The Bible Comes to the Americas
The battle for the Word of God was carried from Europe to the Americas by pilgrims and conquistadors. Access to The Bible continued to shape nations as history unfolded. Today we join in this paramount struggle to bring the Word of God to nations that desperately need it.
The harassment and execution of Bible-believing Christians droned on by the popes and Catholic royals throughout the 16th century. Then, by a series of flukes, England’s famous King Henry VIII threw out the Catholic Church and its papal control and declared himself the head of the new Church of England (which would become known as the Anglican Church). He did this because the pope wouldn’t let him divorce his wife who was not able to bear him an heir to the throne.
Not surprisingly, all the shameless control and utter corruption of the Catholic Church was swiftly transferred to the royal leadership of the newly created Anglican Church. When a group called the Pilgrims saw little improvement in doctrine and deeds, they continued to gather in secret to worship according to their understanding of the Bible.
Sometime after Henry VIII died, his daughter Queen “Bloody Mary” took the throne. She was determined to return England to Catholicism. She burned nearly 300 Anglican scholars at the stake, while another 800 fled to the Continent. Many of them went to Geneva and studied under John Calvin.
It was these Biblical scholars who ended up translating the very first English version, translated exclusively from the original languages, called the Geneva Bible. It was printed in the year 1560—some 50 years before the King James Version. Almost no one has heard of this Bible today, but for generations it was popular among many Protestants, including the Pilgrims.
So why did a British king call for another new English translation when one had just been recently finished? King James I was offended by the commentary notes printed alongside the Scripture verses in the Calvin-influenced Geneva Bible; they taught that the Law of God ruled over the king! God, not the king, was supreme! King James I wanted a version without those notes.
Indeed, despite his tainted motives, the king would prove the inevitability of God’s word: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you.” (Psalm 76:10) For the king’s scholars would go on to translate what would become the most widely-read version of all time–
the King James Bible.
Another Famine of the Word Of God
In the year 1620, 102 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower ship and sailed to the Americas with their Geneva Bibles in search of a land where they could worship God according to the words of the Bible. Only 52 survived the first winter. Only their faith sustained them, although they could not have imagined the greatness of the nation they were birthing.
As the population in the New World grew, more Bibles were needed. Unfortunately, there was no press in America that could print a Bible. Besides, believe it or not, according to British law, Bibles could be printed only in England. And since Britain was in constant conflict with the colonies, they refused to ship Bibles to the New World.
The Word of God became scarce in the colonies. It would be 160 years after the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims that the printing of the first King James Bible called, “The Bible of the Revolution,” would be authorized by an act of Congress on September 12, 1782.
Their Faith Paved the Way
Many years ago, my university professor told us how the early English pioneers who arrived in the New World were searching for a place where they could freely worship God. With that foundation, America has become the most prosperous nation in the history of man. In contrast, South American nations were founded by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors who were hunting for gold. Most of these nations have suffered centuries of great poverty and crime and little access to the Bible.
The Roman Catholic Church has dominated these nations, and wherever it has had the upper hand, it fought a continuous bitter war against Protestants and their “local language” Bibles. In fact, until the 20th century the Latin Vulgate (a long dead language) was the only translation the Catholic church would permit.
But God has not forgotten the people of the Spanish and Portuguese languages. In the last few decades, many nations in South America are experiencing great revival and incredible growth in evangelical and Pentecostal churches. They are shaking off the shackles of a religion that, until recently, continued to discourage their members from reading the Bible.
Translations of the Bible Expand Exponentially
As for Protestants, from the 1800’s on, translating the Bible into other languages became a full-fledged passion—especially in English-speaking countries. In that century, 400 new language groups received a translation—including the first Chinese Bible. (A more accurate Chinese Bible was finished in 1992.) More recently, in the 75 years that Wycliffe Bible Translators have been in existence, they were able to translate the Bible into 500 languages in 67 years. The second 500 translations took only 17 years!
Today, the Bible is the most translated book in the world. Still, there is so much more work to do. At the present, there are over 7,000 languages in the world. But one truth unifies these translators: Translation of Bibles into new languages is seen as crucial to spreading the Word of God.
It just so happens that in our present generation, technology to translate the Bible has changed the world far beyond the scale of the printing press in the 1400’s. Man will now be able to translate and publish the Bible in literally every language and tongue in the world over the next few years through digital printing and the internet!
A Plan of Ten United Bible Agencies
In 2010, one of the most important meetings in the history of the world took place. Ten of the largest Bible translation agencies came together to determine how they could eradicate “Bible poverty” from the world. Out of that meeting came the “Every Tribe Every Nation” (ETEN) alliance where they all agreed to pool their resources and collaborate with the goal of having at least a portion of Scripture translated in every living language by the year 2033!
Their aim is to produce enough Scripture in each language so that the message of salvation will be clear. Together with more than 500 years of collective experience, these ten organizations began translating and publishing Bibles near the speed of light!
Thirteen More Years
So the plan to finish this monumental task in just 13 more years is on a roll. They have chosen to put aside their egos and logos in order to meet this goal. Collaborating together is making sure there is no duplication of projects among the agencies, and they are sharing data, languages and techniques for the quickest and most accurate translations.
Technology has aided virtually every step of Bible translation. Where Bible translations once took 25-30 years to complete, advancements in technology have made it possible to translate new languages in a fraction of the time. Now through a Digital Bible Library, the Bible agencies have uploaded over 2,100 versions of the Bible, free to over six billion people!
But God has more technology just around the corner in order to get His Word out to the world. One of several plans to supply high speed internet to the globe’s poorest is a creation of Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. He plans to launch thousands of satellites about 700 miles above the earth’s surface to create the largest broadband network ever.
Whatever Musk’s primary purposes may be for this network, his or some other company’s technology will make access to the Bible possible from any machine in the world that can connect to the internet.
Books are Still Number One
Since the Protestant Reformation, it is estimated that over 6 billion Bibles have been printed, with a hundred million hard-copy new Bibles sold yearly!
My brother, Gilbert Lindsay, has been printing Bibles in Belarus for three decades. He arrived in Minsk in November 1990, a year right after the Soviet Union dissolved. Miraculously, he was allowed to stay. Over the last 30 years, Gilbert has printed 30 to 40 million Bibles for 115 countries in approximately 100 languages.
When I talked to him recently, he had just shipped 80,000 Bibles to South Sudan—one of the most desolate and dangerous countries in the world. At the moment he is working on orders in these languages: Polish, French, Chinese, Bulgarian, Laotian, Asang Khongca and Thai. His Spanish edition will go to many South American countries including the stricken nation of Venezuela. In fact, he has just sent one million New Testaments to Papua New Guinea to be used in their schools!
One More Miraculous Component
There is still one more ingredient to complete this story. A sign. A miracle. A marvel of God’s handiwork in these end times. I found it in the New York Times of all places. Obviously, they had no clue they were writing prophetically in this front-page article that said:
“A half century ago, a majority of the world’s people had always been illiterate; now we are approaching 90 percent adult literacy. There have been particularly large gains in girls’ education—and few forces change the world so much as education and the empowerment of women. In this 21st century, there has been elimination of diseases, illiteracy and the most extreme poverty.
“Just sixty years ago, a majority of the world’s population had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Within a couple of decades, illiteracy and extreme poverty may be almost completely eliminated. ” New York Times, Dec. 30, 2019
Do we see yet one more sign that the coming of the Lord is near? Here it is: John the Apostle in his vision of heaven saw the redeemed saints who were in heaven—“a great multitude that no one could count…”
They were “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9)
God has ordained within a generation the entire world will be literate for the first time in history!
Furthermore, He has given men and women the capacity to create a communication tool that reaches into the farthest corners of the earth.
And He has raised up heroic translators, dedicated to bringing the Bible to every single language group in the world.
The Scriptures foretell that when this Age ends, the Gospel will have reached every single nation, tribe, people and language. We’re almost there!
I conclude this article with deep gratitude and excitement that in coordination with the Israel Bible Society, and Maoz’ wonderful, faithful partners, we have been able to play a small part in making sure no people group is left without a Bible they can understand—not even Israel.
Maoz will soon be publishing The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order in modern Hebrew! It will enable countless Israelis to read and more easily understand the Hebrew language Old and New Testaments for the first time in Israel’s modern history. Our Maoz partners have given all the funds needed ($539,000) to publish this Bible and we are aiming for publication by the end of 2020!
Maoz Israel publishes books and literature for spiritual growth in the Hebrew language. These books give multitudes of Israelis the opportunity to understand the Good News, and put down deep roots in their faith. You can help us bring these life-changing resources to the people of Israel when you support Maoz Hebrew publishing.