We all know that bible study tools are extremely helpful, but what if I were to tell you that creating a new Bible commentary would be totally useless?
One of the hats that I get to wear, as the president of Deaf Bible Society, is the advocacy hat. Many times, as I am out building our network and fundraising for the organization, I often have to take off my fundraising hat and put on my education hat. One story I would like to share, is a commentary story that had a major impact on one of my travels.
I was in the Southeast meeting with a newly introduced person, working within a pretty major organization. This organization specialized in apologetics and biblical philosophy and was quite known for its many publishings. As I was at lunch with this new friend, I was explaining our work in sign language Bible translation and distribution, and trying to help him understand the needs for this work. He immediately stopped me and said,
“but what about commentary? Don’t the Deaf need a good Bible commentary in American Sign Language?” Of course, all I could do was agree with him. I said,
“I believe that we should have several commentaries developed in American Sign Language, we should have Biblical and Systematic Theology resources developed in American Sign Language, and we should have resources for Christology and Christian hedonism developed in American Sign Language!” I then just sat there and looked at him. He then asked,
“So why don’t you develop one?”
“Because it is hard to commentate on something that doesn’t exist!” I responded. I went on, “There is not ONE sign language in the world with a complete Bible, and only ONE of the estimated 400+ sign languages has a new testament.”
How do we expect to develop good BIBLICAL resources in a sign language, when a BIBLE does not exist in that sign language?
After a moment of silence, this new friend looked at me and simply said,
“Brother, we have a problem. WE NEED BIBLES!”
Finally, the point I was trying to make sunk in. Their own organization can not effectively engage the US Deaf audience, as they do not have resources available in American Sign Language. We cannot develop these resources in American Sign Language because there would be no full Bible to reference back to! What we have to understand is that this goes beyond a literacy issue. If I were to quote the statistics of 65% of Deaf Americans being illiterate, you would assume that had something to do with intelligence rather than language difference.
Once my friend realized that the problem was related to language access, effective teaching and learning his whole world was changed. To this day, he is a faithful advocate and advisor as we try to educate other organizations within this network.
The problem still exists that millions of Deaf people live their lives without access to the Bible in their language… their SIGN LANGUAGE. While we are seeing great progress made in the area of Bible translation, there are still millions who are not aware some of these resources are being developed.
You and I have the opportunity to engage people with the Gospel in their sign language, unlike any other time in history. You and I have the opportunity to be a part of the final frontier of new language Bible translation. Through prayer, giving, and going we can make God’s name great among the sign language nations! I pray you will seek how you can be sure that, when it comes time for sign language commentary, it will certainly be a useful one.