Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

How many Bibles do you need? 18 July 10

How many Bibles do you need?

At the Alpha Course this week we heard that the Bible was by far the best-selling book ever.  According to one list between 2.5 billion and 6 billion copies of the Bible have been sold.  The Qu’ran and Quotations from Chairman Mao come next with 800 million each. The next most popular English language books are A Tale of Two Cities (200 million); Scouting for Boys (150 million) and Lord of the Rings (150 million).

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, so presumably most of the Bibles sold are translations. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators there are more than 6,900 languages in the world. At present at least some of the Bible has been translated into most of these languages. Only 2,200 languages are still without any part of the Bible.  In human terms that represents about  350 million people – more than the population of the USA and nearly six times the population of the UK.

But 75% of the these people live in three areas of greatest need: Central Africa & Nigeria;  Mainland & Southeast Asia;  Indonesia & the Pacific Islands.

Nearly 7,000  workers are aiming to provide translations into these languages in the next 15 years – a target date that was once put at 2150.

I once had an opportunity to help one of the teams that was translating the Bible into Kriol, an indigenous language used by more than 30,000 people in North Australia. There is no doubt that when the Bible is heard in a person’s ‘heart language’ a dramatic change happens in the way the word of God is heard.

Someone has estimated that each American house contains nearly 7 Bibles, which I suppose works out to more than two Bibles per person. Nowadays you can also have the Bible on your mobile or smart phone, as well as on your computer.

Owning a Bible or having access to it online is not the same as reading it. And reading it is not entirely the same as reading other books. Reading the Bible does require the same literacy skills as other books, but it is God’s word to us and requires a humble heart and mind. It has to be heeded as well as heard.

As I write this it is Bastille Day and the La Marseillaise is playing on the radio. Jesus said his word was the truth that would set us free. It still does – for those who listen.

Dale

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