In February, Wycliffe Associates (WA), a smaller sister organization to Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT), announced that a team in Asia was able to translate almost half of the New Testament in two weeks.

The announcement prompted a flurry of responses from experienced translators who questioned the quality of the work. How could something produced so quickly be any good?

“That part is the most difficult for people to believe,” said WA president Bruce Smith.

The project was prompted by an ethnic minority group from Asia that’s too small to be “on anybody’s priority list,” he said. They asked WA to help them translate the Bible on their own.

Organizers made two changes from traditional translation methods to speed up the project. They worked simultaneously on the text instead of sequentially, and they skipped the weeks of training on translation principles (including proper names, idioms, and key terms).

WA made the changes after comparing translations done by trained teams and untrained teams last summer. Their accuracy rates were the same, said WA’s Dan Kramer, who led the project.

The success of the “understandably absurd approach,” said Smith, was rooted in the translators’ “knowledge of their language and the languages of the source text.”

When WA gathered 13 translators for its Asian project, it immediately split them up and gave each a part of Scripture, along with multiple translations in other languages that the translators spoke. Two weeks later, they had completed the Gospels and 1 and 2 Timothy.

The results surprised everyone.

There was “no decrease in the quality of the translation,” WA announced after running ...

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