African Bible Translations
The earliest translations of the whole Bible into an African language were done in Egypt. Known as the Coptic versions, they are believed to date from the third or fourth century C.E. About three centuries later, the Bible was translated into Ethiopic.
The hundreds of unwritten languages spoken south of Ethiopia and the Sahara had to await the arrival of missionaries in the 19th century. In 1857 a milestone was reached when Robert Moffat completed a translation of the Bible into Tswana, a language of southern Africa. He also printed it in sections on a handpress. This was the first complete Bible to be printed in Africa and was also the first complete translation into a formerly unwritten African language. Interestingly, Moffat used the divine name Yehova in his translation. In the 1872 version published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, the name Yehova is used in key statements made by Jesus as recorded at Matthew 4:10 and Mark 12:29, 30.
By 1990 the entire Bible had been translated into 119 African languages, with portions of it available in an additional 434.