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” (see below) is translated in a variety of descriptive ways of various aspects of the Jewish festival:

  • 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” (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Wolof: “Festival of the day of Salvation” (“the term ‘pass over’ brings up the image of a person’s crossing over a chasm after death”) (source: Marilyn Escher)
  • Bura-Pabir: vir kucelir fəlɓəla kəi — “time-of happiness-of jumping-over house”
  • Berom: Nzem Gyilsit Nelɔ — “Festival-of jumping-of houses”
  • Nigerian Fulfulde: Humto Ƴaɓɓitaaki / Humto Sakkinki — “Festival-of passing-over”
  • Hausa: Bikin Ƙetarewa — “Festival-of going-over” (source for this and three above: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Jula: “Feast of end of slavery” (source: Fritz Goerling)
  • Bafanji: laiŋzieʼ — “pass-jump over” (source: Cameron Hamm)
  • Tiéyaxo Bozo / Jenaama Bozo: “Salvation/Rescue (religious) feast” (source: Marko Hakkola)
  • Sabaot: Saakweetaab Keeytaayeet — “Festival of Passing-by” (source: Iver Larsen)
  • Language spoken in India and Bangladesh: “Festival of avoidance”
  • Vlax Romani: o ghes o baro le Nakhimasko — “the Day of the Passing”
  • Saint Lucian Creole: Fèt Délivwans — “Feast of Deliverance” (source: David Frank)
  • Finnish: pääsiäinen (“The term is very probably coined during the NT translation process around 1520-1530. It is connected to a multivalent verb päästä and as such refers either to the Exodus (päästä meaning “to get away [from Egypt]”) or to the end of the Lent [päästä referring to get relieved from the limitations in diet]. The later explanation being far more probable than the first.”)
  • Northern Sami: beas’sážat (“Coined following the model in Finnish. The Sami verb is beassat and behaves partly like the Finnish one. Many Christian key terms are either borrowed from Finnish or coined following the Finnish example.”)
  • Estonian: ülestõusmispüha — “holiday/Sunday of the resurrection” — or lihavõttepüha — “holiday/Sunday of returning of meat”
  • Karelian: äijüpäivü — “the great day” (“Here one can hear the influence of the Eastern Christianity, but not directly Russian as language, because the Russian term is Пасха/Pasha or Воскресение Христово/Voskresenie Hristovo, ‘[the day of] the resurrection of Christ,’ but the week before Easter is called as the great week.”) (Source for this and three above: Seppo Sipilä)
  • Russian (for Russian speaking Muslims): праздник Освобождения/prazdnik Osvobozhdeniya — “Festival of-liberation” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • English: Passover (term coined by William Tyndale that both replicates the sound of the Hebrew original pesah — פסח as well as part of the meaning: “passing over” the houses of the Israelites in Egypt)

the wind blows where it wills

The Greek that is translated as “the wind blows where it wills” or similar in English is translated in Umiray Dumaget Agta as “the wind goes where it naturally goes.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)

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.)
  • 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.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The law of God was given/sent to mankind by Musa but God’s love and the truth are given to mankind by Isa Almasi, he is the one called the Word of God.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • 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.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because God made-known his law through Moses, but his mercy/kindness and the truth concerning him, he made-known to us through Jesu Cristo.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • 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.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

complete verse (John 2:24)

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

  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “But Jesus did not put himself into their hands.”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “But Jesus did not believe in the multitude.”
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “He did not trust their belief.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Uma: “But Yesus did not believe them, because he knows the hearts of all people.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But Isa did not trust them for he knew the thoughts and inside of the liver of all mankind.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “However Jesus was not convinced of their faith in him because he knew what was in the breath of all mankind.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “But Jesus didn’t entrust himself to them,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “But Jesus didn’t indeed acknowledge-as-true that their believing-in/obeying him was genuine, because he knew the nature/ways of them all.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But Jesus didn’t have confidence in those people because he knows all that people think.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

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 for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Uma: “Man lives in this world, and is born from his parents. But the new life of his soul he receives from the Holy Spirit.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “What is born of mankind is mankind/human. But if a person is born again from the Spirit of God, he is made a child of God.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “That which is born by means of a human is only human also, but that which is born by means of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives in him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because the one to whom a person gives-birth, he is humanlike (connotes limited, sinful humanity), but the one by-contrast to whom the Holy Spirit gives-birth, he is spiritual (loan naispiritoan).” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Because the one given birth to by a human, he is indeed human, a slave yet to sin. But that one who has been given birth to again, for he has been given birth to by the Espiritu Santo, he is now free from that slavery.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “A child, when it is born and his parents are only people, is also only a person. But in order for a person to live anew, only the Holy Spirit is able to cause it.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

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.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Uma: “You study the contents of the Holy Book, because you say that you receive good life forever from that Holy Book. But the Holy Book itself also talks about me.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “You really persevere studying the holy-book because you think that if you study you will find/obtain life forever in heaven. And-what’s-more this holy-book tells about me.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “You study the written word of God because you suppose mistakenly that by means of this you will be able to own eternal life. The written word of God testifies about me, however you don’t believe in me.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “You study-and-study what God caused-to-be-written long ago, because you mistakenly-think that if you do that, you will have life that has no end. But I of-course am the one that that-aforementioned writing talks-about,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “You keep going over and over the word of God in your writings, because you’re sure you will find there how life which has no ending may be yours. However as for these, they testify only concerning me.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “You earnestly study the Holy Book you have because you thus 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: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)