How many people groups need Bible translations?

January 1, 0001

How many people groups need Bible translations—and especially, how many frontier people groups?

This data is available on Joshua Project. For various reasons, the list isn’t absolutely perfect: the question of ‘how do we determine if a people group needs a translation’ is a complex one that translators and their organizations are still grappling with. Nevertheless, for a global picture, a ‘good enough’ answer can be obtained and graphed.

I used Joshua Project’s “Definite Need” filter, and then aggregated by my Stage of % Christian levels based on the % Christian of the group. The results:

Stages: 0, <0.1% Christian; 1, 0.1% to 2%; 2, 2%to 8%; 3, 8% to 32%; 4, 32% to 90%; 5, 90% and higher. Stage 0 = Frontier; Stage 0+1+ “part of 2” = Unreached.

That ‘definite translation need’ at Stage 5 (>90% Christian) surprised me. But some hint as to the reason can be seen in the two graphs: there is a high count of groups, but a low population figure; this means that we’re dealing with a lot of tiny groups. And if you look at the data set on the website, that’s what you’ll see.

If you have an interest in this subject, I suggest going and playing around with the filters and examining this aspect of the remaining task.