The Greek that is translated in English as “endurance” (or “patience”or “perseverance”) is translated in Tzotzil as “(good) strength of heart(s).” (Source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.)

In Isthmus Zapotec it is translated as “learning not to lose patience.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

ambiguity of genitive constructs in Greek

Dave Brunn reports this from the translation into Lamogai (see p. 138ff.):

We have all been told that New Testament Greek is a precise language. That is true in some areas of the language, but it is not true of the genitive construction. The genitive in Greek is commonly used to show simple possession, and in those cases, it is straightforward. But in other contexts, the Greek genitive often has two or more possible meanings. An example of this is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NASB): “constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The three genitives I would like to focus on in this verse are

  • work of faith
  • labor of love
  • steadfastness of hope

In Lamogai, a literal translation of these three phrases would sound like nonsense. For example, the phrase “labor of love” would sound like “labor that is possessed by love.” And “steadfastness of hope” would sound like “steadfastness owned by hope.”

Obviously, love cannot possess labor, and hope cannot be the owner of steadfastness. That means in order to translate this verse into Lamogai, the translator needs to dig a bit deeper to find out what these phrases mean. This is where the ambiguity of the Greek genitive comes into play because each of these three phrases has more than one possible meaning.

The first one, “work of faith,” is less ambiguous than the other two. Most commentators agree that this phrase means their work was a result of their faith in God.

The next, “labor of love,” is less clear. It could mean any of these three possibilities:”

    1. They labor because of God’s love for them.
    2. They labor because of their love for God.
    3. They labor because of their love for others.

In Lamogai, it is impossible to come up with a single statement that would include all three of these meanings. The grammar of Lamogai forces the translator to make a choice — just as English grammar forces every English version to choose between “evil” and “the evil one” in Matthew 6:13.

The third genitive phrase, “steadfastness of hope” is probably the most ambiguous of the three. Translators and commentators seem to be split evenly between the following two interpretations:

    1. They were steadfast in continuing to hope for the return of Jesus Christ.
    2. They were steadfast in their Christian walk because of their hope in Jesus Christ.

In other words, either their hope is steadfast (option 1), or else their hope causes steadfastness (option 2). The only way to translate this phrase into Lamogai is to choose one of these two interpretations. It is required by the grammar of Lamogai and many other languages. (…)

On one hand, it might be safer for a translator to leave this phrase ambiguous because we do not know for sure which meaning Paul intended. On the other hand, if hundreds or even thousands of other languages require that an interpretive choice be made, is it wrong to do the same thing in some English versions? If preserving the ambiguity of the Greek genitive were a requirement of faithfulness and accuracy, wouldn’t God have made sure that every language in the world was capable of fulfilling that requirement?

This passage was translated into Lamogai as: “Mu para pe ido Alangalang Ino Jisas Krais re ka kairak mu mu tir.”: “You [plural] are waiting for our [inclusive] Chief One Jesus Christ so then as a result you [plural] stand strongly.” (Source for this paragraph: private communication from Dave Brunn.)

love (Luang)

The various Greek terms that are translated as “love” in English can be translated with various terms in Luang with different shades of meaning.

For Acts 7:46 and Titus 1:8, ralamni nala (“insides take”). “This term has the sense of finding favor with or being pleased by someone and is used for love between a man and a woman, between a parent and a much-loved child. It is also used of God’s being especially pleased with a human, such as he was with Noah and Moses. It can refer to loving objects good or bad, and to loving the world. The focus here is on some pleasing characteristic of the person or thing loved.”

For Mark 6:34, nmawaldoinla (“insides turn completely over”). “Love mixed with pity and distress. One can feel this for oneself as well as for others. Jesus felt this way when he looked at the multitudes who were like sheep without a shepherd.”

For Mark 1:11, lilili (“take care of, honor”). “Loving with special care, attention, and honor. This is the term often used for loving a dear child and God’s loving his Son.”

For 1 Thess. 2:8 and Mark 1:11, siayni (“love, pity”). “Affection for children or for those in difficult circumstances.”

For Titus 3:4 and 1 Thess. 1:2-3, ralamni kalwieda-paitiota (“good insides”). The focus of this term is the goodness of the one who loves. There is absolutely no focus whatsoever on the one loved, who may even be despicable. This term is often used for God’s love and mercy toward us especially in such verses as ‘God loved us, not because of what we have done, but because of his great mercy.'”

For 1 Thess. 1:4 and 2 Tim. 4:10, napalniana (“insides face”). “The sense of this term is very close to that of the sense of ‘ralamni nalal’ for ‘love’. It indicates something about the thing or person loved that pleases the one loving. However, the sense ‘ralamni nalal’ refers generally to love as an outcome of the loved one’s pleasing characteristics, while this term, when it collocates with human beings, is used more for love that results from the loved one’s loving actions. It is not used for the love between a man and a woman.”

The following are service-related terms for “love.” “There are several different words for love where the focus is on the act produced by love, not on the goodness of the one loving, the one being loved, or any emotion of affection or pity. These words are differentiated by the particular service given and are mainly used in verses where people are commanded to love one another.”

For 2 Thess. 1:3 and 1 Tim. 6:18, ra’a-palu (“love-widow”). “This term’s focus is on love displayed by giving to one another financially.”

For 1 Thess. 3:12, nhimpai-nmanatu (“hold out hands, place carefully”). This term’s focus is more on daily practical care of someone.

For Titus 2:2 and 1 Tim. 6:11, hima-re’a (“hold out hands”). “This term’s focus is on helping someone with their work.”

For 1 Thess. 4:9, mpiehwa-mliakta kalwiedweda (“good/careful actions”). “This term’s focus is on the proper treatment of others on meeting them. It implies being hospitable, polite, respecting.”

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (1Thess. 1:3)

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 the first part of this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding the addressee). For the second part (“our God” in English translations) the inclusive form is typically used.

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

In Fijian the trial exclusive form “neitou” (“of me and of them two”) is used for the first part of this verse instead. This choice is understandable in view of the introduction found in both letters to the Thessalonians, where the writer Paul indicates clearly that the letters were co-authored by two other colleagues, Silas and Timothy, hence the use of a pronoun referring to three people (“Paul, Silas and Timothy”).

Source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 419ff.


“Hope is sometimes one of the most difficult terms to translate in the entire Bible. It is not because people do not hope for things, but so often they speak of hoping as simply ‘waiting.’ In fact, even in Spanish, the word esperar means both ‘to wait’ and ‘to hope.’ However, in many instances the purely neutral term meaning ‘to wait’ may be modified in such a way that people will understand something more of its significance. For example, in Tepeuxila Cuicatec hope is called ‘wait-desire.’ Hope is thus a blend of two activities: waiting and desiring. This is substantially the type of expectancy of which hope consists.

In Yucateco the dependence of hope is described by the phrase ‘on what it hangs.’ ‘Our hope in God’ means that ‘we hang onto God.’ The object of hope is the support of one’s expectant waiting.

In Ngäbere the phrase “resting the mind” is used. This “implies waiting and confidence, and what is a better definition of hope than ‘confident waiting’.” (Source for this and above: Nida 1952, p. 20, 133)

In Mwera “hope” and “faith” are translated with the same word: ngulupai. (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

Other languages translate as follows:

  • Mairasi: “vision resting place” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Enlhet: “waitings of (our) innermost” (“innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind — for other examples see here) (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff. )
  • Kwang: “one’s future is restored to one’s soul like a fresh, cool breeze on a hot day.” (Source: Mark Vanderkooi right here )
  • Nyongar: koort-kwidiny or “heart waiting” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Anjam: “looking through the horizon” (source: Albert Hoffmann in his memoirs from 1948, quoted in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 7)
  • Highland Totonac “wait with expectation” (to offset it from the every-day meaning of hope or wait — source: Hermann Aschmann in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 171ff. ).
  • Alekano: “wait not hearing two ears” (meaning to “wait without being double-minded” — source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)
  • Marathi aasha (आशा) with a stronger emphasis on desire
  • Tamil: nampikkai (நம்பிக்கை) with a stronger emphasis on expectation (source for this and above: J.S.M. Hooper in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 2ff. )

C.M. Doke looks at a number of Bantu languages and their respective translations of “hope” with slightly varying connotations (in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 9ff. ):

  • Xhosa and Zulu: themba “hope, expect,” also “have faith in, rely upon”
  • Tswana: tsholofelo “hope, expect, look for confidently”
  • Southern Sotho: tshepo “trust, rely on, believe in, have confidence in”
  • Kuanyama: eteelelo “waiting for”
  • Swahili: tumaini “confidence, trust, expectation, hope” (as a verb: “hope, trust, expect, be confident, be truthful, rely on”
  • Luganda: okusuubira “hope, trust, expect” also “look forward to, rely upon, anticipate, reckon”
  • Chichewa: chiyembekezo “wait for, wait, expect”
  • Koongo: vuvu “hope, expectancy, expectation, anticipation”
Syntyche D. Dahou (in Christianity Today, January 2021 or see here the same article in French ) reports on the two different terms that are being used in French (click or tap here to see the details):

“Unlike English, which uses the word hope broadly, the French language uses two words that derive from the word espérer (to hope): espoir and espérance. Both can first refer to something hoped for. In this sense, the word espoir usually refers to an uncertain object; that is, someone who hopes for something in this way does not have the certainty that it will happen (“I hope the weather will be nice tomorrow”). On the other hand, espérance describes what, rightly or wrongly, is hoped for or expected with certainty. It often refers to a philosophical or eschatological object (‘I hope in the goodness of human beings’; ‘I hope for the return of Jesus Christ’).

“When we speak of espoir or espérance, we then have in mind different types of objects hoped for. This difference matters, because both terms also commonly refer to the state of mind that characterizes the hopeful. And this state of mind will be different precisely according to the object hoped for.

“Having espoir for an uncertain yet better future in these difficult times may be a good thing, but it is not enough. Such hope can be disappointed and easily fade away when our wishes and expectations (our hopes) do not materialize.

“The opposite is true with espérance, which is deeper than our desire and wish for an end to a crisis or a future without pain and suffering. To face the trials of life, we need peace and joy in our hearts that come from expecting certain happiness. This is what espérance is: a profound and stable disposition resulting from faith in the coming of what we expect. In this sense, it is similar in meaning to the English word hopefulness.

“If we have believed in the Son of the living God, we have such a hope. It rests on the infallible promises of our God, who knows the plans he has for us, his children—plans of peace and not misfortune, to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). By using the two meanings of the word, we can say that the espérance that the fulfillment of his promises represents (the object hoped for) fills us with espérance (the state of mind).”

complete verse (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

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

  • Uma: “When we pray to God our (incl.) Father, we always remember your work that you do because of your faith, and we remember also your helping others because of your love, and we remember your enduring in persecutions because you hope in the coming again of Yesus Kristus our (incl.) Lord.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “When we (excl.) pray to our (incl.) Father God, we (excl.) really always remember the good you always do because of your trust in Isa Almasi our (incl.) Leader. We (excl.) also don’t forget your hard-work because-of your love for him and your perseverance because you really expect that our (incl.) Lord will come back.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For when we pray to our Father God, we cannot forget your faith and your love and your expecting our Lord Jesus Christ. For your faith can be perceived by means of your activities, and by means of your hard work, your love for Him can be perceived. And your expecting Him can be perceived by means of your endurance.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When we (excl.) pray, we (excl.) don’t forget to pray for you all and we (excl.) also continually thank God our Father on-account-of you, because we (excl.) remember the good that you are doing on-account-of your faith and your industriousness to serve God because of your love for him and your patience/endurance that stems-from your hope/expectation in Jesu Cristo our Lord.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “For we (excl.) really are always thinking about your work/activity which is the fruit of your believing/obeying, your perseverance which accompanies your valuing one another, and your endurance of hardship with a good mind/inner-being. As for this endurance of yours, it’s results are, your assurance is sturdy. For you are sure that, because of your trust-in/relying-on and belief-in/obeying-of our Lord Jesu-Cristo, you will be saved at the end of the world, that you will then be in the presence of God our Father.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “When we pray to God our Father, we think about the work you do because you believe in Jesus Christ. And we think about the help you do because you love each other. And we think about how firm your faith is because you await the day that our Lord Jesus Christ will come.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)