Kingdom (of God / heaven)

The German Good News Bible (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch) (1st edition: 1968, 2nd edition: 1982, 3rd edition: 1997) says this about the translation of the Greek expressions that in English are often translated as “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” respectively:

“An example for how a term evolved is the rendering of ‘heavenly kingdom’ or ‘kingdom of God.’ A verbatim translation will be misunderstood by most readers today: as if it talks about a kingdom that is located in heaven, when in reality it refers in the Bible to God being the ruler, to that area in which that rule has been realized and everything that human beings can expect because of that. Dependent on the context, the term is therefore translated differently in this present version: When it focuses on the presence of God’s kingdom it is rendered as ‘God establishes his rule’ (Gott richtet seine Herrschaft auf), when the focus is on the future it is translated as ‘Once God finalizes his creation (or ‘work’) . . . ‘ (Wenn Gott sein Werk vollendet . . .), and when the focus is on that finished creation it is ‘God’s new world’ (Gottes neue Welt).” (p. 299 — for a longer exposition, see Rudolf Kassühlke in The Bible Translator 1974, p. 236ff. )

The respective translation choice in that German translation:

Likewise in the Gurung translation the term was also, depending on context, rendered in four different ways:

  • God’s power at work in the world,
  • the personal response to God, in obedience and receiving blessing,
  • God’s future open ruling of the world,
  • the ultimate blessings of God’s rule in heaven.

(Source: Warren Glover in The Bible Translator 1978, p. 231ff. — here you can also find a comprehensive list of examples where which translation was applied.)

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages:

  • Tzeltal: “persons like these will reach God’s government” (as in Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16: “the Kingdom of God belongs to those”) or “the jurisdiction of God” (in the sense of where God has the authority)
  • Copainalá Zoque: “like God to rule over”
  • San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “agree to God reigning over”
  • Kekchí: “power (or authority) of God”
  • Laka: “God’s commanding”
  • Javanese: “the rule of God”
  • Huave: “where God rules”
  • Huastec: “God as ruler”
  • San Blas Kuna: “God’s government”
  • Navajo: “what God has charge of”
  • Sayula Popoluca: “to have God rule over”
  • Tzotzil: “to have God as chief”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “the leadership of God”
  • Wayuu: “where God is chief” (this and examples above in Bratcher / Nida)
  • Fuyug “God’s clan”
  • Mono: “sana lala’aha nang” — “area of chiefly rule”
  • Martu Wangka: “The Father looks after his own relatives” (source for this and the two preceding: Carl Gross)
  • Caribbean Javanese: Kratoné Allah (“God’s seat (of a king)”)
  • Sranan Tongo: Tiri fur Gado (“the Ruling of God”) or Kownukondre fur Gado (“King’s land of God”)
  • Eastern Maroon Creole: A Nyun Tii fu Massa Gadu / Saramaccan: Di Njunjun Tii u Gadu (both: “the New ruling of God”) (source for this and 2 above: Jabini 2015)
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “protectorate of God” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Lalana Chinantec: “how God is the boss of people’s hearts”
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “God rules as chief”
  • Chuj: “everything which is in God’s hand” (source for this and two above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Kamo: kuu le Yamba: “kingdom of God” / kuu le Yamba: “kingdom of heaven.” Yamba can mean either “sky/heaven” or “God” and they distinguish between the two meanings by capitalization. The word kuu is an abstract noun meaning “rule/reign.” (source: David Frank)

In Mairasi, a language “where people would rather say something in a new way than in an old way,” there are a number of translations, including “Great Above One’s (=God) rule,” “His power,” “His control,” or “His place of authority/power.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)

In Q’anjob’al, the translators stumbled on an additional difficulty. Newberry and Kittie Cox (in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. ) explain: “‘The kingdom of God’ may be translated ‘where God supervises’ (or literally ‘guards’). However, in Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17 it is not possible to speak of ‘receiving the kingdom of God,’ for this would imply that one simply takes over the responsibility for guarding God’s country while He rests. Accordingly, the translation is adapted to meet the cultural and linguistic requirements of the language by the form ‘receive God as king.’

The artist Willy Wiedmann envisioned Jesus foretelling the kingdom of God like this:

Click here to see the image in higher resolution. Image taken from the Wiedmann Bible. For more information about the images and ways to adopt them, see here .

See also your kingdom come.

receive the gift of the Holy Spirit

The Greek that is translated “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” or similar in English is translated as “receive the gift of God which is the Holy Spirit” in Eastern Highland Otomi, “God will give his Spirit to you” in Chuj, “God will cause his Holy Spirit to possess you” in Teutila Cuicatec, “the Holy Spirit will come into your souls with his power” in Desano, “you will receive the Holy Spirit, Father God will give you that” in San Mateo del Mar Huave, and “God will send the Holy Spirit to live with you” Mezquital Otomi. (Source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

See also Receive the Holy Spirit.

lame

The Greek that is translated as “lame” in English is translated in various ways:

third hour

The Greek that is translated as “third hour (of the day)” or “nine in the morning” in English is translated in Mende as “the morning sun is only just getting strong.” (Source: John Ellington)

It is translated as “still early” in Desano, as “up-sun (9 a.m.)” in Chuj, as “still not really high sun at all” in Chichimeca-Jonaz, and as “the sun is barely gone half way to the top” in San Mateo del Mar Huave. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

captain of the temple

The Greek that is often translated as “captain of the temple” in English is translated in the following ways:

  • Desano: “captain of the temple chief of the persons who guard the big temple”
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “boss of the big church of the Jews”
  • Chuj: “chief of the guards of God’s house”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “church building leader”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “boss of the soldiers of the church
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “he who is over the soldiers of the temple”
  • Morelos Nahuatl: “the chief of police of the big church” (source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

vision

The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek that is translated as “vision” in English is translated in a variety in the following languages:

  • Chol: “as if in a dream” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Obolo: ilaak ọkpọchieen̄ or “dreaming awake” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “a showing like dreams”
  • Desano: “see in a dream what God will send”
  • Rincón Zapotec: “see what God shows”
  • Mayo: “see things from God as in a dream”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “dream how it is going to be”
  • Chuj: “like dreaming they see”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “understand what they see as if in a dream”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “see that which will happen” (source for this and seven above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Tagbanwa: “being caused to dream by God” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Chichewa: azidzaona zinthu m’masomphenya: “they will see things as if face-to-face” (interconfessional translation, publ. 1999) (Source: Wendland 1998, p. 69)

The Greek in the books of Revelation and Acts is translated as obq-rmwible: “look-dream” in Natügu. Brenda Boerger (in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 162ff.) tells the story of that translation: “In the book of Revelation, the author, John, talks about having visions. Mr. Simon [the native language translator] and I discussed what this meant and he invented the compound verb obq-rmwible ‘look-dream’ to express it. Interestingly, during village testing no one ever had to ask what this neologism meant.”

See also see a vision.

uneducated and ordinary men

The Greek that is translated as “uneducated and ordinary men” or similar in English is translated in the following ways:

  • Lalana Chinantec: “people who were not learned, humble people
  • Morelos Nahuatl: “hadn’t studied a lot but were like anybody”
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “had not studied long in school, truly ordinary people, that is not officials”
  • Chuj: “they had never studied, they were plain people”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “were not from important families and didn’t know paper (= didn’t have education)”
  • Totontepec Mixe: “they talked like people who plow” 8(source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

baptize with the Holy Spirit

The Greek that is translated in English as “baptize with the Holy Spirit” is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “(baptize so that) the Holy Spirit will come upon/enter you” (source: Robert Bascom) and in Mairasi as “wash with the Holy Spirit” (“water” baptism is “wash with water”) (source: Enggavoter 2004).

Other languages translate as follows:

  • Rincón Zapotec: “be baptized with the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit will come to be with you”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “God’s Holy Spirit will possess you”
  • Chuj: “God’s Spirit will be given to you”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “be baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit”
  • Mayo: “receive the Holy Spirit in the same way you receive baptism”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “the Great Spirit will enter your hearts” (Source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

See also Holy Spirit and baptism / baptize.

everything they owned was held in common

The Greek that is translated as “everything they owned was held in common” or similar in English is translated as “no one said, ‘This is mine.’ They owned everything together” in Isthmus Mixe, as “not one of them considered their things apart, because they considered their things as if they belonged to all of them” in Teutila Cuicatec, as “there was no person who said that one thing was his alone. But everything of theirs one only its thusness by them all” in Chuj. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

insects that fly, swarming insects

The Hebrew that is translated as “insects that fly” or “swarming insects” in English is translated as “small animals with wings like flies” in Mam, “insects that fly in big groups” in Chuj, and “animals that fly and have more than two legs” in Kaqchikel. None of these languages has a pre-existing category for insects.

See also birds of the air / fish of the sea.

singular vs. plural (Neh. 2:12-15)

The narrative in Nehemiah 2:12-15 mentions that Nehemiah is accompanied by a number of other people. Yet, the verb forms (and pronouns) in this and the preceding verses are all singular in the Hebrew text. In the Chuj translation everything is retold in plural forms, except the verb forms of “inspect” in verses 13 and 15 since Nehemiah “had not confided in the men what his plans are, so presumably only he is inspecting walls.”

For the Mam on the other hand, translation consultant and the translators reached a different decision: “The team and I discussed this issue in depth and concluded that the level of leadership of the other men was so extremely low (they are only mentioned once and were not even aware of the purpose of the trip) that the singulars could stand.”