23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a minister of this gospel.
In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage:
the Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) translates as “all-transformative good news” (alles verändernde gute Botschaft), also “good news”
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):
“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”
Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )
“Hope is sometimes one of the most difficult terms to translate in the entire Bible. It is not because people do not hope for things, but so often they speak of hoping as simply ‘waiting.’ In fact, even in Spanish, the word esperar means both ‘to wait’ and ‘to hope.’ However, in many instances the purely neutral term meaning ‘to wait’ may be modified in such a way that people will understand something more of its significance. For example, in Tepeuxila Cuicatec hope is called ‘wait-desire.’ Hope is thus a blend of two activities: waiting and desiring. This is substantially the type of expectancy of which hope consists.
In Yucateco the dependence of hope is described by the phrase ‘on what it hangs.’ ‘Our hope in God’ means that ‘we hang onto God.’ The object of hope is the support of one’s expectant waiting.
In Ngäbere the phrase “resting the mind” is used. This “implies waiting and confidence, and what is a better definition of hope than ‘confident waiting’.” (Source for this and above: Nida 1952, p. 20, 133)
In Mwera “hope” and “faith” are translated with the same word: ngulupai. (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
Enlhet: “waitings of (our) innermost” (“innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind — for other examples see here) (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff. )
Kwang: “one’s future is restored to one’s soul like a fresh, cool breeze on a hot day.” (Source: Mark Vanderkooi right here )
Nyongar: koort-kwidiny or “heart waiting” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
Anjam: “looking through the horizon” (source: Albert Hoffmann in his memoirs from 1948, quoted in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 7)
“Unlike English, which uses the word hope broadly, the French language uses two words that derive from the word espérer (to hope): espoir and espérance. Both can first refer to something hoped for. In this sense, the word espoir usually refers to an uncertain object; that is, someone who hopes for something in this way does not have the certainty that it will happen (“I hope the weather will be nice tomorrow”). On the other hand, espérance describes what, rightly or wrongly, is hoped for or expected with certainty. It often refers to a philosophical or eschatological object (‘I hope in the goodness of human beings’; ‘I hope for the return of Jesus Christ’).
“When we speak of espoir or espérance, we then have in mind different types of objects hoped for. This difference matters, because both terms also commonly refer to the state of mind that characterizes the hopeful. And this state of mind will be different precisely according to the object hoped for.
“Having espoir for an uncertain yet better future in these difficult times may be a good thing, but it is not enough. Such hope can be disappointed and easily fade away when our wishes and expectations (our hopes) do not materialize.
“The opposite is true with espérance, which is deeper than our desire and wish for an end to a crisis or a future without pain and suffering. To face the trials of life, we need peace and joy in our hearts that come from expecting certain happiness. This is what espérance is: a profound and stable disposition resulting from faith in the coming of what we expect. In this sense, it is similar in meaning to the English word hopefulness.
“If we have believed in the Son of the living God, we have such a hope. It rests on the infallible promises of our God, who knows the plans he has for us, his children—plans of peace and not misfortune, to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). By using the two meanings of the word, we can say that the espérance that the fulfillment of his promises represents (the object hoped for) fills us with espérance (the state of mind).”
Following are a number of back-translations of Colossians 1:23:
Uma: “So, relatives, be faithful [lit., remain] believing, don’t budge, don’t permit anyone who wants to deceive you [to do so]. Hold on strongly to the teaching that you heard. Don’t stop trusting/hoping-for what God promised to you in the Good News. That Good News has been spread to all the world. And I also have become the Lord’s servant/ordered-one, spreading that news.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “But you must continue to remain/stay with Isa Almasi. Don’t move from him and you should continue to hope/expect all which God promised which is told in the good news you have heard. This good news is already proclaimed to all people here in the world and I, Paul, that is my work to proclaim this.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “However, it’s necessary that you not abandon your faith in the true doctrine, but rather, strengthen your faith and continue your expecting of all that God has promised that you heard about long ago when the Good News was taught to you. This which is called the Good News was spread to people everywhere; as for me, Paul, I was sent so that I might spread the Good News.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “But you must of course persevere in believing without doubting and going-astray, and you must not be persuaded to distance-yourselves from our hope that the good news talks-about. Because this good news that you have heard, it is the same as what has-been-newsed-from-one-to-another throughout the entire world, and that indeed also is what I have been preaching in my service of Cristo.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “But also, you need to hold fast in your believing/obeying so that it will be sturdy and really firmly-grounded, that your assurance of the reward that the Good News promises will not move even a little bit. This Good News, that indeed is what was taught to you in the past, and now has also been taught to many different nations of people here under heaven. According to the Lord’s determined-plan he made me, I who am Pablo, one of his servants in teaching this.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Tenango Otomi: “But it is necessary that we endeavor to make firm our faith which we have. And do not doubt concerning the good news which was told to you. This is the word which is told all over the world. And also this is the word which I, Paul, preach to the people.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
Translations of the Greek pistis and its various forms that are typically translated as “faith” in English (itself deriving from Latin “fides,” meaning “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence”) and “believe” (from Old English belyfan: “to have faith or confidence in a person”) cover a wide range of approaches.
Bratcher and Nida say this (1961, p. 38) (click or tap here to read more):
“Since belief or faith is so essentially an intimate psychological experience, it is not strange that so many terms denoting faith should be highly figurative and represent an almost unlimited range of emotional ‘centers’ and descriptions of relationships, e.g. ‘steadfast his heart’ (Chol), ‘to arrive on the inside’ (Chicahuaxtla Triqui), ‘to conform with the heart’ (Uab Meto), ‘to join the word to the body’ (Uduk), ‘to hear in the insides’ (or ‘to hear within one’s self and not let go’ – Nida 1952) (Laka), ‘to make the mind big for something’ (Sapo), ‘to make the heart straight about’ (Mitla Zapotec), ‘to cause a word to enter the insides’ (Lacandon), ‘to leave one’s heart with’ (Baniwa), ‘to catch in the mind’ (Ngäbere), ‘that which one leans on’ (Vai), ‘to be strong on’ (Shipibo-Conibo), ‘to have no doubts’ (San Blas Kuna), ‘to hear and take into the insides’ (Kare), ‘to accept’ (Pamona).”
Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap here to read more):
Yala: ɔtū che or “place heart” (in John 5:24; 5:45; 6:35; 6:47; 12:36; 14:1); other translations include chɛ̄ or “to agree/accept” and chɛ̄ku or “to agree with/accept with/take side with” (source: Linus Otronyi)
Awabakal: ngurruliko: “to know, to perceive by the ear” (as distinct from knowing by sight or by touch — source: Lake, p. 70) (click or tap here to read more)
“[The missionary translator] Lancelot Threlkeld learned that Awabakal, like many Australian languages, made no distinction between knowing and believing. Of course the distinction only needs to be made where there are rival systems of knowing. The Awabakal language expressed a seamless world. But as the stress on ‘belief’ itself suggests, Christianity has always existed in pluralist settings. Conversion involves deep conviction, not just intellectual assent or understanding. (…) Translating such texts posed a great challenge in Australia. Threlkeld and [his indigenous colleague] Biraban debated the possibilities at length. In the end they opted not to introduce a new term for belief, but to use the Awabakal ngurruliko, meaning ‘to know, to perceive by the ear,’ as distinct from knowing by sight or by touch.”
Language in southern Nigeria: a word based on the idiom “lose feathers.” Randy Groff in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 65 explains (click or tap here to read more):
What does losing feathers have to do with faith? [The translator] explained that there is a species of bird in his area that, upon hatching its eggs, loses its feathers. During this molting phase, the mother bird is no longer able to fly away from the nest and look for food for her hungry hatchlings. She has to remain in the nest where she and her babies are completely dependent upon the male bird to bring them food. Without the diligent, dependable work of the male bird, the mother and babies would all die. This scenario was the basis for the word for faith in his language.
Teribe: mär: “pick one thing and one thing only” (source: Andy Keener)
Luba-Katanga: Twi tabilo: “echo” (click or tap here to read more)
“Luba-Katanga word for ‘Faith’ in its New Testament connotation is Twi tabilo. This word means ‘echo,’ and the way in which it came to be adapted to the New Testament meaning gives a very good idea of the way in which the translator goes to work. One day a missionary was on a journey through wild and mountainous country. At midday he called his African porters to halt, and as they lay resting in the shade from the merciless heat of the sun. an African picked up a stone and sent it ricocheting down the mountain-side into the ravine below. After some seconds the hollow silence was broken by a plunging, splashing sound from the depths of the dark river-bed. As the echo died away the African said in a wondering whisper ‘Twi tabilo, listen to it.’ So was a precious word captured for the service of the Gospel in its Luba Christian form. Twi tabilo — ‘faith which is the echo of God’s voice in the depths of human sinful hearts, awakened by God Himself, the answer to his own importunate call.’ The faith that is called into being by the divine initiative, God’s own gift to the responsive heart! (Source: Wilfred Bradnock in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 49ff. )
The Venda term u tenda, lutendo. This term corresponds to the terms ho dumela (Southern Sotho), and ku pfumela (Tsonga) that have been used in these translations of the Bible, and means “to assent,” “to agree to a suggestion.” It is important to understand this term in the context of the character of the people who use it.
The way in which the Venda use this term reveals much about the priority of interpersonal relationships among them. They place a much higher priority on responding in the way they think they are expected to respond than on telling the truth. Smooth interpersonal relationships, especially with a dominant individual or group, take precedence over everything else.
It is therefore regarded as bad form to refuse directly when asked for something one does not in fact intend to give. The correct way is to agree, u tenda, and then forget about it or find some excuse for not keeping to the agreement. Thus u tenda does not necessarily convey the information that one means what one says. One can tenda verbally while heartily disagreeing with the statement made or having no intention whatsoever to carry out what one has just promised to do. This is not regarded as dishonesty, but is a matter of politeness.
The term u sokou tenda, “to consent reluctantly,” is often used for expressing the fatalistic attitude of the Venda in the face of misfortune or force which he is unable to resist.
The form lutendo was introduced by missionaries to express “faith.”
According to the rules of derivations and their meanings in the lu-class, it should mean “the habit of readily consenting to everything.” But since it is a coined word which does not have a clearly defined set of meanings in everyday speech, it has acquired in church language a meaning of “steadfastness in the Christian life.” Una lutendo means something like “he is steadfast in the face of persecution.” It is quite clear that the term u tenda has no element of “trust” in it. (…)
In “The Christian Minister” of July 1969 we find the following statement about faith by Albert N. Martin: “We must never forget that one of the great issues which the Reformers brought into focus was that faith was something more than an ‘assensus,’ a mere nodding of the head to the body of truth presented by the church as ‘the faith.’ The Reformers set forth the biblical concept that faith was ‘fiducia.’ They made plain that saving faith involved trust, commitment, a trust and commitment involving the whole man with the truth which was believed and with the Christ who was the focus of that truth. The time has come when we need to spell this out clearly in categorical statements so that people will realize that a mere nodding of assent to the doctrines that they are exposed to is not the essence of saving faith. They need to be brought to the understanding that saving faith involves the commitment of the whole man to the whole Christ, as Prophet, Priest and King as he is set forth in the gospel.”
We quote at length from this article because what Martin says of the current concept of faith in the Church is even to a greater extent true of the Venda Church, and because the terms used for communicating that concept in the Venda Bible cannot be expected to communicate anything more than “a mere nodding of assent”. I have during many years of evangelistic work hardly ever come across a Venda who, when confronted with the gospel, would not say, Ndi khou tenda, “I admit the truth of what you say.” What they really mean when saying this amounts to, “I believe that God exists, and I have no objection to the fact that he exists. I suppose that the rest of what you are talking about is also true.” They would often add, Ndi sa tendi hani-hani? “Just imagine my not believing such an obvious fact!” To the experienced evangelist this is a clear indication that his message is rejected in so far as it has been understood at all! To get a negative answer, one would have to press on for a promise that the “convert” will attend the baptism class and come to church on Sundays, and even then he will most probably just tenda in order to get rid of the evangelist, whether he intends to come or not. Isn’t that what u tenda means? So when an inexperienced and gullible white man ventures out on an evangelistic campaign with great enthusiasm, and with great rejoicing returns with a list of hundreds of names of persons who “believed”, he should not afterwards blame the Venda when only one tenth of those who were supposed to be converts actually turn up for baptismal instruction.
Moreover, it is not surprising at all that one often comes across church members of many years’ standing who do not have any assurance of their salvation or even realise that it is possible to have that assurance. They are vhatendi, “consenters.” They have consented to a new way of life, to abandoning (some of) the old customs. Lutendo means to them at most some steadfastness in that new way of life.
The concept of faith in religion is strange to Africa. It is an essential part of a religion of revelation such as Christianity or Islam, but not of a naturalistic religion such as Venda religion, in which not faith and belief are important, but ritual, and not so much the content of the word as the power of it.
The terms employed in the Venda Bible for this vital Christian concept have done nothing to effect a change in the approach of the Venda to religion.
It is a pity that not only in the Venda translation has this been the case, but in all the other Southern Bantu languages. In the Nguni languages the term ukukholwa, “to believe a fact,” has been used for pisteuo, and ukholo, the deverbative of ukukholwa, for pistis. In some of the older Protestant translations in Zulu, but not in the new translation, the term ithemba, “trust”, has been used.
Some languages, including Santali, have two terms — like English (see above) — to differentiate a noun from a verb form. Biswạs is used for faith, whereas pạtiạu for “believe.” R.M. Macphail (in The Bible Translator 1961, p. 36ff. ) explains this choice: “While there is little difference between the meaning and use of the two in everyday Santali, in which any word may be used as a verb, we felt that in this way we enriched the translation while making a useful distinction, roughly corresponding to that between ‘faith’ and ‘to believe’ in English.”
Likewise, in Nyongar, koort-karni or “heart truth” is used for the noun (“faith”) and djinang-karni or “see true” for the verb (“believe”) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).
Without a full stop, Paul qualifies the statement made in verse 22, since it is imperative that the Colossians recognize that they are not just passive objects of God’s reconciling work, but must actively do their part in maintaining the state in which they now find themselves. In effect he says, “this is true if you continue….” This type of contrast between the contents of verse 23 and verse 22 may also be expressed as “but you must certainly continue.”
Faithful translates the dative “(in) the faith,” and some (Revised Standard VersionMoffattPhillipsJerusalem Bible) take it as a reference to the Christian faith, that is, “in your faith” (Lightfoot, Abbott; see New International VersionNew English BibleBarclayTranslator’s New Testament). New American Bible “hold steadfast to faith,” Traduction œcuménique de la Biblepar la foi, presumably, “by means of the faith,” Goodspeed “the exercise of faith.” The implied object of faithful is probably “the gospel”; it is not likely that here the primary reference would be God or Christ. In view of the fact that in so many languages it is necessary to make explicit what is the goal or object of “faith,” one may, in this instance say “continue to put your trust in the good news” or “continue to have confidence in the gospel.”
On a firm and sure foundation translates a perfect passive participle “having been placed and remaining on a foundation” (as in Eph 3.17; see the verb also in Matt 7.25), followed by the adjective “firm, steadfast.” The foundation is to be understood as the mighty work of God in salvation, as proclaimed by the gospel.
Though the figurative expression of foundation is readily perceived and understood in the cultures of western Europe, America, and some parts of Asia, this is not true of many other regions in the world, where houses normally do not have foundations, and there seems nothing especially “firm and sure” about a foundation. One can use a type of simile with an expanded phrase such as “as it were, on something on which a house is built” but this becomes both awkward and often meaningless. It may be better in many cases to drop the figure of foundation and use merely “continue to have confidence in the gospel and thus be firm and secure.” In some languages, an equivalent metaphor is to be found in expressions relating to the central pole of a house, for example, “as unmovable as the central pole.” Other languages may use the figure of a stone consisting essentially of bedrock, that is to say, stone which is part of a rock outcrop. One might, therefore, substitute a metaphor such as “firm and secure as bedrock.” Since such a metaphor parallels substantially the concept of foundation, it may be quite appropriate.
Again, there is no point in trying to determine who is the actor in this “foundation laying”; the participle, acting as an adjective, simply means “on a firm foundation.” The thought is further expressed in the negative form and not allow yourselves to be shaken from. The verb (which occurs only here in the NT) means “to remove from”; Good News Translation and others (PhillipsNew International VersionNew English BibleTraduction œcuménique de la Bible) take it as a passive, but it may be understood as a middle; Moffatt “instead of shifting from,” Goodspeed “and never shift from,” Twentieth Century New Testament “never abandoning,” Translator’s New Testament “do not shift from,” Jerusalem Bible “never letting yourselves drift away.”
To be shaken is in evident contrast with being firm, but it may be extremely difficult to understand the relationship between to be shaken and hope. Therefore, it may be necessary to say “you must not permit yourselves to be shaken and thus no longer to have the hope” or “… to lose your hope.”
“The hope of the gospel” (Revised Standard Version) is the hope the gospel brings to those who believe it, that is, of God’s full and final deliverance in the future. Jerusalem Bible “the hope promised by the Good News.” The hope you gained when you heard the gospel may be expressed as “the hope that became yours when you heard the gospel.” However, if hope must be expressed as a verb, then it may be possible to say “to be shaken and hence no longer hope as you did when you heard the gospel.”
Having mentioned the gospel, Paul says two things about it: (1) “it has been preached to every creature under heaven” (Revised Standard Version), a biblical way of saying to everybody in the world, which is, of course, a rhetorical statement not to be taken literally; it speaks simply of the widespread dissemination of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Goodspeed “all over the world,” Translator’s New Testament “through the whole world,” Jerusalem Bible “the whole human race.” The verb “to preach” is the one used normally in the NT to describe the proclamation of the Good News. No word should be used which, like, “preach” in English, suggests a formal church service; the verb means “to announce,” “to proclaim” as a herald who went around announcing matters of importance. (2) Paul says also of the gospel, “I became its servant” (see also Eph 3.7, 2 Cor 3.6).
Despite the exaggeration suggested in the literary figure which has been preached to everybody in the world, it is important to reflect, in so far as possible, this type of statement made by Paul. However, the passive expression must often be changed into an active one, and this means introducing an agent, for example, “this gospel which various persons have announced to everyone in the world.” It would be inappropriate to introduce “apostles,” since obviously a great deal of the spreading of the gospel was performed by other persons. Therefore, some kind of indefinite subject is preferable.
The word servant (diakonos) in Colossians (also in 1.7, 25; 4.7) usually describes a relationship with a person or with God, or with an organization, such as the church (see 1.24-25, below); rarely is it used, as here, with an impersonal object (compare 2 Cor 3.6 “servants of the new covenant,” Gal 2.17 “servant of sin,” 1 Peter 1.12 the prophets “were serving” the news about the Messiah’s suffering and glory). Paul characterizes his work as that of serving the gospel, meaning that his work was that of proclaiming, spreading, announcing the Good News. The noun “minister” (MoffattPhillipsNew English Bible) in American English may be misunderstood as a person ordained to an ecclesiastical position. In view of the unusual relationship between servant and gospel, it may be necessary to specify the precise relationship as “my work has been to announce this gospel” or perhaps “my task as a servant has been to proclaim this good news.”
Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1977. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .