The Greek that is translated in English as “(she had a ) spirit of divination” or similar is translated in Morelos Nahuatl as “in that girl’s heart lived a demon. That demon could say what was going to happen before it happened,” in Lalana Chinantec as “she carried an evil spirit. Therefore she was able to make words ahead of time as to what would happen,” or in Coatlán Mixe as “she has a devil with her with which she foretells.” (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
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.
Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 16:16:
- Uma: “One other time, when we (excl.) went to the praying-place of the Yahudi, we (excl.) met a woman who was a slave [lit., who lived as a slave]. That woman had an anitu [familiar spirit]. From the power of that anitu, she was able to foretell what would happen before it happened. Her nobles received much money from her work.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “One day, while we were going to the place of prayer, we met a female slave who was possessed by a demon therefore she could tell the fortune. (magpayam) Her masters found/got much money because of her fortune-telling.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “One day about that time when we were going to the place where they prayed, we were met by a girl who was a slave who was inspired by a demon which allowed her to prophesy. Her owners were able to get much money through her prophesying.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “One day as-we (excl.) -were-going to the praying-place, there was a young-woman whom we (excl.) met who was a slave who was skilled in telling-fortunes, because an evil-spirit had possessed her. Because of that-aforementioned skill of hers, her slave owners were getting much money.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “There was another day when we (excl.) were going there to that prayer-place, when we (excl.) came across a female slave who was an predicter/astrologer/fortune-teller. What enabled her to predict was that she was indwelt by an evil-spirit. Her masters were really able to get money because, for each prediction, there was a charge.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)