burnt-offering

The Hebrew olah (עֹלָה) originally means “that which goes up (in smoke).” English Bibles often translates it as “burnt-offering” or “whole burnt-offering,” focusing on the aspect of the complete burning of the offering.

The Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate Bibles translate it as holokautōma / holocautōsis (ὁλοκαύτωμα / ὁλοκαύτωσις) and holocaustum, respectively, meaning “wholly burnt.” While a form of this term is widely used in many Romance languages (Spanish: holocaustos, French: holocaustes, Italian: olocausti, Portuguese: holocaustos) and originally also in the Catholic tradition of English Bible translations, it is largely not used in English anymore today (the preface of the revised edition of the Catholic New American Bible of 2011: “There have been changes in vocabulary; for example, the term ‘holocaust’ is now normally reserved for the sacrilegious attempt to destroy the Jewish people by the Third Reich.”)

Since Georgian translation traditionally was done on the basis of the Greek Septuagint, a transliteration of holokautōma was used as well, which was changed to a translation with the meaning of “burnt offering” when the Old Testament was retranslated in the 1980’s on the basis of the Hebrew text.

The English translation of Everett Fox uses offering-up (similarly, the German translation by Buber-Rosenzweig has Darhöhung and the French translation by Chouraqui montée).

See also offering (qorban).

in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius

The Greek that is typically translated in English as “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius” is translated by the Italian La Sua Parola è Vita translation as Passarono circa due decenni. Era adesso il quindicesimo anno del regno dell’imperatore Tiberio Cesare or “About two decades passed. It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar.” Cotrozzi (2019) explains: “There is a time gap between the last events recounted in 2:52 and those in 3:1. Jesus was 12 at the end of chapter 2 but about 30 years old when he began his work (3:23). As a result, some 18 years must have elapsed since 2:51-52. However, this is not readily apparent to most modern readers. All the more so since the gap coincides with a break at chapter level and is followed by the same name (Herod) as in 1:5 which seems to indicate continuity. What most readers are not aware of is that the same name refers in Luke to two different historical figures, Herod the Great (1:5) and his son Herod Antipas (3:1). Only a few Bibles — Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk and Den Nye Aftale, English New Living Translation, French La Parole de Vie, German Die Gute Nachricht and Neues Leben Übersetzung, and Spanish Traducción en lenguaje actual — make this clear in the text.”

hell

The Greek that is translated in English versions as “hell” (or “Gehenna”) is translated (1) by borrowing a term from a trade or national language (this is done in a number of Indian languages in Latin America, which have borrowed Spanish “infierno” — from Latin “infernus”: “of the lower regions”), (2) by using an expression denoting judgment or punishment, e.g. “place of punishment” (Loma), “place of suffering” (Highland Totonac, San Blas Kuna) and (3) by describing a significant characteristic: (a) the presence of fire or burning, e.g. “place of fire” (Kipsigis, Mossi), “the large bonfire” (Shipibo-Conibo), or (b) the traditionally presumed location, e.g. “the lowest place” (a well-known term in Ngäbere), “the place inside” long used to designate hell, as a place inside the earth (Aymara). (Source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)

In Nyongar it is translated as Djinbaminyap or “Punishing place” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang) and in Tagbanwa as “the fire which had no dying down” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

not on talk but on power

The Greek that is translated “not on talk but on power” or similar in English is translated with a alliteration in the common language version of the Spanish Biblia Dios Habla Hoy (“no es cuestión de palabras, sino de poder“) and the French Parole de Vie (“pas une affaire de paroles mais de puissance“). An early version of the German Gute Nachricht also had an alliteration with “Wort” and “Wirkung” (source: Barclay Newman in The Bible Translator 1978, p. 225ff. )

one and only son, only begotten son, only son

A particularly interesting development in the history of Christianity [related to translation] took place with respect to the Greek term monogenés, literally, ‘only, unique, one of kind.’ It was used of Isaac as the son of Abraham [see Gen. 22:2], though Isaac was not the only son of Abraham, for he had a son Ishmael, and with a later wife Keturah, several sons. But Isaac was the only son of a particular kind, that is to say, the unique son of the promise. The term monogenés was translated into Latin as unigenitus, meaning literally ‘only begotten’ [in English — or likewise traditionally in Chinese: “dúshēng 獨 生,” Italian: “unigenito,” Spanish “unigénito,” or German: “eingeboren”] but in Greek the equivalent of ‘only begotten’ would have two n’s and not just one. Nevertheless, the Latin misinterpretation of monogenés has constituted such a long tradition that any attempt to speak of Jesus as the ‘unique son of God’ rather than the ‘only begotten son’ is often announced as a case of blatant heresy. (Source: Nida 1984, p. 114.)

In Waiwai, the Greek that is translated as “only begotten Son” in English in John 3:16 is translated as cewnan tumumururosa okwe, where the “particle okwe indicates dearness, and it must be included in Waiwai for the expression ‘only begotten Son’ to mean anything like what it means to God or to us as Christians.” (Source: Robert Hawkins (in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. )

See also complete verse (John 3:16), firstborn and begotten you / become your father.

whole land

The Greek that is usually translated as “the whole land” in English is translated in Uma as “all over the village” (source: Uma Back Translation), in Yakan as “that whole place/country” (source: Yakan Back Translation), in Western Bukidnon Manobo as “the whole world” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation), and in Tenango Otomi as “all the earth” (source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation).

Catholic translations that rely on the Latin Vulgate‘s ambiguous totam terram (which, just as the Greek, could refer to the terrestrial globe or a particular place of land) tend to also stay ambiguous. The Spanish Reina Valera has toda la tierra and the English Douay Rheims likewise reads the whole earth. (Source: Knox 1949, p. 20)

Peter - rock

The word pun that Jesus makes in Matthew 16:18 in Greek (using similar words for “Peter” and “rock”: πετρος and πετρα) is lost in most languages (such as in English) but is naturally preserved in some languages, such as French (Pierre and pierre), Portuguese (Pedro and pedra), Italian (Pietro and pietra), Latin (Petrus and petram), Modern Greek (Πέτρος and πέτρα), and — to a lesser degree — in Spanish (Pedro and piedra) and in Romanian (Petru and piatră).

Despite the similarity between the words in those languages, readers might not automatically catch the word play, as Carlo Buzzetti (in The Bible Translator 1983, p. 308ff. ) explains for Italian (click here to read more)

“In many languages it is not possible to repeat the same word, because the equivalent of Petros has become a personal name, while the equivalent of petra is a common noun, the gender of which may be different from that of the equivalent of Petros. The Italian linguistic situation seems at first sight to be very similar to the Greek: to translate Petrospetra we can use Pietropietra. But unfortunately this conveys a different meaning to the average Italian reader: first, because Pietro is now not a new nickname, but a common traditional personal name; and second, because pietra is a feminine noun similar in form to Pietro, but carrying no suggestion that the two have the same meaning. Indeed, Pietro, like ‘Peter’ and most personal names, carries no meaning at all for the average reader or speaker.

“The common language translators felt that it was possible to make the identification between Petros and petra explicit, and at the same time exploit the similarity between the two words. We thus translated: tu sei Pietro e su di te, come su una pietra, io costruirò la mia comunità [in the original Common Language Version: Chiesa] (‘you are Peter and on you, as on a rock, I will build my community [originally: ‘Church’]. Our te (‘you’) connected Pietro and pietra. while our come (‘as’) expressed the fact that the connection was based on an image. In this way we suggested the meaning of Pietro.”

Like the Peshitta translation in Syriac Aramaic (Classical Syriac) with the term ܟܹܐܦܵܐ (kēpā), the Neo-Aramaic languages of Assyrian and Chaldean use terms for both “Peter” and “rock” (and “Cephas”) that are identical (ܟܹܐܦܵܐ and كِيپَا, both pronounced kēpā) so the word pun is preserved in those translations as well. (Source: Ken Bunge)

See also Cephas.

the Jews

The translation of the Greek οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι (hoi Ioudaioi), traditionally “the Jews” in English, is used particularly often in the Gospel of John and has been receiving attention in the last 50 years. Below you’ll find an overview of how some English translators and translation have translated it, why they did so and the solutions some other languages have chosen.

Starting in the late 1960s, at the time the English Today’s English Version (Good News Bible) and respective translations in other languages (see below) were published, many translators started to question the translation of hoi Ioudaioi with “the Jews.”

Robert Bratcher, the translator of the Today’s English Version New Testament describes why his translation uses four different translations for the same Greek words (in The Bible Translator 1975, p. 401ff. ): “Jewish people,” “Judeans,” “people hostile to Jesus,” and “the authorities in Jerusalem” (for more see here):

“In order to better understand the meaning of ‘the Jews’ in the Gospel of John, we must first look at the use and meaning of ‘the world’ in this Gospel. The author sees everything in terms of opposite forces: light and darkness, truth and error, life and death, God and the Devil. And he makes a sharp distinction between the world and Jesus and his followers, especially in the last half of the Gospel. Of course the world is the object of God’s love and of Christ’s saving mission (John 3:1617; 12:47; 17:21, 23), but it is not the object of the love of the followers of Jesus: they are not commanded to love the world. The disciples of Jesus are in the world (John 13:1), but they do not belong to it (John 15:19). The world hates Jesus and his disciples, because they do not belong to it (John 15:1819; 17:14, 15, 16). The world loves only those who belong to it (John 15:19). It does not know Jesus (John 1:10), or the Father (John 17:25), and cannot receive the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). The world’s ruler is to be overthrown (John 12:31, 14:30; 16:11). When Jesus is parted from his disciples, they will be sad, but the world will be glad (John 16:20). Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33); his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). In the Gospel of John ‘the world’ stands in opposition to Jesus and his disciples.

“‘The Jews’ belong to ‘the world,’ as compared with Jesus and his followers. The Jews, like the world, do not know the Father. They have never heard his voice or seen his face, nor do they believe in the one whom he sent (John 5:37, 38). Jesus says to the Jews. ‘You come from this world, but I do not come from this world’ (John 8:23). (…)

“The author clearly places himself, and those whom he represents, as separate from the Jews. He speaks of ‘the Passover of the Jews’ (John 2:13; 6:4; 11:55), the religious rules of the Jews about purification (John 2:6), a religious festival of the Jews (John 5:1), the Festival of Shelters of the Jews (John 7:2), the Day of Preparation of the Jews (John 19:42), and the way in which Jews prepare a body for burial (19:40).

“And quite as clearly he regards Jesus as not ‘a Jew’. In talking to the Jews. Jesus speaks of ‘your Law’ (John 7:19; 8:17; 10:34) and ‘your circumcision’ (John 7:22). Abraham is ‘your father’ (John 8:56). When the Jews say to him. ‘Our ancestors ate manna in the desert’ (John 6:31), Jesus replies, ‘What Moses gave you was not the bread from heaven’ (John 6:32), and later on says, ‘Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert’ (John 6:49).

“It is true that twice Jesus is called a Jew: by the Samaritan woman (John 4:9) and by Pilate (John 18:35). But in both instances the term is used in its sense of ‘person of Judah’, contrasted with the Samaritan and the Roman. The same applies in John 4:22, where Jesus says to the Samaritan woman. ‘You (Samaritans) do not really know whom you worship; we (Jews) know whom we worship, for salvation comes from the Jews.’

“Apart from those two instances, it is only in John 1:11 that Jesus is identified as a Jew. in the statement that he came to ‘his own country’, but ‘his own people’ did not receive him. This passage, however, does not go against the Gospel as a whole, in which Jesus is shown as not being a part of ‘the Jews.’

“What accounts for this? It seems clear that the deep differences shown between Jesus and ‘the Jews’ of his time reflect the hostility between Church and Synagogue at the time the author wrote his Gospel. He has moved back the disputes and arguments of his own time into the time of Jesus, and they are represented as taking place between Jesus and the people of his time.

“The prominent part played by the Pharisees in the opposition to Jesus is worthy of note here. The High Priest and the chief priests are mentioned often, especially in chapters 18-19, as we would expect. They were, after all, the religious authorities responsible for arresting Jesus and turning hint over to Pilate. What is surprising is that the Pharisees appear so often in the Gospel (see John 1:24; 4:1; 7:32, 47, 48; 8:13; 9:13, 15, 16, 40; 11:46; 12:19, 42), and are at times identified as ‘the Jews’, that is, the authorities. Their part in relation to Jesus in the Gospel of John is different from the part they play in the other Gospels. In John it is their refusal to believe in Jesus and his claims that brings them into conflict with him. They are not, as in the other Gospels, condemned by Jesus because of their hypocrisy or their understanding of the Law. (…)

“The translator is bound to represent faithfully the way in which the author describes the ministry of Jesus. But the way in which he will translate the Greek hoi loudaioi every time it appears in the Gospel is not an easy matter to decide. (1) Should he not, always and everywhere, translate it by ‘the Jews’? This certainly may be argued, since the author does not use the expression in a precise national or racial sense of the people of Israel in the years A.D. 30-33, but of the opponents of his own time who denied the claims the Church makes about Jesus the Messiah. If the translator did this, however, he would almost be forced to use quotation marks — ‘the Jews’ — to show the strangeness of the phrase. (2) But since the author has placed these disputes in the time of Jesus, it is at this level that the translation must take place, so that ‘the Jews’ must be identified in terms of the people of Jesus’ own time. But as a matter of fact Jesus was a Jew, and to translate a passage, for example. ‘Jesus, in Jerusalem, said to the Jews’, is as unnatural as to say, ‘The President, in Washington, said to the Americans’, or, ‘The Queen, in London, said to the British.’

“In translating on this ‘historical’ level, however, does not the translator somehow distort the meaning of the text? The answer depends on whether we believe that the author intended his readers to understand his Gospel as reporting historical events which took place in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee in the early part of the first century. Assuming that he did, it seems to me that the translator does not have much of a choice, unless he says something like ‘the enemies of Jesus’, or ‘the unbelievers’ every time ‘the Jews’ is used of the opponents of Jesus.

“Consequently, in following the course which I think is the only right one to take, the translator must carefully observe the different senses in which ‘the Jews’ is used in the Gospel of John—and this is what will be done in this study, with an examination of every occurrence of the phrase and its meaning in the ‘historical’ setting of the Gospel. (…)

“According to this review, ‘the Jews’ in the Gospel of John may have four different meanings:

  • its natural sense, meaning simply Jewish people
  • Judeans, people who live in and near Jerusalem
  • people hostile to Jesus
  • the authorities in Jerusalem

For the Contemporary English Version in the 1990s, similar translation strategies were taken, as explained by David Burke, a member of the translation team (see the reprint from an original article in TIC TALK 24, 1993, right here ). Other English translations that use varied translations for hoi Ioudaioi include the Living Bible, New International Version, Common English Bible, New Living Translation, The Inclusive New Testament, and others.

For a recent translation of the New Testament, its translator and Eastern Orthodox scholar David B. Hart (2017) explains why he chose to use ‘Judaean’ for every occurrence of the singular Ioudaios or the plural Ioudaioi throughout the New Testament (for more see here):

“The next term is Ioudaios — or Ioudaioi in the plural — which is usually rendered ‘Jew’ or ‘Jews,’ except in places where ‘Judaean’ or ‘Judaeans’ seems better to fit the context: again a perfectly justifiable practice, but also one that inadvertently introduces a distinction into the text that would not have been entirely intended by the authors. The books of the New Testament were written in an age in which national, ethnic, religious, and racial identities were not arranged in the often pernicious categories that came to hold sway in subsequent centuries; and it would be a severe distortion of the texts of the New Testament to allow these later developments to cast a shadow backward onto a time innocent of the evils of mediaeval or modern history. For example—and the most striking example — the Gospel of John has often been accused of anti-Semitism, despite the anachronism of the very concept. Where English readers are accustomed to reading the Gospel as referring, often opprobriously, to ‘the Jews,’ the original text is usually referring to the indigenous Temple and synagogue authorities of Judaea, or to Judaeans living outside Judaea, or even to ‘Judaeans’ as opposed to ‘Galileans’ (see, for instance, John 7:1). The Gospel definitely reflects the disenchantment of Jewish Christians in Asia Minor with those they saw as having expelled them from the synagogue, and later Christian culture certainly often took this as an excuse for anti-Jewish violence and injustice, but it would be absurd to impute to the Gospel the sort of religious prejudices born in later generations, or certainly the racial ideologies that are so much a part of the special legacy of post-Enlightenment modernity. I have rendered the word as ‘Judaean’ or ‘Judaeans’ throughout, even where that sounds somewhat awkward, and even in places where ‘Jew’ or ‘Jews’ would be an utterly anodyne or bracingly affirmative translation. After all, the general extension of the term ‘Jews’ to all who worshipped Israel’s God meant principally that their cultic life was focused on the Temple in Jerusalem. Again, my rationale for doing this, and for ignoring my own twinge of reluctance whenever it produced a somewhat inept construction, is that I thought it better to preserve the unity of the word and the concept in the language of the ancient authors than to impose distinctions that would make the texts conform more readily to our cultural categories (and historical sins). (source: Hart 2017, p. 548f.)

Other English translations that use Judeans in most passages in John for Ioudaioi include N.T. Wright’s Kingdom New Testament (in the UK: New Testament for Everyone), the Messianic Jewish Bible Project’s Tree of Life translation, and David Stern’s Jewish New Testament.

In The Jewish Gospel of John its translator explains why he chose to not translate but instead transliterate virtually ever occurrence of Ioudaioi (for more see here):

“The Gospel of John was initially written for a particular audience consisting of a variety of intra-Israelite groups, one of the main ones being the Samaritan Israelites. To them, unlike for us today, the word Ioudaioi did not mean ‘the People of Israel,’ i.e. ‘the Jewish people’ as we call them today. For these people, the people I propose are one of the main audiences for the Gospel of John, the Ioudaioi, meant something different.

“One modern example that illustrates this ancient dynamic comes from an Eastern European setting. The Ukrainians often called Russians, with whom they had an uneasy relationship to say the least, ‘Maskali.’ The Ukrainian word ‘Maskal’ comes from the name of the Russian Imperial Capital — Moscow. Those who were either of Russian ethnic descent, or who even as much as acknowledged Moscow’s authority or leading role in the region, could be referred to as ‘Maskal.’ In fact, the Maskal did not have to be from Moscow or be ethnically Russian at all. The individual simply needed to be (or be perceived to be) a supporter of a Moscow-led political agenda. Other peoples outside of the Russian-Ukrainian political conflict, who were familiar with the issues, never used the designation ‘Maskali’ themselves, knowing that it was a Ukrainian term for the Russians and Russia’s affiliates.

“Therefore, using a similar analogy, those who acknowledged the Jerusalem-approved authorities in Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) and Cana, which were far from Jerusalem, were also referred to by the principal name for the Jerusalemite formal rulers and leading sect — the Ioudaioi. All members of the Jerusalem-led system became the Ioudaioi in the Gospel of John. This is very similar to the way ‘Russians’ became ‘Maskali’ to Ukrainians and to others who witnessed their polemic. So when the audience for John’s Gospel heard these anti-Ioudaioi statements (like John 7:1-2), whom did they think the author/s had in mind? This is the key question.

“To Samaritan Israelites, whatever else the Ioudaioi may have been, they were certainly Judeans –- members of the former Southern Kingdom of Israel who had adopted a wide variety of innovations that were contrary to the Torah as Samaritans understood it. Judging from this Gospel, the original audience understood that, as well as simply being Judeans, the Ioudaioi were: i) Judean authorities, and (ii) affiliated members of this authority structure living outside of Judea.

“These affiliates were located both in the territories of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel (Galilee) and in the large Israelite diaspora outside the Land of Israel, both in the Roman Empire and beyond. In this way, the Gospel of John, like the other Gospels, portrayed Jesus’ antagonists as representatives of sub-groups within Israel, and not the people of Israel as a whole. In other words Ioudaioi (‘the Jews’ in most translations) in this Gospel are not ‘the Jewish People’ in the modern sense of the word.

“The translation of Ioudaioi always and only as ‘Jews’ sends the reader in the opposite direction from what the author intended. While the translation of this word simply as ‘Judeans,’ is a more accurate choice than ‘Jews,’ it is still not fully adequate –- for three reasons that come to mind:

  • The English word Jews evokes, in the minds of modern peoples, the idea of Jewish religion (i.e. Jews are people who profess a religion called Judaism) and therefore cannot be used indiscriminately to translate the term Ioudaioi, since, in the first century, there was no separate category for religion (Judaism, when it was used, meant something much more all-encompassing than what it means to us today). In a sense, it was only when non-Israelite Christ-followers, in an attempt to self-establish and self-define, created the category called Christianity, that the category called Judaism, as we know it today, was also born. Since then most Christian theologians and most Jewish theologians after them project our modern definition of Judaism back into the New Testament.
  • On the other hand, the English word Judean evokes in the minds of modern people, oftentimes, an almost exclusively geographical definition (a Judean is the person who lives in Judea or used to live in Judea) and hence cannot be used indiscriminately either, since today it does not imply everything it intended to imply in late antiquity.
  • The word Judean, without clarification and nuancing, does not account for the complex relationship of the outside-of-Judea affiliates with the Jerusalem authorities either.

“Because of the lack of a perfect word to describe what was meant by Ioudaioi in the Gospel of John, I suggest that the word is best left untranslated.” (source: Lizorkin-Eyzenberg 2015, p. XIff.)

In other languages, many common language versions (approximate equivalents to the English Today’s English Version (Good News Bible) or other simplified translations (as well as non-simplified versions) use varied translations for Ioudaioi in John as well. Below are some examples of translations of hoi Ioudaioi in John 1:19:

  • Portuguese: líderes judeus (Jewish leaders) (in Nova Tradução na Linguagem de Hoje — New Translation in Today’s Language)
  • French: autórités juives (Jewish authorities) (in Bible en français courant — Bible in Modern French) or chefs juifs (Jewish leaders) (in Parole de Vie — Word of Life)
  • Spanish: autiridades des judias (Jewish authorities) (in Dios Habla Hoy — God Speaks Today)
  • Italian: autorità ebraiche (Jewish authorities) (in Traduzione Interconfessionale in Lingua Corrente — Interconfessional Translation into Modern Language)
  • Dutch: Joodse leiders (Jewish leaders) (in BasisBijbel — Basic Bible)
  • German: führende Männer (leading men) (in Die Gute Nachricht: Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch — Good News: The Bible in Today’s German), führende Männer des jüdischen Volkes (leading men of the Jewish people) (in Neue Genfer Übersetzung — New Geneva Translation), or jüdische Behörden (Jewish authorities) (in BasisBibel — Basic Bible)
  • Indonesian: penguasa Yahudi (Jewish authorities) (in Alkitab dalam Bahasa Indonesia Masa Kini — The Bible in Today’s Indonesian)
  • Hindi: यहूदी धर्म-गुरुओं ने Yahūdī dharma-guruoan ne (Jewish religious leaders (in पवित्र बाइबिल CL — Holy Bible CL)
  • Nepali: यहूदी अगुवाहरूले Yahūdī aguvāharūlē (Jewish leaders) (in सरल नेपाली पवित्र बाइबल (Simple Nepali Holy Bible)
  • Hebrew: רָאשֵׁי הַיְּהוּדִים rashei hayehudim (heads of the Jews) (Modern Hebrew New Testament)

Wendland (1998, p. 93) gives a large range of translations that was used in Chichewa interconfessional translation (publ. 1999): “Jewish leaders” (John 2:18); “people” (John 7:35); Jewish guards of the Temple (John 18:12); “Jewish elders/authorities” (John 18:28); “tribe/nation of Jews” (John 18:33); “whole crowd” (John 18:38).

Sabbath

The Greek that is translated as “Sabbath” in English is rendered as “day we rest” in Tzotzil, in Mairasi as “Jew’s Rest Day,” in Quiotepec Chinantec as “day when people of Israel rested,” in Shilluk as “day of God,” and in Obolo as Usen Mbuban or “Holy Day.”

(Sources: Tzotzil: Marion Cowan in Notes on Translation with Drill, p. 169ff; Mairasi: Enggavoter 2004; Quiotepec Chinantec: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.; Shilluk: Nida 1964, p. 237; Obolo: Enene Enene)

In the old Khmer version as well as in the first new translation this term was rendered as “day of rest” (Thngai Chhup Somrak). Considered inadequate to convey its religious meaning (not only about cessation of work, but also in honour of Yahweh as the Creator), the committee has decided to keep the Hebrew word and use its transliterated form Thgnai Sabath. The Buddhist word Thngai Seil “day of merits” used by some Catholics was once under consideration but was rejected because it did not receive unanimous support.” (Source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 233ff.)

In Spanish, the translation is either día de reposo (“day of rest”) or sábado (usually: “Saturday,” derived from the Greek and Hebrew original. Nida (1947, p. 239f.) explains that problem for Spanish and other languages in its sphere of influence: “In translation “Sabbath” into various aboriginal languages of Latin America, a considerable number of translators have used the Spanish sábado, ‘Saturday,’ because it is derived from the Hebrew sabbath and seems to correspond to English usage as well. The difficulty is that sábado means only ‘Saturday’ for most people. There is no religious significance about this word as the is with ‘Sabbath’ in English. Accordingly the [readers] cannot understand the significance of the persecution of Jesus because he worked on ‘Saturday.’ It has been found quite advantageous to use the translation ‘day of rest,’ for this accurately translated the Hebrew meaning of the term and resolves the problem in connection with the prohibitions placed upon some types of activities.”

acrostic in Lamentations 4

The Hebrew text of Lamentations 1-4 uses acrostics, a literary form in which each verse is started with one of the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to Brenda Boerger (in Open Theology 2016, p. 179ff. ) there are three different reasons for acrostics in the Hebrew text: “for ease of memorization,” the representation “of the full breadth and depth of a topic, all the way from aleph to taw (tav),” and the perception of “the acrostic form as aesthetically attractive.” (p. 191)

While most translations mention the existence of an acrostic in a note or a comment, few implement it in their translation. One such exception is the Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 4 in Danish

1 Ak, Jerusalems guldklumper har mistet deres herlighed.
Hendes hellige øjestene ligger og vansmægter på hvert gadehjørne.
2 Byens befolkning var deres vægt værd i guld,
men nu ligger de som værdiløse lerkar, en pottemagers værk.
3 De vilde sjakaler giver deres unger die,
men mit folks mødre er følelseskolde som ørkenens strudse.
4 Ethvert spædbarn skriger af tørst med tungen klæbende til ganen.
Småbørn tigger om mad, men ingen har noget at give.
5 Folk, som var vant til festmiddage, er nu ved at forgå af sult.
De, som levede i luksus, roder nu efter føde i rendestenen.
6 Går det ikke mit folk værre end Sodomas indbyggere?
De døde dog på et øjeblik ved Herrens direkte indgreb.
7 Hendes fyrster havde hud som silke og struttede af sundhed,
deres ansigter var rødmossede og håret skinnede så smukt.
8 Ingen ville kunne genkende dem nu, hvis de mødte dem på gaden,
for de er det rene skind og ben med ansigter sorte som sod.
9 Ja, hellere dræbes af sværdet, end at dø langsomt af sult,
fordi madforsyninger ikke kan komme ind i byen.
10 Kan man forestille sig, hvad der sker med en kærlig mor,
som tvinges til at koge og spise sine børn for at overleve?
11 Landet er lamslået over Herrens forfærdelige vrede.
Jerusalem er ødelagt og brændt ned til grunden.
12 Man mente ikke, det kunne lade sig gøre at indtage Jerusalem.
Ingen af jordens konger troede, det var muligt.
13 Nedsablingen skete, fordi profeter og præster havde syndet.
De havde myrdet uskyldige folk midt i Herrens hellige by.
14 Overalt i byen raver folk rundt i blinde.
De kan ikke undgå at røre ved blod, og derfor er de urene.
15 „Pas på!” advarer folk hinanden, „der kommer en uren!”
Flygter de, siger de fremmede folkeslag: „Her kan I ikke bo!”
16 Respekt for præsterne og landets ledere hører fortiden til,
for Herren har slået hånden af dem og spredt dem for alle vinde.
17 Skildvagterne stod og spejdede efter hjælp, men forgæves.
Ingen af vores allierede havde magt til at redde os.
18 Tidspunktet nærmede sig, hvor alt var forbi.
Vi kunne ikke gå ud på gaden af frygt for at blive dræbt.
19U den at vise nåde kastede fjenderne sig over os som gribbe.
De forfulgte os i bjergene og lå på lur efter os i ørkenen.
20 Vores egen konge, Herrens udvalgte, gik lige i deres fælde,
han, som vi troede kunne beskytte os fra enhver fjende.
21 Østpå glæder I jer, Edoms folk, for denne gang var det ikke jer, der blev ramt.
Men en dag skal også I drikke Herrens vredes vin, så I mister besindelsen.
22 Åh, Jerusalem, din straf var hård, men en dag bliver du genoprettet.
Edoms folk, derimod, vil blive straffet, fordi de svigtede os.

Copyright © 1985, 1992, 2005, 2013, 2015 by Biblica, Inc.®

The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains most Hebrew acrostics (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew):

1 All dim, now, and discoloured, the gold that once shone so fair! Heaped up at every street-corner lie hallowed stones.
2 Bright they shone once in all their renown, the men of Sion, and now what are they? Little regarded as common earthenware, of the potter’s fashioning.
3 Cub of jackal is fed at its dam’s breast; and has my people grown unnatural towards its own children, like some ostrich in the desert?
4 Dry throat and parching tongue for babe at the breast; children asking for bread, and never a crust to share with them!
5 Ever they fared daintily, that now lie starved in the streets; ever went richly arrayed, and now their fingers clutch at the dung-hill.
6 Faithless Juda! Heavier punishment she must needs undergo than guilty Sodom, that perished all in a moment, and never a blow struck.
7 Gone, the fair bloom of princely cheeks, snowy-pure, cream-white, red as tinted ivory, and all sapphire-clear;
8 Here is no recognizing them, out in the streets, coal-black, skin clinging to bones, dry as wood!
9 It were better to have fallen at the sword’s point than yield thus to the stab of hunger, wasted away through famine.
10 Juda brought low, and mother-love forgotten; that women should eat their own children, cooked with their own hands!
11 Kindled at last is the Lord’s anger; rains down from heaven the storm of his vengeance, lighting a flame that burns Sion to the ground.
12 Little dreamed they, king and common folk the world over, that any assault of the foe should storm Jerusalem gates;
13 Malice and lawlessness it was of priest and prophet, whereby innocent men came to their deaths, that brought such punishment.
14 Now, as they walk blindly through the streets, they are defiled with blood; no help for it, gather their skirts about them as they may;
15 Out of my way! cries one to another; Back, pollution, do not touch me! The very Gentiles protest in alarm, Here is no place for them!
16 Protection the Lord gives them no longer, they are dispersed under his frown; the priesthood no honour claims, old age no pity.
17 Quenched is the hope our eyes strained for, while hope was left us; looking for help so eagerly to a nation that had none to give!
18 Refuge for us in the treacherous highways is none; we are near the end; all is over, this is the end;
19 Swifter than flight of eagles the pursuit; even on the mountains they give chase, even in the desert take us by surprise.
20 Through our fault he who is breath of life to us, our anointed king, is led away captive; under his shadow we hoped our race should thrive.
21 Until thy turn comes, shout on, Edom, triumph on, land of Hus; the same cup thou too shalt drink, and be drunken, and stripped bare.
22 Vengeful audit-day! Sion’s account closed, recovered her fortunes; Edom called to account, discovered her guilt! (Source )

Spanish has a different tradition of acrostics. It uses non-alphabetic acrostics where the first letters of each line (or verse) together form a word or phrase. In the Traducción en lenguaje actual (publ. 2002, 2004), the translators used the first letters of this chapter of Lamentation to spell out “POBRECITA DE TI, JERUSALEN” (“Poor you, little Jerusalem”) which also is the first line of the first and second chapters of Lamentations (for more on the translation process of this, see Alfredo Tepox in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 233ff.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 4 in the Traducción en lenguaje actual

1 ¡Perdió el oro su brillo!
¡Quedó totalmente empañado!
¡Por las esquinas de las calles
quedaron regadas las joyas del templo!
2 ¡Oro puro! Así se valoraba
a los habitantes de Jerusalén,
¡pero ahora no valen más
que simples ollas de barro!
3 Bondadosas se muestran las lobas
cuando alimentan a sus cachorros,
pero las crueles madres israelitas
abandonan a sus hijos.
4 Reclaman pan nuestros niños,
pero nadie les da nada.
La lengua se les pega al paladar,
y casi se mueren de sed.
5 En las calles se mueren de hambre
los que antes comían manjares;
entre la basura se revuelcan
los que antes vestían con elegancia.
6 Cayó Jerusalén, pues ha pecado
más de lo que pecó Sodoma.
¡De pronto se vino abajo
y nadie pudo ayudarla!
7 Increíblemente hermosos
eran los líderes de Jerusalén;
estaban fuertes y sanos,
estaban llenos de vida.
8 Tan feos y enfermos se ven ahora
que nadie los reconoce.
Tienen la piel reseca como leña,
¡hasta se les ven los huesos!
9 A falta de alimentos,
todos mueren poco a poco.
¡Más vale morir en la guerra
que morirse de hambre!
10 ¡Destruida ha quedado Jerusalén!
¡Hasta las madres más cariñosas
cocinan a sus propios hijos
para alimentarse con ellos!
11 El enojo de Dios fue tan grande
que ya no pudo contenerse;
le prendió fuego a Jerusalén
y la destruyó por completo.
12 ¡Terminaron entrando a la ciudad
los enemigos de Jerusalén!
¡Nadie en el mundo se imaginaba
que esto pudiera ocurrir!
13 Injustamente ha muerto gente
a manos de profetas y sacerdotes.
Dios castigó a Jerusalén
por este grave pecado.
14 Juntos andan esos asesinos
como ciegos por las calles.
Tienen las manos llenas de sangre;
¡nadie se atreve a tocarlos!
15 En todas partes les gritan:
«¡Fuera de aquí, vagabundos!
¡No se atrevan a tocarnos!
¡No pueden quedarse a vivir aquí!»
16 Rechazados por Dios,
los líderes y sacerdotes
vagan por el mundo.
¡Dios se olvidó de ellos!
17 Una falsa esperanza tenemos:
que un pueblo venga a salvarnos;
pero nuestros ojos están cansados.
¡Nadie vendrá en nuestra ayuda!
18 Se acerca nuestro fin.
No podemos andar libremente,
pues por todas partes nos vigilan;
¡nuestros días están contados!
19 Aun más veloces que las águilas
son nuestros enemigos.
Por las montañas y por el desierto
nos persiguen sin descanso.
20 La sombra que nos protegía
era nuestro rey;
Dios mismo nos lo había dado.
¡Pero hasta él cayó prisionero!
21 Esto mismo lo sufrirás tú,
que te crees la reina del desierto.
Puedes reírte ahora, ciudad de Edom,
¡pero un día te quedarás desnuda!
22 No volverá Dios a castigarte,
bella ciudad de Jerusalén,
pues ya se ha cumplido tu castigo.
Pero a ti, ciudad de Edom,
Dios te castigará por tus pecados.

Traducción en lenguaje actual ® © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 2002, 2004.

acrostic in Lamentations 1

The Hebrew text of Lamentations 1-4 uses acrostics, a literary form in which each verse is started with one of the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to Brenda Boerger (in Open Theology 2016, p. 179ff. ) there are three different reasons for acrostics in the Hebrew text: “for ease of memorization,” the representation “of the full breadth and depth of a topic, all the way from aleph to taw (tav),” and the perception of “the acrostic form as aesthetically attractive.” (p. 191)

While most translations mention the existence of an acrostic in a note or a comment, few implement it in their translation. One such exception is the Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 1 in Danish

1 Ak ja, den travle by er nu folketom.
Den storslåede by sidder tilbage som en fattig enke.
Dronningen blandt byer blev degraderet til tjenestepige.
2 Byen jamrer og græder natten lang.
Ingen kommer for at trøste hende i sorgen.
Alle de gamle venner har svigtet hende.
3 Det judæiske folk blev mishandlet og ført bort som slaver.
De vansmægter nu i det fremmede uden at finde hvile.
De kunne ikke undslippe, da fjenden oversvømmede byen.
4 Efter at templet blev ødelagt, er det forbi med højtid og fest.
Vejene op til Jerusalem er øde, og byens gader tomme.
Præsterne sørger, pigerne græder, hele byen er fortvivlet.
5 Fjenderne gik af med sejren og plyndrede byen.
Det var Herrens straf for al folkets ulydighed.
Alle byens indbyggere blev ført bort som slaver.
6 Glansen er fuldstændig gået af den før så herlige by.
Byens ledere var udhungrede som hjorte, der forgæves leder efter føde.
De var for udmattede til at undslippe deres forfølgere.
7 Hjemløs og fattig sidder Jerusalem og mindes de skatte, hun har mistet.
Ingen af hendes venner kom hende til hjælp mod fjendens angreb.
Hun blev hånet og spottet af den overlegne fjende.
8 Ingen vil længere se op til Jerusalem, som de gjorde engang.
Hun blev ydmyget og plyndret på grund af sine mange synder.
Nu sidder hun og jamrer, afklædt og skamfuld.
9 Jerusalem var utro mod Herren uden at tænke på følgerne.
Hun fik en frygtelig straf, og der er ingen, der trøster hende.
„Se min elendighed!” råber hun til Herren. „Min fjende foragter mig!”
10 Katastrofen er ikke til at bære, for alt er tabt.
Ikke alene blev alle byens værdier plyndret,
men fremmede folkeslag brød ind i templet og vanhelligede det.
11 Lidelsen ramte alle, som boede i byen.
Hungersnøden tvang dem til at sælge deres sidste ejendele for lidt mad.
Byen råber i sin nød: „Ak, Herre, se dog, hvor foragtet jeg er!
12 Mon der findes en større smerte end min?
Hvad mener I, der står og ser på min ulykke?
Det er jo Herren selv, der har sendt sin straf.
13 Nettet blev kastet ud over mig, og han fangede mig i fælden.
Dommen kom ned fra himlen som en fortærende ild.
Ensom og forladt sidder jeg her i min stadige pine.
14 Om halsen på mig ligger en byrde, som tynger mig til jorden.
Alle mine synder har han lagt som et åg på mine skuldre.
Jeg kunne intet gøre mod de mægtige fjender, han sendte.
15 På slagmarken ligger mine døde, tapre krigere.
Han sendte en mægtig hær mod mine unge soldater.
Han trampede på os, som man tramper druer i vinpersen.
16 Resultatet er en stadig strøm af tårer.
Der er ingen til at trøste og hjælpe mig.
Alt er håbløst, for fjenden har besejret os totalt.”
17 Selv om byen beder om nåde, er der ingen trøst at hente.
Det var Herren, der befalede nabofolkene at gå imod Israel.
De ser nu på Jerusalem som det værste skidt.
18 „Trods mine lidelser,” siger Jerusalem, „ved jeg, at Herrens dom var retfærdig,
for vi gjorde oprør imod alle hans befalinger.
Forstå min smerte, alle I folkeslag: Mine indbyggere er ført bort som slaver.
19 Uanset mit råb om hjælp blev jeg svigtet af mine nærmeste venner.
Mine præster og ledere bukkede under for hungersnøden,
forgæves søgte de efter mad nok til at overleve.
20 Vær mig nådig, Herre, for jeg erkender min synd.
De, der vovede sig ud på gaden, blev dræbt af sværdet,
men de, der blev inde i husene, bukkede under for sulten.
21 Ynkelige suk er alt, hvad jeg kan ytre, og der kommer ingen for at trøste mig.
Mine fjender fryder sig over den dom, du har afsagt over mig.
Gid du snart vil fælde dom over dem, ligesom du dømte mig.
22 Åh, Herre, glem ikke al deres ondskab!
Straf dem, som du har straffet mig!
Mit hjerte er fuldt af sorg, og jeg sukker konstant.”

Copyright © 1985, 1992, 2005, 2013, 2015 by Biblica, Inc.®

The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains most Hebrew acrostics (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew):

1 Alone she dwells, the city erewhile so populous; a widow now, once a queen among the nations; tributary now, that once had provinces at her command.
2 Be sure she weeps; there in the darkness her cheeks are wet with tears; of all that courted her, none left to console her, all those lovers grown weary of her, and turned into enemies.
3 Cruel the suffering and the bondage of Juda’s exile; that she must needs dwell among the heathen! Nor respite can she find; close at her heels the pursuit, and peril on either hand.
4 Desolate, the streets of Sion; no flocking, now, to the assembly; the gateways lie deserted. Sighs priest, and the maidens go in mourning, so bitter the grief that hangs over all.
5 Exultant, now, her invaders; with her enemies nothing goes amiss. For her many sins, the Lord has brought doom on her, and all her children have gone into exile, driven before the oppressor.
6 Fled is her beauty, the Sion that was once so fair; her chieftains have yielded their ground before the pursuer, strengthless as rams that can find no pasture.
7 Grievous the memories she holds, of the hour when all her ancient glories passed from her, when her people fell defenceless before the invader, unresisting before an enemy that derided them.
8 Heinously Jerusalem sinned; what wonder if she became an outlaw? How they fell to despising her when they saw her shame, that once flattered her! Deeply she sighed, and turned away her head.
9 Ill might skirts of her robe the defilement conceal; alas, so reckless of her doom, alas, fallen so low, with none to comfort her! Mark it well, Lord; see how humbled I, how exultant my adversary!
10 Jealous hands were laid on all she treasured; so it was that she must see Gentiles profane her sanctuary, Gentiles, by thy ordinance from the assembly debarred.
11 Kindred was none but went sighing for lack of bread, offered its precious heirlooms for food to revive men’s hearts. Mark it well, Lord, and see my pride abased!
12 Look well, you that pass by, and say if there was ever grief like this grief of mine; never a grape on the vineyard left to glean, when the Lord’s threat of vengeance is fulfilled.
13 Must fire from heaven waste my whole being, ere I can learn my lesson? Must he catch me in a net, to drag me back from my course? Desolate he leaves me, to pine away all the day long with grief.
14 No respite it gives me, the yoke of guilt I bear, by his hand fastened down upon my neck; see, I faint under it! The Lord has given me up a prisoner to duress there is no escaping.
15 Of all I had, the Lord has taken away the noblest; lost to me, all the flower of my chivalry, under his strict audit; Sion, poor maid, here was a wine-press well trodden down!
16 Pray you, should I not weep? Fountains these eyes are, that needs must flow; comforter is none at hand, that should revive my spirits. Lost to me, all those sons of mine, outmatched by their enemy.
17 Quest for consolation is vain, let her plead where she will; neighbours of Jacob, so the Lord decrees, are Jacob’s enemies, and all around they shrink from her, as from a thing unclean.
18 Right the Lord has in his quarrel; I have set his commands at defiance. O world, take warning; see what pangs I suffer, all my folk gone into exile, both man and maid.
19 So false the friends that were once my suitors! And now the city lacks priests and elders both, that went begging their bread, to revive the heart in them.
20 Take note, Lord, of my anguish, how my bosom burns, and my heart melts within me, in bitter ruth. And all the while, sword threatens without, and death not less cruel within.
21 Uncomforted my sorrow, but not unheard; my enemies hear it, and rejoice that my miseries are of thy contriving. Ah, but when thy promise comes true, they shall feel my pangs!
22 Vintager who didst leave my boughs so bare, for my much offending, mark well their cruelty, and strip these too in their turn; here be sighs a many, and a sad heart to claim it. (Source )

Spanish has a different tradition of acrostics. It uses non-alphabetic acrostics where the first letters of each line (or verse) together form a word or phrase. In the Traducción en lenguaje actual (publ. 2002, 2004), the translators used the first letters of this chapter of Lamentation to spell out “POBRECITA DE TI, JERUSALEN” (“Poor you, little Jerusalem”) which also is the first line of this chapter of Lamentations (for more on the translation process of this, see Alfredo Tepox in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 233ff.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 1 in the Traducción en lenguaje actual


1 ¡Pobrecita de ti, Jerusalén!
Antes eras la más famosa
de todas las ciudades.
¡Antes estabas llena de gente,
pero te has quedado muy sola,
te has quedado viuda!
¡Fuiste la reina de las naciones,
pero hoy eres esclava de ellas!
2 Olvidada y bañada en lágrimas
pasas todas las noches.
Muchos decían que te amaban,
pero hoy nadie te consuela.
Los que se decían tus amigos
hoy son tus enemigos.
3 Bajo el peso de las cadenas,
la gente de Judá salió prisionera.
Sus enemigos los atraparon
y los maltrataron con crueldad.
Ahora son esclavos en países lejanos,
y no han dejado de sufrir.
4 Ruido ya no se escucha
en tus portones, Jerusalén.
¡Qué triste es ver
tus calles desiertas!
Los sacerdotes lloran
y las jóvenes se afligen.
Todo en ti es amargura;
ya nadie viene a tus fiestas.
5 Es tanto tu pecado,
que Dios te castigó.
El enemigo se llevó prisioneros
a todos tus habitantes.
Ahora el enemigo te domina
y vive feliz y contento.
6 ¡Cómo has perdido, Jerusalén,
la belleza que tuviste!
Tus jefes, ya sin fuerzas,
huyen de quienes los persiguen.
¡Hasta parecen venados hambrientos
en busca de pastos frescos!
7 Insistes en recordar
que alguna vez fuiste rica.
Ahora vives en la tristeza
y no tienes a dónde ir.
Cuando el enemigo te conquistó,
no hubo nadie que te ayudara.
Cuando el enemigo te vio vencida,
se burló de verte en desgracia.
8 Tanto has pecado, Jerusalén,
que todos te desprecian.
Los que antes te admiraban
hoy se burlan al verte en desgracia.
¡Ahora derramas lágrimas,
y avergonzada escondes la cara!
9 ¡Asombrosa ha sido tu caída!
¡No hay nadie que te consuele!
Jamás pensaste en llegar a ser
tan despreciada,
y ahora exclamas:
«Mis enemigos me vencieron.
¡Mira, Dios mío, mi aflicción!»
10 Dueño de todas tus riquezas
es ahora tu enemigo.
Tú misma viste entrar en el templo
gente de otros pueblos,
aunque Dios había ordenado
que no debían entrar allí.
11 El pueblo entero llora
y anda en busca de pan.
Con tal de seguir con vida,
cambian sus riquezas por comida.
Llorando le dicen a Dios:
«¡Mira cómo nos humillan!»
12 Todos ustedes, que pasan y me ven,
¿por qué gozan al verme sufrir?
¿Dónde han visto a alguien
que sufra tanto como yo?
Cuando Dios se enojó conmigo,
me mandó este sufrimiento.
13 Intensa lluvia de fuego
ha enviado Dios sobre mí.
Mis huesos se han quemado,
y siento que me muero.
Dios me cerró el paso,
y me hizo retroceder.
Me dejó en el abandono;
mi sufrimiento no tiene fin.
14 Juntó Dios todos mis pecados
y me los ató al cuello.
Ya no me quedan fuerzas;
ya no los soporto más.
Dios me entregó al enemigo,
y no puedo defenderme.
15 En mis calles hay muchos muertos.
¡Dios rechazó a mis valientes!
Juntó un ejército para atacarme,
y acabó con todos mis jóvenes.
Dios me aplastó por completo;
¡me exprimió como a las uvas!
16 Ruedan por mis mejillas
lágrimas que no puedo contener.
Cerca de mí no hay nadie
que me consuele y me reanime.
Mi gente no puede creer
que el enemigo nos haya vencido.
El profeta
17 Un montón de escombros
es ahora Jerusalén.
Suplicante pide ayuda,
pero nadie la consuela.
Dios mismo ordenó
que sus vecinos la atacaran.
Jerusalén
18 Siempre Dios hace lo justo,
pero yo soy muy rebelde.
¡Escuchen, naciones todas!
¡Miren cómo sufro!
¡El enemigo se llevó prisioneros
a todos mis habitantes!
19 Ayuda pedí a mis amigos,
pero me dieron la espalda.
Los jefes y sacerdotes
acabaron perdiendo la vida.
Andaban buscando comida,
y no pudieron sobrevivir.
20 ¡La muerte me quitó a mis hijos
dentro y fuera de la ciudad!
¡Mira mi angustia, Dios mío!
¡Siento que me muero!
¡Tan rebelde he sido contigo
que estoy totalmente confundida!
21 El enemigo no esconde su alegría
porque tú, Dios mío, me haces sufrir.
Todo el mundo escucha mi llanto,
pero nadie me consuela.
¡Ya es tiempo de que los castigues
como me castigaste a mí!
22 No hay un solo pecado
que ellos no hayan cometido;
¡castiga entonces su rebeldía,
como me castigaste a mí!
¡Ya es mucho lo que he llorado,
y siento que me muero!

Traducción en lenguaje actual ® © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 2002, 2004.

acrostic in Lamentations 2

The Hebrew text of Lamentations 1-4 uses acrostics, a literary form in which each verse is started with one of the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to Brenda Boerger (in Open Theology 2016, p. 179ff. ) there are three different reasons for acrostics in the Hebrew text: “for ease of memorization,” the representation “of the full breadth and depth of a topic, all the way from aleph to taw (tav),” and the perception of “the acrostic form as aesthetically attractive.” (p. 191)

While most translations mention the existence of an acrostic in a note or a comment, few implement it in their translation. One such exception is the Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 2 in Danish

1 Ak, som en sort og truende tordensky lå Herrens vrede over Jerusalem.
Israels himmelske herlighed ligger knust i støvet.
End ikke Herrens eget tempel blev forskånet for hans vrede.
2 Befolkningen i Juda blev nådesløst jaget fra hus og hjem.
Herren nedbrød i sin vrede hver eneste befæstet by.
Han ødelagde hele kongeriget til skam for dets ledere.
3 Den samlede israelitiske hær blev løbet over ende.
Herren trak sin beskyttende hånd væk, da fjenden angreb.
Hans vrede hærgede landet som en fortærende ild.
4 Eliten blandt landets ungdom blev dræbt.
Herren blev vores fjende og gjorde det af med os.
Han udgød sin vrede over Jerusalems indbyggere.
5 Fjenderne viste sig at være sendt af Herren.
De ødelagde alle paladser og fæstninger i landet
og skabte sorg og smerte overalt i Juda.
6 Grundlaget for at holde sabbat og højtid forsvandt,
da Herren nedrev sit tempel, som var det et skur.
Han forstødte i vrede både konger og præster.
7 Han forkastede sit alter, forlod sit tempel,
lod fjenderne nedbryde palads og bymur.
De jublede i templet som på en højtidsdag.
8 Intet i Jerusalem undgik ødelæggelsens svøbe.
Herren havde besluttet, at bymuren skulle falde.
Alle fæstningsværker og tårne blev lagt i ruiner.
9 Jerusalems portslåer blev smadret og portene splintret.
Kongen og landets ledere blev ført bort til et fremmed land.
Toraen bliver glemt og profetisk åbenbaring er forbi.
10 Klædt i sæk og med aske på hovedet
sidder de tilbageblevne ledere tavse på jorden.
De unge kvinder går nedbøjede omkring.
11 Lidelsen er ikke til at bære, mine tårer er brugt op.
Mit hjerte er knust ved at se mit folks smerte.
Børn og spædbørn dør af sult midt på gaden.
12 „Mad! Vand!” klager de små og besvimer.
De falder om som sårede soldater i byens gader.
Langsomt dør de i armene på deres mødre.
13 Nøden og pinen i byen er ufattelig.
Åh, Jerusalem, din trøstesløse sorg er uden sidestykke.
Det er umuligt at lindre din grænseløse smerte.
14 Ordene I hørte fra jeres såkaldte profeter, var falske.
Hvis de havde påtalt jeres synd i stedet for at lyve,
havde I måske kunnet undgå denne frygtelige skæbne.
15 På vejen uden for byen går folk nu forbi og råber hånligt:
„Er det den by, man kaldte verdens skønneste?
Den skulle ellers have bragt glæde til hele jorden.”
16 Raseriet står malet i deres ansigter, mens de håner dig:
„Endelig kom Jerusalem ned med nakken!
Det har vi set frem til meget længe.”
17 Så fik Herren til sidst gjort alvor af sin trussel.
Han gennemførte uden skånsel den straf, han havde lovet.
Han gav fjenderne sejr og lod dem tage æren for det.
18 Tårerne skal strømme som en flod dag og nat.
Græd øjnene ud af hovedet, Jerusalem, råb til Herren.
Lad selv dine nedbrudte mure hulke af gråd.
19 Udgyd dine tårer for Herren natten igennem.
Løft hænderne og bønfald ham om at redde dine indbyggere,
som er ved at dø af sult i dine gader.
20 „Vær nådig, Herre,” råber Jerusalem. „Stands denne frygtelige straf.
Skal mødre virkelig spise deres egne børn, som sad på deres skød?
Skal præster og profeter myrdes i dit hellige tempel?
21 Yngre så vel som ældre ligger døde i gadens snavs.
Både unge mænd og piger blev hugget ned af sværdet.
Herre, du slog dem i din vrede og uden barmhjertighed.
22 Ødelæggeren skabte rædsel overalt, så alle måtte smage din vrede.
Du inviterede mine fjender til at komme, som var det en festdag.
Fjenden dræbte alle mine kære, som var født og opvokset hos mig.”

Copyright © 1985, 1992, 2005, 2013, 2015 by Biblica, Inc.®

The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains most Hebrew acrostics (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew):

1 Alas, what mantle of cloud is this, the divine anger has thrown over unhappy Sion? The pride of Israel cast down from heaven to earth; the ground where the Lord’s feet once rested, now, in his anger, forgotten?
2 Blessed abodes of Jacob, by the Lord’s unsparing vengeance engulfed; towers that kept Juda inviolable hurled to the ground in ruin; kingdom and throne dragged in the dust!
3 Crushed lay all the defences of Israel, under his displeasure; failed us, at the enemy’s onset, the protection of his right hand; Jacob must be hedged about, as by flames of a consuming fire.
4 Deadly his bent bow, steady the play of his right hand assailing us; all that was fairest in poor Sion’s dwelling-place needs must perish, under the fiery rain of his vengeance.
5 Enemies he counts us, and has engulfed the whole of Israel in ruin; gone the palaces, gone the strongholds; Alas, poor Sion! weeps man, weeps maid, with cowed spirits.
6 Fallen, as it had been some garden shed, his own tabernacle; his own trysting-place with men he would pull down! Feast-day and sabbath should be forgotten in Sion; for king and priest, only anger and scorn.
7 Grown weary of his altar, from his own sanctuary turning away in abhorrence, the Lord has given up yonder embattled towers to the enemy; their cries ring through the temple like shout of holiday.
8 Heedfully the Lord went about his work, to strip the inviolable city of her walls; exact his measuring-line, busy his hand with the task of overthrow, till wall and rampart should lament their common ruin.
9 Idly the gates of her sag towards earth, bars riven and rent; king and chieftain are far away, exiled among the heathen; tradition is dead, nor any prophet learns, in vision, the Lord’s will.
10 Jerusalem’s aged folk sit there in the dust, dumb with sorrow; dust scattered over their heads, and sackcloth their garb; never a maid shall you see but has her head bowed down to earth.
11 Keen anguish for the overthrow of an unhappy race, that dims eye with tears, that stirs my being to its depths, as my heart goes out in boundless compassion! Child and babe lie fainting in the streets.
12 Listen, how they ask where all the bread and wine is gone to! Wound they have none, yet there in the open streets you shall see them faint away, sighing out their lives on their mothers’ bosoms.
13 Might I but confront thee with such another as thyself! What queen so unhappy as Jerusalem, what maid as Sion desolate? How shall I comfort thee? Sea-deep is thy ruin, and past all cure.
14 Never a true vision or a wise thy prophets have for thee, never shew thee where thy guilt rests, and urge thee to repentance; lies and lures are all the burden of their revealing.
15 Openly the passers-by deride thee, poor maid; clap hands, and hiss, and wag their heads at thee; So much, they cry, for the city that was once the nonpareil of beauty, pride of the whole earth!
16 Pale envy mops and mows at thee; how they hiss and gnash their teeth! Now to prey on her carrion! What fortune, that we should have lived to see this day, so long looked for in vain!
17 Quit is the Lord of his oath taken in times past; all his purpose is fulfilled; for thee, ruin relentless, for thy bitter enemy, triumph and high achievement.
18 Round those inviolable defences, cry they upon the Lord in good earnest. Day and night, Sion, let thy tears stream down; never rest thou, never let that eye weary of its task.
19 Sleepless in the night-watches raise thy song; flow thy heart’s prayer unceasingly; lift ever thy hands in supplication for infant lives; yonder, at the street corner, they are dying of famine.
20 Think well, Lord, is there any other people of whom thou hast taken such toll? Shall woman eat her own child, so tiny, hands can still clasp it? In the Lord’s sanctuary, priest and prophet be slain?
21 Untended they lie on the bare earth, the young and the aged; maid and warrior slain by the sword! This day of thy vengeance was to be all massacre, thou wouldst kill unsparingly.
22 Vengeance this day all around me; what mustering of thy terrors, as for a solemn assembly! Escape is none, nor any remnant left; of all I fondled and fostered, the enemy has taken full toll. (Source )

Spanish has a different tradition of acrostics. It uses non-alphabetic acrostics where the first letters of each line (or verse) together form a word or phrase. In the Traducción en lenguaje actual (publ. 2002, 2004), the translators used the first letters of this chapter of Lamentation to spell out “POBRECITA DE TI, JERUSALEN” (“Poor you, little Jerusalem”) which also is the first line of this chapter of Lamentations (for more on the translation process of this, see Alfredo Tepox in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 233ff.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 2 in the Traducción en lenguaje actual


1 ¡Pobrecita de ti, Jerusalén!
Cuando Dios se enojó contigo,
derribó tu templo
y acabó con tu belleza.
Ni siquiera se acordó
de tu reino en este mundo.
2 Ofendido y enojado,
Dios destruyó por completo
todas las casas de Israel.
Derribó las fortalezas de Judá;
quitó al rey de su trono,
y puso en vergüenza a sus capitanes.
3 Borró Dios nuestro poder
cuando se enojó con nosotros.
Nos enfrentamos al enemigo,
pero Dios nos retiró su ayuda.
¡Todo Israel arde en llamas!
¡Todo lo destruye el fuego!
4 Rompió en mil pedazos
las casas de Jerusalén,
y acabó con nuestros seres queridos.
Como si fuera nuestro enemigo,
decidió quitarnos la vida;
su enojo fue como un fuego
que nos destruyó por completo.
5 El llanto por los muertos
se oye por todo Judá.
Dios parece nuestro enemigo,
pues ha acabado con nosotros.
¡Todas sus fortalezas y palacios
han quedado en ruinas!
6 Como quien derriba una choza,
Dios destruyó su templo.
Ya nadie en Jerusalén celebra
los sábados ni los días de fiesta.
Dio rienda suelta a su enojo
contra el rey y los sacerdotes.
7 Incitó al ejército enemigo
a conquistar Jerusalén,
y el enemigo gritó en su templo
como si estuviera de fiesta.
¡Dios ha rechazado por completo
su altar y su santuario!
8 Todos los muros y las rampas
son ahora un montón de escombros.
Dios decidió derribar
el muro que protegía a Jerusalén.
Todo lo tenía planeado;
¡la destruyó sin compasión!
9 ¡Adiós, maestros de la ley!
¡Adiós, profetas!
¡Dios ya no habla con nosotros!
El rey y los capitanes
andan perdidos entre las naciones.
La ciudad quedó desprotegida,
pues Dios derribó sus portones.
10 De luto están vestidos
los ancianos de Jerusalén.
En silencio se sientan en el suelo
y se cubren de ceniza la cabeza.
¡Las jóvenes de Jerusalén
bajan la cabeza llenas de vergüenza!
11 Estoy muy triste y desanimado
porque ha sido destruida mi ciudad.
¡Ya no me quedan lágrimas!
¡Siento que me muero!
Por las calles de Jerusalén
veo morir a los recién nacidos.
12 Tímidamente claman los niños:
«¡Mamá, tengo hambre!»;
luego van cerrando los ojos
y mueren en las calles,
en brazos de su madre.
13 Incomparable eres tú, Jerusalén;
¿qué más te puedo decir?
¿Qué puedo hacer para consolarte,
bella ciudad de Jerusalén?
Tus heridas son muy profundas;
¿quién podría sanarlas?
14 Jamás te dijeron la verdad;
los profetas te mintieron.
Si no te hubieran engañado,
ahora estarías a salvo.
Pero te hicieron creer en mentiras
y no señalaron tu maldad.
15 «¿En dónde quedó la hermosura
de la bella Jerusalén,
la ciudad más alegre del mundo?»
Eso preguntan al verte
los que pasan por el camino,
y se burlan de tu desgracia.
16 Rabiosos están tus enemigos,
y no dejan de hablar mal de ti.
Gritan en son de victoria:
«¡Llegó el día que habíamos esperado!
¡Hemos acabado con Jerusalén,
y hemos vivido para contarlo!»
17 Una vez, años atrás,
Dios juró que te destruiría,
y ha cumplido su palabra:
te destruyó sin compasión,
y permitió que tus enemigos
te vencieran y te humillaran.
18 Sí, bella Jerusalén,
deja que tus habitantes
se desahoguen ante Dios.
Y tú, no dejes de llorar;
¡da rienda suelta a tu llanto
de día y de noche!
19 Alza la voz y ruega a Dios
por la vida de tus niños,
que por falta de comida
caen muertos por las calles.
Clama a Dios en las noches;
cuéntale cómo te sientes.
Jerusalén
20 Las madres están por comerse
a los hijos que tanto aman.
Los sacerdotes y los profetas
agonizan en tu templo.
Piensa por favor, Dios mío,
¿a quién has tratado así?
21 En tu enojo les quitaste la vida
a los jóvenes y a los ancianos.
Mis muchachos y muchachas
cayeron muertos por las calles
bajo el golpe de la espada;
¡no les tuviste compasión!
22 Nadie quedó con vida
el día que nos castigaste;
fue como una gran fiesta
para el ejército enemigo:
murieron todos mis familiares,
¡nos atacaste por todos lados!

Traducción en lenguaje actual ® © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 2002, 2004.