Making Advances in Bible Translation Through Technology

Pioneer Bible Translators, with whom we work, just sent out their May “E-News”, an electronic newsletter to keep people updated on what PBT is doing around the world.  The first article, reprinted below, immediately grabbed my attention as I too have seen over the past two decades just how much our work is being affected positively by the electronic technological revolutions of our day.

Thankfully I was not doing Bible translation in the time period where the translators had to do everything by hand or slow and sloppy typewriter copies.  When our family went to the small village in Papua New Guinea in 1997, we brought along our massively heavy IBM desktop computer and full-size desktop monitor.  What a beast of a machine.  And if we didn’t have good solar power days, then we still had to rely on doing some work by hand.

As you read the opening paragraph, you will see it mention the use of a box filled with cards.  In the earliest days of Bible translation work, they literally used 3” x 5” recipe or blank cards, and would file them by categories and by alphabet in their shoeboxes.  When one of the breakthrough computer assisted translation tools was created, they decided to lovingly call the translation software, “Shoebox”.

                                

A small brown box sat on a shelf in our village home. Filled with note cards, that box represented years of study and work; it was a handwritten dictionary. It came to us from a missionary who had spent decades ministering in that area, learning the language by keeping a record of each word on a card. With pencils and manual typewriters, a missionary labored to bring the New Testament into a language for the first time. It was a daunting task, but that didn’t stop him.

In the past 30 years God has brought about a transformation greater than anyone could have imagined. Drawn by a vision to see God’s Word changing lives in every language, missionary teams from numerous Bible agencies have devoted their lives to translation all over the world. Of course, it wasn’t simply Westerners drawn into the task. As Christian communities around the globe grew, they themselves recognized the need for a Bible in a language they understood well.

    

While the numbers of translators and translation projects grew, their tools also expanded and became more and more powerful. Instead of relying solely on handwritten work, translators gained access to computers. Suddenly, drafting texts, making copies, checking spelling, and revising all became more doable tasks.

By 1996 the New Testament was available in the languages of 84 percent of the world’s population.[i] Now it is estimated that only 700-900 million people remain in the world without the whole New Testament in their language, of which 350 million have no Scripture at all.[ii] 

New technologies have not simply opened the door to faster progress in the translation task; they have also created new possibilities for communication. Today digital Scripture distribution is a reality. Downloadable over the Internet, print-on-demand, live streaming audio, and text via cell phones—these abilities will only grow in the coming decades, giving people unprecedented access to the Bible in whatever their situation.

Over the coming decades, if the people of God will mobilize more Bible translators, innovate ever greater technologies for the task, and give more resources toward Bible translation, we have the chance to make the greatest contribution toward obeying the great commission in history. Lately, missionary recruits have been flocking to Pioneer Bible Translators, and we are praying that God will continue to add to our team so that we can double our number of teammates again by 2018.

Our goal is to fill the gaps in the Bible translation movement so that we and our partners will see churches with Scripture transforming every language group by 2050. Your support of Pioneer Bible Translators moves us closer to this reality and we thank you!

                                

I too want to thank so many people and churches who have stood with me and my family over many years as we have worked hard to help get God’s Word into the hands of the people of Papua New Guinea.  We know that there are literally hundreds of people who pray for us and for our translation work on a regular basis.  We also know that we would not be able to do as well as we are doing in this ministry work without this prayer coverage.

I would also like to thank the many people who have helped us financially to do this work.  PBT is what is known as a “Faith” mission.  By that we mean that every missionary (including us) do not receive a guaranteed salary from our mission, but rather, we live by faith trusting that God will prompt churches and individuals to help support our work financially.  Presently, we are receiving only 75% of our projected budget, but we are still moving forward by faith that God will supply the need at the time we need it.

Perhaps God may be calling some of my “Listening Post” readers to join us as financial partners as well as supportive readers of this devotional blog.  If God has spoken to your heart about helping support our work as I have written so much about in these blog articles, please send me an email to norm.weatherhead@gmail.com  and I can let you know how you could become a partner with us in this important ministry.  May God bless you all as you read these words.

                                

[i]Wycliffe Bible Translators 1996. Bible Translation Needs Bulletin. Dallas, TX: Wycliffe Bible Translators.

[ii]Forum of Bible Agencies. Forum of Bible Agencies International, 2011. Available from http://www.forum-intl.net

Advertisements