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:

  • “good story” (Navajo)
  • “joyful telling” (Tausug)
  • “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • cohuen ñoñets or “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
  • “good news” (Yanesha’) (source: Martha Duff in Holzhausen 1991, p. 11)
  • “voice of good spirit” (San Blas Kuna) (source: Claudio Iglesias [Mr. and Mrs.] in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff. )
  • suviśēṣattinṟe (0സുവിശേഷം) or “good narrative” (Malayalam)
  • susmachar (ସୁସମାଚାର) or “good matter” (Odia)
  • suvārteya (ಸುವಾರ್ತೆಯ) or “good word” (Kannada) (source for this and two above: Y.D. Tiwari in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 132ff. )
  • the German das 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.”

For “good news,” see also Isaiah 52:7.

Peter

Following is a Armenian Orthodox icon of Peter (found in the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha, Azerbaijan).

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 )

Following is a hand colored stencil print on momigami of Peter by Sadao Watanabe (1970):

Image taken with permission from the SadaoHanga Catalogue where you can find many more images and information about Sadao Watanabe. For other images of Sadao Watanabe art works in TIPs, see here.

In Finnish Sign Language it is translated with the sign signifying “key” (referring to Matthew 16:19). (Source: Tarja Sandholm)


“Peter” or “Cephas” in Finnish Sign Language (source )

In Swiss-German Sign Language it is translated with the sign for “rock,” referring to the meaning of the Greek word for “Peter.”


“Peter” in Swiss-German Sign Language, source: DSGS-Lexikon biblischer Begriffe , © CGG Schweiz

See also Peter – rock.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Peter .

circumcise, circumcision

The Hebrew and Greek terms that are translated as “circumcise” or “circumcision” in English (originally meaning of English term: “to cut around”) are (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Chimborazo Highland Quichua: “cut the flesh”
  • San Miguel El Grande Mixtec, Navajo: “cut around”
  • Javanese: “clip-away”
  • Uab Meto: “pinch and cut” (usually shortened to “cut”)
  • North Alaskan Inupiatun, Western Highland Purepecha: “put the mark”
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “put the mark in the body showing that they belong to God” (or: “that they have a covenant with God”)
  • Indonesian: disunat — “undergo sunat” (sunat is derived from Arabic “sunnah (سنة)” — “(religious) way (of life)”)
  • Ekari: “cut the end of the member for which one fears shame” (in Gen. 17:10) (but typically: “the cutting custom”) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Hiri Motu: “cut the skin” (source: Deibler / Taylor 1977, p. 1079)
  • Garifuna: “cut off part of that which covers where one urinates”
  • Bribri: “cut the soft” (source for this and the one above: Ronald Ross)
  • Amele: deweg cagu qoc — “cut the body” (source: John Roberts)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “cut the flesh of the sons like Moses taught” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
  • Newari: “put the sign in one’s body” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Central Mazahua: “sign in his flesh”
  • Hopi: “being cut in a circle in his body” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Mandarin Chinese: gēlǐ (割礼 / 割禮) or “rite of cutting” (Protestant); gēsǔn (割损 / 割損) or “cut + loss” (Catholic) (Source: Zetzsche)
  • Tibetan: mdun lpags gcod (མདུན་​ལྤགས་​གཅོད།), lit. “fore + skin + cut” (source: gSungrab website )
  • Kutu: “enter the cloth (=undergarments)” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Circumcision .

complete verse (Galatians 2:7)

Following are a number of back-translations of Galatians 2:7:

  • Uma: “They did not add anything to my teaching, they just confessed/admitted that I was the one whom God had (en)trusted to carry the Good News to people who are not Yahudi people, like Petrus also was (en)trusted by God to take the Good News to the Yahudis.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “They understood at that time that the work entrusted to me by God was to proclaim/preach the good news about Isa Almasi to the not Yahudi tribes, like Petros also the work entrusted to him is to proclaim to the Yahudi.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And at that time, even those people in Jerusalem who seemed to be the bosses of the believers, there was nothing that they taught me to perfect what I teach. The reason I say that they seem to be bosses, because there’s no value to God in the title that people give us. They did not add anything to what I teach, but rather they understood at that time that God had entrusted to me the spreading of the Good News to the people who are not Jews, just like He’d entrusted also to Peter the spreading of this to the Jews.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “but rather they agreed it was correct. Because they came-to-know that because of God’s grace/mercy, he had entrusted to me my apostleship to preach the good news to the Gentiles just like his entrusting to Pedro his apostleship to preach to the Jews. Their means-of-knowing that, it was that they saw that God had been blessing my preaching to the Gentiles just like his blessing Pedro’s work to/with the Jews. Therefore those-aforementioned who were considered to have authority who were Santiago and Pedro and Juan, they shook-hands-with Barnabas and me to show that we (excl.) exactly understood-one-another. What we (excl.) agreed-on was that Barnabas and I would continue to preach to the Gentiles while they also would continue to preach to the Jews.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “As for those overseers, they recognized that just as God had entrusted to Pedro the oversight of teaching the Good News to the Jews, just like that also, I myself am the one to whom he entrusted the oversight of teaching the Good News to people who are not Jews.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Rather they themselves recognized that God put in my charge the good news in order to speak to people who are not Jews. And Peter had been charged with the good news to speak it to the people who are Jews.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Galatians 2:7

This verse in Greek is an involved participial phrase with an included clause (in fact, verses 6-10 are one long sentence). Furthermore, the construction of the phrase is passive, with God as the implicit agent. While most translations retain the Greek form, Good News Translation restructures the phrase in two ways: (1) it makes it an independent sentence, and (2) it makes the passive construction active, with God as the explicit agent.

The phrase on the contrary may be rendered as “but instead of making new suggestions to me,” or “but rather than adding something new to what I had said.”

The verb saw in the expression they saw that God had given me the task must be rendered in a number of languages as “realized” (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch), since there was nothing actually for the leaders of the churches to “see,” that is, to look at.

Had given me the task is the Greek verb often translated “believe,” but here it occurs with the special meaning of “entrust” (Revised Standard Version, compare Jerusalem Bible “commissioned”), that is, to give the task to proclaim or to preach the gospel.

Gentiles is literally “the uncircumcision,” used here as a term signifying non-Jews. In the same manner, the Jews is literally “the circumcision.”

In translating the two phrases gospel to the Gentiles and gospel to the Jews, one must be careful to avoid giving the impression that there are two gospels, one for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. Some translations indeed can be understood in this manner (New English Bible “that I had been entrusted with the Gospel for Gentiles as surely as Peter had been entrusted with the Gospel for Jews”; also Phillips “the Gospel for the uncircumcised was as much my commission as the Gospel for the circumcised was Peter’s”). To avoid this misunderstanding, one should make it clear that both Paul and Peter are entrusted with proclaiming one gospel, except that Paul is to proclaim it to Gentiles and Peter to the Jews (Jerusalem Bible “they recognized that I had been commissioned to preach the Good News to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised”; New American Bible “I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised”). The essential unity of the gospel may be preserved in some languages by translating “they realized that God had given both me and Peter the task of preaching the gospel. I was to preach to the Gentiles, and Peter was to preach to the Jews.”

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1976. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .