The number of full Bible translations hit 700 in recent weeks, although due to the speed at which translations have been released, no one is sure which one was the first to reach the mark.
Wycliffe Bible Translations and the American Bible Society both celebrated the news, saying it’s a major milestone in advancing the gospel. The 700 total involves complete Bibles with all 66 books translated. Partial translations (such as New Testaments) are not included.
James Poole, executive director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, said the milestone “represents the tremendous work that Bible translators are doing across the world.”
“Every time we hear of the Bible being translated into another language, we know that means that for the first time the people in that language group can fully access the complete picture of God’s story,” Poole said. “It’s good to take a step back and realize what this 700th Bible means: 5.7 billion people who speak 700 languages now have the Bible in the language that speaks to them best. That is a remarkable figure and continues to grow.”
Wycliffe said it’s “impossible” to know which one was the 700th because there were “several launches of physical Bibles” and “several being made available online and via apps, all at about the same time.”
An American Bible Society blog quoted data saying the number of languages with the full Bible has doubled in the past 30 years, from 351 in 1990 to 700 in 2020.
Bible translation has accelerated in the past few decades due to “advances in translation technology” and an “unprecedented level of partnership among Bible translation agencies,” the American Bible Society said.
“We are grateful to God, our ministry partners, and the financial partners whose generosity makes this Kingdom work possible,” American Bible Society CEO Robert Briggs said.
Wycliffe listed three recent Bible translations that could have been the 700th translation:
- the Huichol (Wixáritari) Bible, which is used by an indigenous people of Mexico.
- the Ellomwe Bible, which is read by a people group in Malawi and Mozambique.
- the Igede Bible, which is used by a Nigerian ethnic group.
Despite the milestone, about 1.5 billion people – or one in five people in the world – still don’t have a Bible in their language, Wycliffe said.
“That’s an injustice that Bible translation teams worldwide continue to work to put right,” Poole said.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.