In the Kahua culture, the generic term for jewelry refers only to things worn at weddings, so the Greek phrase that is translated as “jewelry” or “gold jewelry” is translated in Kahua as earrings and clamshells worn on the arms and legs.

adorn outwardly

The Greek that is translated as “adorn (yourselves) outwardly” or similar in English is translated in Nugunu (Gunu): as “pretty like a market plum.”

Keith Patman (in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 79) explains:

“I had not expected to see the word for ‘plum’ right in the middle of 1 Peter 3:3, but there it was!

“When our team translated the verse from the Gunu language back into English, it read, ‘Wives, don’t try to be pretty like a market plum, by braiding your hair and putting on gold jewelry and beautiful clothes.’ Concerned for clear, natural, and accurate Bible translation, I asked the Gunu translation team, ‘Why did you use that word?’

“Their explanation made perfect sense. A favorite fruit in their area of Cameroon is the safou, or African plum. Sold in the local market, these plums look beautiful early in the day — all purple and shiny — and they taste great! But after a long day of sitting out in the warm African sun, although they still look pretty, the plums ave lost their freshness and they taste terrible!

“So ‘pretty like a market plum,’ for the Gunu people, a metaphor for superficial beauty, and that’s exactly what Peter was talking about in 1 Peter 3:3.”

human head hair

The Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew that is translated as “hair” in English is translated in Tzeltal as stsotsil sjol (Tzeltal de Oxchuc y Tenejapa) / stsotsel sjol (Tzeltal Bachajón): “blanket for the head.” (Source: Slocum / Watkins 1988, p. 35)

See also hair (body hair) and hairy (like Esau).

complete verse (1 Peter 3:3)

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

  • Uma: “If you want to be beautiful, don’t [have] beauty just on the outside, like fixing your hair or beautifying the self/body with gold or expensive clothes.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Don’t think that that is what makes you beautiful when you make your appearance good/beautiful, like when you comb your hair and when you use jewelry and when you dress well. It is not this that makes women beautiful.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for you women, do not think that the way you will become beautiful is by means of excessive decorating your hair and dressing yourselves with expensive things like gold and expensive clothing.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Your beauty, it should not be based on beauty-aids (al-alti: includes make-up, jewelry, etc.) that women use such as their fancifying (same root: alti) their hair, their putting on expensive bracelets and necklaces, and their putting-on-expensive -clothes.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Remember that what makes you beautiful is not fixing the hair, using of gold body ornaments and dressing in top-quality clothes, all of these being only on the outside.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Concerning how you beautify yourselves, let it not only be that you fix your hair to look beautiful, or that you decorate yourselves with gold or that you wear very good clothes.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Tz’utujil (verses 3 and 4): “Don’t set your heart on dressing yourselves up more than on having a good inner life. Don’t set your heart on on fixing your hair or in things made of gold or on expensive clothes. But what is necessary is a good inner live (…).” (Source: Callow 1972, p. 79)

Translation commentary on 1 Peter 3:3 – 3:4

Here Peter contrasts the outward and the inward aspects of beauty, the beauty dependent on outward aids and that which is dependent on the true inner self.

It is possible to translate the Greek in such a way that the women are not prohibited from using outward aids, but are instead urged not to depend on these for their beauty (compare New English Bible “Your beauty should reside, not in outward adornment”; Phillips “Your beauty should not be dependent on…”; Barclay “your beauty must not be the superficial beauty which depends on…”). However, the Good News Translation rendering is also possible and makes the verse an accurate description of the negative attitude of the early Christians toward superficial beauty aids (compare 1 Tim 2.9).

If one understands the beginning of verse 3 as indicating that women were not to depend upon outward aids to beautify themselves, then one may translate “you should not use various things in order to make yourselves look more beautiful” or “your beauty should not depend upon…” or “you should not try to make yourselves more beautiful by….” The interpretation which rules out all outward aids may be rendered as “you should not try to make yourselves look beautiful by…” or “you must not cause yourselves to become beautiful by….”

Some of these outward aids are now mentioned: the way you fix your hair is literally “the braiding of hair” or “the plaiting of hair.” This was an art which was very popular among Greek and Roman ladies, with the braided hair rising some inches above the head, and often intertwined with chains of gold or strings of pearl. Many translations translate the expression as a general description for elaborate style, for example, New American Bible “elaborate hairdress”; Jerusalem Bible “doing up your hair”; Phillips “elaborate coiffure”; Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch “extravagant hairdos”; Biblia Dios Habla Hoy “exaggerated hairdos.”

A literal rendering of the Greek text as “the braiding of hair” can be very misleading, since braided hair is regarded in many parts of the world as being very modest. The emphasis here is clearly upon elaborate hairdos. Therefore, one may employ an expression which in the receptor language refers to precisely such forms of hairdo, for example, “cause your hair to be high above your head” or “cause your hair to attract great attention” or “fix up your hair in a very expensive way.”

The jewelry you put on is literally “the wearing of golden jewelry,” interpreted either generally as referring to all kinds of jewelry (Good News Translation, New English Bible, Phillips, Barclay “expensive jewelry”) or specifically as referring to special kinds of golden jewelry, for example, Knox “gold trinkets”; Jerusalem Bible “gold bracelets.”

Each one of the methods employed for beautifying oneself must frequently be expressed as a separate sentence, for example, “you should not wear expensive jewelry” or “you should not try to make yourself look beautiful by wearing valuable jewels.”

Dresses translates a general word for garments of any kind, but since women are being referred to, then dresses fits this particular context. It may be important to qualify the dresses you wear as “the expensive dresses you wear” or “the elaborate dresses which you wear.” A strictly literal rendering might suggest avoiding the wearing of dresses. This is particularly true in certain parts of the world where the wearing of dresses is associated with prostitution, and in which modest women either wear a skirt or a skirt and blouse.

Positively, beauty should be inward: it should be dependent on a woman’s true inner self. This literally is “the hidden person of the heart,” with “hidden person” and “heart” in apposition, hence, “the hidden person, which is the heart.” This bears close similarity with Paul’s concept of the “inward man” (Rom 7.22; 2 Cor 4.1; compare Eph 3.16) and of the new creature in 2 Corinthians 5.17 and Galatians 6.15. “Inner” is opposed to “outward” in verse 3.

The rendering of Instead may require a rather extensive paraphrase, for example, “rather than doing that you should” or “do not do that, but do as follows.”

The rendering of your beauty should consist of your true inner self will depend in large measure upon the manner in which beauty is spoken of in the first clause of verse 3. For example, one may render your beauty should consist of your true inner self as “your beauty should depend upon what you yourself really are” or “… what you are in your heart” or “… what you are inside of you.” On the other hand, it may be necessary to restructure this initial clause of verse 4 as “what you are in your heart is what causes you to be beautiful” or “… causes you really to be beautiful.”

The “heart” stands for the whole person, or more specifically, for his character and personality (compare Barclay “inner character and personality”). The beauty that is of the heart is further described as the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Gentle can also mean “humble,” “considerate,” or negatively, “not rude.” Quiet describes an attitude of calmness, serenity, and tranquility. Spirit here may refer generally to “life,” but more specifically to temperament, disposition (Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible), frame of mind. Such beauty is ageless (literally “imperishable”), as contrasted with the outward adornments which last only for a little while (compare Barclay “a beauty which the years cannot wither”; New American Bible “unfading”). Furthermore, such beauty is of the greatest value in God’s sight. Which refers not only to spirit, but to everything that precedes it, that is, true beauty. In God’s sight is an anthropomorphism, or a way of talking about God as if he had the form of a human being. “Before God” (Biblia Dios Habla Hoy) or “to God” accurately expresses its meaning.

The ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is a relatively complex statement which may require considerable restructuring. Ageless beauty may, for example, be rendered as “that is the beauty which never changes” or “that beauty always lasts,” and the relationship between such beauty and the qualifying phrase of a gentle and quiet spirit may be made causative, for example, “that beauty never changes because it comes from a gentle and quiet spirit” or “that beauty never changes; it comes from a spirit which is gentle and quiet.”

Of a gentle and quiet spirit may be misunderstood if translated literally, since it might suggest that some impersonal spirit which is gentle and quiet has caused beauty. Any translation of the term spirit must of course refer to the spirit of the individual and not to some supernatural spirit. An appropriate equivalent in some instances is “a life that is gentle and quiet,” but in some instances the most satisfactory equivalent is “the unchanging beauty of a person who is gentle and quiet.”

However, one must not translate quiet merely in a sense of “not talking”; the meaning is “calm” or “tranquil,” but in some languages the concept may be best expressed by a negative phrase, for example, “not disturbed” or “not constantly upset.”

Which is of the greatest value in God’s sight may be rendered as “this is what God looks on as being really beautiful” or “this kind of beauty is what God values greatest” or “… considers to be the most valuable.”

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. )