FEBRUARY 19, 2020
On February 15, 2020, Brother Geoffrey Jackson, a member of the Governing Body, released the final book of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in American Sign Language (ASL). It is the first complete sign-language Bible translation in the world. This historic announcement was a highlight of the dedication program for the new ASL Remote Translation Office (RTO) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.A. The program was held at the Christian Convention Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in West Palm Beach, Florida.
More than 2,500 attended the program while another 15,635 were tied in by livestream to Kingdom Halls throughout Belize, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States, bringing the total attendance to over 18,000.
After the dedication talk, Brother Jackson announced the release of the final book of the Bible in ASL. “We want to mention something to you—something very special,” he said near the conclusion of his talk. “With the release of the book of Job, the whole New World Translation is now complete . . . As far as we know, Jehovah’s Witnesses are the first organization or group of persons to release the complete Bible in ASL. And probably that means it’s the first complete Bible in sign language in the world [and] in the history of mankind.”
The release of the book of Job is the culmination of 15 years of translation work. The Governing Body approved the production of the ASL New World Translation in 2004. Two years later, the book of Matthew was released, and the rest of the Greek Scriptures were progressively released until 2010. The Hebrew Scriptures were released over the last decade.
The progressive release of the New World Translation in ASL has had a profound impact on the deaf community. “When I saw the New World Translation for the first time, I couldn’t help but start crying,” said Isias Eaton, a publisher who attended the program. “I didn’t feel goose bumps when I read the Bible in English, but the moment I started watching the Bible in sign language I couldn’t help but shed tears.”
The translation has transformed the ministry of many publishers in sign-language congregations. “It’s helped me to understand the truth fully and thus be brave and bold in the ministry,” said David Gonzalez, an ASL translator at the RTO. “Before having the Bible in ASL, I would doubt myself and hope the householder wouldn’t ask me a difficult question. But now that everything is fully in ASL—I’m ready. I’m confident!”
“The ASL Bible project set a pattern for other sign languages,” explains Nicholas Ahladis, who helps to coordinate Translation Services at the world headquarters facility in Warwick, New York. “Parts of the Bible are now available in 17 sign languages, and more are on the way.”
The complete New World Translation in ASL will no doubt help many more to draw closer to Jehovah as their hearts are moved by his Word in their own language.—Acts 2:6.