Features, Highlights

Could you imagine life without the Bible?

Mountain province in the Philippines

“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9 NLT)

Did you know that throughout the history of the printed Bible, there have been an estimated 900 English translations and paraphrases of the Bible?1 About 12 are commonly known and used by Protestants today.2 But of the 7,360 known languages in the world today, over 4,000 do not have a translation of the full Scripture, with more than 1,600 not even having a single verse.

Given this situation, illumiNations Asia, the Asian arm of an alliance of Bible translation partners, has launched an online campaign, “Imagine Life Without the Bible”. It aims to motivate and encourage followers of God’s Word by supporting the translation, publication and distribution of the Scripture in every language in which it is not yet available in Asia. The goal is that by 2033, 95 per cent of the world’s population will have a full version of the Bible available to them; 99.96 per cent will have the New Testament; and 100 per cent will have a large enough portion of the Scripture to understand what the Gospel is.

Francis Chan, author and pastor, reminds us that part of loving our neighbours as ourselves is bringing the Word of God to every ethnic group, each with its own language and culture. While missionaries might be able to share the Word through verbal translation, there is nothing like reading the Word of God in one’s mother tongue or “heart language”, and being able to engage directly with the Bible’s life-giving words. The priceless gift of salvation can come through one’s own reading of the Bible, as was the experience of American pastor Craig Groeschel.

Language groups of whom you might have never heard, such as the Kimyal people from West Papua, or the Roblomanon and Lubuagan language groups from the Philippines, have already had their lives irrevocably transformed by the translation of portions of the Scripture in their own language. Many more are still waiting.

Bishop Emeritus Dr Wee Boon Hup, who is a member of the illumiNations Asia advisory board, elaborates on how you can be part of the Bible translation movement: “Besides financial support, [you can give] emotional support, prayer support, and [be] present to encourage the Bible translators as they continue to do their work. We need to slowly wean ourselves away from our dependence on our brothers and sisters from the West, who have helped us tremendously in the past few hundred years. Asian churches now have a large amount of resources within our own nations. Asia needs to step up to reach out to Asians.”

Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung agrees: “As the global translation agencies unite together to fulfil God’s purpose in Asia, they will need our partnership and prayers. May the Lord bless this work and may every nation, tribe, people and tongue in Asia by illuminated by His Word.”

The illumiNations Asia “Imagine Life Without the Bible” campaign runs from Aug to Nov 2020. Visit https://www.illuminations.asia/imagine-public.html and register to watch the digital campaign, so that you can better understand the power of the Bible in one’s heart language.

1 This number is according to the American Bible Society, and includes translations that are not a complete Bible or Testament, but of a group of books or even a single book. https://news.americanbible.org/article/number-of-english-translations-of-the-bible.

2 https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/why-are-there-so-many-different-versions-of-the-bible.html.

Community dialogue with public school teachers in the Philippines
Community dialogue with the first evangelical pastor from Northern Catanduanes

What can you do to help the 1 billion people in the world who are trapped in Bible poverty?

  1. Give a chapter—if 1189 of us give a chapter each, together we can give one full Bible to a language group in Asia
  2. Host a video gathering for your family, friends or cell group—illumiNations Asia will provide you with all the resources you need
  3. Invite your friends to join this movement by sharing it.

Sheri Goh is the Editor of Methodist Message. / Graphics and photos courtesy of SIL International