Author and apologist Tertullian (155-240 AD), from the Roman province of Carthage (Africa), has been often quoted as saying, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Although we may not agree with all of Tertullian’s theology, his intent was to express his belief that God uses persecution and martyrdom to cause the faith of His church to grow strong and to spread. This bold statement reminds us that the path of Bible translators down through the centuries has been stained with blood. Who would think that such a benign activity as translation work could cause such a vehement reaction? However, Bible translation is far from benign. Reading the Word of God in one's mother tongue can indeed transform a soul, a family, a church, a tribe, a community, or a nation. Bible translators of the past and present have paid dearly for their efforts. Their passion for God’s Word and obedience to Christ came at enormous cost.
John Wycliffe dared to translate the Bible into English rather than the authorized Latin at a time when it was blasphemous to read the Bible in the language of the common man. He would have been prosecuted for his crime of heresy had he not died providentially from a stroke beforehand. However, Wycliffe's colleagues at Oxford were burned alive, and with a vengeance Wycliffe's bones were exhumed 40 years later, burned, and tossed into the river. Motivated by the heartbeat of Wycliffe, Jan Hus believed strongly in the need for literacy. He gathered a team of scholars together to translate the Bible into the Czech language. This created an upheaval that would lead Hus to the horrific execution of being burnt at the stake.
In the 16th century, William Tyndale, being committed to translating the Bible accurately into English, went to Antwerp seeking refuge. Author Harry Freedman noted that "[Tyndale] spent the next few years dodging English spies and Roman agents." In 1535 Tyndale was betrayed for this kind of missionary work and arrested, strangled, and burnt at the stake. Even the apostles, who were committed to recording the Scriptures for mankind, paid severely for their labors. The cost of Bible translation as a part of the Great Commission has resulted at times in martyrdom. We thank God for men like Wycliffe who had the audacity to think that the Bible should be available to every person. Such thinking was and is a threat to the enemy of the church. Satan will do anything to hinder people from having a copy of the Scriptures in their mother tongue.
Translators have targets on their backs. This is where you come into the picture.
We humbly plead with you to pray with fervency, urgency, and intentionality for our Bible translators and consultants around the world. Would you please pray for those committed to the need for literacy and Bible translation? The timeline of church history is bathed in the blood of many, including those committed to Bible translation. Not everyone can be actively involved with translation work, but we can all pray. Pray for safety and protection. Pray for wisdom, clarity, and understanding to accurately translate the Scriptures. May God multiply and bring forth fruit from the ministry of Bible translation. Paul requested prayer that he might open his mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:19), that the Word of the Lord would have free course and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1), and that God would open a door for His Word (Col. 4:3). These are all worthwhile prayers for Bible translators. "Brethren, pray for us" (1 Thess. 5:25).