fear (of God)

The Hebrew and Greek that are translated as “fear (of God)” (or: “honor,” “worship,” or “respect”) is translated as “to have respect/reverence for” (Southern Subanen, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Javanese, Tboli), “to make great before oneself” (Ngäbere), “fear-devotion” (Kannada — currently used as a description of the life of piety), “those-with-whom he-is-holy” (those who fear God) (Western Apache) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “revere God” (Lalana Chinantec), “worship God” (Palantla Chinantec) (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), “obey” (Chichewa) (source: Ernst Wendland), “having/showing respect (for God)” (Makonde) (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific notes in Paratext), or with a term that communicates awe (rather than fear of an evil source) (Chol) (source: Robert Bascom).

Bullard / Hatton (2008, p. 8) say the following about this concept: “As the writer of Proverbs states in 1:7, ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.’ (…) ‘The fear of the Lord,’ that is, human fear of God, is an exceptionally difficult concept to express, at least in English. Other languages may have more appropriate terms. The idea probably is rooted in the most ancient days when people were indeed afraid of any deity. But in Israel the concept of fearing God was transformed by God’s revelation into a much fuller idea. Basically, as used in the Bible, the fear of God refers to the proper attitude of reverence and awe before the Holy One. To fear God is to recognize one’s own place as a mere mortal before the Creator, one’s place as a sinner before the Judge, one’s place as a child before the Father, one’s place as the recipient of God’s love. It thus involves submission, repentance, trust, and grateful love toward the One who is fearsome in holiness, in justice, in power that both protects and punishes, and in love. Using the word “fear” is sometimes as good as we can do, but often we will alternate that word with terms like ‘reverence’ or ‘awe.’”

See also fear of the LORD (Isa 11:2) and complete verse (Genesis 22:12) et al.

complete verse (1 Peter 3:14)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Peter 3:14:

  • Uma: “But if for example we do receive suffering because of our upright behavior, we would actually be fortunate/blessed, relatives! So, if there are those who threaten us, do not be afraid of them and do not be nervous.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But even if you are enduring/suffering for your doing good, you should be glad. Don’t be afraid of people and don’t be troubled/worried.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “But even though you have to endure harmful treatment because your behaviour is good, rejoice. Do not be afraid of just mere people, and do not be troubled.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “But even if you are hardshipped because of your doing what is right, you are nonetheless fortunate. So don’t be afraid of those who hardship you and don’t be worried,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “But even if you will be persecuted because of your obeying the will of God, you can be happy. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t let your minds/thinking be agitated.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But if you do suffer because of the good you do, you have come into good fortune then. Do not be afraid when people threaten you and do not be disturbed.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

righteous, righteousness

The Greek, Hebrew, and Latin terms that are translated in English mostly as “righteous” as an adjective or personified noun or “righteousness” (also as “justice”) are most commonly expressed with concept of “straightness,” though this may be expressed in a number of ways. (Click or tap here to see the details)

Following is a list of (back-) translations of various languages:

  • Bambara, Southern Bobo Madaré, Chokwe (ululi), Amganad Ifugao, Chol, Eastern Maninkakan, Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona, Batak Toba, Bilua, Tiv: “be straight”
  • Laka: “follow the straight way” or “to straight-straight” (a reduplicated form for emphasis)
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Kekchí, Muna: “have a straight heart”
  • Kipsigis: “do the truth”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “do according to the truth”
  • Huautla Mazatec: “have truth”
  • Yine: “fulfill what one should do”
  • Indonesian: “be true”
  • Navajo: “do just so”
  • Anuak: “do as it should be”
  • Mossi: “have a white stomach” (see also happiness / joy)
  • Paasaal: “white heart” (source: Fabian N. Dapila in The Bible Translator 2024, p. 415ff.)
  • Nuer: “way of right” (“there is a complex concept of “right” vs. ‘left’ in Nuer where ‘right’ indicates that which is masculine, strong, good, and moral, and ‘left’ denotes what is feminine, weak, and sinful (a strictly masculine viewpoint!) The ‘way of right’ is therefore righteousness, but of course women may also attain this way, for the opposition is more classificatory than descriptive.”) (This and all above from Bratcher / Nida except for Bilua: Carl Gross; Tiv: Rob Koops; Muna: René van den Berg)
  • Central Subanen: “wise-good” (source: Robert Brichoux in OPTAT 1988/2, p. 80ff. )
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “live well”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “goodness before the face of God” (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Eastern Huasteca Nahuatl: “the result of heart-straightening” (source: Nida 1947, p. 224)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “entirely good” (when referred to God), “do good” or “not be a debtor as God sees one” (when referred to people)
  • Carib: “level”
  • Tzotzil: “straight-hearted”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “right and straight”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “walk straight” (source for this and four previous: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
  • Makonde: “doing what God wants” (in a context of us doing) and “be good in God’s eyes” (in the context of being made righteous by God) (note that justify / justification is translated as “to be made good in the eyes of God.” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific notes in Paratext)
  • Aari: The Pauline word for “righteous” is generally rendered by “makes one without sin” in the Aari, sometimes “before God” is added for clarity. (Source: Loren Bliese)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “having sin taken away” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 144)
  • Nyamwezi: wa lole: “just” or “someone who follows the law of God” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Venda: “nothing wrong, OK” (Source: J.A. van Roy in The Bible Translator 1972, p. 418ff. )
  • Ekari: maakodo bokouto or “enormous truth” (the same word that is also used for “truth“; bokouto — “enormous” — is being used as an attribute for abstract nouns to denote that they are of God [see also here]; source: Marion Doble in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 37ff. ).
  • Guhu-Samane: pobi or “right” (also: “right (side),” “(legal) right,” “straightness,” “correction,” “south,” “possession,” “pertinence,” “kingdom,” “fame,” “information,” or “speech” — “According to [Guhu-Samane] thinking there is a common core of meaning among all these glosses. Even from an English point of view the first five can be seen to be closely related, simply because of their similarity in English. However, from that point the nuances of meaning are not so apparent. They relate in some such a fashion as this: As one faces the morning sun, south lies to the right hand (as north lies to the left); then at one’s right hand are his possessions and whatever pertains to him; thus, a rich man’s many possessions and scope of power and influence is his kingdom; so, the rich and other important people encounter fame; and all of this spreads as information and forms most of the framework of the people’s speech.”) (Source: Ernest Richert in Notes on Translation 1964, p. 11ff.)

See also respectable, righteous, righteous (person), and She is more in the right(eous) than I.

Translation commentary on 1 Peter 3:14

But even if you should suffer is in the optative mode, which is rarely used in this letter (used also in verse 17) and in other literature of that time. There are three possible interpretations arising out of this rare grammatical construction. (1) Peter may be saying that it is possible, although unlikely, that the Christians will suffer for doing what is right. Against this interpretation is the fact that he has already mentioned more than once that his readers are indeed suffering (compare 2.12; 2.19), and the implication then is that they are suffering because of doing wrong. (2) The use of the optative mode can be explained as a tactful way by which Peter addresses his readers with regard to suffering. (3) Perhaps Peter was anticipating that what he said in verse 13 could be misunderstood as exempting Christians from any kind of suffering, and he immediately adds that suffering is indeed a possibility, and suffering for doing right is something that Christians should count as a privilege. This third alternative is attractive in that it fits the context much better than the other two.

As in other contexts if you should suffer may be rendered as “if others should cause you to suffer” or “if others should harm you.”

For doing what is right is literally “because of righteousness” (compare Matt 5.10). For “righteousness,” see 2.24. Here as there, it is synonymous with “doing good” or “doing what a Christian should do” (compare Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch “doing what God wants”; Biblia Dios Habla Hoy “your straight life”).

The phrase for doing what is right may be effectively translated in a number of languages by introducing it as a clause of cause, for example, “because you do what is right” or “because you do what you should” or “… what God wants you to do.”

How happy you are is literally “you are blessed.” “Blessed” (Greek makarios) is the same word used in the Beatitudes (Matt 5.3 and following) and is used to describe the benefits bestowed by someone (usually a higher power) to another; these benefits include prosperity, good fortune, and happiness. (See further Newman, “Some translational notes on the Beatitudes,” TBT 26, page 112.) Most translations render the word “happy”; some others have “you will count it a blessing” (Jerusalem Bible); “that is a privilege” (Phillips).

Rather than the exclamation how happy you are!, some languages employ a positive statement with some type of intensive element, for example, “you are indeed happy” or “you are surely fortunate.”

Do not be afraid of anyone is literally “do not be afraid of them” (Revised Standard Version; compare Jerusalem Bible, Phillips, Barclay, Moffatt, Knox), which is a quotation from Isaiah 8.12. It is interesting to note here that the quotation agrees with the Hebrew text against the Septuagint (the Hebrew has “them” referring to the people, whereas the Septuagint has “him” perhaps referring to the king of Assyria). Since Peter usually quotes from the Septuagint, he may have made the change in order to suit his purpose; but it is also possible that he was using a text with “them” in it. At any rate, “them” may refer specifically to those who were creating all kinds of difficulties for the Christians, or in a general sense to anyone (compare Biblia Dios Habla Hoy, New American Bible). Some take “them” as impersonal referring to evil, terror, threats (Phillips, Knox, Barclay), but the personal interpretation is preferred as more fitting to the context.

Rather than translating anyone as a reference to an indefinite person or persons, one may be justified in making the reference somewhat more specific in view of the context, for example, “do not be afraid of those who may harm you” or “… cause you to suffer.”

Do not worry is literally “not be troubled” with “troubled” having the meaning of “disturbed,” “terrified,” (Barclay) “frightened,” (Biblia Dios Habla Hoy) “distressed,” “upset.” Do not worry is frequently expressed idiomatically, for example, “do not let your mind kill you” or “do not let your thoughts run about in all directions” or “thinking about all the things that might happen to you.”

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The First Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

formal second person plural pronoun

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of a formal plural suffix to the second person pronoun (“you” and its various forms) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, anata-gata (あなたがた) is used, combining the second person pronoun anata and the plural suffix -gata to create a formal plural pronoun (“you” [plural] in English).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )