Noses out of joint over Bible translations

Cross Bible Globe

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to get a picture of how Christians can disagree over various Bible translations, I recommend a visit to one of the Internet Christian forums. I participate in a rather large one.[1]

Part of what one person wrote was:

The Bible needs to be translated every 100 years or so, or else it would be lost in understanding to the next generation. If you educate people on how to translate KJV but make no translations one day all you are left with is a few people who truly understand it, and that is not preaching God’s word throughout the world.[2]

Narrow thinking on English Bible translations

I think we are thinking too narrowly.[3] I suggest that we consider the rest of the world before investing one more cent in another English translation.

The task of Bible translation is an enormous one and here we are arguing over the KJV vs ESV, NLT, NIV, etc. These are some of the language and translation challenges in our world.

The British Council provides this information about English speakers:

How many people speak English? clip_image001

clip_image003 ‘English has official or special status in at least seventy five countries with a total population of over two billion’;
clip_image003[1] ‘English is spoken as a first language by around 375 million and as a second language by around 375 million speakers in the world’;
clip_image003[2] ‘speakers of English as a second language probably outnumber those who speak it as a first language’;
clip_image003[3] ‘around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language’;
clip_image003[4] ‘one out of four of the world’s population speak English to some level of competence; demand from the other three-quarters is increasing’.

English as first language

However, of the 375 million people who use English as their first language, what percentage is that of the world’s population? The world population clock, which I checked online as I was writing this article, says that the world’s population is 7.222 billion people (29 March 2014).
Therefore, 5.357% of the people of the world speak English as their first language. And here we are arguing about an archaic vs contemporary English translations.

Languages still needing to be put into writing

According to Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) of Wycliffe Bible Translators, ‘Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 875 million illiterate people are women’ (SIL);

Wycliffe

According to Wycliffe Bible Translators,

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation (2013) was:

clip_image0056,900+ … the number of languages spoken in the world today.
clip_image005[1]1,999+ …the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a possible need of a Bible translation to begin.
clip_image005[2]2,167 …the total number of current translation programs around the world, on behalf of 1.9 billion people.

The detailed statistics  from Wycliffe were:

The Worldwide Status of Bible Translation (2013)

6,900+ …the number of languages spoken in the world today.
1,900+ …the number of languages without any of the Bible, but with a possible need of a Bible translation to begin.
2,167 …the total number of current translation programs around the world*, on behalf of 1.9 billion people.
1,707 …the number of those current translation programs that are being facilitated by Wycliffe, SIL, or other partner organizations.
1,294 …the number of language groups that have access to the New Testament in their heart language, representing 598 million people.
513 …the number of language groups that have access to the entire Bible in the language they understand best.
1,010 …the number of languages that have some portions of Scripture available in their language (one or more books)
Over 7 billion
…the population of the world.
180 million …the number of people who speak the more than 1,900 languages where translation projects have not yet begun.

Although Bible translation is progressing at a more rapid rate today than ever before, an overwhelming amount of work is yet to be done.

 

So there are still 1900+ languages in the world today that don’t have any Bible translation available. And of the 7 billion people in the world there are 875 million who are illiterate. This means that when Wycliffe and associate organisations develop a language in print and translate the Bible, they have to teach the people to read and write. This is a massive task.

Notes:


[1] Here the topic was, ‘Understanding the KJV’, Christian Forums, Baptists, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7809418-4/#post65286019 (Accessed 29 March 2014).

[2] Ibid., Bluelion #12, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7809418-2/ (Accessed 29 March 2014).

[3] This is my post at as OzSpen #40 at ibid., http://www.christianforums.com/t7809418-4/#post65286019 (Accessed 29 March 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.