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Bible Translation in Ethiopia

Stories from the Field, 1 August 2023

Speakers: Dr Abeneazer & Dr Jessica

Map of Ethiopia in Africa

Ethiopia – a country with a population of over 123 million people and 129 people groups, each with its own language and traditions. The majority religion is Ethiopian Orthodoxy, with 29% of the people groups in the country still unreached.

The main trade language in Ethiopia is Amharic, but the government is supportive of multilingual education – ethnic languages are used in the early years of schooling, transitioning to Amharic later. Tertiary education is in English.

Bible translation. Image by Adam Jeske, Wycliffe Global Alliance

This year, 2023, SIL Ethiopia celebrated its 50th anniversary, and also achieved the milestone of having a Bible translation (BT) project begun for every people group that needs it! Altogether, SIL Ethiopia is working with 34 languages, at various stages of engagement.

With so much to do in the country, organisations working there have formed a Collaborative Partnership for BT. Seven organisations, including SIL Ethiopia, divide up the work to avoid duplication and share resources.

Listening to translated scripture. Image by Adam Jeske, Wycliffe Global Alliance

Many of the unreached people groups have low levels of education and literacy, and some languages do not have a writing system! So Oral Bible Translation and Oral Bible Storying techniques are used. Oral methods are more culturally appropriate for such groups as storytelling is a familiar part of their culture. Besides BT, there is also a felt need for more work to encourage Scripture Use and provide Trauma Healing in the people groups.

The greatest need now is for more consultants, advisors and literacy workers. Currently, there are only three Ethiopian consultants who work alongside several expatriate consultants. Local Christian denominations are now getting more involved in BT, which is a great item of praise.

Prayer items:
  1. Praise that a Bible translation project has begun in every people group that needs it.

  2. Pray for more human and financial resources for Bible translation and Scripture Use in Ethiopia.

  3. Pray that the gospel will bear much fruit among Ethiopia’s unreached people groups.

About the speakers:

Both speakers teach at the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa and are adjunct professors at Columbia International University (USA). Dr Abeneazer specialises in New Testament and Missiology, and is also Director of the Capacity Building Department at SIL Ethiopia. Dr Jessica specialises in Intercultural Studies, and is the author of Loving the Stranger: Welcoming Immigrants in the Name of Jesus and the Loving the Stranger Blog. They live in Ethiopia with their two children.

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