The home of mass Bible production needs help

Readers of the Bible in English have an embarrassment of new versions at hand. Suiting a variety of tastes and persuasions, you could enjoy the freshness of The Message, the literal clarity of the English Standard Version, or the urbane fluency of the Common English Bible.

And there are many others to choose from. But in Wales, the home of the mass produced Bible, things are radically different.

For Welsh speakers, only two published versions are available. The first was translated by Bishop William Morgan in 1588 and the New Welsh Bible was printed in 1988 (with further revisions in 2004). Both are literal translations, aimed at people with a very good grasp of Welsh grammar.

Imagine a world with only the King James Version and Revised Standard Version available; those are the published choices available for Welsh speakers interested in reading the Bible.

But there's a new kid on the block. Back in 1999, the former national director of Evangelical Alliance Wales, formed a new organisation to communicate the Christian message of Welsh speakers. Hope for Wales (Gobaith i Gymru), was set up to address the dire lack of resources in the Welsh language and to promote the hope to be found in Jesus Christ.

After more than a decade of translating the scriptures from their original languages and into contemporary Welsh, Arfon's work has been published online at www.beibl.net

It flows as easily as The Message and is as readable as the Good News or NET Bibles, except that beibl.net is a literal translation. It's perfect for people who are learning the language or whose grasp of grammar is less than perfect. In other words, people like me; and there hundreds of thousands of us in Wales.

As if this isn't enough, Hope for Wales has a few more dynamic plans in its pipeline. New tablet friendly apps and touchscreen technology are being developed to make the Bible even more accessible, especially for children and young people. And there's talk of a good old fashioned printed version of beibl.net. This could be available as soon as 2015.

Vision however comes at a cost. Hope for Wales' resources (which also include materials for schools and worship resources) require funding and most of its grant funding has come to an end with the completion of the beibl.net online translation.

This means that it is facing a substantial shortfall this year and is asking for people who share its vision to consider giving regularly. And it's a modest request; the charity is looking to establish a network of a hundred individuals and/or churches that would commit £2 per week for 3 years to support their ministry.

This matters to all Bible readers everywhere. The Bible Society (or British and Foreign Bible Society as originally known) was founded on March 7, 1804. It was setup up by a group of Christians eager to address the lack of Welsh language Bibles for people eager to read the scriptures in their own language. Its establishment came hot on the barefoot heels of Mary Jones, a young girl who walked without shoes across a mountain range to Bala in search of her own copy of the Welsh Bible.

Mass Bible production started in Wales and has since become a global phenomenon. Like those early 19th century pioneers, Hope for Wales wants to make the scriptures available to everyone who speaks Welsh at any level. And hopefully they can keep their shoes on.

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