inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (1Thess. 4:13)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). 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 exclusive form (excluding the addressee).

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 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.

brother (fellow Christian)

The Greek that is translated in English as “brother” (in the sense of a fellow Christian) is translated with a specifically coined word in Kachin: “There are two terms for brother in Kachin. One is used to refer to a Christian brother. This term combines ‘older and younger brother.’ The other term is used specifically for addressing siblings. When one uses this term, one must specify if the older or younger person is involved. A parallel system exists for ‘sister’ as well. In [these verses], the term for ‘a Christian brother’ is used.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Martu Wangka it is translated as “relative” (this is also the term that is used for “follower”.) (Source: Carl Gross)

See also brothers.

hope

“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 Mairasi the phrase for hope is “vision resting place” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Enlhet as “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.)

In Kwang a 4-word-expression is used that directly translates as “one’s future is restored to one’s soul like a fresh, cool breeze on a hot day.” (Source: Mark Vanderkooi right here)

According to Albert Hoffmann (in his memoirs from 1948, quoted in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 7) the translation in Anjam is “looking through the horizon.”

The translation in Highland Totonac is “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.).

In Alekano, the translation in “wait not hearing two ears,” meaning to “wait without being double-minded.” (Source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)

complete verse (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Following are a number of back-translations of 1 Thessalonians 4:13:

  • Uma: “Relatives, our intention is that you really know what happens to our (inc) companions who die, so that your hearts are not too sad/troubled, like people who do not hope in God.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Na, my brothers, we (excl.) also want to explain to you about the ones who already died who trusted in Isa Almasi, so that you don’t grieve like the other people do who don’t have hope/expectation that they will live again.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Brothers, we want you to know what will happen to believers who are already dead, so that you might not grieve like the grief of other people who do not expect to be raised from the dead.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Brothers, there is still something else that we (excl.) will make-known to you so that you will thoroughly understand concerning believers who have died so that you will not be sad (lit. thoughts hurt) like the people who have no hope.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Our(excl.) siblings in believing, we (excl.) want you to know the truth concerning those who have believed who are now dead, so that you won’t be grieved excessively, like people who have no certainty of the good (situation) of their dead ones.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Listen, brothers, we want that you know how it is concerning the believers who have already died. If anyone has died, do not let it be that also you are sad like the people who do not know God.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)