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Amharic has close to 26 million speakers around the world, of which slightly more than 21.6 million live in Ethiopia. The Society’s native Amharic translator has been engaged for more than six years in preparing a new edition of the Amharic Bible from the Greek Received Text of the New Testament and the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament.
Ethiopia has eight versions of the Bible in Amharic; the oldest which was printed in 1886 and is a very close translation to the Authorised King James Version. The other seven versions are all translated from the modern critical texts resulting in many omissions and additions based on the translation principles the translators used. Because of this Ethiopians do not have a translation based on the Received Text.
TBS Amharic Scriptures
Seeing these problems and having a burden of getting the translation into the Amharic language, the new translation was officially started in 2012. The first fruit of this project was Gospel according to John, which was printed in 2015 and about 100,000 copies have been shipped to Ethiopia and are freely distributed for evangelism.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Who speaks Amharic?
Amharic is mainly spoken in Ethiopia, a landlocked country in the horn of Africa. It is the official language of Ethiopia, and speakers also live in countries such as Eritrea, Egypt, Israel and the USA.
How many people speak Amharic?
There are around 26 million Amharic speakers globally. Over 21.6 million of these live in Ethiopia, and it is the second most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic.
What religion are most Amharic speakers?
Most Amharic speakers live in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a predominately Christian country surrounded by Muslim countries —roughly two-thirds of people who live in Ethiopia identify as a Christian of some sort and one third as Muslim. A census carried out in 2007 showed that 43.5% of the population identified as Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, 33.9% identified as Muslim and 18.5% identified as Protestant Christian, while a remaining small minority identified with traditional animist beliefs, or other religions including Catholicism. Ethiopia also used to have a substantial African Jewish population known as ‘Beta Israel’. However, the majority of Jews moved to Israel during the twentieth century. It is thought that Ethiopia was one of the first Christian countries in the world, the Kingdom of Axum (present day Ethiopia) having officially adopted Christianity as their religion in the fourth century AD. However, as the statistics show, sadly the majority of these are Ethiopian Orthodox, who believe in the heresy Monophysitism, the belief that Christ had only one nature, which was divine.
Are there Bibles currently available in this language?
There are only seven versions of the Amharic Bible currently in use. The 1886 Aba Rubi Bible (a product of the British and Foreign Bible Society) is good in many respects and is close to the Authorised (King James) Version but its use of terms such as ‘Saturday’ instead of ‘Sabbath’ has been used by the Seventh Day Adventists to persuade people that the Sabbath is Saturday. ‘Synagogue’ was also translated as ‘mosque’ and there are other such problems such as very old usages of words. The other six versions all use the modern Critical Text and have many deletions and omissions—for example 1 John 5.7 is missing in all six, and the subtraction of ‘God’ from 1 Timothy 3.16. One of the six is a direct translation of the NIV, another is a Jehovah’s Witness version, and another is an Orthodox Church translation from the Septuagint and containing the Apocryphal books within the Canonical books.
Why is a new version needed?
The Amharic speakers need a new version of the Bible, which is translated from the Greek Textus Receptus for the New Testament and the Masoretic Hebrew Text for the Old Testament. A new reliable version free from error and misrepresentation is important, in order that believers can receive sound teaching and be established on solid doctrine, rather than confusion.
When was the project started?
The project was started in 2012.
Who is involved in the project?
The translator is a native Amharic speaker from Ethiopia. He has recently immigrated to the USA where he is the pastor of a church there. He is in contact with Amharic proof readers both in his own church and in the United Kingdom. The TBS also has contact with at least one independent proof reader.
What progress has already been made towards the Amharic translation?
In 2014 the TBS General Committee approved the Gospel according to John for publication. This was published in 2015, and nearly 100,000 copies were shipped to Ethiopia. These were distributed in September 2015—there was difficulties getting the Gospels into the country, and extortionate levies and fees totalling £15,000 had to be paid for transportation, import and customs duties, taxes and storage.
The first draft of the entire New Testament was completed by January 2018. Shortly after this the translator and his wife were involved in a serious road accident, requiring hospitalisation and surgery. Mercifully both were spared although the translator’s wife still suffers side effects.
The translator spent the next twelve months reviewing the first draft of the New Testament and in late 2018 he started work on the Psalms. It is hoped that, if the Lord will, the Amharic New Testament and Psalms will be published in 2020.
How will the project been overseen?
The project is overseen by the TBS Editorial Department, in conjunction with the main translator who is currently living in the USA.
What are the primary obstacles that the project faces?
Committed proof readers are required to help review the draft New Testament and Psalms. There were difficulties getting the Gospels according to John into Ethiopia in 2015, so this may be an obstacle for the New Testament and Psalms. Three other Bible Societies already exist in Ethiopia, all using the Critical Text, so they have an advantage in terms of printing and distribution.
What are the needs for the project?
The project currently has several needs including the printing of the New Testament and Psalms and then distributing the copies within Ethiopia. Our translator would also like to establish the TBS within Ethiopia in order to have legal right to print and distribute the Bible, or to establish distribution centres to more easily distribute and make the Bible available in the country.