Sons of Thunder

In Saxwe Gbe translated the Greek that is translated in English as “Sons of Thunder” as “those who rumble like rainclouds.”

Joshua Ham explains: “While checking the book of Mark in Saxwe a while ago, we ran across an interesting problem. In Mark 3:17, Jesus gives a nickname to James and John: ‘to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder’ (NIV). The translators first tried a fairly literal translation of the last part of that verse – ‘… which means ‘children of thunder’.’ Seems OK, right?

“Well, the Saxwe word for thunder is xevyoso. That word, not coincidentally, is also the name for the Saxwe spirit of thunder and lightning. So a reader of this verse in Saxwe could easily imagine that Jesus is calling James and John followers of the thunder god Xevyoso. That’s not the meaning we want to give here!

“So what does Jesus mean when he calls James and John the Sons of Thunder? Well, the Bible itself doesn’t say explicitly, but the best idea is that James and John were stormy characters — loud, blustery, impetuous. (Read Luke 9:51-56 for an example of these attributes.) In Saxwe, the translators ended up saying ‘…which means ‘those who rumble like rainclouds’.’ This keeps the meteorological imagery, puts focus on the meaning of the name, and avoids making any possible reference to the Saxwe thunder spirit.”