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For the first time in history: The entire New Testament is available in South African Sign Language!

17 June 2023

After five years of translation work, in March 2023, Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Africa released the New Testament, or the Christian Greek Scriptures, in South African Sign Language. This is a breakthrough moment for nearly 450,000 people using this language!

 For many years in South Africa, deaf people did not have access to a reliable translation of even a single chapter of the Bible and thus could not benefit from learning the Bible. This changed in 2018, when the first publication of the first Bible book in South African Sign Language – The Gospel According to Matthew, was released.

Within five years, from 2017, when the translation work began, the team of translators translated into South African Sign language all 27 books commonly known as the New Testament, including the Gospels: According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of the apostles: Paul, Peter and John, and the Book of Revelation. One of the translators said:

“With this translation, the power and truthfulness of God’s word is felt even more now. This molds my thinking and personality because Jesus’ personality and Bible principles are presented.”


The South African Sign Language translation team recording a video in their translation office in Durban.

Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you speak to him in his language, that goes to his heart. “

The work of the translation and production team resulted in nearly 40 hours of recordings covering 260 chapters of the New Testament. Each of the 7,929 verses can be played separately. Thanks to these efforts, it was the first time that many people had access in their language to the most important Book for every Christian.

Mzamo Goloda, the national spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Africa, said: “We are delighted that the comforting truths contained in the Bible, so much needed today, are now available to tens of thousands of people who use South African Sign Language. One of the best ways to learn and understand the message of Scriptures and get closer to God is to start by learning about the Gospels that describe the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”

The New Testament in South African Sign Language has been published in electronic form and is. It is free of charge on and in the JW Library Sign Language application dedicated to the deaf and hard of hearing people, which can be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. In addition to the Scriptures themselves, both on the website and in the app, users can find many exciting videos, including movies, articles, and, interviews translated into Sign Language. Based on the practical principles of the Holy Scriptures, they cover topics related to marriage, children, and teenagers, but also social, scientific, and historical topics.

About South African Sign Language

South African Sign Language (SASL, AfrikaansSuid-Afrikaanse Gebaretaal) is the primary sign language used by deaf people in South Africa. The South African government added a National Language Unit for South African Sign Language in 2001. Sign language is on its way to becoming the 12th official language in South Africa after the parliament recently agreed to amend the constitution. The move will bring to fruition three decades of a struggle to empower the country’s deaf community. An official language has legal status in a state and serves as the language of administration (conducting day-to-day state business).

Source: JW South Africa


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