This is actually a very good question for several reasons. Let’s first take a look at ourselves (meaning English speakers). What do we have in way of Bible translations? Well according to American Bible we have some roughly 900 translations. Now there are some issue with this number as they explain.
I am afraid no one can give you an exact number for the English translations and paraphrases of the Bible printed since Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526. In part this is due to the difficulty of determining what should be defined as a new translation as opposed to a correction or a revision of an existing translation. There is the additional question of how we should count translations that include not a complete Bible or Testament, but just a group of books or even a single book. And then, of course, there is the difficulty of sheer numbers. With all these caveats in mind, the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.
If you were to go to the above link and read on you would find that they do site a reference called Catalogue of English Bible Translation. In the section of canonical books are 806 pages. Now they didn’t say how many translations there are, but I assume by the wording that each translation is represented by a single page. So another count of 806 English Bibles.
Arguably you do not have access to all 800+ translations. So let’s take a look at that. Assuming you had over $1,600 worth of change laying around, and if you were to buy for instance Logos’ Scholar’s Library: Platinum then you would have 47 English translations available. But for the sake of argument let’s just say that you are a little bit thrifty. Let’s say that you use Bible Gateway. I counted that at the time of this writing you would have access to 30 different English translations for the cost of getting on the Internet. Or you could even go to Bible.is and listen to 3 English translations (very well done I might add). Ok so the take away is that essentially free of charge you have access to at least 30 English Bibles and the ability to listen to 3 of those in very professional grade audio form.
“Ok, so what,” you might say. Let’s take a look at the stats for other languages of the world. Currently we believe that 6,837 languages are in use. Of these 6,837 languages Bible translation is progressing in this manner (remember English is just one language):
Complete Bible: 471
New Testament: 1,223
Just Portions: 1,002 (defined as one or more books)
That’s a total of 2,696 of 6,837 languages with some to complete Scripture.
As of the 2011 Survey there are 2,040 languages that likely need a translation that have no one at this present time working on translation. Here is a map of the world representing the distribution of these numbers.
Here is an excellent vision of the point I’m trying to make.
So the next time you go to do your Bible study, and you have multiple versions to help you comprehend the meaning and context of Scripture do a couple of things. First, thank God for his mercy on you to have an abundance of resources to understand His word. Resources meaning not only translations, but also Bible dictionaries, commentaries, handbooks, audio Bibles, maps, books, etc. Second, pray for the people groups of the world who have little or no Scripture available in their heart language. Pray specifically that God would raise people up to go and do this hard work, including the people who play support roles, like we hope to do. Pray that they will also have people rise amongst them to write these other Bible study resources to help their people understand God’s word.