A Day to Celebrate

By Karissa Maust

Saint Jerome Italian School after Domenico Ghirlandaio probably 17th c.

Saint Jerome sat at his desk in the year 405, painstakingly recording the words of the Old Testament in Latin with his quill pen. He was creating what is now known as the Latin Vulgate, the first translation of the Bible in its entirety. Saint Jerome was a linguist born circa 347; he knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew fluently as well as several other languages. He had no idea of all the people who would follow in his footsteps with the concept of Bible translation, including William Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, SIL, and JAARS.

It was Cameron Townsend who initiated the idea for the first official Bible Translation Day in 1966; he was a translator himself, working on South American translations as well as many others. He understood that Bible translation was something that needed to be celebrated, so he proposed the idea to Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris. Harris shared this idea with the Senate, and the House and Senate accepted this proposal, making the holiday official. They decided to celebrate the holiday on September 30, the day the Feast of Saint Jerome is recognized in the Catholic Church, where Saint Jerome is considered the patron saint of translators. The United Nations even recognizes Bible Translation Day and the way that it has brought the countries of the world together.

The Apache New Testament was featured in the first celebratory Bible Translation Day ceremony in 1966, since it was the most recently completed New Testament. Cameron Townsend and all the attendees rejoiced at the work the Lord had done through Wycliffe that year. During his speech, he said, “We are making history. By God’s grace and with his help, we are taking part in a tremendous enterprise.” 

Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, SIL, and Wycliffe

The tradition of celebrating recently translated Scriptures continues at JAARS and elsewhere even today. Earlier this month, JAARS staff gathered in the Townsend Auditorium for our annual Scripture Celebration, a commemoration of 38 people groups around the world who now have God’s Word in their language. The afternoon was spent hearing stories of transformation, seeing joy on the faces of people celebrating having God’s Word in their language, and praising the Lord. We are thrilled and humbled that God has used us to help some of these language groups with their Bible translation work. For three language groups in the Central African Republic—Gbeya, Kaba, and Ngbugu—who came together to dedicate their New Testaments, JAARS provided a vehicle. This vehicle ferried their Scriptures and the national translators to their dedication and will help other people groups in this area finish their translations. Guests also traveled to the Gbeya dedication with the help of a JAARS-trained pilot serving with SIL Cameroon Aviation. Last year, the Tikro* people of South Asia joyfully dedicated their New Testament. The translation team’s work was helped by JAARS-supported technology. They also partnered with the JAARS-funded South Asia media partner, to produce mobile-accessible apps for Bible stories, The JESUS film, and CDs of songs in Tikro. These are only a few of the recently dedicated translations that JAARS helped make possible. Thank you for your help in getting Scripture to these last languages! 

Bible Translation Day is a day to celebrate the work the Lord has done and to look forward to what God will do through Bible translation organizations in the future. 

Over 600 million people around the world still do not have God’s Word in their language. This fact can either cause us to despair or propel us forward to finish the work God has for us. This Bible Translation Day, let’s celebrate the Scriptures that have already been translated, the translations that are to come, and, most of all, the God who makes all of this work possible.

Click here if you’d like a PDF copy of the 2022 JAARS Scripture Celebration program featuring the 38 people groups we celebrated.


Pray for language groups around the world who do not yet have Scripture and for JAARS as we support the work of translators!


*Pseudonym for safety reasons