filled with the Holy Spirit, full with the Holy Spirit

The Greek that is rendered in English as “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full with the Holy Spirit” is translated in various ways:

  • Tboli: “the Holy Spirit is with / lives with one”
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “the Holy Spirit permeates one” (using a term said of medicines)
  • Cuyonon: “one is under the control of the Holy Spirit” (esp. Luke 4:1, Acts 7:55, Acts 11:24)
  • Ngäbere: “the full strength of the Holy Spirit stays in one”
  • Tae’ (translation of 1933): “one carries the Holy Spirit in his inner being” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Yamba and Bulu: “the Holy Spirit filled one’s heart” (source: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff.)
  • Rincón Zapotec: “the Holy Spirit comes to be completely with one”
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “one walks with the Holy Spirit of God”
  • Chuj: “God’s Spirit enters into one”
  • Morelos Nahuatl: “the Holy Spirit enters one’s heart to rule”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “God’s Spirit possesses one” / “in all the authority of the Holy Spirit”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “have the Holy Spirit (in one’s head and heart) very much” or “Holy Spirit enter one completely”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “one’s heart really obeyed what the Holy Spirit wanted”
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “one’s heart full of God’s Holy Spirit” (source for this and seven above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Yawa: “God’s Spirit gives one power” (source: Larry Jones)

The following story is relayed by Martha Duff Tripp as she led the translation of the New Testament into Yanesha’ (p. 310):

I continue to work with Casper Mountain [an Yanesha’ translator] on translation. As we start the book of Luke, we run into another problem. In Chapter 1, verse 15, the text reads (speaking of John the Baptist), “and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The Amueshas [Yanesha’s] have never associated their word for “fill” with anything except pots and baskets. How can a person be “filled”? Even their word for a full stomach is not the word for “fill.” We talk together about what “filled with the Holy Spirit” means (obsessed with or possessed by). The thought comes to me of what the Amueshas [Yanesha’s] say about the shaman. They say that he can “wear” the spirit of the tiger, that they can tell when he is wearing the tiger spirit because he then will act like a tiger. Their word for “wear” is the same word as to “wear or put on a garment.” Can this possibly be the way to say “filled with God’s Spirit”? As I cautiously question Casper about this, his face lights up immediately. “Yes, that is the way we would say it, he is ’wearing’ God’s Holy Spirit.”

Note that Cheyenne also uses the term for “wear” in these instances. (Source: Wayne Leman)

See also Holy Spirit.


The Greek that is translated as “wisdom” in English is rendered in Amganad Ifugao and Tabasco Chontal as “(big) mind,” in Bulu and Yamba as “heart thinking,” in Tae’ as “cleverness of heart” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Palauan as “bright spirit (innermost)” (source: Bratcher / Hatton), in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “with your best/biggest thinking” (source: Robert Bascom), and in Dobel, it is translated with the idiom “their ear holes are long-lasting” (in Acts 6:3) (source: Jock Hughes).

See also wisdom (Proverbs).

brother (fellow believer)

The Greek that is translated in English as “brother” (in the sense of a fellow believer), is translated with a specifically coined word in Kachin: “There are two terms for brother in Kachin. One is used to refer to a Christian brother. This term combines ‘older and younger brother.’ The other term is used specifically for addressing siblings. When one uses this term, one must specify if the older or younger person is involved. A parallel system exists for ‘sister’ as well. In [these verses], the term for ‘a Christian brother’ is used.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Martu Wangka it is translated as “relative” (this is also the term that is used for “follower.”) (Source: Carl Gross)

See also brothers.

complete verse (Acts 6:3)

Following are a number of back-translations of Acts 6:3:

  • Uma: “So, relatives, it is better that we choose from our companions seven people with good actions, who are controlled by the Holy Spirit, and who are wise [have clear hearts], so that to them we (excl.) give the work of supervising this matter of food.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So brothers,’ they said, ‘you must/should choose seven men from among you, men whom you really know are controlled/ruled-over by the Holy Spirit and who have deep knowledge. We (excl.) will give them this work.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Therefore, brethren,’ they said, ‘it would be good if you choose seven of our companions who are respected. It is necessary that the ones you choose must be men who are wise whom you know are thoroughly inspired by the Holy Spirit. And we will give to them the authority to divide up.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Therefore you siblings, choose seven intelligent men who are full of the power of the Holy Spirit and whose behavior is well spoken-of. It is they to-whom-we (excl.) -will-entrust the distribution of money,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Therefore now, it would be good for you to choose seven men whom we (excl.) will set up in this job/responsibility of being distributors. It’s necessary that those you choose are people recognized by all of you as being very obedient to the Espiritu Santo who indwells them and their wisdom/understanding is mature/full-strength.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Isthmus Mixe: “Then the twelve sent ones of Jesus ordered that the brethren gather together. Then they said: ‘It is not proper that we (excl.) distribute food. We will thus not be able to teach God’s word well.'”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “Then the twelve apostles gather all those who believed in our Lord Jesus and said: ‘It is not right that we should discontinue proclaiming God’s word in order to feed people.'” (Source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Acts 6:3)

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 the congregation of the disciples).

In some languages, including Chichimeca-Jonaz, Tepeuxila Cuicatec, or Huautla Mazatec, however, the translators selected the inclusive we.

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff. and Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.

W. R. Hutton (see The Bible Translator April 1953, p. 86ff.) who worked on the translation into Karbi says this: “In Acts 6:3 a matter of church government comes up. The Revised Standard Version has ‘whom we may appoint to this duty.’ Does the ‘we’ include those who do the picking in the first place as well as the Apostles? It is very likely the answers here will diverge along the lines of church polity and Baptists give one answer and Church of England folk another. It would be convenient not to have to take sides in a translation but for those of us who have an inclusive and an exclusive ‘we’ a decision has to be made.”