Taking A Look At Bible Translation

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Special Bible Translation Videos

In many of my articles over the past two years, I have tried to explain what is involved in doing Bible translation work.  Explaining the process of translation, starting with a rough draft and then the numerous checking stages after that, can be done in words.  But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  And so that is what I will do for this article, provide you with some links to see some video clips that demonstrate and explain the ministry of Bible translation.

Last week, and on the very same day, two short videos were released online.  The first one, produced by Wycliffe Bible Translators, does an excellent job illustrating the stages and the challenges of Bible translation work.  Take a look at this video clip using a fictional language from Asia:

The Bible Translation Process

Now that you have a little taste of what it takes to translate the Bible into another language and culture of the world, you will want to take a look at this next video.  This video clip was just produced by our mission group, Pioneer Bible Translators, and it helps us to see the bigger global picture of Bible translation.  We know that God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the whole world.  But there are still over 2,200 languages in the world that do not have even one verse of Scripture in their language.

Watch this next video clip and try to gain a new perspective on what needs to be done in world missions:

Answer The Call

Now that you have seen these two quick video clips, I want to invite you to view a message that I preached to some churches in eastern Canada a few weeks ago.  I was invited to share about the ministry of Bible translation, which I am always happy to do.  In my message, I outline “The Task”, “The Challenges” and “The Vision” of Bible translation.  The message is about 40 minutes long, so I would like to invite you to sit back now (or at a later time) and catch the vision of what God is doing in the world.

Here is the link to the video message I delivered:

Catch The Vision

I hope you have enjoyed watching these videos as much as I have enjoyed preparing this article and spreading the word of what God is doing through ordinary people like you and me to take God’s Word to the ends of the earth.


Bible Translation In The Digital Age


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

Introducing Pioneer Bible Translators


This is the first article that I will post for 2012. And seeing as we are now into a new year, I thought that it was time to do something new. As many of you know,  I am a Bible translation consultant for Pioneer Bible Translators. In previous articles, I have written about some of the work that is involved in doing Bible translation (see “God’s Work Goes Forward“) and how I had wanted to do this kind of ministry work since I was a teenager (read “God Spoke Through People“). Starting with this article and on each Tuesday throughout this year, I want to share more about PBT and the work being done by all of its missionaries.

The first thing that people often ask me when I say I’m involved in doing Bible translation is, “Oh, are you a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators?” This is quite understandable seeing as WBT is the oldest and largest organization in the world dedicated specifically to doing Bible translation. The other organization which is well-known for being involved in worldwide translation, publication and distribution of Scriptures is the United Bible Societies. And within most countries, there is a nationally run Bible Society office.

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Compared to these two Bible translation giants, Pioneer Bible Translators is the little sister organization on the block. I no longer say it is the new group on the block as PBT is now over 35 years old and has had a few second-generation missionaries go back to serve in overseas assignments. And PBT has come a long way since I started working with it seventeen years ago. There were less than 100 career missionaries with PBT in 1995. Now there are more than 325 full-time missionaries.

But back to the question of PBT and Wycliffe, the next most common question I’m asked is, “So what is the difference between the two organizations?” That is a very good question, and I think lying just beneath this question is an unstated one, “Are PBT and Wycliffe in competition with each other, or do they work in cooperation with each other?” It is unfortunate that over the centuries there have been many instances of Christian groups that do not get along with each other or help each other. Thankfully, this is not the case for PBT and Wycliffe.

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During the early ’70s, some of the leaders of WBT were noticing that they were not getting many new missionary recruits from our specific brotherhood of churches, the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Some Wycliffe people then got together with some of our church leaders and they formed a group which would go around to our churches and promote Bible translation and seek to recruit new missionaries and gather donations for Wycliffe.  But within a year or so, it became obvious that the best thing was to start a brand new group.

And so Pioneer Bible Translators was formed in 1976. Not as a competitive group to Wycliffe or any other groups involved in Bible translation, but as a partner. In fact, there was at least one Board Member of Wycliffe who for many years was also a long-standing Board Member of PBT. The belief then, and still now today, is that there is so much work to be done in getting God’s Word to every language group of the world that there is more than enough work to be shared around and we need as many groups as possible involved to get it done.

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Within a year of being formed, PBT sent out two brothers and their wives to Papua New Guinea to survey the country and decide where it would be best for PBT to get started. This was not an easy thing to do seeing as PNG has over 800 languages scattered across a rugged and mountainous tropical jungle. The choice was made to focus in on one main province on the north side of the island country.  PBT is currently working there now in about a dozen language, and is responsible for at least another 50 languages.

From that auspicious beginning, PBT has now got missionaries working in West, East and North Africa.  There are a number of projects working in the various parts of Eurasia, mainland Asia and Southeast Asia.  PBT has just started some new Pacific Island projects.  And with the rapid growth we have seen in these past few years (almost doubling in size in 6 years from 185 to 325 missionaries), who knows what new frontiers will be crossed and new projects will be started in the near future.

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As you can probably guess, I am very excited about what God is doing in and through PBT around the world. I have been blessed and very privileged to serve God as a member of PBT in Papua New Guinea, East Africa, the United States and Canada.  And despite my muscle disease, I am still hoping to visit some of the other countries where PBT works.  This will allow me to see first-hand what God is doing in these other countries, and it will allow me to get to know better some of my fellow PBT missionaries.

Until that happens, I learn about the work of these PBT people by reading their regular letters and prayer updates.  And as I read them, I get real excited to hear what God is doing for them in their ministry work.  And that brings me right back to where I started.  As I come across great missionary stories from my PBT colleagues, I am going to pass those stories along here at The Listening Post.  I hope you are as excited as I am to read all these stories.  And as we do, we will have many opportunities to give praise and honor back to God who is the One that all these stories are about.