New Edition of New Testament Enhances Cherokee Culture

Guest Commentary

Copies of the New Testament in Cherokee syllabary have been in circulation since 1860. In any language, the New Testament is the most read and sought after publication in the world. That’s why I am proud to announce the Cherokee Nation has reviewed and corrected the text, and has printed new editions of the Holy Bible in the Cherokee language.

The completed 1860 Cherokee New Testament was primarily the work of Evan Jones, Samuel Worcester and Stephen Foreman, conducted over the course of a couple of decades during the mid-19th century. It was first published through the Park Hill Mission Press in 1860, and all subsequent reprints since then have been by the American Bible Society. Thanks to hard work by the tribe’s language and translation team, the Cherokee language in the New Testament has now been improved dramatically.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Our translators clarified passages of the 1860 version and fixed misspelled words, while our Language Program staff reformatted the new text for large print using a newly designed Cherokee font for clear legibility. Our team cleaned up language errors and made complicated passages more accurate for Cherokee speakers and readers.

This marks the first time our Cherokee Nation translation department has completed an official and proper translation of the Bible, a project that took several years and countless staff-hours to complete. I want to especially acknowledge program director Roy Boney Jr. and Cherokee National Treasure and master translator Durbin Feeling for spearheading the new, edited translation. So many of language teaching tools are workbooks and educational publications, but the New Testament is something that is read, reread and studied over and over.

This represents a big step forward in our constant efforts to preserves Cherokee culture, and now more Cherokee Nation citizens can share the Word of the Lord in our own tribal language. One of the things I am most excited about is the new translation will potentially generate an interest in younger people to pick up the Bible and read it. This is a book families can share in together or readers can study individually.

The new Cherokee Nation-published Bible also marks the first time a Cherokee syllabary Bible includes red lettering of the words spoken by Jesus Christ. The original edition of the Cherokee New Testament did not have red lettering.

I am so proud of what we are doing to perpetuate our Cherokee language and its usage. Creating a publication like this will ensure Cherokee families practice their faith together.

I proudly gifted this first run of new Bibles to the prayer council I formed this past year. Made up of Cherokee Nation citizens who are ministers across the 14 counties of our jurisdiction, these church leaders gather quarterly to offer blessings for the tribe and share the issues and concerns from their communities and congregations.

Within the next few weeks, copies of the official Cherokee Nation New Testament red letter edition will be available for purchase in the tribe’s gift shops. Get your copy at

We are pursuing even more opportunities for our people to engage with the Bible in Cherokee. The Cherokee Nation Language Department is currently working on a translation of the Old Testament. Another project coming soon is an audio recording of the New Testament in Cherokee.

This is just one more blessing we can count as we move closer to the Christmas holiday. God bless each and every one of you this Christmas season, and God bless the Cherokee Nation.

Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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