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The Whole Word for the Whole World – The 4.2.20 Foundation

The 4.2.20 Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the whole Word of God, not only the New Testament, to those parts of the world that do not have it, and will be using local believers from Israel to help train translators from around the world in biblical Hebrew.

The foundation, which opened in May 2015, takes the name 4.2.20 from the numeric representation of the Hebrew letters in the word davar, which means word.

Currently, only 7 percent of the world’s population have access to both the Old and New Testaments in their own language. There are over 4,000 languages into which the Old Testament has yet to be translated.


The foundation aims to train mother-tongue teachers and translators from all over the world in biblical Hebrew, and support the Bible Translation movement so that the work of translating the Old Testament into all languages can begin by 2033.

Based on the understanding that “the Old Testament is foundational for understanding Jesus’ Gospel of the kingdom and is critical to building and sustaining disciple-making movements,” the foundation has consulted closely with translators and leaders from several other major translation bodies, including Wycliffe, SIL, The Seed Company and United Bible Societies.

The 4.2.20 foundation is headed by President and CEO David Swarr, Ph.d, who has a strong background in cross-cultural leadership. Swarr also serves as executive director of International Orality Network (ION).

“We saw an example of the need in a tribe in Africa that was stuck in Animism: hearing the Gospels alone did not help,” Swarr explained to KNI regarding the importance of Old Testament access for everyone. “But when the tribe heard the creation story in Genesis, starting with ‘In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’, something powerful happened as they realized God was the Creator.”

“We have found that people needed to know about the Old Testament sacrificial system so as to understand Yeshua’s sacrifice for them,” he continued. “This is often the case in atheist countries, such as in Japan, for instance.”

The work of the 4.2.20 Foundation is carried out through two organizational branches: the Institute for Biblical Languages and Translation (IBLT) and the Center for Oral Scriptures (COS).

The Center is developing a database of oral learners around the world, to understand their needs in order to effectively reach those on difficult mission fields. COS is developing strategies through which the whole Word can be brought to oral learners in ways best suited to them.

“Even if we had translations in every language, about 80% of the world’s population does not learn best through reading,” Swarr said.

what-is-the-needOn the other hand, the IBLT “supports and resources existing Bible translation initiatives as a learning and research center, training mother-tongue translators in biblical Hebrew and native Hebrew speakers as translation consultants.”

The foundation offers exciting opportunities for Israeli believers to get involved with this project on academic and professional levels. A central goal of 4.2.20 is to train native Hebrew speakers and those with near native Hebrew proficiency to be consultants able to advise translators and check their work.

“We have a generation of believers growing up with the Hebrew language. We see them as a potential work force that can be trained and sent out to the mission field as teachers and consultants,” Randall Buth, vice president of the Institute for Biblical Languages & Translation, told KNI. “Israeli believers have been blessed with Hebrew from birth. There is a responsibility in the local believing community to see how they can take the whole Word of God to the nations.”

IBLT’s School of Biblical Hebrew, along with the University of the Holy Land, has launched an eight-month immersion program in Israel, taking beginners through to translation proficiency.

The foundation’s website states: “Through interdisciplinary and experiential courses, the participants are given the skills needed to address the diverse linguistic issues that translators face on the field. The program provides 48 credits in Hebrew, with three times more biblical Hebrew credits than the current general requirement for a Translation Consultant.”

“We don’t want to skimp on quality when handling the Word of God,” Buth said.

When the program begins in June 2017 it will capitalize “on the surroundings in modern Israel to create the optimal environment for biblical Hebrew training.”

“The best modern language practice advice is to study it where it is spoken. There are differences, but modern Hebrew relates so closely to Biblical Hebrew,” Buth added.

For further information, visit the IBLT website.

Participants will be expected to take part in the life of the local Body of Messiah. Local believers are invited to host participants at their congregations or homes for Shabbat dinners, for instance.

It is possible to sponsor a Bible translator. (Click here for more information.)

“The translators won’t always have much financial backing, coming from different, possibly poor, countries,” Swarr said.

Internationally, the Institute has already completed an important pilot project training professors and teachers in biblical Hebrew in Kolkata, India. The work took place at the Serampore College, a school that was started by the famous British missionary and Bible translator, William Carey. Although there are some 1400 language and dialects in India, the whole Bible has only been translated into a fraction of them.

In December this year, the Institute will hold an intensive Biblical Hebrew course in Nairobi, Kenya. This will be for the benefit of Bible societies, translation agencies and colleges working with African languages.

Passionate about helping everyone to hear the Word of God, 4.2.20 is an organization that takes to heart the prophetic word from Zechariah:

In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’

ZechARiah 8:23

Karen Faulkner
Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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