A New Testament translation for the blind and deaf has been released by Wycliffe Associates, an organization dedicated to Bible translation.
The public announcement came at a dedication ceremony in Orlando late last month as it was completed last year.
The translation is a notation called SUN (Symbolic Universal Notation), which symbolizes the words found in Scripture, “to provide a pathway to Christ for millions of deaf and blind people who have no other way of effectively communicating with the world.”
Former volunteer, Emily Wang developed SUN after learning that “over 600,000 people worldwide are both deaf and blind.”
Being Chinese American herself, Wang was inspired by Mandarin symbols to develop a system with a universal symbolic language that could be read visually and through touch.
“Basically, what we have done is taken the New Testament and broken it down into the main concepts of each of the verses and each of the chapters. For each concept, we have created a symbol,” SUN Program Director Lori Jenkins told The Christian Post.
Presently, Wycliffe Associates has printed copies of the SUN New Testament that can be read by deaf people, with a 3D version in the works for people who are both deaf and blind.
Wycliffe Associates believes that SUN can potentially reach about 56 million people who have no access to the Gospel.
The SUN also provides a means of education as an estimated 70 million people are born deaf worldwide and according to Wycliffe Associates, around “80 percent of them can’t communicate in their local sign language.”
Additionally, the organization sites that “only about 20 percent of the deaf population of the world has access to education.”
The development of the SUN New Testament consisted of a team of 400 online volunteers across the United States who worked to create symbols to represent the rules and guidelines found in Scripture. The Christian Post reports that it took the organization about 1.5 years to complete and its source text is the Unlocked Literal Bible.
Reading the SUN’s New Testament requires the learning of 100 core symbols and an understanding of how the symbols work together to convey a specific message.
“For those that are deaf, we're teaching them to read basically by sight,” Jenkins said. “We can have them reading within three to five days.
“We've had many people within three days basically start reading Mark 1”, she added.
Bible translation consultant Dr. John Luton considers the SUN translation of Luke’s Gospel to be “one of the best translations I’ve ever worked on,” he said in a statement.
Jenkins notes that SUN has been tested in nine different countries with additional exposure in about 16 other countries.
SUN is considered by Wycliffe Associates to be “easier to learn than braille, which can take years to master” as its concept-based approach is unhindered by “words or letter systems.”
Moreover, at SUN workshops, deaf people are also given the opportunity to learn their national sign language.
“What we are seeing is we are seeing their world open up and we are seeing them being able to communicate with more people around them as well as being able to have access to God’s Word in a format they already understand,” Jenkins said.
The original plan was to take SUN to 40 new countries in 2020, but complications by COVID-19 have impacted it.
Reportedly, other organizations are courting the idea of expanding the use of the SUN Bible to help reach autistic children or anyone who struggles to communicate independently.
Furthermore, an Old Testament version of SUN is currently under production by Wycliffe.
The translation process would require additional symbols to reflect Old Testament concepts, “which is about twice the size of the New Testament.”
The SUN New Testament is “the only known attempt to make Scripture accessible to the deaf who don’t know sign language or to those who are both deaf and blind,” Missions Box reports.
“SUN is a miracle of God. It has more possibilities and more ways it can impact the world than we can imagine,” Jenkins told The Christian Post. “We have no idea where it’s going to lead. It’s opening doors and changing lives.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Photick/Frederic Cirou
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.