The hugely popular YouVersion Bible App recently hit the 1,000 mark in terms of number of Bible translations, with over 700 languages available, and creator Bobby Gruenewald said he hopes the milestone will help draw attention to the amount of dedication and effort it takes to translate the Bible into native languages.
"One of the things I'm excited about in celebrating this milestone of 1,000 versions is that for a lot of people it's going to bring an awareness to the translation effort that's underway by a number of partners, including Wycliffe and the Bible Society, and various other translation groups that are making Bible text available to the Bible App," Gruenewald, the Innovation Pastor of LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma, told The Christian Post.
"What I did not appreciate or fully understand when we first started the process was that each of these translations that are done, they often times take decades to complete. It involves people that have invested, in some cases, their entire ministry life working on developing a translation for a new language."
He added, "What we get to do is really stand on the shoulders of those that have given so much and to simply make the text available in a digital format for free. It's a huge effort that I think is unknown to so many believers today."
Gruenewald said it was unprecedented in history to have so many Bible versions "in the palm of your hand" and something "never imagined was possible even a few years ago."
Along with Bible translators, the milestone was reached with more than 150 publishers, Bible societies, and organizations that have collaborated with YouVersion.
The Bible App's 1000th translation was the Deftera Lfida Dzratawi, the first digital translation of the New Testament into Hdi, a language spoken predominantly in the West African nation of Cameroon.
Since 1987, Wycliffe Bible translators have collaborated with Cameroonians to learn and analyze the dialect as they composed the first Hdi (pronounced huh-DEE) edition of the Bible, published and distributed in print in 2013.
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"To see this labor of love now go digital with YouVersion is incredible as we see the potential to reach the nearly 45,000 Hdi speakers in Cameroon and nearby Nigeria," said Bob Creson, President and CEO of Wycliffe USA, who also thanked project partners SIL International and the Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy.
The makers of the Bible App stated that there are often divinely inspired moments of discovery when translating the Bible into a language, particularly for the first time. Such was the case with Hdi, revolving around the verb "dvu," meaning in essence, to love unconditionally. For centuries, this word was known to Hdi speakers, but rarely used. Instead "dva" was used far more often. For example, a man would dva his wife, but his love was conditional based on how useful and faithful she was, according to YouVersion.
When local Cameroon community leaders, who were part of the Hdi translation committee, realized that dvu best expressed God's love for them and the kind of love he wanted people to mirror in their lives, it opened their eyes to an entirely new way of experiencing their faith.
"God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. Properly translated and understood, God's Word has incredible power to change lives and communities. It can transform the way people relate to God and others, including women, providing an entirely new worldview," added Creson.
Downloaded on over 150 million devices, the Bible App now reaches 87 percent of Christians worldwide who have Internet access, offering more written languages than any other app on the planet. The app offers Bible translations embraced by Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Russian Orthodox, and even Messianic Jews along with countless other denominations.
"We are thrilled to play our part, sourcing the Bible translations that make this landmark reach of Scripture engagement possible," said Gary Nelson, chairman of Every Tribe Every Nation, a YouVersion partner that has been instrumental in contributing to the milestone. "It's a tremendous picture of what is possible as great teams and technology come together, committed to a day when no one on planet earth would live beyond hope of God's Word."
We've come a long way since the first handwritten English-translation of the Bible was published in 1380. "Technology in recent years has dramatically reduced the time it takes to produce a first-language translation from decades to a few years. Within two weeks of completion, in the villages we serve people can access the text on their cell phones. What a blessing!" said Lois Gourley of SIL International, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to studying, developing, and documenting languages, especially lesser- known ones.
Despite the impressive milestone of more than 1,000 versions in over 700 languages, YouVersion and its partners say they have plenty of work ahead. With 6,901 distinct languages in the world, thousands are still waiting for translation to begin or to be completed.
More information on the Bible App can be found online at bible.com/app.