One translation challenge into Maan concerned how to express the idea that Sarah no longer had monthly periods. The draft prepared by a female translator used a euphemism that was very vague. As a result, the other translators did not know what was in view. After a long discussion it was decided to say that Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing.
The name that is transliterated as “Abraham” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language, French Sign Language, British Sign Language, and in American Sign Language with the sign signifying “hold back arm” (referring to Genesis 22:12). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff., Lexique Explications en langue des signes, Christian BSL, and Yates 2011, p. 1)
“Abraham” in American Sign Language (source )
Click or tap here to see two short video clips about Abraham (source: Bible Lands 2012)
Following is a Russian Orthodox icon of the Three Men visiting Abraham which are depicted as the Trinity by Andrei Rublev (c. 1360 – c. 1430). The icon was likely painted between 1400 and 1410 (it is today located in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow).
Michael Stevens (in: The Word on Fire Bible, Vol 1, 2020, p. 118f.) comments on this icon:
“This depiction of the three persons of the Trinity is considered to be one of the finest works ever produced in the ancient tradition of Eastern iconography. Its creator, Andrei Rublev, is widely considered to be the greatest iconographer of all time, and this is one of the few panels of his that has been verified beyond doubt as his original work. Within this panel is contained a world of theological insight—a complex network of symbolism that is easily overlooked without careful study.
“Rublev’s representation of the Trinity is strikingly different from the typical Western Christians visualization of the Trinity, with God the Father as an elderly man, God the Son as a young man, and God the Holy Spirit as a dove. Here the artist uses the image of three conversing angelic figures to illustrate the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. The figures are drawn directly from Genesis 18, wherein three mysterious angelic figures visit the house of Abraham and receive his hospitality. While this biblical account from the Old Testament was written long before the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was understood, it has been interpreted as a Trinitarian foreshadowing by many of the Church Fathers. Flowing from this interpretation, Rublev gives us many clues that the three figures in his icon are not meant to represent mere angels, but are in fact the three persons of the Holy Trinity.
“The Father is shown on the left. His outer garment appears to shimmer elusively in the light, somewhere between gold and violet. This symbolizes his incorporeal (immaterial) nature, as well as his majesty over creation. Under this is a robe of blue, symbolizing his divinity. Across from him, the Son and the Holy Spirit bow their heads in acknowledgment that the Father is the unbegotten source of the Trinitarian processions.
“Christ sits in the middle and wears two contrasting garments — one an earthy red, and the other blue. The red represents Christ’s human nature and ministry on earth as well as his blood poured out for sinners. Like the Father’s inner robe, the blue portion of Christ’s clothing also signifies his divinity. The two garments’ colors are harmonious and pithily capture the two natures of Jesus. Finally, the gold stripe on Christ’s shoulder symbolizes his sharing in the kingship of God the Father.
“The Holy Spirit also wears the same divine blue as the others showing his nature as God- but outside he wears a robe of lush green, representing his role in the creation of the world. This harkens back to Genesis, where we are told that the Spirit ‘swept over the face of the waters’ (Gen. 1:2) before the creation of the universe and living things.
“The three persons are arranged inside a perfect circle, which symbolizes their Trinitarian oneness and perfection. The circle also helps to guide the viewer’s eye around the painting, creating a focal point in the space between the conversing figures.
“The Father and the Son’s wings overlap one another, signifying their familial relationship.
“The three primary background elements are borrowed from the biblical story of the angels’ visit to Abraham’s house, and each symbolizes a person of the Trinity. The house of Abraham behind God the Father represents his patriarchal authority by linking him to the character of Abraham, who was the father of the Hebrew people. The tree behind God the Son represents the cross of Jesus and new life offered by his Resurrection. The mountain behind the Holy Spirit (faintly seen) represents the soul’s journey to holiness, which is possible only through his divine power.”
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 are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 18:11:
- Kankanaey: “As for Abraham and Sara, now they were already old-man and old-woman, and Sara, she was already not able to give-birth.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Newari: “Abraham and Sarah were already very old people. Sarah’s time for bearing children had already passed.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
- Hiligaynon: “(The two of them [(she and) Abraham] were now very old and in-fact the monthly-period of Sara had ceased already.)” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
- English: “Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah was far past the time of when she could bear children.” (Source: Translation for Translators)
Verse 11 is parenthetical and interrupts the flow of the narrative in order to give further information about the aging of Abraham and Sarah, and to explain Sarah’s response. If the translator finds that this verse adversely affects the discourse, it is possible to maintain the evenness of the account by bringing part of verse 12 forward to be followed by verse 11, and then to continue with the remainder of verse 12. This is how Bible en français courant handles it:
• She began to laugh to herself, because she and Abraham were now old and she had passed the age for having children. So she said to herself, “I am now worn out and my husband is an old man. The times for having pleasure have come and gone.”
In this case the verse numbers are combined. If verse 11 does not significantly interrupt the narrative, adjustments such as in Bible en français courant are not called for.
Now serves in English to introduce the verse as being parenthetical; it is not a time marker.
Old, advanced in age is literally “old, advanced in days.” This expression serves to emphasize their age, and it is often rendered, as in Good News Translation, “very old.”
Ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women: this translates the Hebrew literally and means that Sarah had ceased to menstruate, or as Good News Translation says, “had stopped having her monthly periods.” Translators must exercise good judgment in selecting an expression that can be used in public reading. If a satisfactory expression cannot be found, it may be possible to say, for example, “Sarah was past the age of childbearing” (New International Version, Revised English Bible) or “… was too old to have a baby.”
Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .