World’s First Complete Sign-Language Bible Release
Jehovah’s Witnesses announced the release of the final book of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in American Sign Language (ASL). This historic announcement was made during the opening program of the new ASL Translation Office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A., where the publications in American Sign Language are produced. 2,500 attended the program and more than 15, 000 were tied in by livestream.
“We want to mention something to you—something very special, - said Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. - …The whole New World Translation in American Sign Language is now complete… As far as we know, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the first organization to release the complete Bible in ASL. And probably that means it’s the first complete Bible in sign language in the history of mankind.”
The basis for translation into American Sign Language was printed edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in modern English language. The translation work took 15 years beginning in 2004. Two years later The Good News According to Matthew was completed and between that time and 2010 the rest of the Greek Scriptures were published. Over the last ten years The Old Testament has been released.
The progressive release of the Holy Scriptures has had a profound impact on the deaf community. “When I saw the New World Translation for the first time, I couldn’t help but start crying,” says Isias Eaton, a deaf man who attended the program. “I didn’t feel goose bumps when I read the Bible in English, but the moment I started watching the Bible in sign language I couldn’t help but shed tears.”
This translation will be a big help for deaf people in sign-language congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who conduct their meetings in American Sign Language.
“The ASL Bible project set a pattern for other sign languages,” explains Nicholas Ahladis, who helps to coordinate Translation Services at the world headquarters facility of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Parts of the Bible are now available in 17 sign languages, and more are on the way.”
Now, the work on translation of the Bible into sign language is underway in Ukraine. In December 2019, two more completed parts of the Old Testament were provided - the book of Leviticus and the book of Ruth. These are the 30th and 31st books of the Bible, which are available in sign language for the deaf people in Ukraine and in the post-Soviet countries. Since the Bible consists of 66 books, this means that almost half of the Holy Scriptures is ready.