It is neither a Church nor a Christian denomination. However, the Bible Society of India assists and serves all Indian Churches and Christians in translating, publishing the Bible in their own languages and distributing it among their constituencies.
The objective of the Bible Society of India is to make the Bible available to anyone who wants it in languages they can understand and at prices they can afford. So the Bible Society of India translates, publishes and distributes Bible and its portions at the request of various Churches and agencies in India.
During the first century, copies of the Scripture were on leather scrolls which were kept in the meeting places. Not everybody had access to these. Also, the scrolls had shorter life span. So copies had to be made regularly to replace the perishing scrolls. Later on scrolls were replaced by codex which was similar to the book form. It was also common to make handwritten copies which were preserved in common places of worship. The early Bibles were large in size. These were often chained to the lectern so that it will not be moved out. People had limited access to the written Word of God these days.
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany around 1439 AD mass production of books became possible. The Bible was one of the first books to be printed. Bibles became available to all who could afford it. Thus the idea of personal Bibles originated. However, copies were not affordable to common people. There was a great demand for copies of the Bible. Young people were saving up money and walking long distances to buy copies of the Bible. This inspired a group of people to make copies of the Bible available to all who wanted it. The Bible Society movement was started with this purpose. It was officially launched on 7th March 1804 at a meeting of about 300 people held in the Bishopsgate London Tavern. William Wilberforce who stood against slave trade was closely associated with this movement.
The Bible Society of India started operating from the year 1811 based at Calcutta.
The Bible Society of India belongs to all Christians. It does not belong to any particular Church, denomination or group. It is non-denominational. It is a legally registered body under the Societies Act of the Government of India with its own Constitution and bylaws.
The Central Council of the Bible Society of India which comprises of representatives from various Church denominations from all over the country is the decision making body of the Bible Society of India. This body is chaired by the President of the Bible Society of India. From within this body they constitute an Executive Committee which governs the affairs of the Society. This Committee is headed by the President and assisted by the Vice Presidents and the Treasurer. All these offices are honorary positions of service. The General Secretary is the Chief Executive of the Bible Society of India. Under him there are Directors heading various departments and staff teams who work with them.
The complete Bible is available in 65 of our languages. Portions of the Bible are available in 204 Indian languages. As on 31 December 2010 at least some portion of the Bible is available in 2527 languages of the world. The complete Bible is available in 469 languages across the world.
The Bible Society of India operates within the territory of India. There are respective national Bible Societies operating in each country.
There are different versions in the same language due to two main reasons: Languages develop and change along with time, and different translation principles are employed in different situations.
The fact that languages develop, change and adapt is obvious as we look at the print media products today. New vocabulary is added frequently and new meanings are given to existing vocabulary over a period of time. What a word meant fifty years ago is not exactly how the present generation understands it. So updating of the language to convey the accurate meaning becomes necessary.
Some of the minor languages are limited in their vocabulary. When it becomes difficult to explain concepts or communicate the exact meaning new words are coined or words are borrowed and adapted from another language to suit the situation. While early translations followed a word-for-word principle, from the seventies the principle of meaning based translation became popular. Several of the modern translations employ this principle. Language revisions of older versions also became necessary as several words lost its original meaning or became archaic. Since the older generation likes the older versions and the present generation prefers the modern language versions, the Bible Society continues to publish the different versions.