You’ve probably never heard of Ulfilas (I certainly hadn’t), but he may well have been the first to create an alphabet for a completely oral language. In the 4th century!
Ulfilas was a Christian bishop serving as a missionary among the nomadic Germanic people known as Goths. He devised a 27 letter Gothic alphabet from Greek and Roman characters in order to translate the Bible from the Greek language. (This was decades before Jerome completed the Latin Vulgate, the Bible used by the whole western church up until the Reformation). Portions of Ulfilas’ translation still exist, offering a glimpse into the history of Germanic languages.
Bible translation is a process that has throughout history affected the lives of real people—our own ancestors among them—and changed the trajectory of individual lives as well as the chronicles of nations.
To use a more modern expression, Bible translation was and still is a big deal! Think of it. Millions of people still without God’s Word in a language they can understand. And dedicated teams of translators, linguists, literacy specialists and more who utilize training, resources, and technology Ulfilas could never have envisioned, all working together to translate Scripture so those who do not know Jesus will have the opportunity to come to faith.
If you haven’t already looked at LBT’s Bible Translation Sunday materials, I urge you to do so now. It would be wonderful if your church uses these resources on September 26. It’s a way to honor the long list of translators and reformers who sacrificed much over the centuries so that we might have God’s Word in our languages, while also recognizing that much work remains to be done.
But even if your church does not celebrate on September 26, you can still use the materials yourself. Read the sermon, use the Bible study, share the children’s sermon and other kids’ resources with the youngsters in your life. You may not be able to create an alphabet, or translate Scripture yourself, but you can share about the ongoing need for Bible translation with friends, family, and neighbors. Give a gift, pray, advocate! Help put God’s Word in the hands of those still waiting for Scripture in their languages!