examine / test (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 to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

The concept of “examining” or “testing” is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-shirabe (お示し), combining “examine” (shirabe) with the respectful prefix o-.

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


The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are often translated as “worship” (also, “kneel down” or “bow down”) are likewise translated in other languages in certain categories, including those based on physical activity, those which incorporate some element of “speaking” or “declaring,” and those which specify some type of mental activity.

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

  • Javanese: “prostrate oneself before”
  • Malay: “kneel and bow the head”
  • Kaqchikel: “kneel before”
  • Loma (Liberia): “drop oneself beneath God’s foot”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “wag the tail before God” (using a verb which with an animal subject means “to wag the tail,” but with a human subject)
  • Tzotzil: “join to”
  • Kpelle: “raise up a blessing to God”
  • Kekchí: “praise as your God”
  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “say one is important”
  • San Blas Kuna: “think of God with the heart”
  • Rincón Zapotec: “have one’s heart go out to God”
  • Tabasco Chontal: “holy-remember” (source of this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Q’anjob’al: “humble oneself before” (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. )
  • Alur: rwo: “complete submission, adoration, consecration” (source: F. G. Lasse in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 22ff. )
  • Obolo: itọtọbọ ebum: “express reverence and devotion” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Ngäbere: “cut oneself down before” (“This figure of speech comes from the picture of towering mahoganies in the forest which, under the woodman’s ax, quiver, waver, and then in solemn, thunderous crashing bury their lofty heads in the upstretched arms of the surrounding forest. This is the experience of every true worshiper who sees ‘the Lord, high and lifted up.’ Our own unworthiness brings us low. As the Valientes say, ‘we cut ourselves down before’ His presence. Our heads, which have been carried high in self-confidence, sink lower and lower in worship.)
  • Tzeltal: “end oneself before God.” (“Only by coming to the end of oneself can one truly worship. The animist worships his deities in the hope of receiving corresponding benefits, and some pagans in Christendom think that church attendance is a guarantee of success in this life and good luck in the future. But God has never set a price on worship except the price that we must pay, namely, ‘coming to the end of ourselves.'”) (Source of this and the one above: Nida 1952, p. 163)
  • Folopa: “die under God” (“an idiom that roughly back-translates “dying under God” which means lifting up his name and praising him and to acknowledge by everything one does and thanks that God is superior.”) (Source: Anderson / Moore, p. 202)
  • Chokwe: kuivayila — “rub something on” (“When anyone goes into the presence of a king or other superior, according to native law and custom the inferior gets down on the ground, takes a little earth in the fingers of his right hand, rubs it on his own body, and then claps his hands in homage and the greeting of friendship. It is a token of veneration, of homage, of extreme gratitude for some favor received. It is also a recognition of kingship, lordship, and a prostrating of oneself in its presence. Yet it simply is the applicative form of ‘to rub something on oneself’, this form of the verb giving the value of ‘because of.’ Thus in God’s presence as king and Lord we metaphorically rub dirt on ourselves, thus acknowledging Him for what He really is and what He has done for us.”) (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff. )

In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.

complete verse (Acts 24:1)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 24:1:

  • Uma: “Five nights after that, Big Priest Ananias and several Yahudi leaders went to Kaisarea with a person who was smart at speaking, his name Tertulus. When they arrived there, they went to Governor Feliks presenting their accusation.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “After five days, Ananiyas, the leading priest, went to Kesarea together with a number of elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. They went before the governor and they stated their accusation against Paul.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Five days after that, the High Priest went to Caesarea along with some of the elders and a lawyer whose name was Tertullus. They came before Governor Felix and they told him their charges against Paul.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When five days had gone, the highest priest and some of the elders arrived at Cesarea. There was also a lawyer whom they took-along named Tertullus. They all went to where-Governor Felix -was to file-charges-against Pablo to him.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “After five days, the Most-important Priest Ananias arrived in Cesarea. His companions were the important tribal-leaders and Tertulo who was a lawyer. They then brought before the governor their case against Pablo.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

complete verse (Acts 24:11)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 24:11:

  • Uma: “You (sing.) may investigate it yourself, just twelve nights ago I went to Yerusalem to worship in the House of God.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “You can easily ascertain this, Sir, that it was only twelve days ago when/since I went-up to Awrusalam to pray there in the temple.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now if you check up on it, you will quickly come to know that twelve days ago, I went up to Jerusalem in order to worship.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “It is easy for you (sing.) to find-out that only twelve days have gone starting-from my having-gone to Jerusalem to go join-in-worshipping God.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Really supposing you ascertain-the-truth-of-it, you would know the truth that as for the length of time from when I arrived in Jerusalem to worship there, today is the twelfth day.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The name that is transliterated as “Jerusalem” in English is signed in French Sign Language with a sign that depicts worshiping at the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem” in French Sign Language (source: La Bible en langue des signes française )

While a similar sign is also used in British Sign Language, another, more neutral sign that combines the sign “J” and the signs for “place” is used as well. (Source: Anna Smith)

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

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.

Translation commentary on Acts 24:11

As you can find out for yourself refers back to the words of Tertullus in verse 8: if you question this man, you yourself will be able to learn…. The references to time in this section are rather vague, and exactly what Paul meant by twelve days is not clear. It is possible to understand this to mean that he had not been in Jerusalem for more than twelve days when they arrested him. However, most translations take it to mean a total of twelve days from the time Paul entered Jerusalem up to the hearing. This is arrived at by adding the seven days of 21.27 to the five days mentioned in 24.1.

To worship translates a verb which commentators point out as often having the meaning of “to go on a pilgrimage” (see Jerusalem Bible). It may be necessary in translating to worship to specify who was being worshiped—for example, “to worship God” or (since in some languages one may need to specify the place) “to worship in the temple.”

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 .