Africa’s oldest Bible enters the modern era

177 years ago, the Malagasy Protestant Bible made history as the first Bible to be translated into a local African language. Its latest revision is being just as eagerly welcomed as the original was.

Bible Day was a particularly exciting event this year in Madagascar. June 11 saw around 300 people, including Church leaders and government representatives, gather at the Ambatovinaky Lutheran church in Antananarivo to celebrate the launch of the sixth revision of the Malagasy Protestant Bible.

Revision urgently needed

Marc Rakoto, General Secretary of the Malagasy Bible Society, speaking at the launch of the revised Malagasy Protestant Bible.

Why is it necessary to revise a Bible? As a booklet produced by the Malagasy Bible Society explains, language changes over time and a Bible which uses outdated language becomes increasingly difficult to understand, especially for young people. Bible translators recommend that a Bible should be revised every 15 to 20 years. With the last revision of the Malagasy Protestant Bible having taken place a full 47 years ago, the sixth revision was urgently needed. The latest edition is the work of representatives of the Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican Churches, supported by a reading team of 30 people. As well as updated language, it also offers extra material to help people in reading the Bible, including introductions, outlines, a glossary and maps.

The full shipment of revised Bibles is due to arrive in Madagascar in August, but already people are visiting Bible House to place their order. And during the coming dry season, Bible Society staff, volunteers and regional representatives will take the revised Bible to all corners of the island.

Madagascar facts
Location: The island of Madagascar is in the Indian Ocean, east of Mozambique
Population: 22,585,517 (July 2011 est)
Languages: French (official), Malagasy (official), English
Religions: indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%