HYDERABAD, India (BP) – Tears fell and prayers rose as members of the Telugu Study Bible team saw their completed project for the first time Dec. 9.
The Telugu Study Bible was completely conceptualized, developed, translated, printed and distributed by local Indian pastors, theologians and ministry leaders working with Lifeway India.
“While there are already Bibles that can be found in Telugu, up until now there hasn’t been a study Bible developed with this level of additional rich content,” said David Humphrey, director of sales and customer solutions at Lifeway Christian Resources. “This will be the first of its kind, and one that is very much needed and is responding to the needs of the church in India.”
Through national lockdowns and the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and even among the team itself, contributors continued to work on the translation and study notes to provide a fully contextualized study Bible in Telugu, the fourth most common language in India, spoken by nearly 90 million people. In addition to notes and commentary, the Bible will feature QR codes that allow readers to access additional teachings and trainings digitally.
“Our Lifeway India team dealt with significant supply shortages, shipping delays and nationwide shutdowns due to COVID-19,” said Lifeway CEO Ben Mandrell. “But praise God, they were able to work through those challenges and release the Telugu Study Bible.
“Pastors and church leaders in India are hungry for the Word of God and for tools they can use to share the Gospel and make disciples in their own language. I’m honored that our team was able to create and publish this much-needed resource.”
Currently Lifeway resources are available in 160 countries and more than 60 languages through print, digital, licensing and training.
“It is our desire to develop trustworthy biblical resources in vernacular languages,” said Thomas*, strategist for Lifeway Global in the Southeast Asia region. “Our vision is to help the church increase Bible readership and the study of God’s Word. The anchor of each of our target languages is a study Bible. The Telugu Study Bible is the first and will serve as a template for the expansion of this strategy across the nation and region.”
At a pre-launch event, many of the pastors and ministry leaders responsible for the Telugu Study Bible gathered to see the finished results for the first time and share more about the project with other local church leaders. An additional, larger launch event is scheduled for Dec. 18.
One speaker at the pre-launch gathering said many Indian Christians raised in the urban context speak and think in English but can have difficulty proclaiming God’s Word in the Telugu language to others. “That is the value this will add to every preacher,” he said.
According to Thomas, “The Telugu Study Bible is the first step in a larger strategy to provide discipleship resources for the church in India.” He added that the priority over the next five years, following the successful launch of the Telugu Study Bible, is to develop vernacular Bibles in Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Mizo, Bengali and Odiya languages. The plan is to equip indigenous pastors and leaders by focusing on regions of India that are experiencing explosive church growth and have established partners.
“Getting more people to read and study God’s Word will protect the church from false teaching,” Thomas said. “Growth in the church is good, but it must be substantiated with growth in God’s Word and discipleship.”
For Thomas, he hopes the legacy of the Telugu Study Bible will cause people to “fall in love with the Word of God, as they see the care, thought and effort that was put into this resource and realize this is a Bible for them.”
He said he hopes all of the features cause many Telugu speakers to buy the Bible, “but more than anything, we hope that every word in this Bible draws readers into the heart of God. We hope that hundreds and thousands of homes in the region will have a copy of this Bible to treasure and love, and as they read it, they become stronger families and dynamic church communities. We believe we’ve produced a resource that by God’s grace, the church in the region will use for centuries.”
*Name shortened for security purposes.