Do Minority Languages Need Their Own Bible?

Many Bible translation projects focus on the needs of very small people groups. Some of these minority languages have only a few thousand speakers. Is it right to invest so much in a major project like Bible translation for so few people?

Jason Stuart, who worked in Papua New Guinea with Ethnos360, was recently asked, "In your experience, how important is it for minority language churches to have their own translation of Scripture available?" His response was published in AccessTruth's most recent episode of Lessons from the Field. You can listen to his response here. It is brief and clear.

A Few Excerpts

Why can't church planting be done in the larger, national language that does have a Bible? Mr. Stuart says, "If discipleship happens in the national language, there are often many people in that group that are not actually understanding the message and receiving it enough to be able to grasp that and continue their growth."

He illustrated with the example of the people he worked with. Previously they had been taught only in the national language. As a result, Mr. Stuart says, "They thought maybe God had been angry with Jesus and killed him, and then felt sorry for him and he rose again three days later—just because of their lack of competence in the national language."

In conclusion, "Having the Scriptures in their own language is very important, but especially when we're talking about the context of church planting and discipleship, we want to be doing that in the language that people are most capable in." Click here to watch the 3-minute episode.

The Exceptions

It's important to recognize that few if any language groups are made up of completely monolingual people (people who speak only one language). Many minority-language speakers are also fairly fluent in a wider-used national language.

This is part of the challenge we face in determining need for Bible translation. How many of the people are able to fully comprehend the message through the wider-used language and its Bible? More importantly, how many are not?

Often the answers are not obvious right away. God's wisdom is needed in the research and evaluation.

Pray that God will guide ABT teams to the areas of truest need.


Related Quotes

“Our mother tongue is the language in which God speaks to each of us. He does not speak in a sacred language, but in the ordinary language, so that we may hear him and realize that this gospel is about us and that we have been invited to join a company drawn from every people, tribe, tongue, nation and language.” —Kwame Bediako

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” —Nelson Mandela

“Understanding Scripture in a language other than the heart language, in which we think and experience emotion, is like trying to eat soup with a fork. You can get a little taste, but you cannot get nourished.” ― William Cameron Townsend



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  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10