listen + pay (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In this verse, the Hebrew that is translated as “listen” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-ki (お聞), combining “listen / hear” (ki) with the respectful prefix o- and “pay” is translated as o-shiharai (お支払い), combining “pay” (shiharai) with o-.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

listen / hear (Japanese honorifics).

complete verse (Genesis 23:13)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 23:13:

  • Newari: “Then in everyone’s hearing he said to Ephron — ‘Paying money, I will buy that whole field. Take the money that I pay. Then I will bury my wife there.'” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “Then he said to Efron in-the-hearing of the residents. ‘Listen to me. I will-pay the price of the field. Accept my payment so-that I can- now -bury my wife there.'” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “and said to Ephron, as all the others were listening, ‘No, listen to me. If you are willing, I will pay for the field. You tell me what the price is, and I will give it to you. If you accept it, the field will become mine, and I can bury my wife’s body there.'” (Source: Translation for Translators)

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on Genesis 23:13

He said: Abraham is addressing Ephron directly.

In the hearing [ears] of the people of the land: that is, “so that all the Hittites could hear.”

But if you will, hear me: hear me signals to Ephron and the others that Abraham is about to take the negotiation a further step, as Ephron no doubt expected him to. But Abraham is not making any new proposal; he is simply agreeing, as he knows he must, to the purchase of both the cave and the piece of land. We may translate this, for example, “Listen please. [I agree to what you propose.]”

I will give you the price of the field: in verse 9 Abraham was seeking to purchase the cave only. However, Ephron’s response in verse 11 introduced the field as part of the deal. So now Abraham is agreeing to buy the field that included the cave. We may translate “I will pay you for the whole field,” “I will buy the entire piece of ground,” “I will buy the field with the cave in it.”

Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there: that is, “Take the money so that I can bury my dead wife.”

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 .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )