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Confused about what the differences are? Here is a brief explanation!

First, the similarities:


Image by Elyse Patten, Wycliffe Global Alliance

Some studies have concluded that a majority of the world’s population are oral learners. This would include those who are completely illiterate or have low levels of literacy, as well as others who simply prefer to hear rather than read. With the rise of digital media, these would include many literate people who prefer to receive information through videos, podcasts and other non-written media.

One of the hallmarks of both Oral Bible Storying (OBS) and Oral Bible Translation (OBT) projects is that oral methods are used, and that the products (Bible stories, scripture) are in oral form. The story crafters and translators may read the source text, but they may also simply hear the text in audio form. However, no writing is used in the crafting or translation process. Instead, they may make use of techniques such as kinaesthetic learning, drama/skits and storyboards to craft and refine the material. This helps to ensure that the output sounds natural. The final products will be in the form of orally told stories, and audio or video recordings.

One benefit of these methods is that there is no need to first devise an accepted orthography for languages that may not have a written form, or when there is no generally accepted writing system. For groups which have few literate members, there is no need to take the time to teach enough people to read and write, and so expands the pool of participants to include the non-literate. All this means that the oral stories or scripture can be translated and delivered to all in a much shorter time, and in a more culturally appropriate way, than with traditional written translation projects.

Another benefit is that story crafters and translators are forced to engage with Scripture more deeply right from the beginning of the process in order to retell the stories. They begin with hearing the passage, discussing it, asking questions and internalising the story or passage. They have to think about the tone of voice used, the feelings and emotions, etc. God’s word can thus start making an impact on lives early on.

There are also some places where the security environment is such that it may not be feasible to distribute printed Scripture widely, while oral products can be distributed more safely.


Both OBS and OBT share the aim of communicating God’s Word to hearers in a way that is clear, accurate and natural. Whether in crafting a Bible story or any other Bible passage, the handling of God’s Word is taken just as seriously as for any written translation.

And this is where they differ:


Image by Marc Ewell, Wycliffe Global Alliance

OBS projects typically focus on crafting a set of Bible stories, ranging from 20 to 50, or even 100. The project may begin with a “panorama” set from Creation to Christ, with other stories chosen based on the needs and cultural background of the people group. These stories, once crafted, are learned, practised and shared with others. This could be in Story Fellowship Groups, told from church pulpits, or in one-on-one evangelism and discipleship. In terms of methodology, every storying method requires that the stories be tested and checked before they are widely used.

OBT projects aim to translate Scripture into a target language through oral means into an oral form. This could range from the gospel to the New Testament, or the whole Bible. In terms of methodology, the requirements for testing and checking are no less than in written translation projects.

Whether OBS or OBT, those working in these projects firmly believe that access to God’s Word transforms lives, and their desire is to make sure that the Word of God is delivered to those who need it, more speedily, and in a form that they will accept readily.


Wycliffe Singapore has been facilitating the crafting of Bible stories in Teochew. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in this ministry (in Teochew or some other dialect or language), or finding out more about oral Bible storying, contact us.

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