I’m not a religious man myself, but I’m impressed with the work that has been done by Christians eager to translate the Bible into as many languages as possible; the site World Scriptures has a section that lists such translations, and not only is the number impressive (more than 2000) but you can see portions of the translation (usually the beginning of the book of John) for many of them (those marked with an icon of a scroll in the A-Z list). Sure, they have plain old Arabic (“Part of the Bible was published for the first time in 1516”), but also Algerian, Chad (Romanized!), Egyptian, Judaeo-Tunisian, Lebanese, North African, Palestinian, Sudan, Southern Sudan, and Tunisian. (And I’m afraid I got a juvenile chuckle out of the fact that there’s a language called Anal.) Thanks for the link, Paul!


  1. For most of the 20th Century, the BFBS periodically published The gospel in many tongues. The subtitles chronicle their progress, not as dynamically as the timeline on that site, but somehow more concretely. I have what I think is the next-to-last edition, one of three(!) from 1965, with 872.

  2. When I first came across translations of the gospels into Tunisian Judeo-Arabic, that was a shock. But it turns out that that’s not the end of it. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, someone in London published a translation of the Gospel according to Matthew into what they called – I kid you not – “Algerian Yiddish”, i.e. Arabic in Hebrew script, i.e. Judeo-Arabic. I’d love to get my hands on that one. And then there is also St. Matthew’s Gospel in Moorish Colloquial Arabic published in 1927 in Moroccan Judeo-Arabic and New Testament in Arabic Mogrebi (sic) (Arabic script) published in 1932 in London, available at the British Library.
    The one lists as “Arabic: North African” is accompanied by a picture from Van Dyke. Except for the word البدو, the text is identical with the one in my copy of the Arabic Bible (mine has البدء). So while the translations of the gospels into Maghribi Arabic (whether Jewish or Muslim) do appear to be somwehat classicized, this is definitely not the real deal.

  3. Ethnologue usually reports (true to its ancestry as a SIL-internal database) whether, and what parts of, the Bible have been translated into each language. For English, it reports: “Bible: 1382-2002”.

  4. The book doesn’t have that “Algerian Yiddish” one. Too bad. It does have the “Moorish Colloquial (Mogrebi)” and three Judeo-Arabic samples. It doesn’t have a proper bibliography, so they are only identified by date (1892, 1932, 1920). Nor are the verses identified; only one says anything, just Mt. I don’t think it’s even a complete verse; it (maybe ללרב אילאהיךּ תבאייע והווא וחדו תעבד׃) looks like the end of 4:10 (Dominum Deum tuum adorabis et illi soli servies).
    The Book of a Thousand Tongues is much better in those regards, and has better facsimiles. It has a couple Judeo-Arabic too.
    I don’t have Scriptures of the World (yet!). I wonder whether it’s more or less the same as this website.
    I could scan a few pages if you don’t have these books there and want just a tease of the text.

  5. Great idea, but next to useless without proper bibliographic details.
    I picked up a copy of the 1827 edition of the Bible in Ottoman Turkish from Oxfam just recently (ex libris P.W.Donner), and wanting to find out more about it happened upon this site, but all it could tell me is that “The complete Bible [in Turkish] was first published in 1827”, which I already knew for myself from the title page. No mention of the fascinating facts that the translation had been made by a Polish boy called Albertus Bobowsky (AKA Ali Bey) who had been kidnapped by Tartars two hundred years earlier, and that the manuscript of his translation had been lying lost in Leiden University Library since the 1660s.

  6. MMcM,
    that would be great, thank you so much.
    I actually have an article by the late Reinhold Kontzi entitled “Maltesisch-Maghribinischer Sprachvergleich anhand von Bibelübersetzungen” where he compares several of these Maghribi translations with several Maltese translations. Not even he was able to find out anything about the “Algerian Yiddish” translation, but he must have had it in his hands because he quotes from it. He also mentiones and quotes from two other translations into Tunisian JA with titles in French published in Algiers. I’d like to compare those with the ones from “The Book of a Thousand Tongues”.

  7. Andrew,
    apparently, they only count printed translations. Look at Slavonic, for example: “Part of the Bible was published in 1491”. Poor St. Cyril…

  8. A language called anal? Why not, um… after all? In the end, why should languages inphallibly be oral? Not such a freudening thought, really. Not fundamentally floored, when you analyse it to its base, or even a posteriori. Has a ring about it. Language colonising even the “underworld”, per vias rectas.

  9. O, I should have included a link for per vias rectas.

  10. They added Kriol to the list not too long ago.

  11. Speaking of translation collections and Maltese, here is one of the more interesting ones in Ad Pyrrham. It does not show up in Google, except as “No preview available” for the book itself.

    Paul L. Xuereb
    Liema tfajjel irqiq fuq il-ward
    Go xi għar, kollu fwieha milwiema,
      Imħabbtu iferragh, o Pirra,
      Għalik? Dawk id-dliel qishom deheb
    Għal min dfarthom, bil-ħajr izda rzina?
    A tassew kemm għad jibki t-tibdil
      T’allat u twemmin, għad jistagħeb
      Bil-bahar imqalleb b’rih dalmi,
    Waqt li issa hu jemmen, jitgħaxxaq
    Bik imdiehba, li ħielsa u ħlejja
      Kull ħin lilek jitma u bl-irjieh
      Qarrieqa ma’ jafx! Imsejknin
    Dawk li sbejħa jarawk, mhux imgarrba.
    Fuq l-irħama tal-wegħda fil-ħajt
      Imqaddes taqraw kif lill-qawwi
      Nettunu dendilt l-ilbies niedi.

    Am I overlooking something or are these surveys of English or polyglot translations (other than the Bible or Pater Noster), maybe with commentary, a fairly recent phenomenon? For instance, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, One Hundred Frogs, or even Le Ton Beau de Marot. Why nothing from the heyday of philology? Of course they spring up online, like Sappho or Laozi (for which I’ve seen the claim that it’s second behind the Bible in number of different translations).

  12. for which I’ve seen the claim that it’s second behind the Bible in number of different translations
    Maybe in Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy?
    After the Bible itself, Lao Tzu’s Taoist classic, the Tao Te Ching, is likely the most widely translated book in the United States. (p. 27)
    Maybe you’re right about the recency of these collections. Somewhere here I should have a collection of various translations of “Hamlet” and “Sonnets” into Slovak and Czech, published maybe five or six years ago. And there is this collection of polyglot translations of Poe’s “Raven” I seem to have misplaced, also fairly recent (1970s? 1960s?). I can’t seem to recall anything older than that.

  13. Says quite a bit that the first entry on the timeline is a Latin bible from 1456…

  14. MMcM, are you in Minnesota?

  15. Sorry, Boston.

  16. I’m surprised to see the numbers,even though I’m also not a religious man,I’m impressed with their effects..I’ll be happy if they content them self by spreading the book alone, not religion…
    European Breakdown Cover

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