Jehovah’s Witnesses Complete Entire Bible in American Sign Language

Stills from the complete Bible in American Sign Language videos, released by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Images courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses

(RNS) — When Howard Mallory first saw the Gospel of Matthew rendered in American Sign Language nearly 15 years ago, he said he was able to understand it more easily than when reading it in English.

“Seeing it in sign language, it was amazing,” said Mallory, a deaf Jehovah’s Witness from Northfield, New Hampshire. “Of course, we wanted more. Only one book was done.”

On Feb. 15, the last of the Bible’s 66 books — the story of Job — was released in video on the Jehovah’s Witnesses website, completing what Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for the church, said is the only complete Bible in ASL.

There have been 60 million downloads of the free videos — the signers are all men, dressed in jackets and ties — with the English translation below, since the Gospel of Matthew was released in 2006.

“We’re not aware of any other translation ever in history in sign language, in any sign language that is complete,” said Hendriks in an interview. “There are many who have begun the translation, some who feel they’ll finish it soon, some who are way off. But this is the first complete Bible with the 66 books.”

According to the website of United Bible Societies, which did not respond immediately to a request for comment, other Bible societies have been working on a similar goal.

“There are over 400 sign languages and yet some Bible translation has so far only been carried out for 40 of these and no sign language Bible exists,” reads its website.

The American Bible Society, likewise, says in an October 2019 post on its website that there was no complete sign-language Bible, “but we are inching closer and closer to changing this.”

Deaf Missions, an Iowa-based Christian organization, is close, with hopes of reaching a “broader scope of historic Christianity.”

“Praise God, we have finished translating the entire New Testament and 33 out of 39 Old Testament books,” said CEO Chad Entinger, in an emailed response to Religion News Service.

“We look forward to celebrating on October 1, 2020 the faithful, diligent work of those who have worked with Deaf Missions through the years to get all 66 books translated into ASL — the native, preferred and heart language of Deaf people.”

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Source: Religion News Service