The Museum of the Bible
This is a real copy of John Wycliffe's New Testament, published around the year 1400 in English! At the time, this book was illegal. Ownership was punishable by death. But this book would start a revolution to make the Bible accessible to people in their language!
This weekend our family visited the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. I'll start off by saying that if you've never been, it is totally worth the trip to see it. It is powerful to see how long the Bible has been around and how impactful it has been on the history of the world!
Bible translation has been around for thousands of years. We have copies of translations as early as AD 200 that mark the beginning of making the Bible accessible in other languages.
By the time Wycliffe showed up, the Bible had been available primarily in Latin for around 1,000 years. But no one spoke Latin anymore, so keeping the Bible in Latin kept it out of the hands of the layperson that spoke English. John Wycliffe, for whom our organization is named, wanted to change this and he did so by personally translating the Bible into a language that the common man could read. This was so heretical in his day, that his body was exhumed almost 50 years after his death so that he could officially be burned at the stake.
But his actions started a revolution that would lead to the Bible being mass printed and available to more and more people, ultimately leading to the explosion of Bible translations that is happening today.
The pictures above include copies of Tyndale's and Luther's Bibles (in English and German respectively), an early Bible in an ancient Ethiopic language, a Bible written in Braille, and an early King James Bible.
The top left picture is an actual page from a Gutenberg Bible printed on his printing press. The museum had a model of the Gutenberg press that they used to make their own prints of the Latin text to show people like our children how it worked!
This man was demonstrating the press while we were there.
Here, he is showing them what the final book would look like with the page that he had just printed (to the left). Can I brag on my kids for a second? They are memorizing part of John 1 in Latin and the man opened his Bible to that passage and they quoted the first verse for him...correctly!
The people of this day wanted the same thing we want today: for every person to be able to read the Bible in their own language.
"I marvel greatly, dearly beloved in Christ, that any man would ever contend or speak against having the scripture available in every language, for every man." -William Tyndale
"I would have those words translated into all languages...I long for the plowboy to sing them to himself as he follows the plow, the weaver to hum them to the tune of his shuttle, the traveler to beguile with them the dullness of his journey." -Desiderius Erasmus
But the story is not over.
Maybe the most powerful room in the museum for me was a library of Bibles from all the languages in the world (at least, those that have one). It provided a striking visual of how far we still have to go in the job of Bible translation.
The yellow books represent languages that have complete Bibles available. The orange ones are those that have a complete New Testament. This is good news! This is the legacy that we stand on the shoulders of as we join this movement of Bible translation.
We even got to see Bibles from some of the projects that we got to visit in Cote d'Ivoire. It was such a tangible experience to see languages like Bakwé, which has recently finished the New Testament. We even have our own copy of that one!
But the purple books below are languages that only have small portions completed and the blue books are languages that don't yet have a single word of Scripture in their language.
It is sobering. Each one of these empty book slots represents a community of people that don't yet have access to God's Word.
We are thankful to be a small part of changing this room. And we are thankful for those of you that are with us on this journey! Looking at these books makes it abundantly clear that it will take a team effort to begin to resolve this Bible poverty.
Would you consider being a part of this work? I encourage you to look at these bookcases and ask how you can be a part of making the Bible available to all people.
Please continue to pray that France would begin issuing visas again soon. Pray that He would give us wisdom as we figure things out and make decisions regarding this next step.