Jesus, the 1979 film produced by Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru), has now been translated into 2,100 languages. The evangelistic ministry recently announced plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to add even more languages and dialects to the film.
“The Cru ministry’s popular film, based on the Book of Luke, is set to be launched next year in the Waorani language which is spoken by approximately 3,000 indigenous people of Amazonian Ecuador,” reports CBN News.
Cru, founded by Bill Bright, began the Jesus Film Project in 1985 after the success of the original release and the growing demand for the film in more languages. The organization says Jesus film showings have “resulted in more than 633 million people worldwide making the decision to follow Christ.”
MovieWeb reports it is “the most watched and translated movie of all time,” with Cru estimating that over 10 billion different people will have seen the film by 2025.
The Washington Times explains that AI will be “deployed to speed up translations in the same way Bible translators are using the technology to advance their written work.”
Josh Newell, executive director of the Project, told the Times:
The AI applications that we’re looking at when it comes to translation are in step with the Bible translation community organizations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators and others.
The organization hopes to add 200 more languages by 2025.
Newel explained the significance of the most recent milestone:
The ability to release the JESUS film in Waorani is the result of our incredible team’s hard work and dedication. We want to ensure the accessibility of the film, not just in the world’s most widely spoken languages but also in the heart language of every community. We look forward to witnessing the transformative power of this film among the Waorani people.
The Waorani (or Huaorani) people are the group in Ecuador that missionaries Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian set out to reach with the gospel in 1956. All five were martyred by the Waorani.
Two of their widows, Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot, later returned to live among the Waorani, ministering to them and leading many to Christ. Among those converts were some of the men who had killed those five missionaries.
Initially the Jesus film was shown by Campus Crusade missionaries, who “would take the film, often on foot, to remote villages to show the film for free. Many would carry a projector, screen, generator, and the film on 16mm stock, in order to show to groups as small as 10 people, with some villages turning out hundreds,” MovieWeb explains.
The Jesus Project has grown, as the ministry took advantage of advances in technology:
The internet has made it more accessible than ever, particularly through The Jesus Film YouTube channel, which offers the complete film, as well as selected scenes, in hundreds of languages.
For areas without internet access, the film is shown via DVD, as low-cost players and digital projectors are now available, making screenings easier to organize.
The Project now includes more films, such as The Story of Jesus for Children, a movie produced in 1999 where children follow Jesus and learn from Him, and Magdalena: Released from Shame, the story of Mary Magdalene which was released in 2007.
The ministry launched a smartphone app; and a variety of film series and short films showing Bible stories and parables. The Jesus Project also creates contextualized film series for different cultures.
A new, animated film about the life of Jesus is scheduled for release at Christmas in 2025.
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Photo credit Jesus Film Project.