The Value of Bible Translation – Part 1

I am convinced that the translation of the Bible into the languages of the unreached is THE KEY to completing the Great Commission. No other work can have such thorough and eternal impact on a culture. 

In the next three posts, I would like to address the VALUE of translating the Bible into the heart languages of the people. With over 4,000 languages still waiting, we must focus our efforts on this vital task.

When a missionary begins to minister to a people who do not have the Word of God, he automatically becomes a translator. He cannot avoid it. He must translate the Bible into a language they can understand or they cannot be saved. He must give the people the translated Word of God in his preaching and teaching. There is no other choice.

As people are reached, it will reach a point when it will no longer be sufficient to simply translate the spoken Word, but it will become necessary to translate the written Word into their heart language. Someday the missionary must leave. Will the church be expected to remember all that the missionary told them the Bible says? Or will the perpetuity of that church stand upon the translated Word in written form?

What is the value of translating the Bible into the heart language of a people?

1. It makes the Word of God accessible to many, not just a few.

The commission of Mark 16:15 requires us to reach every creature. The average missionary, according to Woodrow Kroll, has the potential to reach 5,000 people in his lifetime. At this rate, it would require over 600,000 missionaries just to reach the unreached half of the world. The Bible in the heart language of the people would accelerate our obedience to Mark 16:15.

2. It conveys to the people that they are of value to God.

Many years ago a missionary reached an African native for Christ and eventually translated the Scriptures into his heart language. After receiving his first copy of the Scriptures, the native referred to what it was like to only hear the spoken Word, “To me,” he said, “it was like God was coming every Sunday to visit us dressed in another culture and language. As soon as He went away, the rest of the week we had no God.” The written word in their language becomes more than just words on a page, it speaks to the heart and communicates to them their value to God. It makes the truth of John 3:16 come alive in their hearts. Even reading the Bible in a second language or trade language does not have this effect. There is no substitute for reading the words of God in your own heart language.

3. It plants the gospel in the culture, taking it beyond being the status of being a foreign religion.

In order for the gospel to reach the multitudes and the church to multiply effectively, it must become more than the religion brought from across the seas. It must be born out of their own culture. God must become more than a weekend visitor, He must become part of the fabric of their lives through His ever-present translated Word.

More in the next post…