Wycliffe Bible Translators

wycliffe-homestafford-carson-27apr10-001-13My visit to the Belfast offices of the Wycliffe Bible Translators revealed that there are many people, from many nations, who are fully committed to the task of translating the Bible into the mother tongue of millions of people in our world.  Their strap line is “The Bible: the Story everybody needs”, and they are enthusiastic about bringing that story to everyone.

stafford-carson-27apr10-001-10There are around 6,900 languages in use in the world today. Of these, almost 2,500 have part or all of the Bible available to them. But that still leaves a massive number of people waiting to hear God’s Word in their own language. Translation still needs to begin in over 2,200 languages, and those languages represent more than 300 million people. And Wycliffe have set themselves the audacious goal of preparing a Bible translation in every language that needs it by 2025.

file-jwycliffejmkWycliffe Bible Translators take their name from John Wycliffe (mid-1320s – 31 December 1384) who was an English theologian, lay preacher, and university teacher during the 14th century. Wycliffe was also an early advocate for translation of the Bible into the common tongue. He completed his translation directly from the Vulgate into vernacular English in 1382. It is probable that he personally translated the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and it is also possible that he translated the entire New Testament, while his associates translated the Old Testament.  Additional updated versions of the Bible were completed by Wycliffe’s assistant, John Purvey and others in 1388 and 1395.

What made my visit to Wycliffe Bible Translators so energising and interesting was the way the Wycliffe members understand the Bible as story. The Bible is full of stories.

Genesis 1:1

“There once was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.” Job 1:1

“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” Luke 2:1

“There came a man sent from God whose name was John.” John 1:6

“Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers.”” Luke 10:30

In the Bible, God is telling the world a story. It is a story that begins in eternity past and stretches into eternity future. It came to a great climax two thousand years ago when God entered into his creation in a new way.

As human beings we love stories. We are born into stories; we are raised in stories; and we live and die in stories. And when we have to answer big questions in life like “Who am I? What should I do? Why am I here? What happens to me when I die”, we often reflect on a story. The foundational story is God’s love for his creation and how he is bringing it to shalom, to peace, harmony, health and wholeness.

One of the best ways of thinking about the Christian faith, and of what it means to live a life of faith, is to think of it as a story in which we are characters. Our task and calling in life could be understood as being a character in the greatest story ever told. It is what we were created for.

By telling this great Story in a language that people can understand, Wycliffe Bible Translators are not only contributing to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom across the world, but they are also reminding us, who have had a copy of the Story Book in our native language for many centuries, that we still need to hear the Story and find our place in it.

4 Replies to “Wycliffe Bible Translators”

  1. The point of the Bible as story is further demonstrated by a wonderful ‘children’s’ Bible called ‘the Jesus Storybook Bible’ with the strap line ‘every story whispers his name’.
    Published by Zonderkidz, it is brilliantly written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated superbly by Jago and narrated on accompanying CDs by David Suchet. Sally is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, and acknowledges her debt to Tim Keller ‘for giving me a vocabulary of faith; for opening my eyes to the wonder of grace.’
    Let me quote from the opening chapter:
    “No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
    You see the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.
    There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling the one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them….”

    And best of all – by grace we have a part of that story.

  2. Further to the comments above can I heartily recommend Frederick Buechner’s book “Telling the Truth” which looks at the elements of comedy, tragedy and fairy-tale (which are not so much bred as born into us)in the Gospel story, and how our love of story finds its fulfillment in the great story we are all designed to be part of.

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