Indigenous people
Many indigenous people throughout the Caribbean and North, South, and Central America do not have the Bible in their native tongue. Of the 1,757 languages spoken, only 912 have met translation goals. (Photo Credit: IllumiNations Website)

New Bible Translation Campaign Plans to Translate Bible into Every Language by 2033

By Jackson Elliott

Bible group illumiNations Alliance has just launched what is being touted as the “world’s largest translation effort”—a campaign to translate the Bible into every language in the next 12 years.

One billion people still don’t have access to a Bible in their own language, according to illumiNations. These people speak more than half of the world’s 7,000+ languages.

But illumiNations aims to change that. If successful, the “Translating the Bible for All” campaign will result in a Bible in every language in the world by 2033.

The campaign set the date at 2033 because it was a significant date in the history of the church, said John Chestnut, CEO and President of Wycliffe Bible Translators, a major partner of illumiNations. It’s the 2000-year anniversary of Jesus’s resurrection.

IllumiNations is a fundraising branch of the Bible translation group, Every Tribe Every Nation and doesn’t translate Bibles itself. Instead, it raises and distributes funds to Bible translators, like Wycliffe Bible Translators. All funds given to illumiNations by individual donors and churches for the Translating the Bible campaign will go to partner agencies for Bible translation projects, said Wycliffe’s John Chestnut.

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Some have questioned whether it makes sense to translate the Bible into every language, since most all people speak one of the languages in which the Bible is currently available.  Plus, about 90% of the world’s smallest languages are likely to disappear in the next century, according to The Language Conservancy.

Yet Chestnut said: “We reject the idea that some don’t deserve access to Scripture in the language they know best. All human beings, no matter the size of their language group, deserve access to the Word of God in the language they understand best. There is no asterisk on the Great Commission that exempts groups that are small or hard to get to.”

Video testimonies on illumiNations website show the impact Bible translations have on the lives of Christians.

“Before my mother died, I was able to read her Psalm 139 in Yupik,” said Walkie, an Alaskan Yupik speaker. “And she said, ‘Oh! So that is what it means to us!’”

“Reading the Bible in Choctaw, it takes on a completely new meaning,” Choctaw speaker Elsie said to the project. “You become fully aware of the Bible’s message. You understand it on a deeper level, and you can feel your connection with God.”

Before the 1980s, it took up to 30 years to complete a translation, according to the American Bible Society (ABS). But due to computers, the time it takes to translate was cut to about three years in 2010.

The ambitious goal of a Bible in every language by 2033 relies on technological innovations that have massively increased the speed of Bible translation.

These advances have helped keep Bible translation continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Chestnut said. He added that digital infrastructure and support from local churches have proven crucial. Still, the pandemic has set back translation efforts in parts of the world with bad Internet access.

Most of the people without a Bible in their own language live in Asia and Africa, according to the illumiNations website. Many of them are Christians, but have never had the opportunity to read the Bible.

“While it’s difficult to put a price tag on life transformation, illumiNations wants to help investors understand the monumental task of making God’s Word available to all people,” the group’s  website reads.

Bible translation costs can vary, but usually cost about $35 per verse. In a complete Bible, there are 31,102 verses, which costs a little over $1 million to translate.

Christians have enthusiastically helped translation projects so far. One women’s conference raised over $1.6 million toward one Bible translation for an Ethiopian language and another language spoken in another country where churches meet in secret.

Jackson ElliottJackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.

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12 thoughts on “New Bible Translation Campaign Plans to Translate Bible into Every Language by 2033”

  1. Aaron M Shryock

    Thank you for this article. Please note that it is 3 years to complete a New Testament. In the past, you note, it took 3 years. It’s not clear from whether you are referring to a New Testament or a complete Bible.

  2. What about the North Sentinalese language? Not impossible. But, it is said that they have no known language or written word. Just asking for a friend.

    1. Dirk Dirksen While I am not familiar with the North Sentinalese language situation specifically, what I can tell you is that many Bible translators have often had to develop an alphabet (the technical term is orthography) for oral-only languages. Ideally this in done using a collaborative approach with people from the language group themselves to insure buy-in and ownership of the alphabet that is developed. Often the script used would be from a language of wider communication (ie the national language of the country) but it would need to include modifications for symbolizing the sounds in the language that the wider/national language may not have.

  3. What a wonderful goal, to have God’s Word in every language by 2033!

    I expect opposition, though.
    The KJV-only types will insist that these tribes learn an archaic version of English instead.
    And other folks will claim illumiNations is part of the Illuminati.

  4. Mr. Jesperson

    Call me skeptical but I have been around for more than a few decades and I have seen announcements like this before. Makes me think of a project greatly advertised many years ago to attempt to reach all of the unreached people groups by the year 2000. That is a lot of years ago now. Some of the groups involved have been reported on here with scandals.

    Gospel for Asia which is nothing more than a billion dollar plus fraud that has created a cult of personality overseas was one of those in that group. As far as I know there are still many unreached groups over 20 years later which makes me wonder where all the $$$ has gone too that was raised back then? In GFA’s case much of it is in land in India, not in real missionaries to anywhere. So now when I see announcements like this it makes me wonder how much of the Mammon will actually go for the need? These are all great ways to leverage dollars out of pockets, but who are these people asking for Mammon and what do they really do?

    One cannot be too careful in todays world of endless scams in the third world where accountability is very hard to come by. I was once that idiot that believed a very evil man when he came asking for my wallet. I am not against real Bible translations, even tried to go volunteer once to help with this but there was no money for that and Wycliffe has had some scandals too that made me glad I never went there…

    1. Arthur Fhardy I suspect you are right. Reaching remote and isolated people groups, whether due to geography, hostile language groups and/or hostile governments, are all barriers to the goal of providing these people groups with the Bible in their own language. I am reminded of the Waorani in Ecuador, and how their language was first learned by missionaries from Waoranis who had fled the fighting amongst themselves. An excellent book about the whole story of what it took for the Waorani to eventually get the Bible in their own language is:
      God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador (2019) by Kathryn T. Long. Dr. Long is a former professor of History at Wheaton College and has really done her homework. The book is both well written and well researched.

  5. Having spent some time in volunteer work for a Bible translation organization, I can tell you that many countries have people who do not speak the official language of the country. When the Bible is available in their “heart” language, it makes a big difference, especially for children who finally have something they can understand.

    Here is a good resource on world languages:
    https://www.ethnologue.com/

    GB

  6. This is such a great goal. I never take for granted that as an English-speaking person I can read the Bible in my own heart language. The word of God is “more desirable than gold” and “sweeter…than honey” (Psalm 19:10).

  7. Translating Scripture into every known, current language is a noble ideal and goal. Unfortunately, the operating paradigm for most translations is “functional equivalence” formerly known as “dynamic equivalence” the theory coined by and promoted by Eugene Nida. His theory which is nothing more than applying cultural relativism to Bible translation and is greatly dependent on Leonard Bloomfield’s atheistic ideas regarding the origin and nature of language (who was also one of the founders of the branch of Linguistics known as American Structuralism or, Descriptivism, and was part of the committee that oversaw Nida’s PhD dissertation of the University of Michigan) has helped give rise to what Wycliffe Bible Translators-SIL are currently calling “Religious Idiom Translation” (RIT) which Islamizes Scripture for Muslims, Buddhizes Scripture for Buddhists, Hinduizes Scripture for Hindus, ad nauseum. For instance, Every Tribe Every Nation produces the digital database that is used by YouVersion/bible.com and others. There are at least 4 versions in Arabic that include the first part of the Islamic confession of faith (i.e. the shahada), “There is no god but Allah.” The translators claim that this is simply an Islamic “idiom” for “one God” whereas Islam teaches that it is exclusively Islamic and conveys to Muslims that the second part is implied: “and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” The four Arabic versions to which I refer are known in English as: the Sharif Bible, the Good News Arabic/Shared Version, and The True Meaning [of the Gospel of Christ], and the Tchadien Arabic NT.

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