peace (being at peace)

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated into English as “peace” (or “at ease”) is (back-) translated with a variety of idioms and phrases:

complete verse (Ephesians 2:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of Ephesians 2:15:

  • Uma: “For Kristus, he is the one who unites-us / makes us at peace with God and with our companion. He gave his body to be killed to become our substitute/redemption, and with his death he freed us from the Law of the Yahudi religion with all its commands and orders. He did that in order to destroy the differences that come-between/separate the Yahudi people and those who are not Yahudi people like an earthen wall. So, we (excl.) Yahudi people along with you who are not Yahudi people, he united us / made us at peace. He united us in order to make us a new people/mankind who are connected with him. In that way Kristus made peace/unity.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Because of his death on the post, he has removed the authority of the law of the Yahudi including it’s commands. He has removed it so that we (excl.) the Yahudi and you the non Yahudi are of one liver now/already, equally trusting in him and are now/already reconciled.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “By means of His letting Himself be killed, He removed the necessity for us (incl.) to obey the Law left behind by Moses along with it’s doctrine so that we (incl.) who are two kinds of people, He might make us to be a new kind of people by means of our being made one by Him. And because of this our being against one another is removed.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because when he died on the cross, he terminated the law of the Jews which contained many rules so that he would become-the-only-one that we (excl.) Jews and you Gentiles would follow. So now, that is the basis-of-our -getting-along-together because he made-us -new by turning-us -into what is like a single body on account of our being joined to him. He did that in order that he would bring-us all -close to God.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Because he made-a-sacrifice-of his own body, in doing that he removed that trail/way of following/obeying the laws of Moises, the laws which told all the customs of the religion of us (excl.) Jews. Well since it’s like that all who believe/obey Cristo then became like just one blood-related-group in the sight of God, no matter what their nation. He really opened up the way of reconciliation.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Concerning the death of Christ, it was that which ended the authority of the law which commanded the customs followed by the Jews. Now the two groups of people who were enemies have been newly brought together and become one group only. Because now all walk with Christ. It is he who made peace between the.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

pronoun for "God"

God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is traditionally confined to “he” (or in the forms “his,” “him,” and “himself” in many English Bible translations when referring to the persons of the Trinity with the capitalized “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).

Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility (click or tap here to read more):

In modern Chinese, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (tā), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is “he,” 她 is “she,” and 它/牠 is “it” and their respective derivative forms). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.

In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande (王元德) coined a new “godly” pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: tā. But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that each person of the Trinity has no gender aside from being God.

While the most important Protestant and Catholic Chinese versions respectively have opted not to use 祂, many other Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. (Source: Zetzsche)

Early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970) also used 祂 to refer to “God.” Kramers points out: “This new way of writing ‘He,’ however, has created a minor problem of its own: must this polite form be used whenever Jesus is referred to? Lü follows the rule that, wherever Jesus is referred to as a human being, the normal ta (他) is written; where he is referred to as divine, especially after the ascension, the reverential ta (祂) is used.”

Source: R. P. Kramers in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.

In Kouya, Godié, Northern Grebo, Eastern Krahn, Western Krahn, and Guiberoua Béte, all languages of the Kru family in Western Africa, a different kind of systems of pronouns is used (click or tap here to read more):

In that system one kind of pronoun is used for humans (male and female alike) and one for natural elements, non-liquid masses, and some spiritual entities (one other is used for large animals and another one for miscellaneous items). While in these languages the pronoun for spiritual entities used to be employed when referring to God, this has changed into the use of the human pronoun.

Lynell Zogbo (in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 401ff) explains in the following way: “From informal discussions with young Christians especially, it would appear that, at least for some people, the experience and/or concepts of Christianity are affecting the choice of pronoun for God. Some people explain that God is no longer ‘far away,’ but is somehow tangible and personal. For these speakers God has shifted over into the human category.”

In Kouya, God (the Father) and Jesus are referred to with the human pronoun ɔ, whereas the Holy Spirit is referred to with a non-human pronoun. (Northern Grebo and Western Krahn make a similar distinction.)

Eddie Arthur, a former Kouya Bible translation consultant, says the following: “We tried to insist that this shouldn’t happen, but the Kouya team members were insistent that the human pronoun for the Spirit would not work.”

In Burmese, the pronoun ko taw (ကိုယ်တော်) is used either as 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (he, him, his) reference. “This term clearly has its root in the religious language in Burmese. No ordinary persons are addressed or known by this pronoun because it is reserved for Buddhist monks, famous religious teachers, and in the case of Christianity, the Trinity.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 202ff.)

The English “Contemporary Torah” addresses the question of God and gendered pronouns by mostly avoiding pronouns in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (unless God is referred to as “lord,” “father,” “kind,” or “warrior”). It does that by either using passive constructs (“He gave us” vs “we were given”), by using the adjective “divine” or by using “God” rather than a pronoun.

See also this chapter in the World Atlas of Language Structures on different approaches to personal pronouns.

Translation: Chinese





Translator: Simon Wong


The Greek that is translated in English as “Law” or “law” is translated in Mairasi as oro nasinggiei or “prohibited things” (source: Enggavoter 2004) and in Nyongar with a capitalized form of the term for “words” (Warrinya) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

In Yucateco the phrase that is used for “law” is “ordered-word” (for “commandment,” it is “spoken-word”) (source: Nida 1947, p. 198) and in Central Tarahumara it is “writing-command.” (wsource: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)