has the full Bible. Last year, Bible Societies completed Scripture portions in 20 sign languages.
In September, the Bible Society of Congo celebrated the International Day of Sign Language, for the first time, with an interfaith church service in sign language under the direction of Noemie Badiabo, a deaf member of the team who is translating the New Testament into sign language. In 2022, the translation team managed to translate potions from Mark into Congo Sign Language. The ceremony had several highlights including the participation of a choir comprised of hearing-impaired people and the message given by Father Cheret Bazikila, a deaf priest from the Diocese of Brazzaville.
Macedonian deaf community able to understand the Bible for the first time
The deaf community within the Republic of North Macedonia – estimated to number approximately 6,000 people – has had very little or no understanding of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus.
With only a small group of interpreters – typically the children of deaf parents – called upon to serve the needs of the entire community, few resources are available in Macedonian Sign Language and access is extremely limited.
In 2022, the Bible Society’s project team successfully completed the translation of nine biblical stories, including ‘Jesus cleanses the temple’ (Mark 11, 15-19; John 2, 13-22), the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’ (Luke 15, 11-32), and the ‘Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Man’ (Luke 18, 9-14), among others.
The Macedonian Bible Society’s Project Coordinator, Dr. Aneta Jovkovska, highlights how this sign language project is working to fill this longstanding gap: “Because of the limited access to Bible resources, the deaf in North Macedonia were generally limited and, not by choice, illiterate about the Bible and were indifferent to all things related to the Bible.”
Since 2018, this project has continuously increased the deaf community’s active inclusion in learning the Bible content as pictured, right. Dr Jovkovska shares that the deaf community provide an important contribution to the project, offering feedback to translators who are then able to amend the videos: “The project is really well received among the deaf people in North Macedonia.
They look forward to every next story and many of them are also involved in the project phase when they have to make observations and comments about their understanding of the stories. Based on their comments, corrections are made to the video presentations before they are officially published.”
Braille Scriptures in two languages
Although audio Scriptures are available in many languages, many blind people prefer to use Braille to engage with Scripture more deeply and independently. But less than 10% of the 733 languages with the full Bible have it available in Braille format.
Visually impaired people in the Lango sub-region of Uganda are now able to read the complete Bible in their language following the launch of the first-ever Braille Bible in Lango in November 2022. Braille Scripture portions in Armenian were also published.
Increasing Scripture access through the Digital Bible Library®
Just over ten years after it was set up, the Digital Bible Library® contains Scripture texts in the languages of 6.1 billion people – more than three quarters of the global population.
This repository of digital Scripture translations, which is managed by United Bible Societies, enables secure storage and more efficient sharing of Scripture in different languages and formats contributed by Bible Societies and other Bible agencies. At the start of 2023, the Digital Bible Library® contained 3,217 texts in 1,968 languages used by 6.1 billion people. Over 63% of the 1,362 full Bibles in the Digital Bible Library® were provided by Bible Societies.
It also stores nearly 1,638 audio Scriptures in the languages of 5.9 billion people and 25 sign language translations with a potential audience of 2.4 million people. The Braille files in 44 languages make it much easier for Bible Societies to produce Braille Scriptures.
A few milestones reached by the Digital Bible Library® in 2022 are:
- March 2022 – 1,500 audio and 3,000 text entries
- June 2022 – texts in 1,900 languages
- December 2022 – 3,200 text entries
Thanks to the Digital Bible Library®, hundreds of millions of people worldwide can access Scripture in their own language and chosen format through websites and apps such as YouVersion and Global.Bible.
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