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Dear Friend of the Bible Work,
Once a year we take a moment to look back and measure how far we have come over the past year. In this edition of our newsletter, we are privileged to share with you our 2016 Global Scripture Access Report, which charts progress in Bible translation and the availability of Scriptures.
Behind the facts and figures are countless people whose names are not mentioned but who have worked tirelessly, some of them for many years, to ensure that more people are able to encounter and understand the Bible.
Bible translators and philologists, often working in distant and remote locations, editors and typesetters, printers and inventory managers, donors and church partners – all have made a godly sacrifice, which has borne much fruit.
The numbers in this report do not describe their struggles, or the joy of those receiving the Scriptures in their heart language for the first time. But they do remind us of the big picture: that there is much to give thanks for, including ‘first’ translations in 30 languages; and that there is also much more work to be done, with 253 million people still waiting for Scripture in their language.
Join us in giving thanks to God for the progress made in Bible translation, and asking him to bless efforts to unblock obstacles that prevent people from accessing and engaging with Scripture.
Because of Him,
United Bible Societies
2016 – Reaching Further
In 2016, Bible Societies assisted in the completion of translations in 61 languages spoken by over 428 million people.
2016 was ‘a first’ for no fewer than 30 languages, spoken by over 95 million people. 17 communities now have their very first Bible, 6 have a New Testament and 7 communities have their first, or additional, portions of Scripture.
Languages are constantly developing so Bible Societies are also committed to revising existing translations and providing new translations, when requested, to help as many people as possible engage with the message of the Bible today. In 2016, this resulted in a further 28 new translations and revisions plus 3 study editions with the potential to reach over 333 million people.
Alexander M. Schweitzer, United Bible Societies Head of Global Bible Translation, commented:
“Pursuing our mission to help people access the Bible in their heart language, United Bible Societies in 2016 has provided first translations as well as new translations and revisions for over 60 language communities. This is an incredible privilege as well as a continuing challenge. Please pray for the Bible translators and the teams supporting them, so that 2017 will also bring significant progress in this vital mission.”
For full details of the languages published in 2016 see the Appendix.
Reaching Visually Impaired People
285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide, of whom 40 million are blind. A Braille Bible usually consists of more than 40 bulky volumes, making the transcription and production a significant undertaking. To date only 44 languages have a full Bible in Braille. In 2016, new Braille portions were made available in Spanish (Dios Habla Hoy), German and Kirundi.
Sign Language Scriptures for the Deaf Community
Sign Languages are the first or ‘heart’ language for 70 million Deaf people worldwide and there are over 400 unique sign languages. The New Testament is only available in American Sign Language and this is the largest portion of Scripture currently available in any sign language.
The UBS, in close partnership with other international ministries, is seeking to meet this Scripture need for what is now recognised as a major unreached people group. Bible Societies are currently partners in 16 ongoing projects and another 9 are in the planning stages. In total, these projects have the potential to reach 12.1 million Deaf people who so far have no access to the Bible in their sign language.
In 2016, the ViBi Team in Japan completed Leviticus 1-14 and Luke 1-6 so, for the very first time, Japanese Deaf people had the whole Christmas story available in their language. In Lithuania, Hungary and Thailand the teams continued well with Mark’s Gospel and in Cuba the team made good progress with the first 11 chapters of Luke. In Mexico the team published the DVD of John’s Epistles, which was in demand even before it was dedicated. The DVD of Jude also made a big impact; after the dedication in June a Deaf pastor signed, ‘Thank You, God, for giving us Your Word!’
Scripture Access Today1
There are currently 6,880 languages in the world
spoken by over 7.4 billion people.1
1,432 New Testaments
1,145 Portions & Selections
3,655 No Scriptures
Number of Speakers1
5.16 billion Bibles
657 million New Testaments
434 million Portions & selections
253 million No Scriptures
648 languages (spoken by over 5.1 billion people) now have a complete Bible and a further 1,432 languages (spoken by 657 million people) have a New Testament. This leaves 434 million people with only some portions of Scripture and a further 253 million people with no Scripture translated in their language at all.
United Bible Societies is committed to working towards the day when everyone can access the full Bible in the language of their choice. Bible Societies are currently working on over 400 translation projects around the world.
1 Figures as as 31.12.2016. We thank Bible Societies, Wycliffe Global Alliance and progress.BibleTM for their help in compiling these statistics. 6880 languages (7099 languages less 219 languages with no reported first language speakers – Ethnologue). Figures for the number of first language speakers are based on the best available data, which in 2016 totalled 6.5 billion, less than the actual world population of over 7.4 billion.
Scripture Access & Engagement
The increasing use of the internet offers people greater choice in how and where they connect with the Bible.
The Digital Bible Library®
The Digital Bible Library® (DBL) is central to our strategy to make the Bible as widely and easily accessible as possible. By the end of 2016, the DBL contained 1,474 Bibles, Testaments and portions in 1,134 languages. These languages are spoken by over 5.2 billion people. Significant progress was made last year in adding audio Scriptures, so there are now 403 audio Scriptures in 345 different languages.
The DBL is owned and maintained by United Bible Societies in partnership with other Bible agencies and with the support of the Every Tribe Every Nation alliance. It makes the Bible accessible by providing Scripture texts to the public through partners such as BibleSearch and YouVersion.
Prayer and celebration
Please pray for
- The 253 million people in the world with no Scripture available in their own language.
- The continued translation of the Bible to new languages, making the Bible available and the Gospel spread to all people.