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), Corsican (Petru and petra), 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 and this lectionary in The Christian Century.

Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.

The Greek that is translated as “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” or similar in English is translated in the interconfessional Italian Common Language Version (Traduzione Interconfessionale in Lingua Corrente, publ. 2014) as Ti saluto, Maria! Il Signore è con te: egli ti ha colmata di grazia or “Hail, Mary! The Lord is with you; he has filled you with grace.”

Carlo Buzzetti (in The Bible Translator 1982, p. 243) explains: “The most famous Latin translation, of St. Jerome, reads: Ave gratia plena, Dominus tecum (‘Hail, woman full of grace, the Lord is with you’), and a great many later translations have been influenced by it. So nearly all the Italian Roman Catholic editions of the Gospel say: Ti saluto, piena di grazia. il Signore e con te. However the Italian protestant versions have avoided the formula piena di grazia (‘full of grace’). This expression does not seem to be the best translation of the Greek, and it implies an interpretation which can easily be confessional: the words piena di grazia could be understood as a description of Mary almost independent from God, whereas the Greek word kecharitomene is a passive form. For this reason we read Ben ti sia, o favorita; il Signore sia leco (old Diodati version) or Ti saluto, o favorita dalla grazia, il Signore e teco (Riveduta version), in which favorita (‘favored one’) is preferred as the equivalent of kecharitomene.

“Unfortunately, the word favorita doesn’t belong at all to the common language Italian of today; and the reader who knows it probably gets the wrong shade of meaning and wrong connotations from it. The same thing is true of other participles and adjectives: graziata, gratificata, graziosa … so the Italian translators of [the Common Language Version] decided to bring in the subject (God) which is hidden in the passive Greek form: and they produced the formula Dio ti ha colmata di grazia (‘God has filled you with grace’). There was no confessional difficulty with this expression; on the contrary, the agreement was general.”