In the beginning

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “In the beginning” is translated in Lisu as ꓬꓲ ꓚꓰ ꓬꓲ ꓪꓴꓸ — yi tshe yi vu: “In very early times, when there were no people.” This construction follows a traditional four-couplet construct in oral Lisu poetry that is usually in the form ABAC or ABCB. The same phrase is also used as a title for the book of “Genesis.”(Source: Arrington 2020, p. 58)

In the most widely used Mandarin Chinese Bible translation, the Union Version, the term 太初 — tàichū is used in John 1:1 (but not for Gen. 1:1) — vice versa in the Yue Chinese (Cantonese) New Cantonese Bible of 1997, whereas in Hakka Chinese, 太初 — thai-chhû in Hakka — is used in both cases).

Tàichū originally was used in early Daoist writings (Liezi, Zhuangzi — both 5th century BC) which is remarkable because of the connection with “dào” (道) in the same verse (see Word / Logos), suggesting connections between Chinese culture and John 1:1. (Source: Zetzsche)

The English translation of the gospels of Sarah Ruden (2021, p. xlii) chooses the term “inauguration” which “echoes similar connotations of a Hebrew word in Genesis.”


The Greek that is a transliteration from the Aramaic abba (אבא) and is itself transliterated into “Abba” in English is transliterated into Mandarin Chinese as ābà (阿爸). This is interesting because (爸) is the regularly-used term of endearment for “father” (“daddy”) and even the very combination of ābà (阿爸) is used in some dialects as the equivalent of “daddy.” This is exactly the meaning of the Aramaic abba as well.

Translations in other Chinese languages, including Wu Chinese, Min Nan Chinese, Hakka Chinese, Yue Chinese (Cantonese), as well as Literary Chinese use the same transliteration.