Wycliffe Bible Translators: A Bible for the Deaf in Japan

By July 2, 2020

Japan (MNN) – For about 300,000 Japanese people, there is still no Bible in their heart language. Deaf Japanese are spiritually isolated in addition to feeling culturally separated from hearing friends and family.

Japanese Sign Language (JSL) is very different from written and spoken Japanese. Yet, the Bible is currently only available in those formats. That makes Christianity feel inaccessible to many. For Deaf in the country, Scripture is simply in a language with which they struggle to connect.

Wycliffe Bible Translators is working to change that. Through partnerships with local Bible translators, they hope to bring a full video Bible to the Japanese Deaf.

The Translation Team

Andy Keener with Wycliffe USA provides some background on the team. “The Japanese sign language project has been going on since 1993. So, this has been a long time coming. The team has been rather small. Today it consists of nine people and they’ve completed 33% of the entire Bible. And this past year, they finished the book of Daniel and right now they’re working on the book of Ezra.”

(Photo Courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators)

Translation is always a painstaking process. It requires careful attention to detail. Translation into sign language is no different. In one instance, translators spent 20 minutes deciding how to sign the word for wings. In JSL there are many different ways to show wings. The team wants to choose the representation that is most accurate to the text.

The work is challenging, but it is crucial for many on the team.

Keener says, “These Deaf believers recognize that without the Word of God available in their own sign language – Japanese Sign Language – their Deaf friends, and sometimes relatives and just people that they know that are deaf really aren’t ever going to have a chance to understand the Gospel. And they know what the Gospel has done in their life, just like it has done in so many lives. And they want to pass that along. And having the Word of God available in their sign language is a critical way of doing that.”

Offering Hope to Closed Off People

As translation work is finished, videos are recorded, edited and produced. They will eventually be available through DVDs, the ViBi (Visual Bible) website, YouTube, and phone apps.

The team hopes and prays that these videos will be the first step to softening the hearts of many marginalized Deaf in the country. Like their hearing counterparts Deaf often see the Bible as something for others, but not for them.

“Japan was a closed country for many, many, many years to outsiders, and the Deaf absorb that a lot of that same sort of culture,” Keener says. “So it is a challenging arena for the Gospel.”

Join in the Work

However, God is moving. Translation is happening and people are seeing the truth of the Gospel. But translation must continue until all people see the truth of Scripture in a way they can understand.

(Photo Courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators)

Keener says, “Their heart language is a sign language. And we really want to see God’s Word made available to each heart language so that there’s no language barrier between individuals anywhere in the world, and the revelation that God has given us through His Word. And so that’s why it’s so important to see this happen in Japan as well as around the world.”

Join Wycliffe USA today and help support the work of the Video Bible team in Japan as they translate Scripture into JSL. Pray that God would give the JSL team wisdom as they prayerfully consider the best translations for Scripture.  Click here to learn more about the project and join Wycliffe USA in supporting JSL Bible translation.


Header Photo Courtesy of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

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