The Bible: ASL Version
What is The Bible: ASLV?
This is the first translation of God's Word into American Sign Language. The New Testament and several books in the Old Testament are already completed. Translation teams of ASL and original language experts work together to produce a translation that is both accurate and understandable, and which is not dependent on English translations of the Bible. English voice-overs are not included. Some of the many helpful features of this version include sharp, colorful close-ups of the skilled deaf signers; on-screen chapter and verse index for easy selection of Biblical passages; and helpful graphics, notes, maps and illustrations. As technology improves, more recently completed books of the Bible are presented in high-definition, and include more special features, such as verse-by-verse selection.
Why do we need an American Sign Language (ASL) Version of the Bible? This might be the first question a hearing person would ask. However, a deaf person would not ask "why?" but most likely would ask "when?" For deaf people, reading spoken language is equivalent to reading a second language. ASL has its own unique rules, structure and grammar. Therefore, an accurate translation of the Bible into ASL is essential for deaf people to understand God's Word clearly. That is why Deaf Missions developed the Omega Project - the project of translating the Bible into ASL.
For years, many deaf and hearing Christians were convinced that an ASL version of the Bible was needed, but no serious attempts were made to launch a sustained effort because of the enormity of the task. However, in 1981, Deaf Missions determined to step out in faith and pursue the first translation of the Bible into ASL with no established principles or guidelines to follow. The first few years were spent searching for a process that would produce an accurate and dynamic visual translation from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages. In the beginning, Dr. Harold Noe worked with the on-camera presenter to prepare a simple English "front translation," from which the signed version was prepared. These first draft translations were then sent to a Translation Committee of key deaf and hearing leaders from several denominations for review and critique. Many of the early efforts produced translations in Pidgin Signed English (PSE), which looks similar to ASL, but uses English grammar and order. However, in later years, the translations were completed in true ASL with deaf signers.
A turning point came in 1984, when we realized the wisdom of using a team approach in the translation process. The team approach helped produce a more accurate and understandable translation in ASL. Since then, teams of two to four deaf and hearing experts have been formed for each book of the Bible. These teams work together, analyzing the English model text while back checking to the original Hebrew and Greek texts, to translate the Scriptures into ASL. One member then serves as the on-camera presenter for the translation.
Not only has the Omega Project served to provide deaf people in North America with a dynamic Bible translation in ASL, but it has also been a model for translation work in numerous other countries. Representatives from the British Bible Society, the Australian Bible Society, Summer Institute of Linguistics/Wycliffe Bible Translators, and several other countries of the world have begun their own respective translations of the Bible into other sign languages. Praise God for all of these efforts and for the dedicated deaf and hearing people He is using to translate His Word into the preferred language of deaf people!