Welcome to Stellenbosch University


​Mission of the Centre

The mission of the Centre is to coordinate and develop academic skills in the field of Bible interpretation and translation through research and facilitation in order to deliver a service to Bible interpretation, Bible translation and the acceptance of the Bible generally and on the continent of Africa specifically.


The Centre for Bible Translation in Africa was founded in 1995 at the University of Stellenbosch. From 1995 until 2003 it was part of the Department of Ancient Studies of the University of Stellenbosch. Its founding was inspired by the following observations:

  • that in most Bible translation projects, English, French or Portuguese are used as source texts;

  • that indigenous translators are seldom sufficiently trained in Biblical languages and cultures.

On account of, on the one hand, a growing need for research into the impact of Bible interpretation and translation and the use of the Bible in society ("Scripture Engagement"), and, on the other hand, accumulated research capacity in these fields of study in the Departments of Old and New Testament at the University of Stellenbosch, it was decided to broaden the basis of the Centre. In October 2003 the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa, was established. The new Centre is now located in both the Department of Ancient Studies and the Department of Old and New Testament. Its activities are organized around three focus areas: Bible Translation, Bible Interpretation and Communication and Engagement.

Under the guidance of its board, representative of various academic disciplines, Bible interpreters and translators and the private sector, the Centre seeks to function on an interdisciplinary basis, co-ordinates the necessary functions and keeps in touch with organisations and individuals involved in Bible interpretation and translation in Africa. The Centre places a high priority on the needs of the constituencies it serves. Apart from giving specific support by providing scientific information, it initiates and manages research projects that address the needs of its constituencies.

The Centre is not officially linked to any one organisation. For its funding the Centre is entirely dependent upon donations. Funds are deposited into a special University account managed by the Board of the Centre and audited annually by the University's auditors.

The Board of the Centre submits an annual financial and activities report through the Faculties of Arts and Theology for approval by the Senate. The current Executive Committee of the Centre consists of the Director, Prof. Christo van der Merwe, along with Dr. Louis Jonker and Dr. Jeremy Punt.


The Centre strives to achieve its mission by means of the following activities:

  1. To do project-based research about relevant issues concerning Bible interpretation, Bible translation and the reception of the Bible, in collaboration with experts within the University and also from outside.

  2. To gather information about the need for research, advice and practical help, through regular contact with all the parties involved with the interpretation, translation and reception of the Bible (e.g. Bible translation agencies, training institutions, churches, Bible study groups or individuals) on the continent of Africa. This must be done so that research and other projects which are undertaken will not only have a theoretical aim, but will also be practically orientated.

  3. To introduce the results of research through national and international publications, the presentation of symposia, workshops and/or congresses, and to stimulate discussion. To make the empirical results of research available to relevant interest groups and the interested public via popular publications.

  4. To set up a framework, in collaboration with institutions who are in charge of Bible translation in Africa and related departments at the University, as well as other relevant training institutions, to equip and train Bible translators and assist researchers concerning Bible translation.

  5. To develop, in collaboration with existing national and international information retrieval programmes, accessible computerised information services that inform readers in the fields of Bible interpretation, translation, and reception in Africa and to constantly keep these services up to date.

  6. To assist expositors, translators and users of the Bible with advice when required.

  7. To undertake project-based practical translations and/or develop resources for the understanding of the Bible or Bible sections for specific groups of readers.


  1. Organize conference for South African Bible Society on "Contemporary Translation Studies and Bible Translation," Kempton Park August 2001.

  2. Play a pivotal role in the formulation of the theoretical frame of reference of the new Bible in Afrikaans (2002-2005).

  3. Organize in cooperation with the United Bible Societies and Old Testament Society of South Africa a conference with the theme "The Bible in Africa," Pietermaritzburg, September 2005.

  4. Assist the Bible Society of South Africa with the organization of training seminars for translators of the new Bible in Afrikaans (2006).

  5. The Afrikaans Bible for the deaf. A project of the Bible Society of South Africa. A member of the Centre acted as Biblical Hebrew consultant (2008).

  6. Short courses in Biblical Hebrew in Nairobi to mother-tongue speakers from all over Africa (2011-2012).

  7. Active participation in the new translation of the Bible in Afrikaans (since 2005-). See