March 1, 2018
Psalm 147:4 describes that God has decided the number of the stars and calls each one by name. Like how the vast universe and everything within it is known by Him, every people group has also been set to encounter God in His Word at an appointed time, and in the language closest to their hearts. For the Philippines, such a time is drawing near.
Bible translation agencies have cooperatively taken up the call to finally end Bible poverty in the country. In a consultative meeting between the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), Summer Institute of Linguistics, Translator’s Association of the Philippines, Ethnos360 (formerly called New Tribes Mission), and Wycliffe Philippines last February 27, a total of 45 minority languages were identified as remaining languages still waiting for their Bible translation.
“We will be undertaking Bible translations needed by these remaining languages,” shared PBS General Secretary Dr. Nora Lucero, who was part of the said gathering. “We are organizations in the field working together for this dream, to cover all native languages in our country without a copy of God’s Word,” she added.
Eight (8) of the remaining minority languages without Bible translation are Bikol languages which were assigned to PBS. The rest were allocated accordingly among the other agencies.
In the meeting, the group laid out initial assignments for research and resource-sharing prior to undertaking formal Bible translation work in any language. In the spirit of camaraderie and unity, the group also informally called itself Tambuli, a Filipino word for an indigenous horn used to summon tribes-people for an assembly or to signal a danger or crisis.
There are approximately 185 languages in the Philippines — a nation of over 100 million Filipinos — from which, eight are major languages with complete Bible translation: Tagalog, Ilokano, Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Pampango, Samarenyo, and Pangasinan. By God’s grace, 140 languages in the country to date already have a full Bible, New Testament, or a Scripture portion translated.
“I have seen the beauty and impact of Bible engagement and distribution in small communities, academic circles, and even among church workers. Yet Bible translation remains at the core of these activities — that God’s Word is made known in the heart language of a particular people group,” said PBS Publishing Manager Dr. Edgar Ebojo. He also serves other countries as a Global Translation Adviser for various Bible translation projects. He added, “I am personally encouraged that we are devoting significant resources on this translation venture. It is reaffirming that translation is at the heart of Bible Society work.”
Meeting the Scripture need for the remaining 45 minority languages in the Philippines contributes to the global landscape of Bible translation. In 2017, the United Bible Societies (UBS) has published its commitment to provide 1,200 Bible translations by year 2038. UBS is a fellowship of over 140 national Bible Societies operating in over 200 countries and territories, united in the mandate to bring God’s Word to everyone.