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)

The respective translation choice in that German translation:

Daud Soesilo writes this about the translation of those terms in the Malay translation:

In the New Testament [of the Revised Malay Translation (Alkitab Berita Baik, 1996)] “the Kingdom of God/Heaven” does not refer primarily to a region, or place, or to a political or national territory.
The meaning of “kingdom” is fundamentally that of “sovereignty” or “rule.” Since the primary idea is that of kingship, kingly rule, or sovereignty of God, rather than of the sphere or realm in which his rule operates, the sense of this term should be expressed in translation as “kingly rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than by the literal “kingdom.” The most common literal translation of the term “Kingdom of God” in Malay is “Kerajaan Allah.” “Kerajaan Syurga” is used for its variant “Kingdom of Heaven.” However, careful linguistic analysis of the meaning and usage of the term “kerajaan” “kingdom” shows that when it is unmarked it carries the following components:

  • a territory
  • in which a king rules
  • his people

Thus the expressions “Kerajaan Allah” and “Kerajaan Syurga” have primarily a territorial sense, rather than expressing the idea of “kingly rule.” This means, then, that we should consider replacing the literal renderings “Kerajaan Allah/Syurga” with expressions that are better able to give the New Testament meaning of “he basileia tau theou,” as expressed in the following components:

  • God’s kingly rule, including his activity in bringing about his rule in this world
  • the people God rules over, in particular those who accept his rule in their lives,
  • the situation in which God rules completely, which is the consummation of God’s activity of bringing about God’s rule. (This is the situation which the German Common Language Bible “Die Gute Nachricht” translates as “God’s New World.” From one point of view, however, this use of the expression is the one that relates most closely to the “territory” sense mentioned above.)

The Malay translation team has tried to render the expression “he basileia tou theou” faithfully and meaningfully according to the main focus in each context in which it occurs. However, to help readers who are looking for the formal features of the term, we have added footnotes that give a literal rendering. (Source: Daud Soesilo in The Bible Translator 2001, p. 239ff.)

(See also Barclay Newman in: The Bible Translator 1974, p. 401ff.)

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)
  • Western Kanjobal: “receive God as king”
  • 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.)

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 him was life

The Greek that is translated as “in him was life” or similar in English is translated in Shipibo-Conibo as “that Word also caused to live,” in Umiray Dumaget Agta as “he is the one who gives life,” and in Tzotzil (San Andres) as “everything alive lives because of him,” and in Alekano as “he is the father of life.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February, 1970, p. 1-125.)

Passover

The Greek and Hebrew that is typically translated in English as “Passover” is translated more descriptively by various languages:

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “the feast of the passing by of God’s angel”
  • Lalana Chinantec “the day would come which is called Passover, when the Israel people remember how they went out of the land of Egypt.
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “the celebration when they ate their sheep”
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “the celebration of the day of their being brought out of bondage”
    (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Obolo: ijọk Iraraka: “Festival of Passing” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Guhu-Samane: “special day of sparing” (source: Ernest Richert in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff.)
  • Yakan: “The festival of the Isra’il tribe which they call For-Remembering”

complete verse (John 1:17)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:17:

  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “Moses taught the ancestors of us Israelites the law of God, but Jesus Christ came to teach that God loves mankind, and he teaches us all the true words of God.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “The law about the things of God, the one who gave it was Moses. But the love which was to us and the truth came into being because of Jesus Christ.”
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “Even though Moses was caused to speak the rules of God, Jesus Christ was the one appointed to show mercy and to declare the truth.”
  • Guerrero Amuzgo: “. . . but Jesus Christ is the source of all favor and of the words that are true.”
  • Chol: “Jesus Christ came and gave us the goodness of his heart and truth.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “By means of Moses the law of God is known. But by means of Jesus Christ the love of God and the true word are known.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And by means of Moses, God brought down to earth the laws. But by means of Jesus, God brought down to earth his love/grace for us and the true doctrine.”
  • Uma: “From the prophet Musa we received the Law of the Lord God.
    But [it is] from Yesus Kristus that we really know God,
    and his grace to us.”
  • Tagbanwa: “Because God gave his laws to Moises which he was commanding us, but that grace/mercy of his and truth concerning himself, he caused us to comprehend through Jesu-Cristo.”

complete verse (John 3:6)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 3:6:

  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “That which originates from the body of a person is the body of a person. That which originates from the Spirit of God is spirit.”
  • Aguaruna: “Those born from people are people. Those born by God’s spirit, they have God’s spirit.”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “All the children of human beings are human beings by birth. All who are born another time, this being the work of the Holy Spirit, these are new people.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “One who is a child of people, he has his flesh and bones. And one who has his new life by the power of the Holy Spirit, he has the Spirit of God.”
  • Chol: “He who is born of a mother is given a body. He who is born of the spirit is given life in his heart.”
  • Alekano: “One that people give birth to will surely have a person’s soul. One that the Spirit gives birth to, he will surely have the Spirit’s soul.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “A child, when it is born, if his parents are only people, is also only a person. But in order for a person to live anew, only the Holy Spirit can cause it.”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “People’s flesh and blood causes our flesh and blood to be alive when we are born. But the great Spirit of God causes our hearts to be alive.”

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

complete verse (John 5:39)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 5:39:

  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “You read the writings carefully because you mistakenly think that you will live forever because of them. These, however, are what tell of me.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “It is necessary that you study well God’s words since you say that there you will find everlasting life up in heaven. And you will find that even there it talks about me.”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “You read where the word of God is written down, for you think that you will live forever because you have the word of God. But I am the one the word of God is speaking about.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “You earnestly study the Holy Book you have, because you want to find out about the new life which is forever. And the one written about in that Holy Book you study is me.”

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

complete verse (John 2:24)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 2:24:

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