The "Jesus" film – the most translated and widely distributed film in history – announced Tuesday that it is on the verge of reaching its 1000th translation.
As one of the most effective evangelism tools with more than 6 billon viewers globally over 28 years, the "Jesus" film has been seen and translated far more times than top Oscar-winning films such as "Gone With the Wind," "The Sound of Music," and "The Wizard of Oz."
When the 1,000th translation milestone is reached, the one million primarily Ho speaking people in India will be able to hear the Gospel story in their "heart language." Already through the film more than 200 million people have accepted Christ as their Savior.
"The 'Jesus' film is life-changing for so many reasons," Jim Green, executive director of The JESUS Film Project, said in a statement. "As viewers see the compassion of Jesus and hear His Word in their own heart languages, they are drawn to Christ. As Jesus said, 'When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to Myself.'"
The "Jesus" film debuted in the United States in October 1979, triggering requests from around the world for translation of the film in people's native language. The film, produced by the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry, created the first 30 translations of the film in its first full year in 1980.
The 100th translation of the film was completed through the Tok Pisin version for Papua New Guinea in 1986, only seven years after the film's release. By that time, more than 315 million people had watched the Jesus' film.
By 1999, the Karamojong people in remote villages in Uganda received the 500th "Jesus" film translation. The film's Gospel message of love and peace replaced the tribal aggressive culture in the villages. Some 3 billion viewings were reached in 1999 and more than 108 million had reportedly followed Jesus globally by that year.
"People don't realize how complex a task translation is…. There's the whole understanding of communicating, meaning not only across languages, but across cultures in a way that the resulting translation is both accurate in meaning, and also communicates effectively," explained Dr. Katy Barnwell, director of training and consulting with The Seed Company, in a statement.
The Seed Company, part of the Wycliffe Bible Translators family of organizations, partners with the JESUS Film Project to translate the Book of Luke and a script for the film in two to three years.
But "Praise God for the openings He's given for some of those situations where it looked impossible," Barnwell said, giving an example of a church that sprouted during a recent translation project.
The "Jesus" film was produced in 1979 by John Heyman, in cooperation with Campus Crusade for Christ and distributed initially by Warner Brothers. The film is often shown in remote, third-world locales using a makeshift screen and portable projector – often drawing an audience of first-time movie watchers. The "Jesus" film team said it plans to continue translation of the film well beyond its 1,000 mark, focusing on languages with more than 100,000 speakers.