BY CARRIE MADREN
Society ensures Scripture not lost in translation
BY CARRIE MADREN
As the Maryland Bible Society celebrates its 200th anniversary, its members are recommitting themselves to the belief that nothing should separate people from God’s Word. At their headquarters in Baltimore, they offer the Bible in more than 65 different languages.
It was this need for translation and accessibility to the Bible that sparked the first Bible Society in Great Britain.
In 1800, 15-year-old Mary Jones walked 25 miles to buy a Bible in her native Welsh language. Her passion and journey inspired the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804, and Bible Societies were formed in the United States soon after.
Bible societies make it their mission to translate Scriptures into languages that people speak and understand — there have been some 90 English translations alone since 1900.
“English changes every 20 years, so there’s always a need for a new translation,” said the Rev. Raymond Moreland, a United Methodist who serves as executive director of the Maryland Bible Society. “Since Martin Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, we’ve had a need to put the Bible into the heart language of people, to read it in a way that’s easy to understand.”
Of the 90 English translations, 22 are considered major translations that we’ve heard of, but there’s no preferred translation, Moreland said.
The King James version, written in the early 1600s, is still popular, according to Moreland, as well as the New International Version.
Of the 6,900 languages spoken by human beings, the entire Bible has been translated into some 500 languages and some portion of the Bible into 3,000 languages. The Baltimore-based Maryland Bible Society, founded in 1810, distributes Scripture in 65 languages. The Bible Society keeps over 60,000 Bibles on hand in their warehouse, worth more than $125,000.
“We do tons of Spanish Bibles here — Spanish is no longer a foreign language,” Moreland said.
Most of the printing of the Bible in the Chinese language is done in Nanjing, China, on the Amity Press, the largest printing press in the world. It prints some 50,000 copies of the Chinese Bible every month.
Maryland Bible Society gets most of its Bibles from 17 Bible publishers, most from the American Bible Society and the International Bible Society.
Distributed Bibles — the ones handed out at ROCK in Ocean City, given to deployed soldiers and offered at other events — is the Scripture without note or comment. “We’re not telling people what the Bible says, we’re encouraging them to get it, read it and study it,” said Moreland.
Those Bibles are part of the society’s efforts to support Scripture engagement: “Getting people to read it, to understand it, to dialogue with others about it, to study it and to allow that Word to have a life changing affect,” said Moreland. “Our purpose is to provide Scripture and to get people engaged in understanding that this Word has life-changing power.”
The society also sells study Bibles, Bible study guides, academic resources, English-Greek dictionaries, illustrated children’s Bibles, teen study Bibles and more.
Books for sale through the Web site and at the Bible House in Baltimore include a wide selection of affordable, discounted Bibles sold at or below retail cost, with prices of most ranging from $1.75 to $20, on the belief that price should not turn anyone away from owning a Bible.
When people who are homeless show up in the Bible House in downtown Baltimore, the society staff offer a free Bible, or accept whatever spare change the person wants to give.
Moreland said he’ll keep the society open to the public, as a safe, secure place that people can come and meet other Christians as they receive or buy a life-changing book.
Find out more at www.marylandbible.org.