There are some favourites of mine here, featuring across national borders, such as John 1, our introduction to Jesus, the Word of God. There’s also the chapter about Love in 1 Corinthians 13, and the famous ‘song for the sheep’ in Psalm 23.
But Missiographics leave us some challenging questions about this snapshot. For example,
‘In Pakistan and Nigeria, all of the top 5 searches are from the Old Testament.’
‘If many searches in your country of interest are Old Testament searches, how are you weaving the Old Testament into your presentation of the gospel?’
Of all the languages in the world, only 513 have the entire Bible. Most languages, if they have any Scripture at all, have just the New Testament, or maybe some portions of the Old.
We recently wrote about Nigeria, which has the largest need for Bible translation in Africa, with a total of 520 languages, 250 of which have no known Scripture.
So when starting a new translation project, where would you start? Would you start by translating John 3:16, because it’s your favourite verse?
Often, rural communities relate strongly to Old Testament stories rooted in pastoral culture, so it might make sense to start translating portions of the Old Testament, rather than diving straight into the New Testament gospels. Who gets to decide? The stats here seem to show there’s a hunger in Nigeria for the Psalms!
Decisions like these are not simple to make, and are part of a process of the language community working together with national translators and ex-pat colleagues to set project priorities. Some books are easier to translate linguistically, like Jonah. Some are really hard because of complex themes or ‘key terms’ used, like ‘redemption’ or ‘sin’.
But the challenge remains. If there is no Scripture at all in the language you understand best, would you have a favourite Bible verse at all?