master (Japanese honorifics)

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 to do this is through the usage of appropriate suffix title referred to as keishō (敬称) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017 by either using -san or –sama with the latter being the more formal title.

These titles are distinct from nominal titles such as “master.” This is evident from the forms such as go-shujin-sama (ご主人様) “master” or “lord” which is the combination of the nominal title shujin “master,” the honorific prefix go- and the suffix title –sama.

In some cases, it can also be used as go-shujin (ご主人), i.e. with the honorific prefix go- but without the suffix title –sama. You can find that in Genesis 19:2, 23:6, 23:11, 23:15, 24:51, 32:18, 39:8, 39:9, 44:8, 44:9; 1 Samuel 25:17; and 2 Kings 2:16 and 4:26.

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

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 25:24

The relationship of the words She fell at his feet to the words “she fell before David on her face” in verse 23 is not clear. Verse 24 is literally “and she fell at his feet.” It is possible to understand the action at the beginning of verse 24 as a restatement of Abigail’s action at the end of verse 23. This is the interpretation behind Good News Translation and Revised English Bible, which combine the two phrases into one event. See also New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, “threw herself face down before David, bowing to the ground. Prostrate at his feet, she pleaded.”

Others, however, understand Abigail’s action in verse 24 to be in addition to the first action of bowing down a short distance away from David. See Traduction œcuménique de la Bible and Osty-Trinquet, “Then she fell at his feet.”

Some understand Abigail’s words Upon me alone, my lord, be the guilt to be a standardized way of beginning a conversation with a superior. According to Anchor Bible, the sense is “Let any burden of blame that might arise from our conversation rest upon me and not you!” Most, however, understand her words to mean “Blame me alone and don’t blame my husband.” See the comments also on verse 28.

Abigail refers to herself in the third person (your handmaid) in the second half of this verse. It should be clear in the receptor language that she is referring to herself and not to someone else.

The second half of this verse as translated in Revised Standard Version may be confusing. On initial reading it may appear as if the same person is the subject of the verb speak and the verb hear. In fact she is asking that David hear what she is saying.

The expression speak in your ears may be used in some languages to mean “whisper” or say something privately, but this is apparently not the meaning here. Abigail is merely asking for a hearing. If a literal translation would give the wrong impression, it should be avoided.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

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 an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

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