Archive for the ‘#endbiblepoverty’ Category


With Lynda Farncombe, Mary Steele and Justin Frempong

I don’t intend to write all about that very special day at Buckingham Palace. Let the photos tell the story…

Before the ceremony in the Palace courtyard

And afterwards: spot the MBE medal

Mary Steele MBE

Lots of traditional dress on the day

Heading off to find some lunch…

… Mary turned down The Ritz for a humble Italian restaurant

It was a very special and memorable day which I feel very privileged to have shared with Mary.

My two recent posts here and here about Mary Steele MBE and Wycliffe Bible Translator, have taken me back to 10 May 2006 when I was one of Mary’s three guests at Buckingham Palace. The others were Lynda Farncombe (Mary’s niece, a Wycliffe UK member) and Justin Frempong (Director of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation GILLBT) Mary’s boss in Ghana.

That’s the photo story you have just been reading above…

Mary Steele died at the age of 89 having made an incredible contribution to Bible translation in the languages of Ghana over a period of 55 years.



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2018 International Year of WHAT???

Apparently, according to my learned friend, Peter, the United Nations has forgotten all about 2018…

The UN hasn’t actually declared 2018 as the year of anything.

Well, the world is full of sad stories and fake news and uninspiring political leaders – so perhaps everyone is running out of imaginative creative ideas…

2019 is looking promising though; Peter again…

2019 will be the International year of Indigenous Languages thanks to a UN resolution (and also the international year of moderation thanks to another one).

Promising… because both Peter and I are rather interested in the translation of the Bible into minority languages – in fact into every language that doesn’t have God’s Word.

More extracts from Peter’s blog…

I’m sure 2018 will continue to be a year of suffering, hardship, and persecution for many people, including Christians persecuted for their faith, but like every year it will also be a year of hope and a year of celebration!

Throughout 2018 and 2019 there will be a lot of people who will celebrate the publication of a Bible, New Testament, or portion of scripture in their language for the first time ever. Other will celebrate the launch of reprints, revisions or the launch of new scripture in a new format such as a video, audio recording or Bible app.

There will also be people who simply haven’t known or haven’t cared that the Bible is available in their language, or haven’t known how to access it.

But why not read the blog for yourself.

And maybe comment here on my blog – and on Peter’s – answering this question:

What do you hope to remember 2018 by?

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Luther’s translation of the Bible into German spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

Following my post yesterday, I want to flag up what Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland have blogged about Luther and his impact on Bible translation.


Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546), is most famous for nailing his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg – 500 years ago this year – which many people cite as the primary starting point of the Reformation.

Yet Luther’s later work translating the Bible was also fundamental to the Reformation.

Luther loved the Bible but knew that, at the time, the Bible was not accessible to everyone. So he concluded that a new translation, in the common language of the German people was necessary.

His focus as he worked on the translation was to enable the ‘tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons’ to be able to read God’s word for themselves. Indeed, he was so committed to the ordinariness of the language in the translation, he would take trips into local towns and villages to listen to the way people spoke.

Luther’s translation marked a shift in the church’s approach to the Bible, as Philip Schaff notes:

“The Bible ceased to be a foreign book in a foreign tongue, and became far more clear and dear to the common people. Hereafter the Reformation depended no longer on the works of the Reformers, but on the book of God, which everybody could read for himself as his daily guide in spiritual life.”

It spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

The Bible translation work of people like Luther and Tyndale were crucial in enabling people in many countries to read the Bible in their own languages, not to mention the spread of education and literacy.

Yet now over 1.5 billion people – more than the entire world population when Luther was alive – still do not have the Bible in the language they speak and understand best. Wycliffe Bible Translators is working so that all peoples around the world can engage with the Bible in the language they most understand.

Wycliffe is using messages like the one below to point out the continuing need for Bible translation – click on the image to find out more about #endbiblepoverty today

Go to the Wycliffe UK Blog and read some great stories  – and to the Wycliffe website to watch some videos – about the impact of Bible translation 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door.

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Today marks the 500th anniversary of what is said to be the start of The Reformation – the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg.

So much has been written about this in recent days and weeks.

From just one source Christianity Today I found these headlines:

Martin Luther: Passionate reformer

Changing the Tempo of Worship: For a thousand years of Christian worship, lay people had rarely sung. Then came Luther.

Unstoppable: Even as a sick man, Martin Luther accomplished more than most healthy people.

The Bible Translation That Rocked the World: Luther’s Bible introduced mass media, unified a nation, and set the standard for future translations.

This third one goes on to say:

Martin Luther was many things: preacher, teacher, orator, translator, theologian, composer, and family man. He came to symbolize everything the Protestant Reformation stood for.

But perhaps Luther’s greatest achievement was the German Bible. No other work has had as strong an impact on a nation’s development and heritage as has this Book.

In Luther’s time, the German language consisted of several regional dialects (all similar to the tongue spoken in the courts of the Hapsburg and Luxemburg emperors). How were these scattered dialects united into one modern language? The rise of the middle class, the growth of trade, and the invention of the printing press all played a part. But the key factor was Luther’s Bible.

But my final headline is even more dramatic, more far reaching than the impact on Germany:

The Most Dangerous Thing Luther Did: And other facts about Bible translation that transformed the world.

Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German

It’s worth reading this whole article but here are a few extracts…

At the very beginning of the Reformation, the principal Bible available was the Latin Vulgate, the Bible Jerome had originally produced in Latin in A.D. 380… The Bible was not a book the general public was familiar with. It was not a book most individuals or families could own. There were pulpit Bibles usually chained to the pulpit; there were manuscripts of Bibles in monasteries; there were Bibles owned by kings and the socially elite. But the Bible was not a book possessed by many.

Furthermore, it was rare to find a Bible in the language of the people.

Then the story is widened to translations of the Bible in other languages, like English – and pays a fitting tribute to my early Bible translation hero William Tyndale…

Perhaps the most poignant tale of this era is that of William Tyndale. Tyndale lived from 1494–1536 and was martyred for translating the Bible into English. Tyndale, like Luther, translated directly from the Hebrew and the Greek… He actually only finished the New Testament, completing about half of his Old Testament translation before his death. His was the first mass-produced Bible in English.

Tyndale originally sought permission from Bishop Tunstall of London to produce this work but was told that it was forbidden, indeed heretical, and so Tyndale went to the Continent to get the job done. A partial edition was printed in 1525 (just three years after Luther) in Cologne, but spies betrayed Tyndale to the authorities and, ironically, he fled to Worms, the very city where Luther was brought before a diet and tried.

And martyred!

The Bible translation work of people like Luther and Tyndale were crucial in enabling people in many countries to read the Bible in their own languages, not to mention the spread of education and literacy.

And yet today, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland are using messages like this to point out the continuing need for Bible translation – click on the image to find out more about #endbiblepoverty today

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I have led short term mission trips.

I have coordinated the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland short term mission programme.

I have seen short termers become long term with Wycliffe and other organisations.

I know the value of short term mission.

I also know that short term mission trips can be failures and even harmful to the people being visited.

I have organised a debate in my church with the title…

I like to make people think!

So here’s a video entitled The Honest Mission Trip Leader which is

a. very funny


b. too close to the truth!

I would love some reactions to the video…

… and if you want to explore good short term opportunities with Wycliffe UK & Ireland, take a look here!

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… and I’m just talking about translations of the Bible in English.

English translations of the Bible

The question keeps on popping up.

How many translations of the Bible are there in English?

Answers range from 100 to 450 to 900! I’ve just been Googling, so I have.

Do we need them all? Certainly not!

Why do we have so many? Now, that’s a good question.

Ask the translators who keep on producing so many for us Anglophones. Is someone making some money out of it… but let’s not go there.

Especially when we research the other approx 7,000 languages spoken in the world today and see how many of them have a complete Bible – or a New Testament – or even a single verse of Scripture!

Why not do that research for yourself. I’ll even help you. And I’ll probably blog on this again: the new annual stats should be out soon.

However – 1.5 billion people are still waiting for the Bible in their languages… and us Anglophones, we’re spoilt rotten.

So why this blog at this time? Well, it’s all the fault of The Babylon Bee.

They decided to explain the main differences between popular Bible translations. That was their first mistake – they mentioned only translations of the Bible in English.

Then they said: Have you noticed how many Bible translations are available these days? There are so many to choose from that it can get downright overwhelming. That was their second mistake – they mentioned only translations of the Bible in English.

From then on, it was a very entertaining and satirical review of eight Bible translations – they were all, of course, without exception, translations of the Bible in English.

I thoroughly enjoyed their post, but there was one more mistake. They think that the NIV stands for the Nearly Inspired Version. Well now, everyone where I live knows that it’s really the Northern Ireland Version!

PS Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland have a new look, a new logo and a new website. Fancy a wee look


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It was always my intention to become a Guest Bible Scholar after retiring from Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland on 31 December 2016. The title sounds very grand – Bible Scholar! Never really saw myself as a bible scholar, never mind one in capital letters. But I’ve started!

Paratext screen

Above is a screenshot without which Guest Bible Scholars like myself couldn’t function. It’s a wonderful tool called Paratext. I can see six windows:

  • the passage that I’m working on in an English translation
  • two French translations
  • the Greek / English interlinear
  • some notes written by experienced translators
  • and of course the back translation into French that the translation team in a francophone African country has provided for me to check

I have recently checked 4 New Testament chapters all by myself, passed them on to a second checker – and then they will go to an experienced translation consultant. Hopefully he will give me some encouraging feedback – or sack me!

Why bother? Wouldn’t it be quicker and better if the experienced translation consultant just did it?

Of course it would! If he or she had the time. The problem is that more translation is being done than there are experienced translation consultants to check. There’s a bottleneck in the process… and that’s why I’ve been trained to be an apprentice low level checker of first drafts of translations – with the grand title of Guest Bible Scholar.

Hopefully there will be more blogs about my life as a Guest Bible Scholar…

With colleagues at GBS training August 2016

Postscript: I’m reading a book by Tony Macaulay who grew up in north Belfast in the 1970s during the “Troubles” in N. Ireland, so I am. It’s called “Bread Boy”, so it is. Tony writes in Belfast English, so he does. And that explains the title of this blog, so it does! Have you got that?


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