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Wycliffe Bible Translators is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making a translation of the Bible in every living language in the world, especially for cultures with little existing Christian influence. Wycliffe was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. There are currently branches in over 50 countries.[1] The organization is named after John Wycliffe, the first person to initiate a translation of the whole Bible into Middle English.

Philosophy and methods

Wycliffe bases its philosophy on Townsend's Protestantism which regards the intercultural and multilinguistic spread of Christianity as a divine command. This type of Protestantism adheres to the principle of sola scriptura and regards Biblical texts as the authoritative and infallible word of God.

In a Wycliffe mission, Wycliffe senior workers first request permission from the government in charge of a region. After the organization receives permission to operate, several small teams research a region's linguistic populations. Based on this data, teams are sent to each linguistic group.

The team introduces itself to a group, usually with the aid of bilingual helpers. The team lives on site, and attempts to speak the language. Formal recordings, word lists and grammars are kept, usually on computers, backed up periodically to the national mission.

When the phonology is understood, the team develops a scientific writing system similar to those in use by nearby trading languages, or according to standards set by the government. At some point, the team begins to translate short portions of the Bible into the native language. The translation is tested and corrected with native speakers, as well as the existing lexicographies and grammars. Once the Bible is translated, printings are arranged, often through one of the United Bible Societies. The length of the entire process varies depending on the portion of the Bible being translated; it can take longer than twenty years.


SIL International, originally the Summer Institute of Linguistics, began as a small summer training session for missionaries in Arkansas in 1934. They are a partner organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Another partner organization and subsidiary of SIL International, JAARS, originally the Jungle Aviation And Radio Service, provides transportation and technical services for missionaries and associated development workers.

Wycliffe Associates is a volunteer organization that exists to support Wycliffe Bible Translators. Wycliffe Associates' relationship to the main Wycliffe organization varies in the different countries in which it operates. Wycliffe Associates USA and Wycliffe Associates UK are separate organizations to Wycliffe USA in Orlando, Florida and Wycliffe UK in High Wycombe.

The Seed Company is a subsidiary of Wycliffe USA that provides support to local translators.

See also


  • Colby, Gerard with Dennett, Charlotte. (1995). "Thy Will Be Done. The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the age of Oil" Harper Collins, New York, NY.
  • Vickers, William. (1984). "Review: Fishers of Men or Founders of an Empire? The Wycliffe Bible Translators in Latin America by David Stoll." American Ethnologist, 11.1, 200-201.JSTOR

External links

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