A new source for Bible translation

By November 25, 2015
(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates via Facebook)

(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates via Facebook)

International (Wycliffe Associates) — Wycliffe Associates, in partnership with the unfoldingWord Project, has launched the Unlocked Literal Bible, an open source Bible targeted for use by indigenous Bible translators. It was developed by the unfoldingWord editorial board.

The Unlocked Literal Bible, which was finished in October, is a complete Old and New Testament that will allow Bible translators worldwide to translate the Scriptures into their own language without having to pay licensing fees or adhere to copyright restrictions, which can slow the progress of Bible translation. The public domain Unlocked Literal Bible is being made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 License.

“We see this as the process that puts all of the tools that are needed for high-quality Bible translation into the hands of the church globally,” said Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates.

The new open source Bible will enable translators in 48 gateway languages to create open-license Bible translations in majority languages that will be used by translators in the 3,300 language groups in the world that still do not have the Scriptures. According to unfoldingWord, a gateway language is defined as “a language of wider communication though which content can be delivered to every other language, via translation by bilingual speakers.”

Wycliffe Associates anticipates that the Unlocked Literal Bible will increase Bible knowledge among churches that have been without the Scriptures in their own language.

“In contrast to the local American church down the street, where they don’t have to translate a Bible, congregations in other parts of the world come to know the Scriptures intimately through translation,” said Smith.

The Unlocked Literal Bible fosters collaboration with churches in areas that need a Bible in their mother-tongue language. The churches become active agents in translating the Scriptures into their language, as the translation process is no longer dependent on foreign Bible translator learning their language and then translating the Scriptures.

Instead, churches can begin a translation process through MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), an innovative approach to Bible translation that Wycliffe Associates launched last year.

The MAST approach brings together multiple teams of national translators, church accuracy checkers, and certified translation consultants to translate Scripture portions simultaneously, working side-by-side in parallel, rather than having a single team translate its way through the Scriptures sequentially.

A draft version of the Unlocked Literal Bible can be viewed at unfoldingword.org. According to the website, a downloadable format of the Bible will be available soon.

About Wycliffe Associates
Organized in 1967 by friends of Bible translators, Wycliffe Associates empowers national Bible translators to provide God’s Word in their own language, partners with the local church to direct and guard translation work, harnessing their passion and desire for God’s Word, and engages people from all around the world to provide resources, technology, training, and support for Bible translation.

Because millions of people around the world still wait to read the Scriptures in the language of their heart, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as it can to see every verse of God’s Word translated into every tongue to speak to every heart. Last year, 2,544 Wycliffe Associates team members worked to speed Bible translations in 73 countries.


  • Matt says:

    – You never said what language this Unlocked Literal Bible is in. Greek/Hebrew? English?
    -Who is charging licensing fees to Bible translators? How is this ethical?

  • Are you competing for dollars and running competition with Wycliffe Bible Translators? If so, you would do everyone a favor to change the name Wycliffe Associates to something that’s less confusing. WA was begun as a way to support translators, not to run competition with them.

  • Leo says:

    Matt, the ULB is in English, check it out here: unfoldingword.org/bible.

    If translators are getting charged licensing fees for their bible translation work, it would be coming from the copyright holder for the bible they are working from, which likely would be one of the bible societies (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_society).

    License fees are only one of a host of ways the copyright system presents challenges to the spread of the bible, for a full analysis of the situation and good advice on how to move forward check out The Christian Commons by Tim Jore: unfoldingword.org/tcc

  • Ian says:

    I was wondering, couldn’t the NET Bible be translated without license fees? Or just to give translators more than one English source?

    Of course, ideally, translations should be from Hebrew and Greek, but may be difficult or impossible to find people in these minority languages who know Hebrew and Greek.

  • Who and why on earth would come to idea to charge translators for Bible translation? I think Bible is an “open source” for everybody, isn’t it?

  • K.V.Simon says:

    Praise and thank the Lord for this initiative .
    May it be greatly used of the Lord for the word of God to run swiftly to all .
    In prayer .

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