Joseph

The term that is transliterated as “Joseph” in English is translated in American Sign Language with a sign that relates to a) the coat he wore (see Gen 37:3), b) the holding of his clothes by Potiphar’s wife (see Gen 39:12), and c) the many times Joseph experienced grief. (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)


“Joseph” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor

In Spanish Sign Language it is translated with a sign that signifies “dream,” referring to Jacob’s dream at Bethel (see Genesis 28:10 and the following verses). (Source: Steve Parkhurst)


“Joseph” in Spanish Sign Language, source: Sociedad Bíblica de España

Canaan

The term that is transliterated as “Canaan” in English is translated in American Sign Language with the sign loosely referencing the act of hiding/covering one’s face in shame. The association of “shame” with the name “Canaan” comes from Genesis 9, specifically verse 9:25. This sign was adapted from a similar sign in Kenyan Sign Language (see here). (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)


“Canaan” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about Canaan in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Gen 47:15)

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”).

For this verse, the Jarai and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation both use the exclusive pronoun, excluding Joseph.

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 47:15)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 47:15:

  • Kankanaey: “When all the money of those-from Egipto and from-Canaan was used-up, those-from-Egipto went to Jose and they said, ‘Please give us some food. You (sing.) ought not to ignore/abandon us (excl.) to die with hunger, because here-now our (excl.) money is already used-up.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “After the money of those living in the lands of Egypt and Canaan had been spent, those living in Egypt came and said to Joseph — ‘Please give us grain. If not we will die right in front of you. The money we had has all been spent.'” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “The time came that the money of those who-came-from-Egipto and those who-came-from-Canaan was- now -consumed. Those who-came-from-Egipto went to Jose and said, ‘We (excl.) do- not -have money anymore. Just give us (excl.) food for (it) seems that we (excl.) will- now -die of hunger.'” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “When the people of Egypt and Canaan had spent all their money for grain, they all kept coming to Joseph and saying, ‘Please give us some food! If you do not give us grain, we will die! We have used all our money to buy food, and we have no money left!'” (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 47:15

When the money was all spent in … Canaan: was all spent may need to be expressed as an active construction; for example, “When the people of these countries had spent all their money buying grain….” In a number of languages the usual way of saying this is “The people of … finished their money.” This clause is the third time in three verses that Egypt and Canaan are mentioned. However, from this point on only Egypt is mentioned.

Food is literally “bread” as in verse 12 and in 41.55.

Why should we die before your eyes?: this is a rhetorical question—the people are complaining that their hunger is killing them and that Joseph is doing nothing to save them. This element of complaint is brought out in Good News Translation by the short sentence “Do something!” Some other translations say in a similar way “You must find the way for us [to stay alive]” or “You must help us!” Revised Standard Version has avoided a literal rendering of the Hebrew “in front of you” by saying before your eyes; the sense of before your eyes or “in front of you” is “while you just look at us without doing anything.” Revised English Bible says “ ‘Give us food,’ they said, ‘or we shall perish before your very eyes.’ ” As a complaint Biblia Dios Habla Hoy says “Give us something to eat! It is not right for you to let us die of hunger just because we no longer have any money.” Some others say “You must give … If you don’t, hunger will destroy us and we will fall down and die in your presence.” We may also translate the last part of the verse, for example, “We have spent all our money. Do you want us to die while you stand there looking at us? Give us something to eat!”

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 .