advocate, comforter, helper

The Greek that is translated as “comforter,” “advocate,” or “helper” in English is similarly difficult to translate in other languages.

Nida (1952, p. 164) notes:

“Perhaps no word in all the New Testament is so hard to translate adequately as the word ‘Comforter.’ The Greek word, generally transliterated as Paraclete, is exceedingly rich in its wealth of meaning, for it implies not only “to comfort” but also “to admonish,” “to exhort,” “to encourage,” and “to help.” To put all these meanings into one native expression is indeed difficult, and yet the missionary translator must try to find a term or phrase which will give the people an adequate picture of the unique ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“In the Tausug language of southern Philippines the people use the phrase ‘the one who goes alongside continuously.’ In this sense He is the constant companion of the believer. In Eastern Highland Otomi of central Mexico the native believers have suggested the phrase “He who gives warmth in our soul.” One can readily see the picture of the chilled heart and life seeking comfort in the Living Word and finding in the ministry of the Spirit of God that warmth which the soul so needs if it has to live in the freezing atmosphere of sin and worldly cares.

“The Baoulé Christians speak of the Comforter as ‘He who ties up the thoughts.’ The thoughts of the worried heart are scattered every place in senseless and tormenting disorder. The Comforter ties up these distracted thoughts, and though they still exist, they are under the control of the Spirit.”

Here is another story that Nida (1952, p. 20) retells of Kare (click or tap here):

“As the heedless traveler sometimes overlooks an object of priceless value because he does not recognize its worth, so the translator may be tempted to discard as useless some rare phrase, which so skillfully disguises its fuller meaning in the rich secrets of native life. This was precisely the experience of Miss Estella Myers, a missionary working among the Kare people of French Equatorial Africa. She had tried so hard to explain to native helpers the meaning of the ‘Comforter.’ This term, transliterated as the Paraclete from Greek, is one of the most difficult in the Bible to render adequately. In order to find something fitting, she had explained at great length the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit as he encourages, exhorts, admonishes, protects, comforts, and guides the Christian. Finally, her native assistants exclaimed, ‘Oh, if anyone would do all of that for us, we would say, ‘He’s the one who falls down beside us.’ ‘ This seemed to be a completely inadequate, unfit phrase to describe the work of the Holy Spirit, and it would have soon been rejected had not the native brethren insisted on explaining the very special way in which this word is used.

“When porters, carrying heavy loads on their heads, go on long journeys, often for as long as two or three months, they may become sick with malaria or dysentery, and in their weakness they straggle to the end of the line of carriers. Finally in complete exhaustion they may collapse along the trail, knowing full well that if they do not get to the safety of the next village, they will be killed and eaten by wild animals during the night. If, however, someone passing along the trail sees them lying there prostrate, and if he takes pity on them, stooping down to pick them up and helping them to reach the safety and protection of the next village, they speak of such a person as ‘the one who falls down beside us.’ It is this expression which the missionary translator has taken to translate ‘Comforter,’ for this is the One who sustains, protects, and keeps the children of God on their journey toward their heavenly home.”

“In Nyanja, it is translated in 1 John 2:1 by nkhoswe yotinenera: ‘mediator who speaks on our behalf.’ The nkhoswe is the traditional clan representative who speaks on behalf of individual members in negotiations involving another clan, as when a marriage is being arranged or a dispute (‘case’) is being settled. The modification yotinenera emphasizes the fact that the group as a whole requires this representation — certainly a very fitting metaphor depicting Christ’s role in pleading the case of humanity before his heavenly Father.” (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 78)

In Miao (Chuanqiandian Cluster) it is translated as “to get at the heart round the corner” (source Kilgour 1939, p. 150) and in Colorado as “helping Counselor” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.).

eternal life

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

  • Berik: “good living forever” (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 536)
  • Asháninka: “keep on living”
  • Aguaruna: “will always live”
  • Yanesha’: “immortal state forever”
  • Inupiaq: “endless life”
  • Colorado: “live forever with God”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “heart will be alive forever,” (source for this and five above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
  • Tagalog: buhay na walang hanggan: “life which has no boundary”
  • Iloko: biagna nga agnanayon: “continuing life” (source for this and one above: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff.)
  • Kele: loiko: “survival: enduring through crisis, catastrophe and death” (source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.).
  • Mairasi as “life fruit” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

Lloyd Peckham explains the Mairasi translation: “In secret stories, not knowable to women nor children, there was a magical fruit of life. If referred to vaguely, without specifying the specific ‘fruit,’ it can be an expression for eternity.”

See also eternity / forever and salvation.

complete verse (John 14:2)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 14:2:

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “In my Father’s house are many rooms for people to live in. If there were not many rooms, I would not have told you there were many. But there are, so I am going to get them arranged for you to live in.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “There where my Father is are many houses. If it wasn’t like that up in heaven, I would have told you that it wasn’t like that. I am going to fix up the houses that are going to be yours.”
  • Aguaruna: “There is a lot of free space, able to be lived in, in my Father’s place. If that were not true I would not have told you it was! I am going in order to prepare your staying place.”
  • Colorado: “Where my Father God lives are many houses to live in. It’s true. I’m not one who lies!”
  • Navajo: “Where my Father’s home is there are many houses. If it were not that way, would I have told you that it was? I am going there in order to prepare a place for you.”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “Where my Father God is like a large house with many rooms. I would have told you if there were not rooms for you. And now I will return to prepare rooms for each of you.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)