The American Bible Society was founded in the nineteenth century by people who wanted to distribute the Bible to others around them. Since then, it has grown from a national society to an international organization and has distributed the bible in many languages and to social groups who may have little access to it, and it has developed some supporting ministries.
The beginnings of the society
The society was established in New York 1816 by American Protestants who were strongly anti-slavery to distribute the King James Version of the Bible as widely as possible. The first president was Elias Boudinot, but there were significant luminaries such as John Jay, the chief justice of the supreme court, who became president in 1821. After it was established forty three local American bible societies amalgamated with it with it.
While originally Protestant, it is non-denominational and open to all Christians. It is a non-profit-making organisation, ploughing its profits into Bible distribution. Its aim is to make the Bible available to the widest possible readership in a form that they can afford. It does this by translating the Bible into as many languages as possible. The first native American translation was produced in 1818 and others have followed. Chinese translations were published in 1834, commencing a long commitment to the spreading of the gospel in China.
The Good News Bible
The society published its own translation, the Good News Bible, which is in simple language easy for young people to understand and illustrated with line drawings.
Availability of material
Support materials for Bible study also form part of the society's work, these being produced in a variety of media, including cassettes,discs and online Bible materials, including the KJV Bible online and Good News Bible online. It has developed a Bible verse finder, an online search tool aimed at those interested in finding out more about the Scriptures.
Ongoing military commitment
The society's commitment to the military produced pocket Bibles to give to soldiers in the American Civil War. The society has co-operated with Catholic and Protestant military chaplains to provide Bibles to all the U.S. forces. The society also is responsible for providing Bibles in hotel rooms free of charge.
Furthermore, Scriptures are given to the victims of natural disasters, such as the Asian tsunami and hurricane Katrina victims. However, this does not take the place of physical relief but accompanies it.
The society, which is still based in New York, has a large museum containing Bibles in all languages and translations. The museum rescues translations of the Bible that might be lost. The collection extends to 45000 volumes. The society has just developed an internet ministry.