NIBLEY – This year marks the first time the Jehovah’s Witness religion has translated their New World Translation of their Holy Scripture or Bible in American Sign Language.
For Janet Burciaga of Logan, who lost her hearing as an infant and has difficulty reading the printed page, the American Sign Language version of the scriptures opened up a new love of the Bible.
“I remember when the Bible was fully translated into ASL, they started with Matthew, I felt like I really was transported into the Bible,” she said. “I was there, I could see everything, I could understand it and I wanted to watch it again and again and never stop.”
This year the Jehovah’s Witnesses completed the translation of the entire book of scripture in whole or in part, in 36 languages in 2020 to make the total translation of their bible in 195 languages published, in whole or in part.
“When I was a teenager, I would read the Bible, but I struggled to understand I,” Burciaga said. “But then in 2005, seeing the translation to ASL begin, it touched my heart, I cried.”
This work would mark the greatest number of language releases by the group of any year since their first translation was published in 1950. It also outpaces their translation efforts in 2020, where they released the Bible in 33 languages
“When Matthew was released, I watched it and tried to imagine the events and really focus on it. I would pause and draw pictures in my journal,” she said. “This helped me to get the point and get the connection with the scriptures.”
On Feb. 15, 2020, Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, announced the completion of the first complete Bible in American Sign Language.
“As far as we know, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the first organization or group of persons to release the complete Bible in ASL,” he said. “And probably that means it’s the first complete Bible in sign language in the world (and) in the history of mankind.”
Derrek Long, an elder and media host for the Cache Valley congregation of the Jehovah Witness Church, said he has a brother and his wife that join in the ASL congregation virtually each week from Logan.
“My brother and his wife took a course and switched over to the sign language configuration so they could use their ASL skills,” he said. “This is a massively useful tool for those in the ministry.”
Long said they know for teaching the Bible, participants will learn better if they can use their own language. It is easier to accomplish their work.
There have been more than 60 million downloads of the free videos — the signers are all men, dressed in jackets and ties — with the English translation since the Gospel of Matthew was released in 2006.
There are approximately 134 Jehovah’s Witnesess in Cache Valley with Kingdom Halls in Nibley and Preston. The ASL translation is available free of charge on the jw.org website.