bound themselves by an oath

The Greek that is translated in English as “bound themselves by an oath” or similar is translated in Lalana Chinantec as “cursed themselves.” (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

more than forty

The Greek that is translated as “more than forty” in English is translated as “about 45” in Isthmus Mixe. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

complete verse (Acts 23:21)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 23:21:

  • Uma: “Don’t follow their request! [This command is in 3rd person, since a boy would not say "Don’t you (sing.) do this" to a commander.] Because there are more than forty who are hiding on the road wanting to waylay him. They promised with vowing that they would not eat or drink if they have not-yet killed him. Now they are ready out there, just waiting for a reply from Head.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But don’t listen to them because there are more than forty men who are hiding to ambush Paul,’ the man said. ‘They have sworn that they will not eat nor drink as long as they have not been able-to-kill Paul. They are now ready and they are just waiting for your word.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “However don’t you permit it, because there are forty men who are hiding to ambush him. Their agreement is very tight that they will not eat or drink until they have not yet killed Paul. They are ready and the only thing they are waiting for is your command.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “But don’t (sing.) believe-it, because more than forty people will be waiting-in-ambush for him, and they have vowed that they will not eat and drink until they kill him. They are already prepared, and it’s only your (sing.) approval that they are waiting-for.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “If possible/acceptable I am really asking you that you won’t permit it, for there are more than forty Jews who have put their bodies under oath that they won’t eat or drink until they have killed Pablo. Right now they are in readiness. They are just waiting for what your reply will be to the people who come to ask you. If you permit it, they will lie in wait for him.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Translation commentary on Acts 23:21

In the Greek, will be hiding and waiting are actually in the present tense, though it is quite common for a Greek writer to use the present tense as a future when he wants to make something vivid.

They are now ready to do it is no doubt a reference specifically to killing Paul, though it could be understood that they are ready to make the request.

Waiting for your decision may be rendered as “waiting to hear what you say” or “waiting to hear what you reply.”

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 .