Why translate the Bible?

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son... (Hebrews 1:1,2a)

Two amazing words; “God spoke”. Once we grasp the simple fact that God has communicated with us, nothing can ever be the same. We haven’t been left on our own to muddle through life, trying to work out what it is all about until we shuffle off this mortal coil and into oblivion. God has spoken to us and given us the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Not only has God spoken, but he has spoken in various ways: dreams, a burning bush, a donkey, writing on the wall and prophetic speech all come into the picture. God did whatever was needed to get His message across, because He wants us to understand what He is saying. And then He spoke through His Son. God, Himself, took on human form, lived on the earth and showed us in the clearest way possible what God is like and how He acts.

But God went a step further than this. He made sure that hundreds of years later and in a different part of the world we would have a reliable account of all that He did and said. Without a written record, the amazing things in the Bible would have been lost in the mists of history. But God wants us to hear and understand when He speaks, so He gave us the Bible.

The Bible is a remarkable book. It tells a story that explains why we were created, what has gone wrong with the world and what God is doing to restore things. It is a story which covers absolutely everything; a story that everybody needs. But God’s story is a story unlike any other; it makes a claim on our lives and calls us to align ourselves with what God is doing in the world through His Son. It calls us to make the story our own, to live the story. As we align our lives to God’s story, we discover that the things which were true for Moses,

David and Paul become true for us: their God becomes our God and He speaks to us.
One of the really amazing things we discover is that God wants us to communicate on His behalf. He could have written the Bible in letters of fire on pages of gold, but instead He chose to work with men and women to get His words written. In the same way, He could speak in a loud voice out of heaven to your neighbours, but He chooses to send you to talk to them; amazing! God wants to talk to people and He wants to be understood, and He chooses to do so through you and me.

One of the ways in which God chooses to use us is by making the Bible available to people. There are still over 300 million people around the world, speaking two thousand different languages that don’t have access to the Bible. God wants the Bible to be made available to these people and so do we.

One question that we are often asked is why we don’t just teach everyone English. It’s a good question. In fact, there are lots of linguistic and technical factors that would make it very difficult to get all of the minority peoples of the world speaking English, but that isn’t the point. The real reason we don’t want to teach everyone English, or Chinese, or Korean, is quite simple. God wouldn’t do it!

The story of the Bible is the story of God breaking down barriers to communicate with us as clearly and understandably as possible. God reaches out and speaks to people where they are and He calls us to do the same. Bible translation is simply a continuation of God’s work in reaching out to speak to men and women in ways that they can understand. The wonderful thing is that He doesn’t do it all Himself, but He gives us the privilege of joining Him in His work. He calls us to live the story and then gives us the amazing honour of
working alongside Him to give the story.

Eddie Arthur is the Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK. Previously he has worked as part of the translation team for the Kouya New Testament in Ivory Coast and as the National Director for a Wycliffe partner organisation in Ivory Coast and Mali. You can read more of Eddie’s thoughts on Bible translation and life, on his website kouya.net, or follow him on Twitter@kouya