In the instances where the Greek New Testament says Christos Iēsous (Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς) rather than the more common Iēsous Christos and English translations typically translate as “Christ Jesus,” the Bokyi translation says Jisos Karâs or “Jesus Christ.”
“Bokyi is a rather small language in the Cross River State of Nigeria. In one Bokyi village named Bansan the oldest man’s name is Otu Obyi. There is another man in another Bokyi village named Obyi Otu. Even though these two men share the same names every Bokyi person knows that they are two different people because of the order in which their names are used.
“If you are a translator and your language uses this same method of naming people, you can not sometimes write Jesus Christ in your translation and sometimes write Christ Jesus, and still refer to the same person. It will refer to two different people. You should always write Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus, but not both. You will have to decide which order is the most natural in your language.”
Bawm build with bamboo and thatch in their mountainous forests. They made the apostles and prophets become the roof ridge pole and Jesus the central uprights which support it. I asked why not the corner uprights since Greek has a term that is translated in English as ‘cornerstone.’ Bawm translators responded that the central uprights are more important than the corner ones, and Greek refers to the most important stone. (“Corner uprights” used in 1Tim 3:15.) (Source: David Clark)
In Mono, translators used “main post,” in Martu Wangka “two forked sticks with another long strong stick laid across” (see also 1 Peter 2:6-7.), and in Arrernte, the translation in 1Pet 2:7 (in English translation: “the stone . . . became the very cornerstone”) was rendered as “the foundation… continues to be the right foundation.” (Source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
Likewise, in Uripiv it also is the “post” (source: Ross McKerras) as well as in Sabaot (source Jim Leonhard in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 50)
Shuar translates as “that stone was placed to the main house pole.” The Shuar use stones in house building either at the bottom of the posthole as a base for the house pole to rest on, or as chocking material around the post to hold it firm. Either function is acceptable here particularly as applied to the main house-pole. In Ocotlán Zapotec it is “master stone of the house.” This is a special stone they put into the foundation as sort of a guide stone of how the foundation is to true up. (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)
Following are a number of back-translations of Ephesians 2:20:
Uma: “We who believe Yesus may be compared to a house that is built by God. The messengers/apostles of the Lord Yesus and the prophets, they are the main beams and posts. And Kristus Yesus, he is the foundation stone.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “We (incl.) all are figuratively like a house. Isa Almasi is the stone for standing the house on. The posts of the house are the apostles (commissioned ones) and the prophets.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And as for us (incl.) believers, we are like a house which God is setting up on a stone. Christ is the stone that the posts of this house are set upon. The apostles and the prophets of God, they are the posts. And you are some of the materials of the house.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “So you also, you can be compared to parts of a temple which God is making. The apostles and God’s spokesmen (lit. those-through-whom-God -speaks), they are the ones who can be compared to the foundation of this temple, and Cristo Jesus is the most-valuable/important stone at the corner of the foundation which causes-to-be-firm/stable the entire temple.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “The likeness of us believers is, like a building which has a firm-foundation. Cristo Jesus is this on which it is firmly-founded, he being the one giving far-from-ordinary durability to the building. Those apostles and prophets of his, they are like the posts of this building. And you are like its other components.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Tenango Otomi: “There where a house is being built to be a church, there the stone work is begun, there accompany many stones to make up the stone wall for the church of God. You are the stones which make up the wall of the church. Concerning Christ, he is the stone which began the wall. The ones who are his representatives and those who are spokesmen for God are the stones which first went to build the house. And now, because of Christ, the people who are not Jews now accompany all those who believe in Christ. Because with all of us the Holy Spirit now walks.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
The Greek Christos (Χρηστός) is typically transliterated when it appears together with Iésous (Ἰησοῦς) (Jesus). In English the transliteration is the Anglicized “Christ,” whereas in many other languages it is based on the Greek or Latin as “Kristus,” “Cristo,” or similar.
When used as a descriptive term in the New Testament — as it’s typically done in the gospels (with the possible exceptions of for instance John 1:17 and 17:3) — Christos is seen as the Greek translation of the Hebrew mashiaḥ (המשיח) (“anointed”). Accordingly, a transliteration of mashiaḥ is used, either as “Messiah” or based on the Greek or Latin as a form of “Messias.”
This transliteration is also used in the two instances where the Greek term Μεσσίας (Messias) is used in John 1:41 and 4:25.
In some languages and some translations, the term “Messiah” is supplemented with an explanation. Such as in the GermanGute Nachricht with “the Messiah, the promised savior” (Wir haben den Messias gefunden, den versprochenen Retter) or in Muna with “Messiah, the Saving King” (Mesias, Omputo Fosalamatino) (source: René van den Berg).
In predominantly Muslim areas or for Bible translations for a Muslim target group, Christos is usually transliterated from the Arabic al-Masih (ٱلْمَسِيحِ) — “Messiah.” In most cases, this practice corresponds with languages that also use a form of the Arabic Isa (عيسى) for Jesus (see Jesus). There are some exceptions, though, including modern translations in Arabic which use Yasua (يَسُوعَ) (coming from the Aramaic Yēšūa’) alongside a transliteration of al-Masih, Hausa which uses Yesu but Almahisu, and some Fula languages (Adamawa Fulfulde, Nigerian Fulfulde, and Central-Eastern Niger Fulfulde) which also use a form of Iésous (Yeesu) but Almasiihu (or Almasiifu) for Christos.
Binumarien: Anutuna: originally a term that was used for a man that was blessed by elders for a task by the laying on of hands (source: Desmond Oatridges, Holzhausen 1991, p. 49f.)
Nyongar: Keny Boolanga-Yira Waangki-Koorliny: “One God is Sending” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
Uab Meto: Neno Anan: “Son of heaven” P. Middelkoop explains: “The idea of heavenly power bestowed on a Timorese king is rendered in the title Neno Anan. It is based on the historical fact that chiefs in general came from overseas and they who come thence are believed to have come down from heaven, from the land beyond the sea, that means the sphere of God and the ghosts of the dead. The symbolical act of anointing has been made subservient to the revelation of an eternal truth and when the term Neno Anan is used as a translation thereof, it also is made subservient to a new revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The very fact that Jesus came from heaven makes this translation hit the mark.” (Source: P. Middelkoop in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 183ff. )
In Finnish Sign Language both “Christ” and “Messiah” are translated with sign signifying “king.” (Source: Tarja Sandholm)
“Christ / Messiah” in Finnish Sign Language (source )
Law (2013, p. 97) writes about how the Ancient GreekSeptuagint‘s translation of the Hebrew mashiah was used by the New Testament writers as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments (click or tap here to read more):
“Another important word in the New Testament that comes from the Septuagint is christos, ‘Christ.’ Christ is not part of the name of the man from Nazareth, as if ‘the Christs’ were written above the door of his family home. Rather, ‘Christ’ is an explicitly messianic title used by the writers of the New Testament who have learned this word from the Septuagint’s translation of the Hebrew mashiach, ‘anointed,’ which itself is often rendered in English as ‘Messiah.’ To be sure, one detects a messianic intent on the part of the Septuagint translator in some places. Amos 4:13 may have been one of these. In the Hebrew Bible, God ‘reveals his thoughts to mortals,’ but the Septuagint has ‘announcing his anointed to humans.’ A fine distinction must be made, however, between theology that was intended by the Septuagint translators and that developed by later Christian writers. In Amos 4:13 it is merely possible we have a messianic reading, but it is unquestionably the case that the New Testament writers exploit the Septuagint’s use of christos, in Amos and elsewhere, to messianic ends.”
Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:
“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)
Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):
“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)
“In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, Joseph is told that when Mary gives birth to a son ‘you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (1:21). This name is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name [Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ) which is a short form of a name meaning] ‘the Lord [Yahweh] saves.’ The name is very significant and is in itself especially dear to Christians around the world. (…) Unquestionably great importance is attached to the name of Jesus by Christians of all persuasions and backgrounds.”
While Iēsous (pronounced: /i.ɛː.suːs/) is transliterated as “Jesus” (pronounced /ˈdʒiːzəs/) in English (but was translated as “Hælend” [the “healing one”] in Old English — see Swain 2019) it is transliterated and pronounced in a large variety of other ways as well, following the different rules of different languages’ orthographies, writing systems and rules of pronunciation. The following is a (partial) list of forms of Jesus in Latin characters: aYeso, Azezi, Cecoc, Chesús, Chi̍i̍sū, Ciisahs, Ciise, Ciisusu, Djesu, Ɛisa, Ƹisa, Eyesu, Gesù, Gesû, Gesü, Ġesù, Ghjesù, Giêsu, ꞌGiê‑ꞌsu, Giê-xu, Gyisɛse, Hesu, Hesús, Hisuw, Ià-sŭ, Ié:sos, Iesu, Iesui, Iesusɨn, Iesusiva, Ié:sos, Ihu, Iisus, Ijeesu, iJisọsị, Iji̍sɔ̄ɔsi, Iosa, Íosa, Ìosa, İsa, I’sa, Isiso, Ísu, Isus, Isusa, Iisussa, Isuthi, Itota, Îtu, Isuva, Izesu, Izesuq, Jasus, Jeeju, Jeesus, Jeesus, Jeezas, Jehu, Jeisu, Jeju, Jejus, Jeso, Jesoe, Jesosa, Jesoshi, Jesosy, Jesu, Jesû, Jesua, Jesuh, Jesús, Jésus, Jesúsu, Jethu, Jezed, Jezi, Jézi, Ježiš, Jezu, Jezus, Jézus, Jėzus, Jēzus, Jezusi, Jėzus, Jezuz, Jíísas, Jiizas, Jiijajju, Jisas, Jisase, Jisasi, Jisasɨ, Jisasɨ, Jisaso, Jisesi, Jisɛ̀, Jisos, Jisọs, Jisɔs, Jisu, Jiszs, Jizọs, Jizɔs, Jizọsi, Jizọsu, Jòso, Jusu, Jweesus, Ketsutsi, Njises, Sesi, Sisa, Sísa, Sisas, Sīsū, Sizi, Txesusu, uJesu, Ujísɔ̄si, ŵaYesu, Xesosi, ´Xesús, Xesús, Yasu, Ya:su, Ɣaysa, Yecu, Yeeb Sub, Yeeh Suh, Yeesey, Yeeso, Yeesso, Yēēsu, Yēēsu, Yehsu, Yëësu, Yeisu, Yeisuw, Yeshu, Yeso, Yesò, Yëso, Yɛso, ye-su, Yésu, Yêsu, Yẹ́sụ̃, Yésʉs, Yeswa, Yet Sut, Yetut, Yexus, Yezo, Yezu, Yiisu, Yiitju, Yis, Yisɔs, Yisufa, Yitati, Yusu, ‑Yusu, :Yusu’, Zeezi, Zezi, Zezì, Zezwii, Ziizɛ, Zîsɛ, Zjezus, Zozi, Zozii, and this (much more incomplete) list with other writings systems: ᔩᓱᓯ, ᒋᓴᔅ, Հիսուս, ᏥᏌ, ኢየሱስ, ያሱስ, ܝܫܘܥ, Ісус, Їисъ, 耶稣, იესო, ईसा, イエス, イイスス, イエスス, 예수, येशू, येशो, ਈਸਾ, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ජේසුස්, যীশু, ଯୀଶୁ, ཡེ་ཤུ་, ‘ঈছা, இயேசு, ಯೇಸು, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ယေရှု, ઇસુ, जेजू, येसु, เยซู, យេស៊ូ, ᱡᱤᱥᱩ, ယေသှု, యేసు, ᤕᤧᤛᤢ᤺ᤴ, އީސާގެފާނު, ਯਿਸੂ, ꕉꖷ ꔤꕢ ꕞ, ⵏ⵿ⵗⵢⵙⴰ, ଜୀସୁ, يَسُوعَ,ㄧㄝㄙㄨ, YE-SU, ꓬꓰ꓿ꓢꓴ, 𖽃𖽡𖾐𖼺𖽹𖾏𖼽𖽔𖾏, ꑳꌠ, ᠶᠡᠰᠦᠰ (note that some of these might not display correctly if your device does not have the correct fonts installed).
Click or tap here to read more.
In some languages the different confessions have selected different transliterations, such as in Belarusian with Isus (Ісус) by the Orthodox and Protestant churches and Yezus (Езус) by the Catholic church, Bulgarian with Iisus (Иисус) by the Orthodox and Isus (Исус) by the Protestant church, Japanese with Iesu (イエス) (Protestant and Catholic) and Iisusu (イイスス) (Orthodox), or Lingala with Yesu (Protestant) or Yezu (Catholic). These differences have come to the forefront especially during the work on interconfessional translations such as one in Lingala where “many hours were spent on a single letter difference” (source: Ellington, p. 401).
In Chinese where transliterations of proper names between the Catholic and Protestant versions typically differ vastly, the Chinese name of Jesus (Yēsū 耶稣) remarkably was never brought into question between and by those two confessions, likely due to its ingenious choice. (Click or tap here to see more).
The proper name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh (YHWH), is rendered in most Chinese Bible translations as Yēhéhuá 耶和華 — Jehovah. According to Chinese naming conventions, Yēhéhuá could be interpreted as Yē Héhuá, in which Yē would be the family name and Héhuá — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, Yē 耶 would be the family name of Jesus and Sū 稣 would be his given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, Jehovah, would be illustrated through this. Though this line of argumentation sounds theologically unsound, it is indeed used effectively in the Chinese church (see Wright 1953, p. 298).
Moreover, the “given name” of Sū 稣 carries the meaning ‘to revive, to rise again’ and seems to point to the resurrected Jesus. (Source: J. Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff., see also tetragrammaton (YHWH))
There are different ways that Bible translators have chosen historically and today in how to translate the name of Jesus in predominantly Muslim areas: with a form of the Arabic Isa (عيسى) (which is used for “Jesus” in the Qur’an), the Greek Iēsous, or, like major 20th century Bible translations into Standard Arabic, the Aramaic Yēšūaʿ: Yasua (يَسُوعَ). (Click or tap here to see more.)
Following are languages and language groups that use a form of Isa include the following (note that this list is not complete):
Some languages have additional “TAZI” editions (TAZI stands for “Tawrat, Anbiya, Zabur, and Injil” the “Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospel”) of the New Testament that are geared towards Muslim readers where there is also a translation in the same language for non-Muslims. In those editions, Isa is typically used as well (for example, the Khmer TAZI edition uses Isa (អ៊ីសា) rather than the commonly used Yesaou (យេស៊ូ), the Thai edition uses Isa (อีซา) rather than Yesu (เยซู), the Chinese edition uses Ěrsā (尔撒) vs. Yēsū (耶稣), and the English edition also has Isa rather than Jesus.)
In German the name Jesus (pronounced: /ˈjeːzʊs/) is distinguished by its grammatical forms. Into the 20th century the grammatical rules prescribed a unique Greek-Latin declination: Jesus (nominative), Jesu (genitive, dative, vocative), Jesum (accusative), from which today only the genitive case “Jesu” is still in active use. Likewise, in Seediq (Taroko), the morphological treatment of “Jesus” also occupies a special category by not falling under the normal rule of experiencing a vowel reduction when the object-specific suffix an is added “since it was felt that the readers might resent that the name has been changed that drastically.” (Compare Msian for “Moses” (Mosi) as an object, but Yisuan for “Jesus” (Yisu).) (Source: Covell 1998. p. 249)
In Lamba the name ŵaYesu consists of a transliteration Yesu and the prefix ŵa, a plural form for “proper names when addressing and referring to persons in any position of seniority or honor.” While this was avoided in early translations to avoid possible misunderstandings of more than one Jesus, once the church was established it was felt that it was both “safe” and respectful to use the honorific (pl.) prefix. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff. )
The style of the following drawing of Jesus by Annie Vallotton is described by the artist as this: “By using few lines the readers fill in the outlines with their imagination and freedom. That is when the drawings begin to communicate.” (see here )
Illustration by Annie Vallotton, copyright by Donald and Patricia Griggs of Griggs Educational Service.
Following is the oldest remaining Ethiopian Orthodox icon of Jesus from the 14th or possibly 13th century (found in the Church of the Saviour of the World in Gurji, Ethiopia). As in many Orthodox icons, Jesus’ right hand forms the Greek letters I-C-X-C for IHCOYCXPICTOC or “Jesus Christ.”
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 )
In Greek this verse continues without a break from verse 19; the Greek aorist passive participle “having been built” is dependent on the main verb “you are” in verse 19 and represents the condition or manner of the readers’ new situation as full members of the Kingdom and family of God. The figure is now that of a building, which carries through verse 22 (verse 20 “build upon”; verse 21 “building”; verse 22 “build together with”). The Greek text says simply “(you) having been built upon”; Good News Translation has You, too are built upon (also Bible en français courant) in anticipation of what is explicitly stated in verse 22, “you are built together with,” and in order to make clear that the experience of Gentile Christians is the same as that of Jewish Christians and not different and separate from it. Jerusalem Bible, Translator’s New Testament have “you are part of a building”; Traduction œcuménique de la Bible “you have been integrated into the building.”
If a time reference is explicit in the aorist participle it is, as Abbott says, to the time when they became Christians.
The figure of a building is expressed by two features: the foundation and the cornerstone. As to the former, the Greek has simply the genitive construction, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” which may mean one of four things:
(1) the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets: Bengel, Salmond; Good News Translation, Twentieth Century New Testament, New English Bible, Bible en français courant, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch, Biblia Dios Habla Hoy, Nova Tradução na Linguagem de Hoje
(2) the foundation which consists of the apostles and prophets: Abbott, Dodd, Furnish, Robinson, Murray, Beare, Barth; Good News Translation margin, New English Bible margin, Barclay, Traduction œcuménique de la Bible, Moffatt, Goodspeed, New American Bible, Bible de Jérusalem, Jerusalem Bible, Phillips
(3) the foundation upon which the apostles and prophets are built: Alford
(4) the foundation upon which the apostles and prophets have built: Beza
As is to be seen, the majority of commentators and translators prefer number 2, taking “of the apostles and prophets” to be a genitive of apposition (to “the foundation”). Simply to translate “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (as do Revised Standard Version, Translator’s New Testament, New International Version) is to say in English that the foundation belonged to the apostles and prophets.
Apostles may refer in a restricted sense to the twelve immediate followers and companions of Jesus; more probably it refers to the wider group, which included people like Paul (see 1.1).
Prophets are probably New Testament prophets, people who delivered God’s message in Christian worship, and not Old Testament prophets; but it should be said that the fact that apostles comes before prophets, and that both are governed by one definite article, does not prove that these prophets are not Old Testament prophets. The same phrase occurs in 3.5, where the prophets are, undeniably, Christian prophets.
The bold metaphor which speaks of the believers as being built upon the foundation is something which must often be made a simile in order for the reader to immediately understand that this is a figure of speech, for example, “you, too, have been built, so to speak, upon the foundation.” In some languages the foundation is simply “the stones on which a house is built.”
The phrase laid by the apostles and prophets may be translated as “the apostles and the prophets laid the foundation” or “… made the foundation.” For a treatment of the term apostle see 1.1.
A typical and effective term for prophets is “those who speak on behalf of God” or “those who proclaim God’s word” or “… God’s message.”
If one assumes that the foundation consists of the apostles and prophets, then the figure of speech becomes more complex, because one does not wish to suggest that certain people were simply built literally on top of the apostles and prophets. The foundation, therefore, may be described as “the message (or, truth) which the apostles and prophets proclaimed.”
The cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself: the identification of Christ as the cornerstone makes it more likely that the apostles and prophets are the foundation, but is not conclusive proof that such was the meaning intended by the writer.
It is impossible to determine precisely which stone is meant by the Greek noun translated “cornerstone.” This word occurs also in 1 Peter 2.6, while in Matthew 21.42; Mark 12.10; Luke 20.17; Acts 4.11; 1 Peter 2.7 the phrase “head of the corner” is used. The stone in question could be the large stone used in ancient buildings which extended to the corner of the building, the stones from the wall at right angles to it fitting above and beneath this stone. One such massive stone, 38 feet 9 inches (almost 12 meters) long was discovered in the Temple area in Jerusalem. (Of course it should be noted that in English, at least, the “cornerstone” could refer to the stone at any one of the four corners of an edifice.) Others take the word to mean “keystone,” the stone at the top of an arch. In English this is called the “capstone” or “copestone.” Whatever the precise meaning of the word in Greek, the general meaning is not in doubt: Christ is called the most important stone in the building, the one that provides cohesion and support for the whole structure. So it will be better in most languages to represent the meaning by the phrase “the most important stone.”
In many parts of the world it is not customary to build buildings with foundations or from stones or bricks. As a result the images in this verse pose some difficulties. For these situations foundation can be described as “the solid (or, strong) base put down to build a house on” or “the base people put down before they build a house made of stone.” Cornerstone can then be represented as “the most important stone in the building” or “the stone that gives strength to the building.” When translators use expansions such as these, it becomes much easier to translate with similes, where the comparisons are made clear. One way to do this would be: “You, too, are part of a building. The base they build that building on was put there by the apostles and the prophets, and the stone that gives it strength is Christ Jesus himself.” Another possibility would be: “You, too, are like part of a building for which the apostles and the prophets laid down the base that gives it strength; and Christ Jesus is the important stone that gives strength to the building.”
Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1982. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .