The Greek that is often translated as “gentiles” in English is often translated as a “local equivalent of ‘foreigners,'” such as “the people of other lands” (Guerrero Amuzgo), “people of other towns” (Tzeltal), “people of other languages” (San Miguel El Grande Mixtec), “strange peoples” (Navajo) (this and above, see Bratcher / Nida), “outsiders” (Ekari), “people of foreign lands” (Kannada), “non-Jews” (North Alaskan Inupiatun), “people being-in-darkness” (a figurative expression for people lacking cultural or religious insight) (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and three above Reiling / Swellengrebel), “from different places all people” (Martu Wangka) (source: Carl Gross).

Tzeltal translates it as “people in all different towns,” Chicahuaxtla Triqui as “the people who live all over the world,” Highland Totonac as “all the outsider people,” Sayula Popoluca as “(people) in every land” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), Chichimeca-Jonaz as “foreign people who are not Jews,” Sierra de Juárez Zapotec as “people of other nations” (source of this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), Highland Totonac as “outsider people” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), Uma as “people who are not the descendants of Israel” (source: Uma Back Translation), and Yakan as “the other tribes” (source: Yakan Back Translation).

See also nations.


The Greek that is translated as “sinner” in English is translated as “people with bad hearts” (“it is not enough to call them ‘people who do bad things,’ for though actions do reflect the heart, yet it is the hearts with which God is primarily concerned — see Matt. 15:19”) in Western Kanjobal, “people who are doing wrong things in their hearts” in San Blas Kuna (source: Nida 1952, p. 148), “people with bad stomachs” in Q’anjob’al (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff.), or “people with dirty hearts” (Mairasi) (Enggavoter 2004).

In Central Mazahua and Teutila Cuicatec it is translated as “(person who) owes sin.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Gal. 2:15)

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”).

“In Gal. 2:14 Paul quotes himself as speaking to Peter. If the quotation continues into v. 15, then the ‘We ourselves, who are Jews by birth’ [in English translation] would be translated as inclusive. More likely, however, the quotation ends with v. 14, the focus of attention then shifting to the Galatians, and so it would be exclusive we.”

Source: Velma B. Pickett in The Bible Translator 1964, p. 88f.

Nida (p. 205) also speaks of the problem of this specific verse:

“In Galatians 2:15 there is a troublesome passage for which the selection of an inclusive or exclusive form is highly debatable. The preceding sentence is obviously a part of direct discourse; but what are we to understand by the words “we ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners”? Is Paul here continuing to represent what he said in Antioch in opposition to Peter, or is he merely arguing a general position with the Galatian church audience to whom he is writing? If one assumes that Paul is still addressing the assembly in Antioch, and Peter in particular, then the inclusive form is required; but if the words are directed to the church in Galatia, obviously one should employ the exclusive. Scholars are by no means agreed on this point, for the Greek text itself is obscure. Apparently there is a gradual shift from the specific situation which involved Peter to a general statement of the gospel as it is related to the Galatian church. The translator who is rendering this passage into a language with an inclusive-exclusive distinction cannot, however, retain this obscurity. He must specify clearly by the very forms he uses whether or not this sentence is to be regarded as a part of the direct discourse.”

complete verse (Galatians 2:15)

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

  • Uma: “As for Petrus and I, we (excl.) are already Yahudi from our birth, we (excl.) do not have evil behavior like people who do not know God.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “We (excl.) are Yahudi because our (excl.) parents are Yahudi. We (excl.) are not like the other tribes/nations, the ones who do not follow/obey the law.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And I said also, ‘As for us (incl.) we were born Jews and we are not like the people who aren’t Jews.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “I then went-on to say to them all, ‘We were born (concessive particle) as Jews; we are not Gentiles who don’t know the law of God.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “For as for us, we are genuine Jews, who acknowledge God, not like people who are not Jews who do not acknowledge God. But now that we have believed/obeyed Cristo,” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “I want to speak now to all who are my fellow Jews. We haven’t lived doing the sins which are like those done by the people who are not Jews.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)