In the last few months I’ve gone back to studying the Bible. I’ve not returned to the exact same methods I used in years past. It’s been a more casual setting with new and old friends from a variety of backgrounds. And I’m learning so much. I think most importantly over the last few months I am gaining a new appreciation for scripture, and it’s coming from two distinct experiences.
The first situation is happening right in my own living room. Each week a group of friends is gathering for study, discussion, sharing and plenty of laughter as we study together. In the process of coming together, several members of our group mentioned that they didn’t have a Bible of their own. After talking about it within the group they each went out and bought a new Bible to read and bring each week when we gathered together. For many of them, this is their first personal copy of the Bible. We’ve talked about how the Bible was written, its contents, different versions, how to find things, and how to use it. And they are so excited. Each week they are reading and learning things they’d never heard before. As for me, I confess that in recent years I have become quite accustomed to using the electronic Bible I’ve downloaded on my phone and on my tablet. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with this (I do love the convenience), I have a new appreciation for the feeling of the pages in my hands, for the sound I hear when turning the thin paper, and going through the names of the books in my head as I look up a verse. It’s been like being reacquainted with an old friend; especially as I reread so many old notes from past sermons and studies.
The second situation is going on thousands of miles away. Last month I had the opportunity to attend a conference dealing with Bible translation. Now this isn’t a discussion of the New American Standard versus the King James Version. This is the process whereby the scriptures are translated into the languages of people around the world. And the things I learned were amazing. Like, the fact that there are almost 7,000 known languages in the world. And of these languages, nearly 3,300 have no Bible in their own language. There are millions of people around the world that not only don’t have a Bible, but are unable to have a Bible in their language because it simply doesn’t exist! In addition to the 3,300+ languages that have no Bible, there are another 2,000 known languages that have only a portion of the New Testament translated. Can you imagine?
What’s more — traditionally the Bible translation process has taken approximately 25 years to complete in a new language, at a cost of about 2 million dollars. About 20 years ago some changes were made in how to best accomplish this task and the process was revised so that a new translation would take only about 10 years to complete at a cost of $200,000. Great progress! But in the last three years, as a result of technology and the local churches getting involved in translating into their own heart languages, some translations are taking as little as a few months or even weeks to complete a New Testament in their local language. This is amazing! Because of these latest advances, it is very possible that all the known languages of the world could have a Bible translation available to them by the year 2025! How incredible is that!
And so, I have come to a new personal appreciation for having a Bible to read. It’s my “go- to” place to seek wisdom and to be uplifted. Whether it’s an electronic image on a screen, a pocket New Testament or an old leather bound red-letter edition, I’m more and more grateful that I have the privilege to read these words, hide them in my heart and be comforted by their message.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9