provided for them

Balinese uses a honorific system with three levels of how someone can be addressed or talked about. For example, when the English says that women “provided for them” there had to be a distinction. “The service to Jesus was given with great respect, humility and attachment, which must be expressed in the Balinese word. With regard to the disciples this was not the case. Thus we were forced to translate, ‘they used their possessions for the needs of Jesus and his followers, as a tribute of service to Him.’”

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 158ff.

desert, wilderness

The Greek that is translated as “desert” or “wilderness” in English is translated as “a place where noisiness is cut off (or: stops)” in Mairasi, “big barren-field” (pandaso bhalano) in Muna, “uninhabited place” in Wantoat, “where no people dwell” in Umiray Dumaget Agta, “where no house is” (Shipibo-Conibo), “barren field” (Balinese), “large empty place” (Ocotlán Zapotec)´, and in Pa’o Karen as “jungle” (denoting a placer without any towns, villages and tilled fields).

Sources: Mairasi: Enggavoter 2004; Muna: René van den Berg; Wantoat: Holzhausen 1991, p. 38; Umiray Dumaget Agta: Larson 1998, p. 98; Shipibo-Conibo: James Lauriault in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 32ff.; Balinese: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950 p. 75ff.; Ocotlán Zapotec: (B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.; Pa’o Karen: Gordon Luce in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 153f.

See also wilderness and desolate wilderness.

Grammatical differentiation between Jesus and the disciples

In Greek and in European languages such as Dutch and English the third person pronoun does not present much difficulty. In Balinese the situation becomes more complicated, for one has at least four pronouns for the third person: two to indicate important and very important persons {dané and ida), one to speak of a person of lower standing but in a familiar manner, and one to speak of such a person in a polite manner (ia and ipun). Dané, the pronoun of the slightly less important person of the third caste, is also in use for people of lower caste who through their official position, age, or ability have a right to be respected or with whom one is trying to ingratiate oneself. (…)

These differences in the third person pronouns sometimes make it difficult to translate the plural “they.” [So the Greek what is translated as] “When they were come down from the hill” [in English] must be translated: “When He (ida) came down, followed by His disciples.”

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

wild honey

The Greek that is translated as “wild honey” in English was difficult to translate in Toba and Iyojwa’ja Chorote.

Bill Mitchell (in Omanson 2001, p. 435) explains why: “Unlike urban, industrialized society, the indigenous way of life is inextricably linked with the land. A deep relationship with nature permeates all of life. This can sometimes be seen in the wealth of vocabulary for certain items. Mark 1:6 and Matthew 3:4 state that John the Baptist ate ‘wild honey.’ The Tobas of northern Argentina have ten different words for ‘wild honey,’ the Chorotes have seven or eight. The biblical text does not specify a type of wild honey, but Toba translators live in the Gran Chaco and harvest wild honey. They want to use the exact word; they do not have a generic term.”

In both cases the translators ended up using the most common term for “wild honey.”

In Balinese, “wild honey” is translated as “honey of bees who shut out the sun” (source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950 p. 75ff.) and in Shipibo-Conibo as “bee liquid” (source: James Lauriault in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 32ff.).

love (honorifics)

New Testament Greek is by Balinese standards an extremely impolite language. Consider, for example, the second person pronoun. When speaking to God, to a nobleman, to a friend, to a pupil, or to a slave, the same word is used. In Balinese this is completely different. In the above examples one would differentiate various social ranks and use terms which, more or less freely translated, mean “adored one” or “he who is borne on the head”, “feet of Your Highness”, “older (or younger) brother”, “little one”, and “you”. (…) In Balinese one has to cope with three vocabularies within the language, each of which, at a moderate estimate, includes some hundreds of words. One employs the ordinary common language (“Low Balinese”) when speaking with intimates, equals, or inferiors; polite terms must, however, be used as soon as one begins to speak to one’s superiors or to strangers; and “deferential” terms are obligatory in all cases when one is so bold as to speak of parts of the body, or the acts, possessions, and qualities of important people. The Balinese sums up the two last named vocabularies under the term alus (“fine”, or “noble”): we say “High Balinese”. (…)

[The Greek that is translated with] “love” [in English] of a superior for an inferior must be indicated by one term and that of an inferior for a superior by another. Thus we must translate twice the word “love”: “You shall give respectful love to God, …further, you must love your neighbor as yourself”.

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

serving Jesus and the disciples

In Greek and in European languages such as Dutch and English the third person pronoun does not present much difficulty. In Balinese the situation becomes more complicated, for one has at least four pronouns for the third person: two to indicate important and very important persons {dané and ida), one to speak of a person of lower standing but in a familiar manner, and one to speak of such a person in a polite manner (ia and ipun). Dané, the pronoun of the slightly less important person of the third caste, is also in use for people of lower caste who through their official position, age, or ability have a right to be respected or with whom one is trying to ingratiate oneself. (…)

The Greek that is translated as “were contributing to their support out of their private means” had to be differentiated between Jesus and the disciples]. The service accorded Jesus consisted of respect, humility and attachment, which must be expressed in the Balinese word. With regard to the disciples this was not the case. Thus we were forced to translate as, “they used their possessions for the needs of Jesus and his followers, as a tribute of service to Him.”

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

Simon and Jesus

The half-hearted attitude of Simon gains liveliness in the Balinese translation by the change of vocabulary. When he addresses Jesus the Master, he naturally uses deferential terms. In his reflection, however, he speaks “within himself” about Jesus and does not use the deferential terminology. In this way he reveals what he really thinks of his quest.

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

relationship of elder son and father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

New Testament Greek is by Balinese standards an extremely impolite language. Consider, for example, the second person pronoun. When speaking to God, to a nobleman, to a friend, to a pupil, or to a slave, the same word is used. In Balinese this is completely different. In the above examples one would differentiate various social ranks and use terms which, more or less freely translated, mean “adored one” or “he who is borne on the head”, “feet of Your Highness”, “older (or younger) brother”, “little one”, and “you”. (…) In Balinese one has to cope with three vocabularies within the language, each of which, at a moderate estimate, includes some hundreds of words. One employs the ordinary common language (“Low Balinese”) when speaking with intimates, equals, or inferiors; polite terms must, however, be used as soon as one begins to speak to one’s superiors or to strangers; and “deferential” terms are obligatory in all cases when one is so bold as to speak of parts of the body, or the acts, possessions, and qualities of important people. The Balinese sums up the two last named vocabularies under the term alus (“fine”, or “noble”): we say “High Balinese”. (…)

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger son, who feels himself less than a slave, speaks to his father in High Balinese; the elder son may use the intimate Low Balinese. When, however, the latter severs himself from the intimate family community, he uses High Balinese to express his contempt, thus placing a gulf between himself and his father.

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

different levels of fatherhood

New Testament Greek is by Balinese standards an extremely impolite language. Consider, for example, the second person pronoun. When speaking to God, to a nobleman, to a friend, to a pupil, or to a slave, the same word is used. In Balinese this is completely different. In the above examples one would differentiate various social ranks and use terms which, more or less freely translated, mean “adored one” or “he who is borne on the head”, “feet of Your Highness”, “older (or younger) brother”, “little one”, and “you”. (…) In Balinese one has to cope with three vocabularies within the language, each of which, at a moderate estimate, includes some hundreds of words. One employs the ordinary common language (“Low Balinese”) when speaking with intimates, equals, or inferiors; polite terms must, however, be used as soon as one begins to speak to one’s superiors or to strangers; and “deferential” terms are obligatory in all cases when one is so bold as to speak of parts of the body, or the acts, possessions, and qualities of important people. The Balinese sums up the two last named vocabularies under the term alus (“fine”, or “noble”): we say “High Balinese”. (…)

Joseph and Mary are spoken of as Jesus’ parents, and here the familiar words for “father” and “mother” are appropriate. But when Jesus speaks of being “about my Father’s business” (vs. 49), thus indicating who His true Father is, He uses the High Balinese word adji “father”.

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 124ff.

differentiated 3rd person plural pronoun

Balinese uses four different third-person pronouns: two to indicate important and very important persons (dane and ida), one to speak of a person of lower standing but in a familiar manner, and one to speak of such a person in a polite manner (ia and ipun). In the case of the Greek that is translated into English as “they had come down,” the Balinese translators translated rikala Ida sareng sisian Idane sane tetiga punika tedun saking gununge punika, akeh anake pada rauh nangkilin Ida: “when He (Ida) came down, followed by his three disciples” because Jesus could not be mentioned with the same pronoun as the disciples.

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 158ff.

love for God vs. love for others

Balinese uses a honorific system with three levels of how someone can be addressed or talked about. For example, “love” of a superior for an inferior must be indicated by one term and that of an inferior for a superior by another. In the Greek phrase that is translated in English as “you shall love the Lord your God (…) and your neighbor as yourself”, Balinese translates asih subaktija ragane teken Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa (…) tur tresnainja sesaman ragane, buka nresnain deweke padidi: “You shall give respectful-love to God, … further, you must love your neighbor as yourself.”

Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 158ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 4:12)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

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 (“our father Jacob” in English translations), translators often select the inclusive form, whereas for the second part (“gave us this well” in English translations) the exclusive form.

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

The Yagua translators (who, along with the translations into Malay, Sundanese, and Balinese, chose the exclusive for both parts of the verse) justify this by saying “Our choice here is exclusive assuming that the Samaritan woman to maintain the independent and factious spirit which this account shows existed between Jews and Samaritans.”

Source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.

Another opinion on using the inclusive pronoun for this verse and the remainder of the story:

“The Samaritan woman, in my view, is trying to get the better of Jesus; she appeals to Jacob (v. 12) and to ‘our fathers’ (v. 20) as to authorities higher than Jesus. If this is true, then it was important for her to show that those authorities were acknowledged by Jesus also. Therefore, we can imagine her to have thought or said ‘Your and my ancestor’ (v. 12) or ‘ancestors’ (v. 20) — inclusive pronoun in both verses.

“As for the phrase ‘who gave us the well’, there is certainly much truth in the consideration: “Since the well was in Samaritan territory, presumably she would use the exclusive form.” Yet, the inclusive can be defended here also, I think. With the remark that Jacob and his sons drank from the well, she is pointing back to a time anterior to the present antithesis between Jew and Samaritan; the well was given to ancestors of both peoples. Moreover, she comes to fetch water from the well and Jesus hopes to quench his thirst with its water. “The well is of common interest for both you and me,” she may have meant. It seems possible to find a third appeal to higher authority in v. 25. The woman has acknowledged Jesus as a prophet, but to the Messiah even a prophet has to bow; he, the prophet, as well as she, will have to be shown all things by the Messiah. Accepting this interpretation, we again have to use the inclusive ‘we’, Yet there is a difference with the verses first mentioned. In v. 12 and v. 20 the pronominal first person plural was used in phrases connected with the past; v. 25 points to the future, to the time when the Messiah will come and teach. A consciousness among the Samaritans of a Messianic belief common to both Jews and themselves is a necessary presupposition of the interpretation of v. 25 given above. So we are led to the preliminary question whether such a consciousness existed in Jesus’ times.”

Source: J. L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 37.