The difference between oral and audio Scripture delivery — and why it matters

By November 13, 2020

International (MNN) — Two-thirds of the global population either can’t read, don’t read, or won’t read. For believers who learn orally, it’s a challenge to spend time in God’s Word when it means picking up a print Bible. And for oral learners outside the Church who’ve never touched a print Bible, they probably never will.

Spoken Worldwide records storied passages of translated Scripture for oral learners, and they just launched five new projects this past year.

Ed Weaver with Spoke Worldwide says there is a big difference between oral Scripture delivery and mere audio. “An audio delivery would be a Bible open in front of a reader with a microphone in front of them and they are reading what has been written down in text…. [With] spoken word, we use idioms, slang, we communicate in a more natural delivery than a more formal type of communication we just put down on a page.

“What we’re ultimately trying to do in oral Bible translation is create a natural delivery — the way people use their language in a local culture as a way to deliver Scripture, something that is faithful to the original text but in a very natural delivery that people would be able to understand completely and respond to.”


(Photo courtesy of Spoken Worldwide)

When an oral learner — even if they have the ability to read — listens to a spoken or oral Bible passage, they understand the passage and its spiritual meaning at a much deeper, personal level.

Spoken Worldwide’s oral translation process is detailed and rigorous, involving multilingual speakers, written Scripture review (for those that are part of the process and can read), oral translation and internalization, practiced storying, and local focus group sessions. Theologically qualified people meticulously review every step of the oral translation and presentation process.

Ultimately, these “storied” passages of translated Scripture are recorded for use in oral learning communities.

“Now, there are some presumptions on our part,” Weaver says. “This is translation that never hits a page. So there are people out there doing oral Bible translation, but in the process, they may be committing it down into a written form.

“Spoken Worldwide is saying, ‘We’ll let the experts in text-based translation handle that portion of it. We, on the other hand, are going to focus on that portion of the culture that really never need a written translation [and] would never use a written translation. So we’ll stay purist, if you will. We will start with oral and we will end with oral.’”

Although Spoken Worldwide’s five current oral Bible translation projects show encouraging signs of progress, there is still so much need.

(Photo courtesy of Spoken Worldwide)

Weaver says, “If you look at the final list of Bible translations that need Scripture and did the research, you’d find that probably at least two-thirds of those, if not more, will require an oral Bible translation.”

If you would like to support their mission, click here to donate to Spoken Worldwide!

Weaver also asks, “Pray for the rising up of talented people that have an understanding and a passion for…people to have access to Scripture no matter what their ability to read is. This is a complete paradigm shift in the translation world and the need is beyond imagination.”





Header photo courtesy of Spoken Worldwide.