The Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin terms that are typically translated as “mercy” (or “compassion” or “kindness”) in English are translated in various ways. Bratcher / Nida classify them in (1) those based on the quality of heart, or other psychological center, (2) those which introduce the concept of weeping or extreme sorrow, (3) those which involve willingness to look upon and recognize the condition of others, or (4) those which involve a variety of intense feelings.
While the Englishmercy originates from the Latinmerces, originally “price paid,” Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, Corsican, Catalan) and other Germanic languages (German, Swedish, Danish — Barmherzigkeit, barmhärtighet and barmhjertighed, respectively) tend to follow the Latin misericordia, lit. “misery-heart.”
The Greek, Latin and Hebrew that is usually translated in English as “truth” is translated in Luchazi with vusunga: “the quality of being straight” (source: E. Pearson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 160ff. ), in Obolo as atikọ or “good/correct talk” (source: Enene Enene), and in Ekari as maakodo bokouto or “enormous truth” (esp. in John 14:6 and 17; 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. ).
The translation committee of the Malay “Good News Bible” (Alkitab Berita Baik, see here ) wrestled with the translation of “truth” in the Gospel of John (for more information click or tap here):
“Our Malay Committee also concluded that ‘truth’ as used in the Gospel of John was used either of God himself, or of God’s revelation of himself, or in an extended sense as a reference to those who had responded to God’s self-disclosure. In John 8:32 the New Malay translation reads ‘You will know the truth about God, and the truth about God will make you free.’ In John 8:44 this meaning is brought out by translating, ‘He has never been on the side of God, because there is no truth in him.’ Accordingly Jesus ‘tells the truth about God’ in 8:45, 46 (see also 16:7 and 8:37a). Then, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ becomes ‘I am the one who leads men to God, the one who reveals who and what God is, and the one who gives men life.” At 3:21 the translation reads ” … whoever obeys the truth, that is God himself, comes to the light …’; 16:13a appears as ‘he will lead you into the full truth about God’; and in 18:37 Jesus affirms ‘I came into the world to reveal the truth about God, and whoever obeys God listens to me.’ On this basis also 1:14 was translated ‘we saw his glory, the glory which he had as the Father’s only Son. Through him God has completely revealed himself (truth) and his love for us (grace)’; and 1:17 appears as ‘God gave the law through Moses; but through Jesus Christ he has completely revealed himself (truth) and his love for us (grace).'” (Source: Barclay Newman in The Bible Translator 1974, p. 432ff. )
Helen Evans (in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff. ) tells of the translation into Kui which usually is “true-thing.” In some instances however, such as in the second part of John 17:17 (“your word is truth” in English), the use of “true-thing” indicated that there might be other occasions when it’s not true, so here the translation was a a form of “pure, holy.”
The Greek that is translated with the capitalized “Father” in English when referring to God is translated in Highland Totonac with the regular word for (biological) father to which a suffix is added to indicate respect. The same also is used for “Lord” when referring to Jesus. (Source: Hermann Aschmann in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 171ff. )
The concept that is expressed as “mind” in English is translated as “head-heart” in Yatzachi Zapotec. This concept is applied to terms that are translated in English as “fellowship” (“head-hearts are one”), the “inner-self” (“have no evil” is “have no evil in our head-hearts”), “eye” (in the sense of “understanding”), “heart” and “soul.”
Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22.
“The Greek word charis, usually translated by English ‘grace,’ is one of the desperations of translators. The area of meaning is exceptionally extensive. Note the following possible meanings for this word in various contexts of the New Testament: ‘sweetness,’ ‘charm,’ ‘loveliness,’ ‘good-will,’ ‘loving-kindness,’ ‘favor,’ ‘merciful kindness,’ ‘benefit,’ ‘gift,’ ‘benefaction,’ ‘bounty,’ and ‘thanks.’ The theological definition of ‘unmerited favor’ (some translators have attempted to employ this throughout) is applicable to only certain contexts. Moreover, it is quite a task to find some native expression which will represent the meaning of ‘unmerited favor.’ In some languages it is impossible to differentiate between ‘grace’ and ‘kindness.’ In fact, the translation ‘kindness’ is in some cases quite applicable. In other languages, a translation of ‘grace’ is inseparable from ‘goodness.’ In San Miguel El Grande Mixtec a very remarkable word has been used for ‘grace.’ It is made up of three elements. The first of these is a prefixial abstractor. The second is the stem for ‘beauty.’ The third is a suffix which indicates that the preceding elements are psychologically significant. The resultant word may be approximately defined as ‘the abstract quality of beauty of personality.’” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 223)
Other translations include (click or tap here to see more):
Inuktitut: “God’s kindness that enables us” (source: Andrew Atagotaaluk)
Nukna: “God gave his insides to one.” (“The ‘insides’ are the seat of emotion in Nukna, like the heart in the English language. To give your insides to someone is to feel love toward them, to want what is best for them, and to do good things for them.” (Source: Matt Taylor in The PNG Experience )
the Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) uses a large variety of translations, including “undeserved friendliness,” “wonderful work of God,” “loving attention,” “generous,” but also “undeserved grace (using the traditional German term Gnade)
In Latvian the term žēlastība is used both for “grace” and “mercy.” (Source: Katie Roth)
For Muna, René van den Berg explains the process how the translation team arrived at a satisfactory solution: “Initial translation drafts in Muna tended to (…) use the single word kadawu ‘part, (given) share, gift,’ but this word is really too generic. It lacks the meaning component of mercy and kindness and also seems to imply that the gift is part of a larger whole. Consequently we now [translate] according to context. In wishes and prayers such as ‘Grace to you and peace from God’ we translate ‘grace’ as kabarakati ‘blessing’ (e.g. Gal 1:3). In many places we use kataano lalo ‘goodness of heart’ (e.g. Gal 1:15 ‘because of the goodness of his heart God chose me’) as well as the loan rahamati ‘mercy’ (e.g. ‘you have-turned-your-backs-on the mercy of God’ for ‘you have fallen away from grace’; Gal 5:4). In one case where the unmerited nature of ‘grace’ is in focus, we have also employed katohai ‘a free gift’ (typically food offered to one’s neighbo-1urs) in the same verse. ‘The reason-you-have-been-saved is because of the goodness of God’s heart (Greek charis, Muna kataano lalo), going-through your belief in Kristus. That salvation is not the result of your own work, but really a free-gift (Greek dooron ‘gift’; Muna katohai) of God.’ (Eph 2:8).
In Burmese, it is translated with the Buddhist term kyeh’jooh’tau (ကျေးဇူးတော်). LaSeng Dingrin (in Missiology 37/4, 2009, p. 485ff.) explains: “As regards the Christian term ‘grace,’ Judson [the first translator of the Bible into Burmese] could not have brought the Burmese Buddhists the good news about the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and its benefits (i.e., forgiveness and salvation), without employing the Burmese Buddhist term kyeh’jooh’tau (‘grace’). Deriving from Palikataññuta (“gratefulness”), kyeh’jooh’tau denotes ‘good deeds for others or benefits,’ which occur among humans. (…) When Christianized, kyeh’jooh’tau also refers to the atoning work of Jesus and its benefits, and can occur between humans and God. The word kyeh’jooh’tau looks very Burmese Buddhist, but it is Christian, too, and conveys the core of the Christian proclamation. Furthermore, kyeh’jooh’tau itself shows that translatability of Christianity cannot be imagined without reliance on Buddhism.” (See also the Burmese entry for God)
In American Sign Language it is translated with a sign that combines “compassion” and “giving out.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)
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 this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including the addressee).
Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.
Following are a number of back-translations of 2 John 1:3:
Uma: “God the Father and Yesus Kristus his Child bless us from his white insides [i.e., grace], show us his love, and give us goodness of life [i.e., peace, well-being]. All this is our portion with a heart that is upright and loving.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “May we (incl.) be cared for and be given mercy/pity by our (incl.) Father God and by Isa Almasi, his Son and may they cause peace in our (incl.) livers. All this is for us (incl.) who follow/obey the truth and love each other.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for our Father God and Jesus Christ His Son, may They show kindness to us (incl.), may They show us mercy, and give us a peaceful situation. This can be because we (incl.) have held tight to the true doctrine, and we (incl.) love our companions.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “If we continue to follow the true teaching and to love-one-another, we will gain/enjoy the help, mercy/grace/kindness and peace that come-from God our Father and Jesu Cristo his Child.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “And the truth is, the grace/mercy, pitying help and peace/protection of mind/inner-being which God the Father and his Son (lit.Child) Jesu-Cristo give can always be ours. As for these things, God will really give them to those who have now recognized/acknowledged the truth and who value one another.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Tenango Otomi: “May God our Father and also his Son Jesus Christ give us a blessing and have mercy on us, and give us peace of heart. They will cause that we will follow the true word and that we will love our fellow-believers.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
Yatzachi Zapotec: “I ask before our father God and his son our Lord Jesus Christ that they will help you and pity you and cause you to be well off in your head-hearts (be at peace) because you are acquainted with what is true and you love your fellows each of you the other.”
Eastern Highland Otomi: “My siblings, we all believe the same true Word, and also we love one another. And will remain in our hearts God’s blessing, and God’s favor, and continually will rest our hearts God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.”
Isthmus Zapotec: “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to us and will have pity on us and quiet ourhearts. And truly they love us.”
Garifuna: “From within the true belief and love, God the one who is (our) Father will give kindness to you, pity/compassion, and tranquility (peace). Also (our) owner (our Lord) Jesus Christ the one who is (our) Father’s offspring will give it.” (Source for this and three above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)