Florida Based Organization Makes Process in Bible Translation a Win for Christian Minorities


A new approach is speeding up how the Bible is being translated, giving many Christians the opportunity to have a Bible in their native tongue.

unfoldingWord, a Bible translation charity based in Florida, implements a new paradigm called “Church-Centric Bible Translation (CCBT)” where the local church takes responsibility for translating Scripture. With CCBT, leaders and people from a church are trained to translate God’s Word into minority languages.

It’s been my dream to see people receive God’s word in their heart languages more quickly – and thanks to an innovative new approach to translation, it’s finally happening. —Eric Steggerda, Field Operations Director at unfoldingWord

“It’s been my dream to see people receive God’s word in their heart languages more quickly – and thanks to an innovative new approach to translation, it’s finally happening,” said Eric Steggerda, Field Operations Director at unfoldingWord.

In an interview with Premier Christian News, Steggerda shared the story of Chad where the full Bible was translated in Chadian Arabic within 25 years. He revealed the 2 million Chadians have no access to the Bible, but through CCBT, they were able to deliver 21,000 copies of the Bible in the Christians’ mother tongue.

Chad nationals were recruited and equipped to translate 50 Bible stories into ten minority languages. “I’m witness to the transformation currently taking place, as Muslims and Christians come together to embark on this translation journey,” he said. It’s “a journey which takes a fraction of the time in comparison to traditional approaches.”

David Gray, a Bible translator from Christian translation charity SIL, explained the process using CCBT.

“The idea of this is that you recruit people from a church and get them working fairly quickly on producing a first draft of translation, which is then printed out just simply on computers, double spaced so that people can then go along and make edits,” he said. “But it means that they have access to the Bible in their language fairly quickly. Because there are so many people working on it at once.”

unfoldingWord empowers church-planting groups in countries where there is Bible poverty such as Sudan. Using the CCBT principles, the organization trained a group of 20 people from the Sudanese Arabic community on how to do basic translations of the Bible. These individuals then trained new translators from five other language groups, reports Mission Network News.

“We’re expanding their knowledge and translation [skills] through a program we’re calling ‘The Equipping Journey,'” explained Arne. “We have not helped them with this process. They (Sudanese believers) have been taking these five language groups through the same foundational translation training using the Bible story set we gave them.”

Gray pointed out that to make sure that the translations are accurate, the work is checked against the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. There’s also a consultant to verify the veracity of the translations.

Despite the advancement in technology in terms of translating documents, Gray maintained the importance of having human expertise.

“It’s quite exciting what’s going on. But you always end up with a draft that is, say, about 80% accurate, and it’s always the last 20% or so that takes the time. So how much time you save is a moot point,” he said.

Joyce Dimaculangan
Joyce Dimaculangan
Joyce has more than 15 years experience writing news, industry articles and blogs for the private and public sectors. Most of her career was spent writing technical documentation for a software company in the Philippines. She earned a B.A. in Communication Arts with a concentration in writing from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. During her leisure time, Joyce pursues her interest in reading fiction and playing with her dogs. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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