Ever since Wycliffe Associates (WA) debuted a new approach that can translate almost half of the New Testament in two weeks, the smaller sister organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) has been inundated with requests.

The process, called Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST), relies heavily on the local church to provide translators that are fluently bilingual. In a radical shift from earlier work, translators work simultaneously on the text instead of sequentially, and they learn translation principles (including proper names, idioms, and key terms) as they go instead of attending weeks of training beforehand.

By the end of 2014, WA had 115 projects underway. It added another 133 in 2015, and expects to begin another 500 in 2016. The world has about 4,100 living languages without any Bible translations, according to Mission Frontiers, the online magazine of Frontier Ventures.

“This is a breathtaking moment in the history of the church,” WA president Bruce Smith said in October when announcing MAST’s growth. “Christ’s Great Commission is doable. We can share God’s Word with every language group on earth—in our lifetime.”

Is this the death knell for longstanding translation practices, which invest years into language training and translation preparation?

Not quite, said Roy Peterson, CEO of the American Bible Society (ABS). That model was already dead.

“There is no such thing as traditional right now,” he said. “We are watching methodologies evolve right before our eyes that are accelerating translations.” ABS recently completed a New Testament in Zambia in three and a half years, he said. In 1980, the same text would ...

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