Swahili (also called Kiswahili) is a Bantu language of the Niger-Congo family of languages. It is the mother-tongue of the Swahili people, who live along the east coast of Africa. With a population numbering in the millions, they primarily live in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Kenya, and Northern Mozambique, but they also live elsewhere. Swahili is a common trade language for a large portion of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Somalia, Zambia, Mozambique, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is one of the working languages of the African Union. It is an official language in part of Africa, although most people may prefer their own tribal language. A large number speak Swahili as a second language. It is uncertain how many people speak Swahili. Estimates have ranged from 110 to 150 million speakers of Swahili.
Bible translation work is not new to Swahili. The first complete New Testament appeared in 1879 and the first whole Bible in 1890. Two of the more popular translations available today are the Swahili Union Version (SUV) and the Neno: Bibilia Takatifu, (SNT-1989), which is a Swahili New testament in the Tanzanian dialect. The Swahili Union Version was first copyrighted in 1957 and the Revised Swahili Union Version (SRUV) in 2005. It has many of the same problems that are seen when the United bible Societies Greek New Testament is compared to the Received Greek Text, over 8,000 differences. Part of the famous Trinitarian statement in 1 John 5:7-8 is contained in the SUV and the SRUV, but it is offset by a bracket that casts doubt on its authenticity. The SNT (which is the Swahili NIV) does not contain the Trinitarian statement at all. This is only one of many examples of corruption in these versions. The ministry to Africans is being hindered due to the problems in the Swahili translations. There is a great need for a new, accurate translation that is faithful to God’s Received Text.
A number of years ago, a new translation was started by a brother named Alan Lear. It had the goal of being faithful to the Received Text Greek New Testament and the same Hebrew Masoretic Text used by the King James translators. Brother Lear and numerous African helpers made great progress on the translation. However, Brother Lear passed away before he could finish the New Testament. He was able to complete John and Romans and a number of them were printed. His translation passed into the hands of Dr. Steve Zeinner and Global Bible Translators.
Recently, through contact with Robert Mickey, a missionary to East Africa, the translation project has been revived and come full circle. Robert Mickey is the missionary who encouraged Alan Lear to translate the Bible into Swahili. Brother Lear was working with Dr. Steve Zeinner and Bearing Precious Seed Global/Global Bible Translators. Over the years after Brother Lear passed away, God worked on the hearts of Brother Mickey and his church in Africa. Their conviction about the need increased to the point that they committed to do the translation themselves. A number of things pointed in that direction. Finally, the last piece fell into place. The missionary and Baptist organization that had worked with Brother Lear was brought back into the translation picture. Dr. Zeinner met with Brother Mickey earlier this year and discussed their mutual interest in translating the Bible into Swahili.
We have placed the original John and Romans, translated by Alan Lear, on our web site. Follow the link on this page. Dr Zeinner has shared the following information about Brother Lear:
Alan Lear was born in England where he lived for many years. At the time of his passing, he was living in the USA with his American wife whom he met in Kenya. He and his wife spent many years together, living in England, USA, Tanzania and Kenya. He was truly thankful for God’s help and guidance in his life. While living in Africa, God gave him and his wife a strong and growing love for Africa and the African people. God also gave him a strong desire for them to have, in their own language, a Bible that was translated from the original words of God as accurately as possible. His desire for accuracy was enhanced by training in science and other fields that the Lord enabled him to obtain. He was able, by God’s grace, to obtain a Master of Health Science degree (MHS) and a Master of Arts in Translation Studies (MATS). God enabled him to start the translation of the scriptures into the Swahili language. He was assisted by the help and encouragement of many people. One of his helpers was an African friend, who was an expert in Hebrew, NT Greek, Swahili, French and English. He has been a great help in checking and correcting the translation. Also, many other Africans have made improvements in the translation. God put Brother Lear into my path so we could help him format the translation into a digital form and eventually print the first John and Romans booklets, which we sent to Africa. Since his death, little to nothing has been done on the translation project, but now God has raised up missionaries and nationals to help. God has moved their hearts to put the pure words of the Bible into the Swahili language. Plans are being made to travel to Kenya to meet with those that will be involved with this project and assist them in their endeavors.
It is clear that God wants the pure word of God to be made available in Swahili. Please pray that God will provide all that is needed.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)