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.

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), and “barren field” (Balinese).

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..

See also wilderness.

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.).

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.

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.

complete verse (Mark 1:30)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 1:30:

  • Uma: “There, Petrus’s mother-in-law was lying down because she had-a-fever. They quickly told Yesus that she was sick.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The mother-in-law of Simon was lying there having a fever. So-then immediately the people there told Isa about her.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “At that time the mother-in-law of Simon was sick and lying down with a fever. When Jesus arrived at the house, they told Jesus that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Would-you-believe (discourse particle indicating a new development) Simon’s mother-in-law was lying-down because she was having-a-fever. They told-it to Jesus at once.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “On their arrival, the mother-in-law of Simon was lying down for she was fevering. They at once told Jesus.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “Then Simon’s mother-in-law was laid down. doing a fever. Just then they told Jesus regarding her.” (Source: James Lauriault in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 32ff.)
  • Balinese: “The mother-in-law of Simon lay there sick fevering. and then quickly people there told Him about her.” (Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950 p. 75ff.)