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By Jay Newbern

Written language on this planet first appeared 5200 years ago when the Sumerians invented the initial script. Using a reed stylus, this Middle East people created pictures of tokens to count goods onto moist clay tablets. "No other invention – perhaps only the wheel comes close – has had a longer and greater impact. Writing helped preserve the three major monotheistic religions, whose believers the Koran refers to as ‘the People of the Book’ " (NG) "Language is man’s greatest and most serviceable thinking tool…" (UB908)

Sumerians had their origin 200,000 years ago after the submergence of Dalamatia (First Epochal Revelation) whose alphabet they lost; they adopted a peculiar writing system originating in Dilmun. "The Sumerian language, though virtually lost to the world, was not Semitic; it had much in common with the so-called Aryan tongues." (UB860) Their clay tablets tell of the first and second Edens but they were confused about Dalamatia. They were mostly Andite in extraction although their culture was more Nodite in character. "By 5000 BC the three purest strains of Adam’s descendants were in Sumeria, Northern Europe, and Greece. (UB 896) The art of writing and their alphabet were imported from the Sumerian cities of the Persian Gulf by the Dravidians who were seafarers and merchants.

What these superb evolutionary linguists created of record is known as Mesopotamian cuneiform (3200 BC to AD 75). It was the first of several hundred written languages today. Shortly thereafter came Egyptian hieroglyphs (circa 3200 BC to AD 394). Languages that followed include Indus valley (Pakistan) Harappan writings (2800 to 1900 BC) and Mayan hieroglyphs (AD 250 to 900).

Next appeared the antecedents of the two largest languages in the world today – Chinese and English. In 1200 BC the Chinese logograms (ideograms) originated, creating the only written system where individual characters represent individual words. Logogram characters often mean one thing when used alone, but something else when combined. "The Chinese character for ‘sincerity’, for example, shows the character for ‘man’ alongside the one for ‘word’, literally a man standing by his word." (NG)

Our English language, the most complex on the planet with more than 600,000 words, stems from the Levantine alphabets which appeared in 1050 BC. The Latin alphabet of Rome evolved from Greek around the 6th century BC. "Seeded throughout the world by colonialism, the Indo-European languages sprang from a tongue spoken on the Russian steppes perhaps 6000 years ago. Nine of the twelve languages with the most native speakers are Indo-European. Their influence continues to grow with the widespread adoption of English as a second language." (NG) English is the lingua franca (notice incorporated words) of science, commerce, aviation, diplomacy, pop culture, and cyberspace.

The original Levantine alphabet was created by the Phoenicians. It planted the roots of other writing systems in the Eastern Mediterranean, including modern Hebrew and Arabic. For example, the modern Latin letter A evolved from the Phoenician and Hebrew aleph, the Aramaic alaph, the Arabic alif, and the Greek alpha. Today’s English contains very significant A words such as Adjuster, agondonter, angel, and Abba (Jesus’ Father), August (his birth month), Ascension (our journey to Paradise). The list goes on: Abner, Abraham, Absolute, Adam, adjutant (mind spirits), Ancients (of Days), apostles, and archangels.

In human history there have been more than 10,000 spoken languages, many now vanished. Some 6000 are currently spoken but over half of these are unlikely to survive the 21st century. Half have fewer than 10,000 speakers and a quarter have fewer than 1,000.

Anthropologist Luisa Moffi: "In the Bible the multiplicity of languages can be interpreted as a curse. Instead, it’s been suggested that it’s a safeguard against our having the same cultural blind spots. The Acoma Pueblo people say the goddess Iatiku created different languages so that it won’t be easy to quarrel." (NG) The Urantia Papers disagree. "Language differences have ever been the great barrier to the extension of peace. The conquest of dialects must precede the spread of culture throughout a race, over a continent, or to a whole world. A universal language promotes peace, insures culture, and augments happiness." (UB908)

Today on Urantia, according to the United Nations, 5 billion people can read and write; this is over 83% of the total of 6 billion. There was no mass literacy until after the development of the printing press in the mid-15th century.

Presently there are 31 major languages in the world that claim 36 million speakers or more. The Urantia Book is published in four of these languages – English, Spanish, Russian, French – and is being translated into nine other major tongues – Chinese Mandarin, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Korean, Tamil, Italian, and Farsi.

The Fifth Epochal Revelation is now in print in two minor languages: Dutch (21 million), and Finnish (6 million). It is being translated into six more minor writing systems – Serbo-Croatian (21 million), Hungarian (14 million), Greek (12 million), Swedish (9 million), Lithuanian (3 million), and Estonian (1 million).

At the beginning of the Third Millenium, the Urantia Papers are committed to print or to translation in 20 languages – 12 major and 8 minor.


Language…Speaker Population in Millions

  1. CHINESE MANDARIN (in translation)…1,052
  2. ENGLISH (in print)…508
  3. HINDI AND URDU (Hindustani) (India, Pakistan)…487
  4. SPANISH (in print)…417
  5. RUSSIAN (in print)…278
  6. ARABIC (in translation) (modern standard)…246
  7. BENGALI (India)…211
  8. PORTUGUESE (in translation)…191
  10. FRENCH (in print)…128
  11. GERMAN (in translation)…128
  12. JAPANESE…126
  13. PANJABI (India)…94
  14. KOREAN (in translation)…78
  15. TELUGU (India)…75
  16. TAMIL (India) (in translation)…74
  17. CHINESE CANTONESE (Hong Kong)…71
  18. MARATHI (India)…71
  19. CHINESE WU (Shanghai)…70
  21. AWADHI (India)…65
  22. JAVANESE (Indonesia)…64
  23. ITALIAN (in translation)…62
  24. TURKISH…61
  25. BHOJPURI (India)...60
  26. THAI AND LAO…52
  27. CHINESE SOUTHERN MIN (Xiamen, Shantou, Taiwan)…50
  28. UKRAINIAN…47
  29. POLISH…44
  30. GUJARATI (India)…44
  31. FARSI (in translation) (Persian) (Iran)…36

(Totals are from 1999 World Almanac & Book of Facts)

The greatest planetary problem facing Urantia 606 in the 21st century is that of population explosion. In 1988 there were 5 billion inhabitants of Spaceship Earth. By October 1999 that accumulation had soared to 6 billion.

The world’s two most populous nations are Asian – China and India. Together they account for more than one-third of the global sum. China has 1.27 billion people, and the UN has now projected 1.0 billion humans for India.

Spreading the good news of divine relation to these giants is not only hampered by religion, race, and politics, but is also greatly handicapped by language. China not only has the largest language in Mandarin but can also claim three additional languages or dialects – Cantonese, Wu, and Southern Min – among the world’s 31 major tongues.

India is even more daunting. Fifteen different languages may be found in its constitution, and this huge country possesses nine major languages (other than English) on the global listing of the top 31.

To appreciate the eventual far-reaching consequences for translation of the Fifth Epochal Revelation, one has only to scrutinize this single example. One of the leading Indo-European languages into which The Urantia Book is being translated is Portuguese, 8th on the list of 31. Portugal was an outstanding colonizer in the world and gave enormous Brazil its official language of Portuguese. Brazil occupies a very large portion of the continent of South America, being the 4th largest country geographically of the planet. It is 6th largest in population of 180 million. Brazil has more square miles of space than the 48 contiguous United States. It has two world-size cities: Sao Paulo, third biggest Urantian city at 25 million, and Rio de Janeiro, ninth largest at 14 million. Brazil’s flag is the only national banner displaying the planet.

Focus of Urantian translations in the 21st century is quite obvious – Asia. It is the planet’s largest continent and the most populous, and it is the least seeded with the teachings of Jesus. Of the 20 languages in which the Urantia Papers are in print or translation, there are but 3 Asian writing systems – Mandarin (Number 1), Korean (ranked 14th), and Tamil (ranked 16th). In addition to the giants of China and India, there are also Indonesia (largest Muslin country), 5th in world population with two of the top twenty-two languages, and Japan with its 12th ranked language of 126 million speakers. On the listing of the 31 largest languages of 36 million or more, 20 are Asian. Two-thirds!

As we go into all the world to every race, tribe, and nation, can there possibly be any doubt whatsoever where we need to go? To transform a recent campaign directive stating the goal, IT’S THE PLANET, SIBLING…

Jay Newbern
San Francisco
January 2000

The Father indwells us

The Son envelops us

The Spirit encircuits us

Reference sources: The Urantia Book, Official Journal of the National Geographic Society (August 1999), The World Almanac & Book of Facts (1999), Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition).

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