dual vs. plural (Matt. 9:32)

Many languages in the world distinguish between plural and dual (and sometimes trial) pronouns (for instance, “you” specifically addressing many, two, or three people).

In Matt. 9:32 (“As they were going out…” in one English translation) it is left open whether “them” refers to the two blind men or Jesus and the two blind men.

Both the Bislama translators (in the Nyutesteman long Bislama of 1980) and the Uripiv use a dual (indicating that this refers to just the two blind men).

One of the translators explains: “(1) Only Jesus is mentioned as going into the house (Matt. 9:28). The disciples no doubt entered with him, but it is a fair enough working assumption that if they were explicitly mentioned in one place (Matt. 9:32) they would have also been in the other. So we conclude that the ‘they’ in 9:32 is probably not referring to Jesus and the disciples. (2) A reasonably close parallel, as far as the Greek text is concerned, supporting this interpretation can be seen in Matt. 2:13. (First verb of new section repeats last verb of previous section, with same subject, in a genitive absolute construction, with de and followed by idou introducing new participants.)”

Source: Ross McKerras in Notes on Translation 2/1 1988, p. 53-56.

scorpion

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “scorpion” in English is translated in North Tanna as “centipedes” (Luke 10:19) or “millipede” (Luke 11:12) (source: Ross McKerras).

The literal translation in Nyongar is nirnt-daalang or “tail-tongue” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang) and in Uma it is translated as “stinging-caterpillar” (Source: Uma Back Translation).

strength of His might

“In [Eph. 1:19] there are not less than four words to do with strength. In Uripiv we have only one! We ended up using an idiom that says literally, ‘His power that is big, that is big exceedingly.'” (Ross McKerras quoted on p. 117)

south wind

The Greek that is translated as “south wind” in English is translated in Uripiv as “north wind,” “which is hot” (source: Ross McKerras).

conscience seared

“It took us a while to find the right way to talk about ‘conscience’ in Uripiv. Here to say their ‘conscience are seared,’ we wrote: ‘They no longer feel anything sharp in their insides when they do bad.'” (Ross McKerras quoted on p. 118)

See also conscience.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God

The Greek that is translated as “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” is translated in Uripiv as “It’s extremely difficult for a hen to grow teeth. But it’s much harder than that even for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back

The Greek that is translated as “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back (is fit for the kingdom of God)” in English is translated in Sa’a as “Whoever at all who works in his garden, but just thinks indiscriminately about other things, then he is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”. Carl Gross explains: “In a society in which plowing is unknown, it is not possible to have a farmer setting his hand to the plow, let alone looking back once he had started. [The chosen translation] would even make sense to western urban dwellers who have never seen a plow.”

In Bislama “plow” is translated as stia blong bot, “steering paddle” or “rudder.” The whole verse is translated as “A person who holds the rudder but keeps looking back cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

In Toposa it is translated as “No one aiming at an animal looks to the side when throwing the spear.” Plowing is not known in that culture and this communicated the meaning well. (Source: Martin and Helga Schröder in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 58f.)

clay jars, earthen vessels

The Greek that is translated in English as “(treasure in) clay jars (or “earthen vessels”)” is translated in Whitesands as “an old coconut leaf basket.” (Source: Ross McKerras)

mustard seed

The Greek that is translated in English as “mustard seed” is translated in Muna as “wonolita seed.” René van den Berg explains: “The mustard plant rarely exceeds 50 cm in height. A wonolita is a big forest tree growing from a tiny seed.”

In the Bislama and Uripiv translations it is translated as “banyan.” “The banyan tree is one of the biggest in the islands, and it grows from a tiny seed. We (Uripiv) added a footnote to explain to more advanced readers what we had done: ‘Here Matthew compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, but since mustard doesn’t grow here, we put banyan, so that Matthew’s meaning will be clear.’” (source: Ross McKerras)

In Gbaya is is translated with the ideophone (a word that expresses what is perceived by the five senses) kɛ̧́ɛ̧́ which “denotes a very tiny and barely visible object. (…) The Gbaya team applied it to faith instead of referring to a mustard seed which is unknown to Gbaya readers.” (Source: Philip Noss in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 423ff.)

camel

The Greek that is translated in English as “camel” is translated in Muna as “water buffalo.” René van den Berg explains: “Camels are unknown; the biggest known animal is the water buffalo (though now rare on Muna).”

In Bislama is is translated as buluk: “cow” / “bull” (source: Ross McKerras) and in Bahnar as aseh lăk-đa which is a combination of the Vietnamese loan word for “camel” (lăk-đa) and the Bahnar term for “horse” (aseh) to communicate that the camel is a beast of burden (source: Pham Xuan Tin in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 20ff.).

In Nyongar it is translated as “cangaroo” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

sound of the millstone

The Greek that is translated in English as “sound of the millstone” is translated in Baki, Lamenu and Lewo as “the noise of grating food” (especially coconuts). (Source: Ross McKerras)