LONDON – Every
Sunday, Vicar Gary Jenkins parts the pages of
his Bible and preaches the Word to the parishioners of Holy
in Redhill, United Kingdom.
In the United States,
the King James Version of the Bible elicits mixed emotions from Christians, all
the way from extreme loyalty to distaste. But in British cathedrals like Holy
Trinity, it has special meaning Americans might not fully grasp.
Four hundred years ago, it was the Gospel brought to the
British people in their heart language widely for the first time.
“It was devised to be read by churches in both England
said Neil MacGregor, director of the British
Museum. “It is one of the first
things made by the whole island to be used by the whole island.”
And the whole island – churches, organizations, even the BBC
– is celebrating the 400th anniversary with a year long slate of events.
the world still have not received Scripture in their own language.
“Undoubtedly the Authorized (King James) Version has had a
huge impact on the life of the nation, shaping our culture and even the
language itself,” Jenkins said. “But even more importantly, this celebration
gives the churches a great opportunity to convey the living Word of God afresh
to a nation where there is now so much ignorance of Scripture.”
And, he said, it gives his church the chance to focus on
the looming need worldwide – the “islands” that, 400 years after the KJV, still
need the Bible in their own languages.
The need is about 340 million people speaking 2,078 languages,
to be exact. These hundreds of millions of people don’t even have Bible
translation programs started in their languages, according to Wycliffe Bible
That’s why Andrew Lancaster*, who has a degree in Bible
translation and is headed to serve overseas, has a passion to see the need met.
“Why is it that there are now hundreds of English
translations of the Bible, yet more than 2,000 languages of the world do not
even have one word of it? English versions are produced left and right while
thousands are dying without having ever had access to the Word of God,” Lancaster
Something needs to be done about this injustice, he said.
“If the efforts spent toward new English versions were
redirected to translating Scripture into languages that have nothing, imagine
what could be accomplished,” Lancaster
“There are people who would pay a month’s wages, sell all
they have or go to any number of extreme measures to experience the luxury of
owning even one Bible in their language.”
Bob Creson, president and CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators
USA, said the task of translation is urgent.
“We are committed to providing access to the Good News of
the Gospel for all peoples as rapidly as we can,” Creson said. “We feel an
urgency to make Scripture available sooner rather than later, so that millions
will not pass into eternity without ever knowing God. Bible translation is a
means for God’s Word to transform lives, and unlike ever before, it is possible
that in this generation people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be
reached in their own language.”
The biggest need lies in Sub-Saharan Africa, Papua
New Guinea and Asia,
according to Wycliffe.
“Learn about the needs of this world,” Lancaster
said. “Learn about the people groups without the Word of God.”
Four hundred years ago, the King James Version translators
saw the British people’s need and met it. Why? The translators wrote to the
reader that “translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light,
that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel.”
So many more are waiting for illumination, Lancaster
said. “Pray for those without Bibles and for those involved with getting Bibles
to them. Give your life in some capacity to seeing this work accomplished.”
*Name has been changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ava Thomas is an International
Mission Board writer/editor based in London.)
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