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Bible translations into the languages of Africa

The Bible, or portions of it, have been translated into over 1,000 languages of Africa.[1] Many of these are indexed by the Forum of Bible Agencies, Find.Bible site and available online in text and audio form, as print on demand versions, or through churches and book sellers. This effort continues. Not all are (yet) listed below.



Bemba / Cibemba (Zambia)

Part of the Bible in Bemba language was first published in 1904, followed by the New Testament in 1916, and the entire Bible in 1956. Currently a revision is in progress. Paul Mushindo and the Scottish missionary Robert McMinn worked together on Bible translation into the Bemba language for over twenty years.[2]


Chichewa (Malawi)

The Chichewa, in Zambia still called the more neutral Chinyanja, Bible was translated by William Percival Johnson in 1912. This older version is bound as Buku Lopatulika. The Bible Society of Malawi records that the Buku Lopatulika translation was first published in 1922, revised in 1936 and 1966. A Jubilee edition was produced to commemorate Malawi's 50 years of independence.[3] The new Buku Loyera version is a contemporary Chichewa dynamic equivalent translation first published in 1998.[4]

Chope, Tshopi (Mozambique)

Dinis Sengulane, an Anglican of the Mozambican Diocese of Lebombo, translated into Tshopi.

Ciyawo (Malawi)

Malangano Ga Sambano is the New Testament in the Ciyawo language (Chiyao, Chiyawo). It is published by the Bible Society of Malawi (2011)[citation needed]

Igbo (Nigeria)

British Anglican Thomas John Dennis[5] translated the Bible into a "standard" "Union Igbo" by 1913.[6] This version was very influential but criticised by artists, among them Chinua Achebe, as stultifying the Igbo language.[7] The Igbo Living Bible was published in 1988.[8]

Khoekhoegowab/Damara/Nama (Namibia)

Johann Heinrich Schmelen translated into the Khoekhoe language (formerly "Hottentot") of the Nama people of Namibia.

Ki-Kamba (Kenya)

Johann Ludwig Krapf, a German, translated parts of the New Testament into Kamba language.

Luganda (Uganda)

  • 1893: A complete New Testament was available in one volume. Then the Old Testament books of Exodus and Joshua were translated by Pilkington and published by BFBS
  • 1894: Publishing of the Books of Genesis, Psalms and Daniel by BFBS but translated by Pilkington.
  • 1895: A new edition of the New Testament with corrections made by Pilkington is printed.
  • Early 1896:Books of the Pentateuch are translated by Pilkington and published
  • Mid-1896: Minor prophets are translated by Crabtree
  • Late 1896: The entire Old Testament is published.
  • 1899: A revised edition of the 1896 Luganda Bible is published by BFBS in London. The revision committee consisted of H.W Duta Kitakule, Ham Mukasa, Natanieli Mudeka, Tomasi Senfuma and Bartolomayo Musoke. The team was assisted by Jane E. Chadwick, a CMS missionary.
  • 1968: A newer edition of the 1899 Luganda Bible is published with a revised orthography prepared by Christopher MS Kisosonkole. It was published by the Bible Society in East Africa.
  • 1974: A Joint Translation Committee composed of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church is set up and tasked with the publishing of an ecumenical version of the Gospel according to Mark.
  • 1975: The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John are published.
  • 1977: The Book of Ephesians is published
  • 1979: The first Joint Ecumenical Luganda New Testament is published by the Bible Society of Uganda. Bible Society of Uganda was established in 1968 although the work of translation had been started earlier by the British Foreign Bible Societies.
  • 1984: The first revised Contemporary Luganda New Testament is translated by two people: Rev Yafesi K Mwanje and Mr EKK Sempebwa. It is published by Living Bibles International and is widely accepted as an easy-to-read version by people from all walks of life.
  • 2001: A complete version of the Joint Ecumenical Luganda Bible is published by the Bible Society of Uganda. However, it faces a lot of resistance because of the change in nomenclature of the Bible books, as well as the inclusion of the Apocrypha. Even though the Apocrypha is accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, it is not considered Canonical especially in the wider Anglican Church, Pentecostal Church as well as the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
  • 2014: The First Revised Contemporary Luganda Bible (both Old Testament and New Testament) is published by Biblica Africa. It comprises a Concordance and Names Index. The Team tasked to translate the work consisted of Omukulu. EKK Sempebwa, Rev. Can. Yafesi K Mwanje, Rtd Bishop Dunstan Bukenya, Mr. Solomon Mpalanyi, Ven. Can. Nelson Kaweesa, Rev. Isaac Mukisa and Dr. Amos Mwesigwa Kasule.

Malagasy (Madagascar)

The Bible was translated into the Malagasy language by David Jones (missionary) and David Griffiths, with the New Testament appearing in 1830.[9]

Mijikenda / Nyika

Johann Ludwig Krapf translated into Mijikenda languages.

Oromo (Ethiopia)

Oromo is a language of Ethiopia and Kenya. The New Testament was published in 1893, the complete Bible in 1899, the work of Aster Ganno and Onesimos Nesib. A new translation of the entire Bible was published by the Ethiopian Bible Society in 1992.

  • Johann Ludwig Krapf - Anglican, parts into Oromo, Amharic, Nyika (Rabai) and Kamba.

Oshindonga (Namibia)

Martti Rautanen - Finnish Missionary Society, into Oshindonga dialect of the Ovambo language of Namibia.

Otjiherero (Namibia)

Gottlieb Viehe - German, into Otjiherero language of Namibia.

Setswana (Botswana, South Africa)

Robert Moffat - Congregationalist, translated into Setswana language.

Sotho (South Africa)

Samuel Rolland (1801–1873), first missionary of the Paris Missionary Society, translated some parts of the New Testament and several hymns into Sotho language in the 1840s. Today there are Northern Sotho and Southern Sotho versions.[10]

Swahili (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania)

The first translation of parts of the Bible into Swahili was accomplished by 1868, with a complete New Testament translation following in 1879 and a translation of the whole Bible in 1890. Since that time, there have been several translations into different dialects of Swahili as spoken in different regions of East Africa; these include the Union Translation published by the Bible Society of Tanzania in 1950 and the Swahili Common Language version.

Translation John (Yohana) 3:16
Union Translation Kwa maana jinsi hii Mungu aliupenda ulimwengu, hata akamtoa Mwanawe pekee, ili kila mtu amwaminiye asipotee, bali awe na uzima wa milele.
Biblica, 1989 Kwa maana jinsi hii Mungu aliupenda ulimwengu hata akamtoa Mwanawe wa pekee, ili kila mtu amwaminiye asipotee, bali awe na uzima wa milele.

Xhosa (South Africa)

Henry Hare Dugmore, a Methodist, translated into Xhosa language. Tiyo Soga (1829–1871) was ordained the first African Presbyterian minister in 1856 and also translated.

Translation John (uYohane) 3:16
Bible Society of South Africa (1975) Kuba wenjenje uThixo ukulithanda kwakhe ihlabathi, ude wancama uNyana wakhe okuphela kwamzeleyo, ukuze bonke abakholwayo kuye bangatshabalali, koko babe nobomi obungunaphakade.

Yao (Malawi)

Ndandililo ni Kutyoka is a translation of the books of Genesis and Exodus from the Old Testament into the Yao language published by The Bible Society of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi 2004.

Yoruba (Nigeria)

Samuel Ajayi Crowther translated the Bible into Yoruba language and concluded it in the mid-1880s known as "Bibeli Mimo". The complete Yoruba Bible was first published in 1884.

Translation John (Johannu) 3:16
BFBS, 1900 Nitori O̩lo̩run fe̩ araiye tobẽ̩ ge̩, ti o fi O̩mo̩ bíbi rè̩ kans̩os̩o funni, pe e̩nike̩ni ti o ba gbà a gbó̩ kì yio s̩egbé, s̩ugbo̩n yio ni ìye ti kò nipe̩kun.

Zulu (South Africa)

In 1837, the first portions of the Bible in the Zulu language were published; in the "First Book for Readers," portions of Genesis and two Psalms were published. The first book of the Bible to be translated into the Zulu language was Matthew's Gospel, published in 1848 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). This was translated by George Champion (missionary) and revised by Newton Adams. The completed New Testament was published in 1865, translated by several missionaries of the ABCFM. The complete Bible, also translated by many members of the ABCFM, corrected by Andrew Abraham, and finally edited by S. C. Pixley, was published in 1883.[11][12] It was revised in 1959 and published in London by the British and Foreign Bible Society. A Modern Zulu New Testament and the Psalms was completed in 1986 and published in Cape Town by the Bible Society of South Africa. This was translated by Dean Nils Joëlson, and project co-ordinated by Mr. D. T. Maseko and Mr. K. Magubane. John William Colenso and Hans Paludan Smith Schreuder are also said to have worked on the Zulu Bible translation.

Translation John 3:16
(American Bible Society, 1883) Ngokuba uNkulunkulu walithanda ili-zwe kangaka, waze wanikela nge Ndodana yakhe izelwe iyinye, ukuba bonke abakholwa yiyo banga bhubi, kepha babe nokuphila okuphakade.


  1. ^ "Bible Translation Progress Infographic 2017" (PDF).
  2. ^ The struggle for control of education in Zambia Dan O'Brien - 2006 "As late as 1947 McMinn refused to take tea with Mushindo despite the fact that they had been working on a translation of the Bible (into Bemba) for over twenty years"
  3. ^ Bible Society of Malawi : Buku Lopatulika Bible
  4. ^ Bible Society of Malawi : Buku Loyera Bible
  5. ^ DACB bio
  6. ^ The Bible in Africa: transactions, trajectories, and trends p326 Gerald O. West, Musa W. Dube Shomanah - 2000 "Much of Igbo Christianity may be summarised by the phrase "Is it in the Bible?" The first and to date, the only standard Igbo Bible was translated by Archdeacon Thomas J. Dennis between 1913 and 1917. "
  7. ^ Emerging Perspectives On Chinua Achebe p 435 Ernest Emenyo̲nu, Iniobong I. Uko - 2004 - 459 "To Achebe, Union Igbo was a mechanical standardization, and its use in the translation of the Bible into Igbo in 1913 was a legacy detrimental to the growth and development of Igbo language and culture. He charged Dennis furthermore "
  8. ^ The Bible in Africa: transactions, trajectories, and trends p327 Gerald O. West, Musa W. Dube Shomanah - 2000 "The next significant translation of the Bible into Igbo language is the Living Bible Version whose New Testament was produced in 1966 while the whole Bible was published in 1988 "
  9. ^ A history of the church in Africa p490 Bengt Sundkler, Christopher Steed - 2000 "With the consent and support of the young King Radama I, they found a group of twelve talented Malagasy to serve as their linguistic co-workers. The first edition of the Malagasy New Testament appeared in 1830 and the Old Testament in "
  10. ^ Robert C. Germond Chronicles of Basutoland 1967 "Samuel Rolland - Born at Pierrefontaine (Doubs), on 13th May, 1801. Died at Hermon (Basutoland), on 18th January, 1873. With Prosper Lemue and Bisseux, Rolland belonged to the first team of missionaries sent to South Africa by the mission. "
  11. ^ Faith and Narrative by Keith E. Yandell, pg. 27
  12. ^ The Zulu Yesterday and To-day: Twenty-nine Years in South Africa by Gertrude Rachel Hance, pg. 45