The Toba people are an indigenous people group found in Argentina and neighbouring countries. They live within the territory which spans from the Pilcomayo River to the Bermejo River, provinces of Salta and Formosa in the north of Argentina. Those who reside in the West of the country, known as the West Toba people, consist of an estimated 130,000 people. The West Toba people have long requested a Bible in their heart language, and the Argentine Bible Society is working hard with local translators to complete it.

Slow Beginnings

The translation of the Bible into Western Toba began a long time ago – Allen Gardiner is credited with beginning the work to translate the Bible into West Toba over 170 years ago in the mid-19th century. In a letter to the leaders of the Toba communities, penned in 1851, he writes a heartfelt promise:

“Why should the Tobas nations be the last to receive this Book? It grieves us to think that you are still ignorant of it; therefore, we offer it to you as the best gift we can give.”

Yet, it would take many years for progress to be made on the translation, despite missionary efforts. There were many difficulties and hurdles to face. Then a breakthrough came in 1928. Following missionary activity in the Toba territory, a delegation of the West Toba people arrived at the missionary settlement on the San Andrés River. They came to request the start of a Christian mission among them. They were curious about the Gospel and wanted to know what it was that God had to say to them.

Waiting for the Whole Bible

Praise God – the complete New Testament in West Toba has been available since 2010. Thousands of Toba people are able to read and understand the Gospel for themselves as the Argentine Bible Society distributes the Scripture. And now in 2023, over 170 years later since Allen Gardiner’s initial promise, the translation of the full Bible in West Toba is almost complete! However, before the full Bible is ready to be distributed, it needs to be proofread.

This is a painstaking but essential part of Bible translation – ensuring the translation of the Old Testament is correct and accurately translated from the original Hebrew. The translators have checked a little over 3,000 verses, yet there are 23,145 verses in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is a vital part of Christianity as it lays the foundations for our faith and points forward to Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It gives us context to the New Testament, and it allows us to see God’s hand throughout history. Imagine a Toba person reading Genesis 3 for the first time:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

What joy to discover for the first time, that right from the beginning God had set out a salvation plan to rescue you from your sin (Genesis 3:15).

Longing to Read the Psalms

Gerson, a Toba man, is a primary healthcare provider who works among his people group. He is also a community leader, a native language teacher and a deacon in his church. He told us about how he longs to read the books in the Old Testament:

“Today I have the New Testament in West Toba, but we also need the Old Testament to have the whole Bible, because there are many promises that can help people. I would like to have the Psalms. There are times when I read my Bible in Spanish and while I read, I translate. It is not the same, because I am not a translator. People need to read the Bible every day… our beliefs are in the Bible. When we read the Bible, God teaches us how to live.”

Will you help us to bring the full Bible to the West Toba people?

Pray for this project:

  • Praise God that the Toba people have access to the New Testament and the Gospel.
  • Pray for the translators who are painstakingly working on every verse. Ask God to give them wisdom and endurance as they work.
  • Pray for those who receive a New Testament and can read God’s Word for the first time in West Toba. Pray that it would impact their heart and God would speak to them through it.

Photo: a much loved New Testament in the Toba language