Scripture access 

BIBLE TRANSLATION AROUND THE WORLD: Some 3,655 languages still have no Scriptures in their language according to the latest UBS report. GRAPHIC: United Bible Societies.

Lumasaaba speakers of Uganda, Mongondow speakers of Indonesia and Inupiaq speakers of Canada were among 30 different language groups, accounting for some 95 million people, that received at least some Scriptures in their native tongue for the first time last year, according to the latest data from the United Bible Societies.

Releasing its annual figures for 2016, the organisation – a global network of Bible societies working in more than 200 countries and territories around the world – also said that 17 language groups received a complete Bible for the first time last year while, in other ‘firsts’, six language groups received a New Testament and another seven groups received some portion of Scripture.

Overall, Bible societies around the world assisted in the completion of translations in 61 different languages spoken by more than 428 million people during 2016. Alongside the ‘first’ translations, these included 31 non-first new translations, revisions and study editions in languages spoken by more than 333 million people.

The new translations mean that as at the end of 2016, the full Bible is now available in 648 languages spoken by almost 5.16 billion people while speakers of a further 1,432 languages – some 657 million people – have a New Testament in their native tongue. UBS says this leaves some 434 million people with only some portions of Scripture and a further 253 million people with no Scripture in their language.

Alexander M Schweitzer, head of global Bible translation at United Bible Societies, described the work of the Bible societies as “an incredible privilege as well as a continuing challenge”.

“Please pray for the Bible translators and the teams supporting them, so that 2017 will also bring significant progress in this vital mission.”

The annual report from UBS also shows that while there are more than 400 sign languages used as the first or ‘heart’ languages by 70 million deaf people worldwide, the New Testament is still only available in American Sign Language. Yet progress was made last year with teams in Japan, Lithuania, Hungary, Thailand and Cuba all completing translations of all or parts of books of the Bible while in Mexico a DVD was published on John’s epistles.

Progress was also made in translating Scriptures into Braille with new Braille portions of Scripture available in the Spanish, German and Kirundi languages. Only 44 languages have a full Bible in Braille.

Elsewhere the UBS reported that the online Digital Bible Library – described as “central to our strategy to make the Bible as widely and easily accessible as possible” – contained some 1,474 Bible, Testaments and portions of Scripture in 1,134 languages – spoken by more than 5.2 billion people - as of the end of last year. There are also now 403 audio Scriptures in 345 languages.

Owned and maintained by the UBS in partnership with other Bible agencies and the support of the Every Tribe Every Nation alliance, the Digital Bible Library provides Scripture texts to the public through partners such as BibleSearch and YouVersion.