brothers (Acts 13:15)

The Greek term that is translated into English as “brothers” is rendered into Purari as “elder brothers” in order to show respect.

brother (fellow believer)

The Greek that is translated in English as “brother” (in the sense of a fellow believer), 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.

complete verse (Acts 13:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 13:15:

  • Uma: “In that gathering, someone read the Law of Musa and the letters of the prophets. After that, the leader of the house of prayer ordered people to go ask Paulus and Barnabas, they said to them: ‘Relatives, if you have a word/speech wanting to teach us (excl.), as of now we (excl.) give you opportunity to speak.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Someone read from the law of Musa and from the holy-book of the prophets. After that had been read the leaders of that prayer-house sent someone to Paul and company telling him to say, ‘Brothers, if you want to say something to preach to the people, you (pl.) may speak.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And there was someone who read the written law and also the writings of those inspired ones long ago. And when this was finished, the rulers in that church, they had someone ask Paul and company, they said, ‘Brothers, if you have anything which would be strengthening to the faith of the people gathered here, we would like to listen to it.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Someone read the law of Moses and the writings of some of the prophets, then the leaders of the synagogue caused-someone-to-go -tell-to plural Pablo, saying, ‘Siblings, if you have something to teach to strengthen the mind/thoughts of these people, please tell it.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “There were a few laws of Moises read and then from the things written by prophets of the past. When that was ended, the overseers of that worship-place said to Pablo-and-companion, ‘Our(excl.) brother Jews, maybe you have something to teach. It’s okay now for you to teach us (excl.).'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:

“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):

  • San Blas Kuna: “one who speaks the voice of God”
  • Central Pame and Vai: “interpreter for God”
  • Kaqchikel, Navajo, Yaka: “one who speaks for God”
  • Northern Grebo: “God’s town crier” (see more about this below)
  • Sapo: “God’s sent-word person”
  • Shipibo-Conibo, Ngäbere: “one who speaks God’s word”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “one who speaks-opens” (a compound meaning “one who discloses or reveals”)
  • Sierra Totonac: “one who causes them to know” (in the sense of “revealer”)
  • Batak Toba: “foreteller” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1961, p. 7)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “one who is inspired of God” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Alekano: “the true man who descended from heaven” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)
  • Aguaruna: “teller of God’s word” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
  • Ekari: “person who speaks under divine impulse”
  • Mandarin Chinese: 先知 xiānzhī — “one who foreknows” (or the 1946/1970 translation by Lü Zhenzhong: 神言人 shényánrén — “divine-word-man”)
  • Uab Meto: “holy spokesman” (source for this and two above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Kouya: Lagɔɔ gbʋgbanyɔ — “the one who seeks God’s affairs” (source: Saunders, p. 269)
  • Kafa: “decide for God only” (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “word passer” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
  • Obolo: ebi nriran: “one with power of divine revelation” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Mairasi: nonondoai nyan: “message proclaimer” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Highland Totonac: “speaker on God’s behalf”
  • Central Tarahumara: “God’s preacher” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Coatlán Mixe: “God’s word-thrower”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “one who talks as God’s representative”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “speaker for God” (source for this and two above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Mezquital Otomi: “God’s messenger” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Nyongar: Warda Marridjiny or “News Traveling” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Kutu: mtula ndagu or “one who gives the prediction of the past and the future” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • French 1985 translation by Chouraqui: inspiré or “inspired one” (“someone in whom God has breathed [Latin: in + spiro]) (source: Watson 2023, p. 45)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec a term is used that specifically includes women. (Source: Robert Bascom)

About the translation into Northern Grebo:

“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)

In American Sign Language it is a person who sees into the future:

“Prophet” in American Sign Language (source )

In British Sign Language it is is translated with a sign that depicts a message coming from God to a person (the upright finger) and then being passed on to others. (Source: Anna Smith)

“Prophet” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

See also prophesy and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Nyongar with a capitalized form of the term for “words” (Warrinya) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

Translation commentary on Acts 13:15

The synagogue service usually consisted first of the Jewish confession of faith called the “Shema” (see Deuteronomy 6.4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”). After this, the leader of the worship service led in prayer and this was followed by reading from the Law of Moses, which on the Sabbath day and certain feast days was followed by a selection from the writings of the prophets. After the Scripture had been read a sermon was given by any suitable member of the congregation, and the service was then concluded with a benediction. The section of the Jewish Bible known as “(the writings of) the prophets” included the prophetic books of the Christian canon, with the exception of Daniel, and also some of those books known by Christians as “the historical books.”

After the reading from the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets may be rendered as “after someone had read from the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets.” The law of Moses is “the Law given through Moses” or “the law given by Moses.” The writings of the prophets are simply “what the prophets wrote” or “the books which the prophets wrote.” The phrase the officials of the synagogue refers to “the leaders of the synagogues.” These are not “officials” in the sense of “government officials.”

The expression sent them a message implies that the officials of the synagogue delegated someone to speak to Paul and Barnabas, “had someone say to them” or “caused someone to speak to them saying.”

In this context brothers does not refer to fellow believers but to “fellow Jews.” We want you to speak is literally an imperative plural (see Revised Standard Version “say it”), but a literal translation in English sounds much more abrupt than the meaning in the context (see New English Bible “let us hear it”; Barclay “please give it”). Although the imperative is plural, this is not intended to imply that both were invited to speak; the plural is used because it is not known which one of the visitors might speak.

Message of encouragement for them may be rendered as “words to encourage them” or “words to make them stronger.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1972. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .