Bible translations in turbulent times

By January 10, 2020

International (MNN) – Scripture translation is becoming more difficult, but it’s a challenge Wycliffe Associates is preparing to address head on.

The organization is forming new strategies for a new decade. Wycliffe Associates is now preparing to begin Bible translation for over 400 language groups without Scripture. New technology and native expertise counter modern challenges.

A Changing Translation Landscape

High-profile conflicts and rising persecution are dangers translators must consider.

“Governments around the world and especially religiously-oriented governments are in a season of sort of escalating tension between the West and the rest,” says Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates.

Belivers, Christian, Bible

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

Smith has seen the increase in the past year and anticipates continued escalation. These movements are impacting the organization’s work. In the short term, some training locations become unavailable unexpectedly, he says.

However, in the long term, work is generally becoming more dangerous as the number of language groups without translations dwindles.

“All of the easy access, readily available languages that need Scripture have already been reached. And the only languages that are remaining are the ones that are in the most difficult places,” Smith says.

For Wycliffe, this is not unexpected; it’s the result of sustained work.

Local-Centric Translations

With increasing translation risks, the organization’s local-led model is even more crucial. The communities know their languages and the situation on the ground better than anyone.

“We take our cues completely from them, we follow their lead instead of the other way around,” Smith says.

Wycliffe is there to support these communities of believers. The translation strategy is church based and church owned.

“They’re wise, they’re shrewd and… they’re also the stakeholders in the outcome,” he says.

Ensuring Speed and Accuracy

Native translators working with Wycliffe use a method called MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation). Wycliffe workshops launch the new translation and translators collaborate on assigned Scripture passages. Translators then check the work through a multi-step process.

translation, Bible, Scripture

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

Computer tablets loaded with translation tools make their work more efficient and discreet.

“From the outside, it all looks like challenges. They look at it from the inside and say, ‘Yeah, but here’s the five opportunities that we can use to pursue and make progress,'” Smith says. “…They’re just frankly, unwilling to wait any longer for God’s Word in their language.”

Translation speed for a New Testament can take weeks or a few years, much faster than it took historically. The enhanced speed limits the window of risk and a lack of paper copies makes translations difficult to destroy if discovered.

These local partners are hyper-focused on accuracy, Smith finds.

“The local church leaders who speak the target language are engaged in the quality control process from the very beginning of the translation… So at the end of the translation, it’s already been woven into the fabric. It doesn’t have to be sewn in later as an afterthought,” Smith says.

Help Equip Translators

To make these 400 plus translations possible, translators need the necessary tools. Translation tablets are crucial for this work and a major priority for Wycliffe. The organization is aiming to deliver around 2,700 tablets. These $300 devices provide software, Biblical reference tools and the ability to upload work to prevent destruction. Help provide these resources here or by calling 1-800-THE-WORD.

Please pray for safety and wisdom among translators. In these turbulent times pray for the local believers effected.

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