- Protestantism emerged as a religion of the book; the Bible was to be read and absorbed by every Christian. During the 16th century, a benchmark of the success of Protestantism in any country was the translation of the Bible into its spoken language. once that was achieved, literacy no longer required learning foreign languages, and the new religion stimulated a vast increase in literacy. The publication of the Bible usually became an event of immense long-term cultural importance to many European nations.As Protestantism left Europe, it encountered a number of nonliterary cultures. In North America at first, the more scholarly missionaries to the Native Americans began to reduce the languages they encountered to a written form and used it to translate the Bible. As early as 1661, John Elliot (1604-90) published a New Testament in Algo-nquian, with the Old Testament following two years later.The experience of Puritans like Eliot also tied the work of Bible translation to the larger concept of civilization. That is, the spread of Christianity was seen as an integral part of civilizing the non-European peoples of North America, the Caribbean, and subsequently the rest of the world. Civilization necessarily demanded literacy. To the present, the spread of Protestantism to new locations usually starts with the development of grammars and dictionaries for the languages encountered, the translation of Scripture, and the establishment of schools on a more or less Western model. Pioneering missionaries are often remembered not for their evangelistic success but their linguistic accomplishments.By the beginning of the 20th century, it became obvious that those peoples without literacy would be swept aside by large economic and political forces. These peoples had to become literate not only to read the Bible, but also simply to survive.The major figure promoting literacy in developing countries in the 20th century was Frank Laubach (1884-1970). Laubach came to the Philippines in 1915 under assignment from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Over the next 15 years, he observed the processes of transforming people by introducing basic language skills. Even the very poor quickly picked up the basics and were effective in teaching their neighbors as well. Laubach refined this process into the "Each One Teach One" method of spreading literacy He built teams to spread the method to countries throughout Asia, and in 1955 founded Laubach Literacy international. By the end of his life, he had introduced "Each One Teach One" in more than 100 countries.Additional literacy programs have developed, such as Literacy & Evangelism International, which works with Christian groups to use the Bible in adult literacy programs and trains people in what is termed "literacy evangelism." Another was the summer institute of Linguistics, which grew out of the work of Wycliff Bible Translators. Wycliff leaders wanted to make sure that the Bibles they were producing were actually read and used.By the end of the 20th century, the Bible had been translated into the languages spoken by 90 percent of the world's peoples. However, only about 50 percent of the world's population is as yet functionally literate.Further reading:■ Carlo M. Cipolla, Literacy and Development in the West (New York: Penguin Books, 1969)■ Cushla Kapitzke, Literacy and Religion: The Textual Politics and Practice of Seventh-Day Adven-tism. Studies in Written Language and Literacy (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1995)■ Frank Laubach, Forty Years with the Silent Billion (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1946); , Toward World Literacy the Each One Teach One Way (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1960)■ ----, Elizabeth Mooney Kirk, and Robert F. Laubach, Laubach Way to Reading: Skillbook (New York: New Readers, 1981).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.