In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage:
the Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) translates as “all-transformative good news” (alles verändernde gute Botschaft), also “good news”
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):
“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”
Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 14:21:
Uma: “In Derbe Paulus and Barnabas also announced the Good News, with the result that many people became followers of Yesus. After that, they returned to Listra, and from there went to Ikonium, continuing on also to the village of Antiokhia land of Pisidia.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “When they were there in Derbe, they proclaimed the good news to the people there. Many people there became disciples of Isa. Then Paul and Barnabas returned to Listara, and to Ikoni, and then they proceeded to Antiyok, the Antiyok in the country of Pisidiya.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Paul and Barnabas spread the good news there in Derbe, and many people there became followers of Jesus. And then they retraced their way and returned to the town of Lystra, and there to Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “Upon their arrival in Derbe, they preached the good news, and they persuaded many to become disciples of Jesus. Then they returned to Listra and to Iconium and then to Antiok in Pisidia” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “There next at Derbe, they taught the Good News and many believed in the Lord. And then, what Pablo and Bernabe did was, they returned again to Listra, and then to Iconio, and then to that Antioquia which was in the district of Pisidia.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
The Greek that is often translated as “disciple” in English typically follows three types of translation: (1) those which employ a verb ‘to learn’ or ‘to be taught’, (2) those which involve an additional factor of following, or accompaniment, often in the sense of apprenticeship, and (3) those which imply imitation of the teacher.
Following are some examples (click or tap for details):
Waorani: “one who lives following Jesus” (source: Wallis 1973, p. 39)
Ojitlán Chinantec: “learner” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
Javanese: “pupil” or “companion” (“a borrowing from Arabic that is a technical term for Mohammed’s close associates”)
German: Jünger or “younger one” (source for this and one above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022). “student” or “special student” (using the traditional German term Gnade)
Nyongar: ngooldjara-kambarna or “friend-follow” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023) translates it into English as apprentice.
In Luang several terms with different shades of meaning are being used.
For Mark 2:23 and 3:7: maka nwatutu-nwaye’a re — “those that are taught” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ before the resurrection, while Jesus was still on earth teaching them.”)
For Acts 9:1 and 9:10: makpesiay — “those who believe.” (“This is the term used for believers and occasionally for the church, but also for referring to the disciples when tracking participants with a view to keeping them clear for the Luang readers. Although Greek has different terms for ‘believers’, ‘brothers’, and ‘church’, only one Luang word can be used in a given episode to avoid confusion. Using three different terms would imply three different sets of participants.”)
For Acts 6:1: mak lernohora Yesus wniatutunu-wniaye’eni — “those who follow Jesus’ teaching.” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ after Jesus returned to heaven.”)
Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.
In American Sign Language it is translated with a combination of the signs for “following” plus the sign for “group.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)