The Greek that is often translated as “he gave up his spirit” in English is translated in a variety of ways:
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “And then he died”
- Aguaruna: “His breath went out”
- Navajo: “He gave back his spirit”
- Inupiaq: “He breathed his last”
- Chol: “He caused his spirit to leave him”
- Lalana Chinantec: “He sent away his life breath” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
- Kankanaey: “He entrusted his spirit to God” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “released his spirit” (lit. caused it to spring away) (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Uma: “His spirit/breath broke” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “His breath snapped” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
The Greek that is translated “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” or similar in English is translated in various ways:
- Amele: “You sit/are like the salt of the ground. But if salt loses its taste (lit. its bitterness stings) then how will it become bitter again?” (Age odi mahamahanu macas bilegina. Euqa macas uqana mug qah becebfi adi haun mugca migian?) (Source: John Roberts)
- Mairasi: “You guys are now salt in this world. If that salt becomes watery, then with what will it again become salty?” (Eme ejavu sira wasasiar. Siravu fatan andani, arimev ata aem sasijeano? Nama avanggunuanan fatanan.) (Source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Kankanaey: “You are what-can-be-compared to salt for the people on this earth. But if salt becomes-tasteless it is impossible to return its saltiness (same word as sour/bitter).”
See also complete verse (Matthew 5:13).
The Greek that is translated as “But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster (or: Euroclydon), rushed down from Crete” or similar in English is translated in a lot of different ways:
- Upper Guinea Crioulo: “A great storm rose up on the side of the island that came against them.” (“The point wasn’t the name of the wind [nor’easter]. All of these nautical terms can be difficult for people who aren’t seafaring. The point wasn’t so much which cardinal direction the wind was coming from. The point was that the wind was coming from a direction that made it impossible for them to go in the direction they wanted to go. This is further explained in the following verse.”) (Source: David Frank)
- Caluyanun: “Not long-afterward, the wind from the aminhan/northeast got-strong, which was from the land-area of the island of Crete.” (“’Aminhan’ is the common direction of the wind during half the year.”) (Source: Kermit Titrud)
- Northern Emberá: “But soon a bad wind called the Euroclidon blew forcefully from the right hand.” (“When we have to specify north and south we use left hand and right hand, respectively. But in Acts 27:14, the Northeaster wind comes from the right, hitting the right side of the ship as they headed west.”) (Source: Chaz Mortensen)
- Amele: “But shortly a strong wind called Jawalti blowing from the direction of the sun coming up to the left came up.” (“East is cam tobec isec ‘the direction the sun comes up’ and west is cam tonec/nec isec ‘the direction the sun goes/comes down.’ ‘Jawalti’ is a local name for the wind that blows down from the north coast of Madang. ‘Sea corner’ is the Amele term for ‘harbour‘”) (Source: John Roberts)
- Mairasi: “But after not a very long time at all already a very big wind blew from behind us. In Greek that wind is called ‘Eurokulon’ from over there in the north and east. It blew down from that island itself.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Kankanaey: “But it wasn’t long, a swift wind arrived from the upper-part of Creta.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And it wasn’t a long time from then, we were typhooned. A very strong wind arrived which was called Abagat. The wind came from the direction of the land.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “But before we had been sailing for long, suddenly/unexpectedly the wind changed again to an off-shore wind of tremendous strength. Euraclidon was what the people from there called that wind.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Uma: “But in fact not long after that, a big wind came from the land, a wind called Sea Storm.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “But not long after, a very strong wind blew from the coast.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
See also cardinal directions / left and right and cardinal directions (north, south, east, west).
The cardinal directions “east” and “west” are easy to translate into Mano (Mann) here since the language uses “where the sun comes up” and “where the sun goes down.” For “north” the translator had “facing toward the sun rising to the left,” and for “south” she had “facing toward the sun rising to the right.” So the listener had to think hard before knowing what direction was in view when translating “to the north and south, to the east and west.” So the verse was very long. It was shortened by saying simply “all directions.” Likewise, Yakan has “from the four corners of the earth” (source: Yakan back-translation) or Western Bukidnon Manobo “from the four directions here on the earth” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo back-translation).
Kankanaey is “from the coming-out and the going-away of the sun and the north and the south” (source: Kankanaey back-translation), Northern Emberá “from where the sun comes up, from where it falls, from the looking [left] hand, from the real [right] hand” (source: Charles Mortensen), Amele “from the direction of the sun going up, from the direction of the sun going down, from the north and from the south” (source: John Roberts), Ejamat “look up to see the side where the sun comes from, and the side where it sets, and look on your right side, and on your left” (source: David Frank in this blog post).
In Lamba, only umutulesuŵa, “where the sun rises” and imbonsi, “where the sun sets” were available as cardinal directions that were not tied to the local area of language speakers (“north” is kumausi — “to the Aushi country” — and “south” kumalenje — “to the Lenje country”). So “north” and “south” were introduced as loanwords, nofu and saufu respectively. The whole phrase is “kunofu nakusaufu nakumutulesuŵa nakumbonsi.” (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)
See also cardinal directions / left and right.
The Greek that is typically translated as “confess” in English in the context of these verses is translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:
- Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal: “to say openly”
- San Blas Kuna: “to accuse oneself of his own evil”
- Kankanaey: “telling the truth about their sins”
- Huastec: “to take aim at one’s sin” (“an idiom which is derived from the action of a hunter taking aim at a bird or animal”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Central Pame: “pulling out the heart” (“so that it may be clearly seen — not just by men, but by God”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 155)
- Shipibo-Conibo: “to say, It is true we have sinned” (source: Nida 1964, p. 228)
- Obolo: itutumu ijo isibi: “speaking out sin” (source: Enene Enene).
The Greek that is typically translated in English as “was with God” is translated in Aguaruna as “lived with God.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
In Kankanaey, it is translated as “(He) was God’s companion.”
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 5:48:
- Uma: “We (incl.) must have good behavior with no faults [lit., no scales-scales], like the behavior of God our (incl.) Father who is in heaven.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “Therefore you shall be good like your Father in heaven is good.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “It is necessary that your treating everybody well is drawn tight, because our Father in heaven, His treating mankind well is drawn very tight.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “Therefore it is necessary that you have no faults/lacks, like our Father in heaven who has no faults/lacks.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “Therefore it’s necessary that you be like your Father who is in heaven, the quality of whose actions having no lack.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “Your Father who is in heaven supremely does good in what he does. Be like that then, want that you supremely do good in what you do.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
Enga: “Your Father who stands on top of the sky lives in such a way that he does not neglect any of the straight ways, but rather he holds to them; therefore live in such a way that you are doing the same.” (Source: Adam Boyd; click here for an explanation of this translation.)
The idea is that God is complete in the sense that he does not neglect any good thing that he should do. He is complete in doing all that he should do. Therefore, we should behave in the same way, not neglecting to do all that we should do. It doesn’t mean that we are commanded never to make a mistake, but it does mean that we commanded not to be incomplete in how we carry out the commandments of God. To be sure, God does not make any mistakes, but the heart of Jesus’s command is for us to strive to be complete in our love.
Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).
For the first part of this verse (“among us” in English translations), translators typically select the inclusive form (including the reader of the gospel) (source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.). SIL International Translation Department (1999) notes, however that the exclusive pronoun is also a possibility: “Though the pronoun us… refers essentially to mankind in general, it is also a specific historical reference to the incarnation and the fact that Jesus lived on earth at a particular time. In this particular context the pronoun must be in the exclusive first person plural….This usage makes the pronominal reference agree with the following.”
Two translations that reflect that divergence are the Uma translation that uses the inclusive form (source: Uma Back Translation) and the Kankanaey that uses the exclusive pronoun (source: Kankanaey Back Translation).
The second occurrence of the pronoun in this verse (“we have seen his glory” in English) is always exclusive (excluding anyone but Jesus’s eyewitnesses). (Source: SIL International Translation Department (1999))
Following are a number of back-translation of John 3:16:
- Tezoatlán Mixtec: “For since God loves very much the people of this world, therefore he gave his only son to arrive in this world, and whoever trusts in him, they will never die. Instead they will be able to live forever.” (’Chi̱ sa̱ꞌá ña̱ kúꞌu̱ nda̱ꞌo ini Ndios sa̱ꞌá ña̱yuu ndéi iin níí kúú ñayuú, sa̱ꞌá ño̱ó ni̱ xi̱ꞌo na iin tóꞌón dini̱ de̱ꞌe na ni̱ ka̱sáa̱ na̱ ñayuú yóꞌo, dá kía̱n ndi ndáa mií vá ña̱yuu ná kandeé ini ñaá, ni iin kuu̱ ta̱ꞌón o̱ ku̱ú na̱. Diꞌa koni na̱ kataki chíchí ná.)
- Ayutla Mixtec: “Because since God loves so much the people of this world, therefore he sent me, his only son to this world. So whoever trusts in me, they will never die before God, instead they will receive life that never ends.” (’Kua̱chi̱ ndii kundani̱ yaꞌa̱ Ndiosí ne̱ yivi̱ꞌ i̱i̱n yivi̱ꞌ, sa̱kanꞌ na ni̱ ti̱ꞌviꞌ a̱ yuꞌu̱, ña̱ nduuꞌ siꞌe̱ a̱ ña̱ i̱i̱n nda̱a̱ꞌ tilu̱ꞌ, i̱i̱n yivi̱ꞌ yoꞌoꞌ. Te̱ yo̱o̱ ka̱ i̱ni̱ xini yuꞌu̱ ndii, kö̱o̱ꞌ kivi̱ꞌ ku̱vi̱ ni̱a̱ nuu̱ꞌ Ndiosí, süu̱ꞌ ja̱a̱nꞌ ndii na̱ti̱i̱n ni̱a̱ kivi̱ꞌ ñu̱u̱ ña̱ kö̱o̱ꞌ kivi̱ꞌ ndiꞌiꞌ.)
- Uma: “Like this God loves all people in the world, with the result that he gave his Only Child, so that whoever believes in that his Child, they will not receive punishment/condemnation, but they will receive good life forever.” (Hewa toi-mi Alata’ala mpoka’ahi’ hawe’ea tauna hi dunia’, alaa-na napewai’ Ana’-na to Hadudua, bona hema–hema to mepangala’ hi Ana’-na toe, uma-ra mporata huku’, tapi’ mporata-ra katuwua’ to lompe’ duu’ kahae–hae-na.)
- Kankanaey: “Since God’s love for people in this world is great, he sent his only Child so that whoever believes in him, he would not be separated from God to be punished, but rather there would be in him life that has no end.” (Gapo ta peteg di layad Diyos sin ipogaw isnan lobong, inbaa na din bogbogtong ay Anak na ta say mo sino di mamati en sisya, adi kaisian en Diyos ta madosa, mo adi et wada en sisya di biyag ay iwed patingga na.)
- Eastern Highland Otomi: “God very much loves the people who live here on earth. Therefore he sent his only son to be killed in order that every one who believes in him will not be lost, rather he will have the new life forever.” (Nguetho ɛ̨mmɛ di huɛ̨gahʉ Oją gue dí ‘bʉhmbʉ ua ja ra ximhäi. Janangue’a bi ‘dajʉ rá ‘dats’ʉnt’ʉ ngue ma yąntehʉ, n’damhma hin da nu ran ʉnbi maząi to’o gätho di däp rá mbʉi a, pɛgue din t’un ra ‘da’yote maząi.)
- Tagbanwa: “For God really values very much all people here under the heavens. Therefore he gave his one-and-only Son, so that as for whoever will believe-in/obey and trust-in/rely-on him, he won’t get to go there to suffering/hardship, but on the contrary he will be given life without ending.” (Ka talagang pagrarasan nga banar it Ampuꞌang Diyus i muꞌsang taw situt sinirungat langit. Aypaꞌ ibinggay yay Anak ya nga paeꞌesa-esa, isaꞌun in siyuy mamayaꞌ baw sumarig it kanya, ega kaꞌaduꞌun it kakuriꞌan, in daꞌga mabgayan kanyat kaꞌgenan nga egay kaskedan.)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “All mankind is very big in the breath of God and because of this, even his only son he did not hold back, but rather he sent him here so that all who believe in him, their souls will not be punished, but rather they will be given life without end.” (Utew mahal ziyà te g̵ehinawa te Megbevayà is tivuuk he menusiyà, ne tenged kayi minsan sikan is budtung he Anak din wazè din menug̵uni, kekenà, impehendini zin su wey is langun he edtuu kandin, kenà mesiluti is gimukud dan, kekenà, meveg̵ayi sikandan te untung he wazà pidtemanan.)
- Miahuatlán Zapotec: “Because God greatly loves people of the world, because of it, God sent his only son to earth so that all men who believe in God’s son, those men will not be lost to the evil thing. On the contrary, they will have life forever.” (Tac Diox axta arid nazin’ mèn no nque’ lezo’ Diox ñèe Diox mèn loo izlyo’. Por cona, mtel’ Diox angoluxte xgan’ Diox loo izlyo’ par gàca le’ ryete mèn co’ yila’s loo xgan’ Diox, ne’quexù’de Diox mèna par co’ xà’ Diox mèna loo Diox yiloa. Ndxe’leque’, yòo ban no mèna Diox thidtene yiloa.) (Source for this and above: John Williams in the Seeing Scripture Anew blog.)
- Yakan: “God really loved mankind, therefore he gave/handed over his only Son to be killed so that all who trust in his Son will not be separated from God but will live forever there in the presence of God.” (Kinalasahan teꞌed weꞌ Tuhanin manusiyaꞌin, hangkan sinōngan weꞌ ne Anakne dambuwaꞌ-buwaꞌin pinapatey, supaya kēmon masandel si Anaknen gaꞌi pasapeꞌ amban Tuhan saguwaꞌ ellum siye salama-lama laꞌi si panaꞌanan Tuhanin.) (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Daniel Shaw reflects on the complex translation of this verse into Samo. Click here to see the story.
As I learned in Sunday school, John 3:16 is what the Bible is all about — the Gospel in a nutshell. But how was I to communicate this verse without these key words? Like any other language, Samo is not deficient. I knew Nida and Taber’s famous dictum, ‘If it can be said in one language, it can be said in another.’ I quickly realized I had to get beyond the horizontal and surface plane. This was not just about how to translate John 3:16. That would have been simply a matter of applying translation principles to a particular language problem — a transposition of human ideas. Rather, I wanted to help them deal with the theological issue of who God is: God’s power, God’s relationship with human beings, and the far-reaching implications of that relationship for dealing with is¬sues of life, death, and eternal life. I needed to get beyond the immediate text to the whole of Scripture and allow the Samo to stand in awe at this incredible God who included them in his plan for humanity. What could this mean for them individually and as a group of former cannibals living in the dense rain forest on the Island of New Guinea?
As a translator I knew how to solve the lexical and semantic problems. As an anthropologist I knew the importance of considering both the cultural setting of those who first received John’s Gospel, as well as the need to understand the Samo culture. I knew the value of analyzing collocational ranges. I appreciated the value of text /communication styles and how these are used for effective presentation of a mes¬sage. I also knew the Samo were aware of a ‘guy in the sky’ who was always ready to zap them when they did wrong (mothers would caution playing children not to make too much noise lest they attract his attention). But this was not the concept of God characterized in John 3:16 by the apostle.
Eventually I discovered the concept of the ayo, of the oldest among a group of brothers who lived in a longhouse. This was a benevolent, caring man who was never in charge but always in control — a traffic director for the entire household. They spoke of him as ‘the authority person.’ When combined with an all-inclusive possessive pronoun this term eventually became the term we used for God — oye ayo, ‘our authority person.’ (See God.) When extended to all the people who ‘sleep in all the places of the earth’ (a way to communicate ‘the world’ — see world) the Samo began to appreciate God in a whole new way, in relationship to themselves and to their enemies.
The relationship between the ayo and those in a longhouse reflected a strong, caring concern for everyone in the household — ‘love.’ For the Samo, a very practical, down to earth people surviving in a hostile environment, belief was a matter of experience. How do they know something is true? They see it, hear it, feel it! In short, they experience truth. This has profound implications far beyond trying to translate John 3:16. It relates to the broader context of all of John chapter 3, including Nicodemus’s awe of Christ and Israel’s experience with the brass serpent in the desert, particular experiences tied to the history of a specific people in a particular time and place. More broadly, it is about how humans experience God.
As a Bible translator I was, in fact, communicating through this verse in its place within a text, an entire semantic constellation tied to the very purpose of Scripture. Suddenly the Samo found themselves in the flow of human involvement with a caring God who knew them and wanted to have an intimate, family-type rela¬tionship with them — not merely sit in judgment and zap them without warning. As a result of understanding John 3:16, the Samo also found themselves in relationship with people beyond their recognized circle of alliance, with the whole of humanity beyond their borders, including people they normally considered enemies (see thief (parable of the wise householder)). That the ‘one in control’ of their feared enemies, the Bedamoni, also had authority over them was not only revelatory, it was transforming. This new understanding — experienced through relationship — had eternal implications for a ‘life that would not end’ and gave insight to a spirit world populated by evil beings, but also included the pool of ancestors who constantly reentered the world to energize a newborn baby and move through the cycle of life once again to join the ancestors and assist the living in their struggle. These new and far-reaching theological in¬sights relating to the Samo also challenged my understanding of the text, forced me to reevaluate my own assumptions, and made me appreciate more deeply the Samo from whom I learned so much about God. (Source: Shaw / Van Engen 2003, p. 177f.)