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Bible translation in Guatemala has a history longer than the King James Bible.

     Spanish priests translated the Books of Moses into the Kaqchikel language in 1553, before the King James Version was published in 1611 or even the Spanish Reina Valera in 1602.

     Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, arrived here in 1917 to sell Spanish Bibles. When he realized many people didn’t speak or understand the Spanish language, he learned Kaqchikel and translated the New Testament, publishing it in 1931. Townsend later returned to his native United States of America to recruit translators and to found Wycliffe and its academic sister organization, SIL International.

     SIL translators arrived in Guatemala in 1952, eventually establishing a large presence and office in the capital city. SIL officially closed the branch office in 2001 when most New Testament translations had been completed or were already in process. Over that period, SIL completed 24 New Testament translations and two complete Bibles: Kekchi and Garífuna, which was done in cooperation with the United Bible Society. Over its history in Guatemala, SIL published more than 1,300 titles in the indigenous Mayan languages and the Garifuna language. These include histories of the Old Testament, literacy primers, health and hygiene books, hymnals, histories, native stories, humorous tales, social studies, Bible concordances, indigenous dictionaries and linguistic and anthropological studies. At the time SIL closed the Guatemala City office, its translation teams continued work on eight more New Testaments.

     The Guatemalan Bible Society and Central American Mission also completed seven more Scripture translations. Meanwhile, other translations are in process by organizations such as the Lutheran Bible Translators, Guatemalan Bible Society, Central American Mission and Evangel Bible Translators.


Additional Resources:

Scripture Availability Chart