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. )

know for certain / shall know / learn / understand (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 Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “know for certain,” “shall know,” “learn,” or “understand” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-wakari (お分かり), combining “understand” (wakari) with the respectful prefix o-.

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

See also understand (Japanese honorifics) and understand / discern.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Acts 24:8)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

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 Felix).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

complete verse (Acts 24:8)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 24:8:

  • Uma: “And he commanded that whoever wanted to accuse him had to come here to Father Governor.]] So, when you (sing.) examine him, you (sing.) will hear for yourself from his own lips that all these accusations of ours(excl.) are true.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Then he commanded the accusers to come-here before you, Sir. If you examine this person, you will learn (lit. know) from him all (the things) that we (excl.) are accusing him of.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then Captain Lysias told us that we who are accusing Paul, we must come before you. If you investigate this person, you will come to learn also from him that true is everything we have come to accuse him of.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “while-simultaneously he commanded that we (excl.) come here to file-charges to you.] If you (sing.) try/investigate this-one, he will indeed make-known that all we (excl.) are saying is true,’ Tertullus said.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He also said that here before you is where we (excl.) were to bring our (excl.) case. Well now, if you will now interrogate him, you will comprehend that all this which we (excl.) are accusing him of is true.'” (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.

Translation commentary on Acts 24:8

In Greek, this verse is a continuation of the sentence begun in verse 7 and is actually a dependent clause. The Good News Translation has changed the participle “having given orders” to a finite verb with the subject stated explicitly: Lysias gave orders. The expression gave orders or “ordered” may require direct discourse—for example, “Lysias ordered us, You must accuse Paul before Governor Felix.”

The expression learn from him implies that what Lysias would learn would be that the accusations made by Tertullus against Paul were true. Therefore one may translate as “you will learn from him that all these things we are accusing him of are true.”

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 .

oneself (go-jishin) (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. When the referent is God or a person or persons to be honored, the honorific prefix go- (御 or ご) can be used, as in go-jishin (ご自身), a combination of “onseself” (jishin) and the honorific prefix go-. This can also be used for other reflexive pronouns (myself, himself, yourself etc.)

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