Bible translations into Oceanic languages

Bible translations into Oceanic languages have a relatively closely related and recent history.

Language family


The Oceanic languages tree also encompasses other languages, such as Fijian.


The following is a simplified version of the language tree of Polynesian languages showing only the major languages.[1]


Futunan is the main language of the New Hebrides. The first portions of the Bible on Aniwa Island was Mark and Matthew, translated by John Gibson Paton. These were published in Melbourne in 1877. In 1880 Acts was printed at Melbourne under the care of Mr. Paton's sons. In 1882-3 John, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 1st, 2nd, 3rd John and Jude were printed at Melbourne. Paton's translation of the complete New Testament was published in 1899.


Hiram Bingham II, Congregationalist, translated at least parts of the Bible into Gilbertese.

Translation John (Ioane) 3:16
Bingham, 1866 Ba e bati taṅiran te aomata iroun te Atua, ma ṅaia are e aṅa Natina ae te rikitemana, ba e aoṅan aki mate ane onimakina, ma e na maiu n aki toki.


The indigenous Hawaiian language, which is still spoken, is to be distinguished from the modern Hawaiian Pidgin English. There are also Bible translations into Hawaii Pidgin. A Hawaiian language translation was done by New England Christian missionaries including Reverends Hiram Bingham, Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston, Lorrin Andrews and Sheldon Dibble from 1800-1850.[2] The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were translated in 1828. The rest of the New Testament was translated in 1832, the Old Testament was translated in 1839, and the translation was revised in 1868.

Translation John 3:16
Ke Kauoha Hou (1839, 1868 & 1994) No ka mea, ua aloha nui mai ke Akua i ko ke ao nei, nolaila, ua haawi mai oia i kana Keiki hiwahiwa, i ole e make ka mea manaoio ia ia, aka, e loaa ia ia ke ola mau la.


The Bible was translated into the Maori language in the 19th century by missionaries sponsored by the Church Missionary Society.[3] In 1826, the Rev. William Williams started work on the translation of the Bible into the Māori language. The Rev. Robert Maunsell worked with William Williams on the translation of the Bible. William Williams concentrated on the New Testament; Maunsell worked on the Old Testament, portions of which were published in 1827, 1833 and 1840 with the full translation completed in 1857.[4][5] In July 1827 William Colenso printed the first Māori Bible comprising three chapters of Genesis, the 20th chapter of Exodus, the first chapter of the Gospel of St John, 30 verses of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew, the Lord’s Prayer and some hymns.[4] William Gilbert Puckey also collaborated with William Williams on the translation of the New Testament, which was published in 1837 and its revision in 1844.[4] In 1845 the Book of Common Prayer was translated by a committee comprising William Williams, Robert Maunsell, James Hamlin and William Puckey.[6]

In the early 1860s Elizabeth Fairburn Colenso helped prepare the revised Māori Old Testament and New Testament for the press. She correcting the printed copy, sometimes suggesting alternative translations.[7]

The first edition of the full Māori Bible was published in 1868. Since then, there have been four revisions of the full Bible at intervals of 21 years, 36 years and finally 27 years up to the 1952 edition. The New Zealand Bible Society has a vision for a new translation of the Bible into modern colloquial Māori.

Translation John 3:16
Koia ano te aroha o te Atua ki te ao, homai ana e ia tana Tama kotahi, kia kahore ai e ngaro te tangata e whakapono ana ki an ia, engari kia whiwhi ai ki te ora tonu.


John Williams translated the New Testament in the late 1820s through to the early 1830s. He left Rarotonga, Cook Islands in 1834 for England to conduct a series of fundraising lectures, publish his book Missionary Enterprises in the South Seas and to publish the Rarotongan Bible - New Testament. He came back to Rarotonga soon after, and left for the New Hebrides in 1839 where he was killed and eaten by cannibals at Erromanga on 20 November 1839. He was just 43 years of age. The complete Bible was published in 1851. [Insert by Tangata Vainerere, 2014]

Translation Ioane 3:16
I aroa mai te Atua i to te ao nei, kua tae rava ki te oronga anga mai i tana Tamaiti anau tai, kia kore e mate te akarongo iaia, kia rauka ra te ora mutu kore.


Samoan language first had a Gospel of John from 1841, then a Bible from 1844, mainly the work of George Pratt.[8]


Henry Nott (1774-1844) translated the Bible into Tahitian.[9]


Although parts of the Bible were first translated into Tongan in 1844, the New Testament was first published in 1849.[10] The first complete edition of the Bible was translated into Tongan by Wesleyan missionaries; the translation was then revised and edited by Thomas West, and published in London by W. M. Watts in 1860 (New Testament) and 1862 (Old Testament).[11][12] Another translation of the Bible into Tongan was completed by James Egan Moulton in 1902 after serving there as a Methodist minister for eleven years. His translation is still in use today.[13]


  1. Ethnologue Report for Polynesian
  2. Howard M. Ballou & George R. Carter (1908). "The History of the Hawaiian Mission Press, with a Bibliography of the Earlier Publications". Papers of the Hawaiian Historical Society. hdl:10524/968.
  3. Bible Society - Translation Work
  4. 1 2 3 Rogers, Lawrence M. (1973). Te Wiremu: A Biography of Henry Williams. Pegasus Press.
  5. "Untitled article on Maori Bible translation". Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2008. The Church Journal, New-York. 10 November 1858. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  6. "New Zealand Mission" (PDF). Missionary Register. 1845. pp. 364–373. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  7. Murray, Janet E. (30 October 2012). "Colenso, Elizabeth". Dictionary of New Zealand biography. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  8. To live among the stars: Christian origins in Oceania - Page 126 John Garrett - 1982 "The final form of the Bible, produced under the auspices of the British and Foreign Bible Society, set standards for both written and spoken Samoan. Robert Louis Stevenson thought it "not only a monument of excellent literature, but also a desirable piece of typography."
  9. Moon Handbooks Tahiti: Including the Cook Islands - Page 133 David Stanley - 2003 The Reverend Henry Nott (1774-1884), who translated the Bible into Tahitian, is buried directly behind the school (go around behind the building to see the ornate tomb). Nott arrived on the ship Duff in 1796 and served with the London Missionary Society for 18 years.
  10. The Bible in Tongan
  11. British and Foreign Bible Society (1862). "Koe Tohi Tabu katoa : Aia cku i ai ae Tohi Tabu Motua".
  12. See also
  13. Moulton, James Egan (1841–1909) Biographical Entry - Australian Dictionary of Biography Online

External links

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