Most Christians believe that Bible translation is important. Yet most don’t think to ask a critical question: what happens to a Bible translation in the years after completion?

Alumnus Jed Carter (Class of 2019) tackled that question as part of the trailblazing Scripture Use Research and Ministry project (SURAM). The project aimed to find out what happens to translated Bibles and why.

Made up of both foreigners and Papua New Guineans, the SURAM team collected their data by visiting language communities directly. They built relationships with members of each community to obtain an honest, inside look at how the Bible was being used.

Tough Answers

The SURAM team used preset criteria to score each translation by consensus. These criteria were highly informed by Dr. Wayne Dye’s “Eight Conditions of Scripture Engagement,” which Jed had learned from Dr. Dye himself in his first course at DIU.

Jed attended DIU online during his time working on SURAM, and his course proved continually useful. Often, he’d attend class one hour, then apply its lesson the next!

SURAM’s results, first published in 2017, included some grim numbers regarding the fate of translated Bibles. The hard truth is that, sometimes, the Bible goes unused. Of the 11 languages Jed and his team surveyed, only 3 had good Scripture use.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Steps Toward Solutions

SURAM made crucial progress in finding out why some Bible translations go unused. They discovered that they ought to pay attention to factors such as the quality of the writing system and the extent of the Bible’s distribution. Armed with SURAM’s data, future translation teams can better avoid pitfalls that have caused translations to go unused in the past.

But most significantly, SURAM challenges translation teams to think differently about their projects in several different ways:

  1. It challenges them to realize success is not inevitable.
  2. It challenges them to remember that each unique community needs a custom-fit strategy.
  3. And, because SURAM has only begun to answer its driving question, it challenges translation teams to keep being curious about how to encourage communities to read their Bibles.

One of SURAM’s greatest successes, according to Jed, is that it has inspired similar research projects all around the world. He hopes that Scripture Engagement research will continue to explode following SURAM.

After all, it is the very Word of God being translated in communities across the globe. People can have all the Scripture their shelves can hold, but transformation comes when they dust it off and read it.

Be a Game Changer

The foundational training Jed received at DIU gave him the tools he needed for this game-changing research—and now it’s your turn.

DIU offers multiple programs for various roles in Bible translation and Scripture Engagement. Explore our programs to discover which one is a good fit for you.