God forbid

The now commonly-used English idiom “God forbid” was first coined in 1560 in the Geneva Bible. (Source: Crystal 2010, p. 273)

For other idioms in English that were coined by Bible translation, see here.

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.

complete verse (Genesis 44:7)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 44:7:

  • Kankanaey: “And they said answering, ‘What perhaps does that mean to say sir? God knows that there-is- absolutely -nothing we (excl.) have done like that.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “They said to him — ‘What is this that you have said, Lord! Your servants are not able to do such a thing.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “They said to the steward, ‘Sir, how can you (sing.) say that? (It is) impossible that we (excl.) would-do that thing?” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “But one of them replied to him, ‘Sir, why do you say such things? We are your servants, and we would never do anything like that!” (Source: Translation for Translators)

addressing someone respectfully in direct speech in Japanese

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 of appropriate suffix title referred to as keishō (敬称) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017 by either using -san or –sama with the latter being the more formal title.

This is evident in these verses in the Shinkaiyaku Bible from the form anata-sama (あなた様) “you” which is the combination of the nominal “you” anata and the suffix title –sama.

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

second person pronoun with high register

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 a second person pronoun (“you” and its various forms) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. The most commonly used anata (あなた) is typically used when the speaker is humbly addressing another person.

In these verses, however, the more venerable anata-sama (あなた様) is used, which combines anata with the with a formal title -sama.

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

Translation commentary on Genesis 44:7

Why does my lord speak such words as these?: this question is not asking for an explanation but rather expresses the brothers’ disbelief in what they are hearing: “Sir, how can you say such a thing?” or “How can you accuse us in this way, sir?” A translation that expresses the sense but does not use a question form says “We don’t know what you are talking about.”

Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing!: for the translation of this expression, see 18.25. Your servants refers to the brothers who are speaking to their superior. In many languages it will be translated as the first person plural (exclusive) pronoun; for example, “Far be it from us to do…” or “We could never do….” In some languages the sentence with your servants may be expressed as, for example, “Such small people as we are could not do such a thing.”

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 .