Beatitudes as Tibetic-style poetry

“In working as a Bible translator in Tibetan, the overriding aesthetic value that guided the translation was the sonic quality of the oral-aural transmission and reception. The primary quality control measure of almost everything that was translated, regardless of genre, whether it was a genealogy, a list of vices, a hymn, narrative, prophecy, poetry or didactic teaching, was all measured through the lens of ‘does this verse or section sound melodious and pleasing to the ears?’ The concern of our mother tongue translators was that a holy and sacred text must inherently be melodious and sweet sounding to the ear, or no one would consider it to be sacred, nor would they want to read it or listen to it being read aloud. Furthermore, if the text is melodious and sweet to the ears (snyan po) and has an appealing ‘flavor’ (bro ba), then it will also be kho bde po — easy to comprehend (literally ‘smooth to the ear’) and kha deb po — easy to read (literally ‘smooth to the mouth’). It would also more easily lend itself to memorization, recitation and being sung-all highly important aspects in a Tibetan context. (…) More typically, poetry is versified with an uneven number of syllables in lines of seven and nine syllables, a form of synalepha [suppression of a vowel at the end of word when it is followed by another word beginning with a vowel] grouped as 1-0-1-0-1-0-0. Though lines of 11, 13, 15 syllables (and so on) are possible, the pattern of 7 or 9 is by far the most prevalent in Tibetan literature.

“Given the structure of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel, with rhythmic parallel patterns (see Translation commentary on Matthew 5:3) (…), the team decided to render this section in poetic form to not only promote ease of memorization and recitation, but to enhance the euphonic appeal [having a pleasant sound]. The text follows a typical nine syllable synalepha structure.” (Quoted in Watters / de Blois 2023)

I have sinned by betraying innocent blood

The Greek that is translated in English as “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” or similar is translated in Amele as “I betrayed [yesterday’s past] a man without fault.” (Source: Tim Stirtz and Mike Cahill in Watters / de Blois 2023, p. 413)

John Roberts explains (see here ) In Amele the translator has to be alert as to when to use the appropriate degree of absolute tense. For example, in Matt 27.4 in example (17), the verbs have sinned and have betrayed are expressed as past in past in English. However, in the context of the speech utterance, Judas is reporting an event that took place the previous night. In Amele culture a ‘day’ in respect of degrees of past tense is a complete day-night cycle. The dawn is the start of a new day, i.e., a new day-night cycle. In Matt 27:1 it says ‘Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death’. Thus, assuming that they met some time early in the morning after dawn, from the Amele perspective the report by Judas in 27:4 would refer to events that happened on the previous day. The Amele translation therefore needs to be in yesterday’s past tense.”

Why do the wicked renounce God

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “Why do the wicked renounce God” or similar is translated in Halbi as “How can the wicked man despise God?” “The translators became aware that the initial question (“Why does the wicked man despise God?”) could be seen by readers as a genuine content question rather than a rhetorical question.” (Source: Tim Stirtz and Mike Cahill in Watters / de Blois 2023, p. 420)

complete verse (Genesis 22:4)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 22:4:

  • Kankanaey: “On the third day, Abraham saw-in-the-distance the mountain where they were going” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “On the third day Abraham saw that place far away.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “On the third day of their journey, Abraham saw the place ahead that God had-told him.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • Belanda Bor: “On the third day Abraham saw this place which God told him about. (Source: Tim Stirtz and Mike Cahill in Watters / de Blois 2023, p. 422)
  • English: “On the third day of their travels, Abraham looked up and saw in the distance the place where God wanted him to go.” (Source: Translation for Translators)

complete verse (Genesis 22:6)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 22:6:

  • Kankanaey: “So then Abraham took the wood that he would use-to-burn the offering and he had- Isaac -carry-it-on-his-shoulder. He also took something-to-use-for-starting fire and his bolo and they two left. When they were walking then,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “Abraham put the wood for offering the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulder, he himself took the fire and the knife. Then the two of them went together.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “Abraham had- Isaac -carry-on-his-shoulder the wood as firewood for the offering, and he was-the-one-who-carried the long-knife and something-to-start-up-the-flame/fire.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • Beli: Abraham took the wood of the fire for burning an offering, and put it on his son Isaac to carry ….” (Source: Tim Stirtz and Mike Cahill in Watters / de Blois 2023, p. 422)
  • English: “Then Abraham took the wood to kindle a fire for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, for him to carry. Abraham carried in his hand a pan containing burning coals to start a fire, and a knife, and the two of them walked along together.” (Source: Translation for Translators)