Wycliffe Associates rolls out Open Bible Stories

By September 26, 2014
Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates.

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

International (MNN) — When people learn English as a second language, they learn today’s English. When they don’t have the Bible in their own translation, they’re going to read it in English. They’ll read a modern translation of the Bible because it’s what they understand best.

And when their heart is burdened for their own people to hear the Gospel, they’ll want a translation. And here lies the problem. Any Scripture in the English they know is relatively new. And any translations of the last 50 years are under the confines of copyright.

What does that mean for the translation process?

Wycliffe Associates president and CEO Bruce Smith explains this is a bigger problem than what people think. It slows down the process of Bible translation immensely. And it’s not just people who speak English as a second language.

Because of the natural changes and shifts in a language over time, it’s harder for anyone in this modern day to fully explain some of the older, public domain texts.

Rather than let this roadblock slow down the process of translation, Wycliffe Associates has decided there is still work to be done with what resources are available.

With the help of various partners, Wycliffe Associates has developed 50 Bible stories that are open to everybody–no copyright.

Smith explains, “Open Bible Stories is a collection of 20 Old Testament and 30 New Testament stories, and it’s a way for people to get rapid Bible content into their communities through storying.

“The unique thing about Open Bible Stories is they are explicitly not copyrighted, which basically means that they are open sourced: they’re available for anybody to translate readily into any new language.”

This resource will allow for faster and easier access to Scriptural content for more languages. The Open Bible Stories are in print, digital, and audio format–it can reach communities regardless of their level of access to technology.

Smith explains this method is effective because it is a form of storying. Story telling is a natural start to introducing the Gospel, and it relates to all people around the world.

“These 50 Open Bible Stories are basically a script that allows them to get that Old Testament and New Testament content into the community conversation quickly and pave the way for Scripture translation to follow,” says Smith.

It only takes about four to six weeks for a new translation to be completed. It’s short-term work with immediate impact, Smith explains.

Want to help?

“We need people to be involved in the training and producing the tools that will help teams around the world to be able to use this,” Smith says.

Eventually the project will need technicians, trainers, and Biblical scholars to enable translators to better understand what they’re reading.

If you want to be on this team, contact Wycliffe Associates here.

Here is a volunteer opportunity for web and app developers.

For more information and to partner with Wycliffe financially, click here.

And finally, says Smith, you can support Wycliffe Associates through “prayer, to be sure that we’re on the right track, that we’re in sync with what God is doing in and through the church around the world, and using it in a way that helps to speed the access to his Word.”


  • Nicole says:

    Great idea to get around copyright issues, but that still leaves one big question in my mind.

    Why is anyone translating to another language from modern English? Shouldn’t we be using the original languages of the Scriptures as our starting point?

  • Russ says:

    It sounds like this resource is not for trained translators (who do use the original languages), but for the average person who doesn’t have any Scripture in their own language. They probably understand modern English better than the original languages of Scripture! This sounds like an opportunity for them to have a first encounter with Scripture in a language that they might be able to understand. The article says: “Eventually the project will need…Biblical scholars to enable translators to better understand what they’re reading.” That’s probably when the original languages will come into the equation.

  • Jackie Crews says:

    This is a wonderful idea. I teach ESL at my church. We have a devotional / snack time during the morning. Could we use these materials with our class of students? We have a mixed group of Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and more at times.

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