One in five people still waiting for the Bible in their language

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This year, Wycliffe Bible Translators celebrates the 700th anniversary of the birth of John Wycliffe, the man who first translated the Bible into English. While the anniversary is a celebration, it also acts as a reminder of the one in five who still lack access to a Bible in the language they know best.

James Poole, Wycliffe Bible Translators’ Executive Director, explained: “John Wycliffe’s commitment to translating the Bible into the language that people know best was revolutionary. 700 years later the passion for Wycliffe’s vision of a world where everyone can know Jesus through the Bible continues to burn brightly.”

John Wycliffe is a pivotal figure in history. His ground breaking work of providing the first English translation of the Bible continues to resonate across the globe. Despite so much progress to date in worldwide Bible translation, much work remains. An estimated 1.5 billion people representing over 6,000 languages are still waiting to receive the Bible in the language they understand best. Wycliffe Bible Translators is committed to all people having access to the Bible.

Thought to have been born in 1324 in Hipswell, Yorkshire, John Wycliffe was a theologian, scholar and reformer. His passion for making the Scriptures accessible to ordinary people led him and his team to undertake the monumental task of translating the Bible from Latin into English by hand. Wycliffe believed that everyone should have direct access to God’s word. 

He faced great opposition from the church at the time for his translation, ideas and teaching, but his conviction was strong and was not deterred. After his death, he was declared a heretic and his bones were dug up, burnt and his ashes scattered in the River Swift in Leicestershire. 

Poole continues: “John Wycliffe argued that the Bible should be accessible to all, regardless of social status or education. His courage and vision continue to inspire our work today. There is now more Bible translation work in progress than ever before. We have a historic opportunity to get closer to the vision of everyone being able to know Jesus through the Bible.”

John Wycliffe’s translation work opened the door to other English translations. He was also known as ‘the Morning Star of the Reformation’, given the influence of his teaching and work on others like Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into a form of German, as well as being the key figure in the Reformation.

The last 12 months have been a record-breaking year for Bible translation. A new Bible was launched at a rate of one per month, a New Testament at the rate of one per week and translation work began in a new language at a rate of one per day. Komi Sena is a modern-day John Wycliffe. Komi is an Ifè translator, despite setbacks, the Ifè New Testament has been completed, leading to a surge in local churches. Komi enthused: “Translating the Bible is so important because many people don’t understand French, so they are not able to read and understand the Scriptures. And it does not change their lives when they do not understand it. Translation of the Bible also enables nonbelievers to hear the good news in their language.”

Now, Komi and his team are working on the Old Testament, aiming for completion by 2026. Komi also assists other translation projects across Togo and Benin, highlighting the transformative impact of having the Bible in one’s native language.

For more information on the charity and the 700th anniversary of John Wycliffe, visit wycliffe700.com

To watch the Wycliffe Bible Translators feature on BBC ‘Songs of Praise’ please go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001z1f1/songs-of-praise-75th-anniversary-of-how-great-thou-art

To watch the animation video celebrating the 700th anniversary of John Wycliffe go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJqPgS_mU0g

Main Photo Credit: Aaron Burden via Unsplash

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.
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