mind (heart / soul) (letters of John)

The concept that is expressed as “mind” in English is translated as “head-heart” in Yatzachi Zapotec. This concept is applied to terms that are translated in English as “fellowship” (“head-hearts are one”), the “inner-self” (“have no evil” is “have no evil in our head-hearts”), “eye” (in the sense of “understanding”), “heart” and “soul.”

Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22.

See also heart, soul, mind (with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind).

love (by God)

Translator Lee Bramlett submitted this on the translation of the Greek word that is translated into English as “love” (referring to God’s love). This letter was then reposted by Wycliffe Bible Translators (see here):

“Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people? What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know who He was and how He wanted to relate to them?

“Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for ‘love.’ Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

“Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, ‘Could you ‘ɗvi’ your wife?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“‘Could you ‘ɗva’ your wife?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“‘Could you ‘ɗvu’ your wife?’ Everyone laughed. ‘Of course not! If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘ɗvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.’

“Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, ‘Could God ‘ɗvu’ people?’

“There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. ‘Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.’

“One simple vowel and the meaning was changed from ‘I love you based on what you do and who you are,’ to ‘I love you, based on Who I am. I love you because of Me and NOT because of you.’

“God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there — unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand.

“The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and 29,000 speakers will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25: ‘Husbands, ‘ɗvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘ɗvu’-d the church…'”

In Hawai’i Creole English the love that God has is often translated as love an aloha. Aloha has a variety of meanings, including “hello,” “goodbye,” “love,” “thank you,” etc.

The Philippine languages of Cebuano, Tagalog, and Pampanga use a word (gugma, pag-ibig, and lugud respectively) that is also used for a “noble, refined love of people for each other,” distinct from romantic love. (Source: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff.)

In Mairasi, the term that is used for love by God, for God and for people is the same: “desire one’s face.” (source: Enggavoter 2004)

See also love (Jesus for young, rich man) and God is love.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (1John 4:17)

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 this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including the addressee).

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

complete verse (1 John 4:17)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 John 4:17:

  • Uma: “If we love our relatives, this is a sign that we really do love God, with the result that we are brave to face him on the judgment day. We are brave to face him, because our behavior in this world is like the behavior of Kristus.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Our (incl.) love to God is caused-to-be complete in order that we (incl.) will not be afraid on the day when he judges all mankind, because we (incl.) know that our (incl.) custom/behavior here in the world is like Isa’s behavior.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “He will draw tight our love for him here in our breaths so that we will have no fear in the future on the day when he investigates the activities of all mankind. The reason we will not be afraid is because, just like Jesus was dear in the breath of our Father God, we also are dear to Him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “And if that is what our lives are like, our love will be added to until it has no lack/fault and we will have nothing to fear on the day that God judges people, because our behavior on this earth, it will be like the character of Cristo just the same.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Therein we can now comprehend that this valuing by us has been completed. That’s why we are not now afraid of that day of judgment. Because what more is there to fear since we are now making-ourselves-like Jesu-Cristo here in this world?” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “It is necessary that we love God with all our hearts in order that we will be afraid about nothing on the day we are judged. The Father of Jesus Christ is God. Also for us here on earth his Father, God, is also our Father.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “We now love God as we ought to if we are constantly present loving him all the time. If we do that then we will not fear in the day of judgment because like Jesus’ head-heart is, so are our head-hearts in this world.”
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “Now our hearts lack nothing of God’s love. So we aren’t afraid when we think of the day God will do judgment. We do not fear it because we are residing with God, just like our Lord Jesus Christ, even though still (the -same-as-before) we are living in the world.”
  • Tzotzil: “Because if we truly love thus we will not be afraid in the presence of God when comes the time that he receives our word about our sins (judges us for our sins) all of us. Because thus are our hearts while we are here in the world like his heart.” (Source for this and two above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)