Following are a number of back-translations of Ephesians 5:18:
- Uma: “Don’t be drunk, for that causes evil desires to appear. We must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. From that power of the Holy Spirit,” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “You should not be/get drunk because it destroys you. Instead that’s what you should do, you should allow/let God’s Spirit rule over you.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Dont’t you get drunk on wine because this can destroy you; but rather, it’s necessary that you are thoroughly inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “Don’t be getting drunk, because that of course is destructive, but rather be full of the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “Be disgusted now with the habit of getting drunk, for that is what takes you to a messed up life (lit: life which has no fixing-up). It’s necessary that it’s not alcoholic-drink which is controlling and guiding-you-from-within, but rather the Espiritu Santo now.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “In order to live happily, do not give your heart to getting drunk. Because the drunkard is hurting himself. Rather give your hearts up to the Holy Spirit who will teach you what you must do.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
Rotuman: “And you (3 or more) to not (get) drunk [lit.: poisoned] with wine, (a) thing that causes violent character; be full (filled) instead with (the) Holy Spirit.” (Ma ’au la se ’oan ’e uaini, tēet ne ho’ ag rạhrạhi; ’an la hoi ke ‘e ’At Ha’a) (for an analysis of this translation, click or tap here)
“This text has been widely used as a proof text for the ‘Spirit-filled life’ by the so-called Holy Spirit movement. It has therefore been the focus of much interest and controversy among Rotuman readers as to its true meaning.
“As with all translation, it is important to understand not just the meaning intended by the translator, but also what the readers and hearers take the words to mean. We will try to illustrate this in the comments that follow.
“Ma … la se. Beginning a sentence with ma gives this conjunction a much stronger force that usual, like saying, ‘But . . . must . . .’ Likewise the use of la with the negative se is also a strong expression, ‘Beware to not …’
“’an. This plural, referring to three or more people is well understood in Rotuman: ‘you and you and you and . . .’ Any address, or warning, or instruction to the community is always to ’au. This includes all listeners, men, women, young, and old.
“’oan, ‘drunk’, literally means to be poisoned. The same word is used of fish poisoning, or any other food poisoning or overdose. With wine, the kind it obviously seems to refer to is the new wine which is still bubbling. Fruit wine at this early stage of fermentation is bubbling and foamy, and very poisonous.
“Community drinking is always by a group (of men). If one person is drinking alone, he is selfish; if only two are drinking together, they arc secretive. Some of the purposes of such community drinking are:
- relaxation after a hard day’s work
- sharing, reflecting, evaluating the day’s work
- leaving lime for the womenfolk to cook dinner
- guarding against individuals getting drunk
“‘To not get drunk (poisoned) with wine’ implies certain things. It can mean that moderate drinking is all right; it can mean that drinking is all right unless it causes a person to stagger or vomit. It can also mean that wine is prohibited, but other intoxicating drinks such as kava are allowed.
“Uaini is a transliteration of the English word ‘wine’. So does this verse speak only of Eastern wine or Western wine, wine made from grapes? The island brew is made from fruit such as oranges, pineapples, bananas, mangoes. The best is reckoned to be what is made from the juice of a green coconut, and this is always white, not red.
“In fact tēet means ‘a thing’, and it never refers to a liquid like wine. And it is really the excessive drinking rather than the nature of the drink that leads to violence. But in normal community drinking no one drinks to get drunk—it is only an after-work pre-dinner fellowship.
“Ho’ means to ‘pile up’. The picture is of a person gradually getting more and more drunk, which eventually leads to violent behaviour.
“ag rahrahi. This expression is made up of two terms, aga or ‘character’, and rạhrạhi (from the root rạhi. ‘fire’), ‘rekindled fire’. It is thus intended to mean fiery or violent character. But it can also be understood in a number of other ways:
- ‘recklessness’ — and this does not mean the unlawful use of force
- ‘bravery’ or acting the daredevil
- ‘prodigality’ or a life of gaiety
- masculine, ‘macho’ behaviour, without any suggestion of immodesty. (Parents enjoy watching their sons grow up with some wildness in their behaviour.)
- ‘reconciling’, as the rekindled fire cleans up all inflammable rubbish
- ‘consistent’ or ‘enduring’
“This indicates that ag rạhrạhi is really an expected and accepted pattern of behaviour; and in its Rotuman setting a person doesn’t get drunk to be ag rạhrạhi. In community life, (he worst form of behaviour to display or possess is ‘being inconsiderate’.
“hoi ke. The adverb ke, ‘instead’, again presents the idea of a strong contrast: ‘Never, never get drunk with wine, but always . . .’ Hoi means to be filled with, or to be full of. It is used mainly for filling something with liquid, although it can also mean to be ‘satisfied’ with solid food.
“From the contrast between the two parts of the verse, it is understood that the person who is filled with the Holy Spirit will not possess or manifest violent character. Therefore the argument and controversy, and sometimes violent action, that have appeared with some people who claim to be ‘filled with the Spirit’, are seen to be a denial of that experience.
“‘At Ha’a is quite clear in its meaning, ‘the Holy Spirit’. Unlike wine, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen; but still the idea of being filled with the Holy Spirit is clear. In Rotuman ancestral worship a person talked about being ‘possessed’ by the spirit of, say, his father. This was a totally ‘outside of me’ power or infilling.”
Source: Jotama Vamarasi in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 241ff. )