complete verse (Hebrews 3:3)

Following are a number of back-translations of Hebrews 3:3:

  • Uma: “Consider Yesus, for it is fitting that he get more honor than Musa, like a person who builds a house is more honored than the house he builds.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But like a person building a house is more famous than the house he built, likewise Isa is really more worthy to be honored than Musa.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “However, Jesus, — God regards Him as being much higher than Moses, just like the one who built the house is greater than the house.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “But Jesus, he is considered to be greater than Moses just as the superior-greatness of one who erects a house than the house that he erects.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “But as for this Jesus, his praiseworthiness is superior to the praiseworthiness of Moises. Because of course superior to the praiseworthiness of a house is the praiseworthiness of the builder of that house.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But this Jesus, it is much more right that he be respected than was Moses. It is like when a person makes a house in order to rule in it. Concerning this person who makes the house, he is more greatly respected than all the other people who live in it.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Jesus

The Greek Iēsous is “only” a proper name but one with great importance. The following quote by John Ellington (in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 401ff. ) illustrates this:

“In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, Joseph is told that when Mary gives birth to a son ‘you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (1:21). This name is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name [Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ) which is a short form of a name meaning] ‘the Lord [Yahweh] saves.’ The name is very significant and is in itself especially dear to Christians around the world. (…) Unquestionably great importance is attached to the name of Jesus by Christians of all persuasions and backgrounds.”

While Iēsous (pronounced: /i.ɛː.suːs/) is transliterated as “Jesus” (pronounced /ˈdʒiːzəs/) in English (but was translated as “Hælend” [the “healing one”] in Old English — see Swain 2019) it is transliterated and pronounced in a large variety of other ways as well, following the different rules of different languages’ orthographies, writing systems and rules of pronunciation. The following is a (partial) list of forms of Jesus in Latin characters: aYeso, Azezi, Cecoc, Chesús, Chi̍i̍sū, Ciisahs, Ciise, Ciisusu, Djesu, Ɛisa, Ƹisa, Eyesu, Gesù, Gesû, Gesü, Ġesù, Ghjesù, Giêsu, ꞌGiê‑ꞌsu, Giê-xu, Gyisɛse, Hesu, Hesús, Hisus, Hisuw, Ià-sŭ, Iesen, Ié:sos, Iesu, Iesui, Iesusɨn, Iesusiva, Ié:sos, Ihu, Iisus, Ijeesu, iJisọsị, Iji̍sɔ̄ɔsi, Iosa, Íosa, Ìosa, İsa, I’sa, Isiso, Ísu, Isus, Isusa, Iisussa, Isuthi, Itota, Îtu, Isuva, Izesu, Izesuq, Jasus, Jeeju, Jeesus, Jeesus, Jeezas, Jehu, Jeisu, Jeju, Jejus, Jeso, Jesoe, Jesosa, Jesoshi, Jesosy, Jesu, Jesû, Jesua, Jesuh, Jesuhs, Jesús, Jésus, Jesúsu, Jethu, Jezed, Jezi, Jézi, Ježiš, Jezu, Jezus, Jézus, Jėzus, Jēzus, Jezusi, Jėzus, Jezuz, Jiijajju, Jíísas, Jiizas, Jíìzọ̀s, Jisas, Jisase, Jisasi, Jisasɨ, Jisasɨ, Jisaso, Jisesi, Jisɛ̀, Jisos, Jisọs, Jisɔs, Jisu, Jiszs, Jizọs, Jizɔs, Jizọsi, Jizọsu, Jòso, Jusu, Jweesus, Ketsutsi, Njises, Sesi, Sisa, Sísa, Sisas, Sīsū, Sizi, Txesusu, uJesu, Ujísɔ̄si, ŵaYesu, Xesosi, ´Xesús, Xesús, Yasu, Ya:su, Ɣaysa, Yecu, Yeeb Sub, Yeeh Suh, Yeesey, Yeeso, Yeesso, Yēēsu, Yēēsu, Yehsu, Yëësu, Yeisu, Yeisuw, Yeshu, Yeso, Yesò, Yëso, Yɛso, ye-su, Yésu, Yêsu, Yẹ́sụ̃, Yésʉs, Yeswa, Yet Sut, Yetut, Yexus, Yezo, Yezu, Yiisu, Yiitju, Yis, Yisɔs, Yisufa, Yitati, Yusu, ‑Yusu, :Yusu’, Zeezi, Zezi, Zezì, Zezwii, Ziizɛ, Zisas, Zîsɛ, Zjezus, Zozi, Zozii, and this (much more incomplete) list with other writings systems: ᔩᓱᓯ, ᒋᓴᔅ, Հիսուս, ᏥᏌ, ኢየሱስ, ያሱስ, ܝܫܘܥ, Ісус, Їисъ, 耶稣, იესო, ईसा, イエス, イイスス, イエスス, 예수, येशू, येशो, ਈਸਾ, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ජේසුස්, যীশু, ଯୀଶୁ, ཡེ་ཤུ་, ‘ঈছা, இயேசு, ಯೇಸು, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ယေရှု, ઇસુ, जेजू, येसु, เยซู, យេស៊ូ, ᱡᱤᱥᱩ, ယေသှု, యేసు, ᤕᤧᤛᤢ᤺ᤴ, އީސާގެފާނު, ਯਿਸੂ, ꕉꖷ ꔤꕢ ꕞ, ⵏ⵿ⵗⵢⵙⴰ, ଜୀସୁ, يَسُوعَ,ㄧㄝㄙㄨ, YE-SU, ꓬꓰ꓿ꓢꓴ, 𖽃𖽡𖾐𖼺𖽹𖾏𖼽𖽔𖾏, ꑳꌠ, ᠶᠡᠰᠦᠰ (note that some of these might not display correctly if your device does not have the correct fonts installed).

Click or tap here to read more.


In some languages the different confessions have selected different transliterations, such as in Belarusian with Isus (Ісус) by the Orthodox and Protestant churches and Yezus (Езус) by the Catholic church, Bulgarian with Iisus (Иисус) by the Orthodox and Isus (Исус) by the Protestant church, Japanese with Iesu (イエス) (Protestant and Catholic) and Iisusu (イイスス) (Orthodox), or Lingala with Yesu (Protestant) or Yezu (Catholic). These differences have come to the forefront especially during the work on interconfessional translations such as one in Lingala where “many hours were spent on a single letter difference” (source: Ellington, p. 401).

In Chinese where transliterations of proper names between the Catholic and Protestant versions typically differ vastly, the Chinese name of Jesus (Yēsū 耶稣) remarkably was never brought into question between and by those two confessions, likely due to its ingenious choice. (Click or tap here to see more).

The proper name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh (YHWH), is rendered in most Chinese Bible translations as Yēhéhuá 耶和華 — Jehovah. According to Chinese naming conventions, Yēhéhuá could be interpreted as Yē Héhuá, in which would be the family name and Héhuá — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, 耶 would be the family name of Jesus and 稣 would be his given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, Jehovah, would be illustrated through this. Though this line of argumentation sounds theologically unsound, it is indeed used effectively in the Chinese church (see Wright 1953, p. 298).

Moreover, the “given name” of 稣 carries the meaning ‘to revive, to rise again’ and seems to point to the resurrected Jesus. (Source: J. Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff., see also tetragrammaton (YHWH))

There are different ways that Bible translators have chosen historically and today in how to translate the name of Jesus in predominantly Muslim areas: with a form of the Arabic Isa (عيسى) (which is used for “Jesus” in the Qur’an), the Greek Iēsous, or, like major 20th century Bible translations into Standard Arabic, the Aramaic Yēšūaʿ: Yasua (يَسُوعَ). (Click or tap here to see more.)

Following are languages and language groups that use a form of Isa include the following (note that this list is not complete):

  • Indo-Iranian languages: Persian, Dari, Central Pashto, Southern Pashto all use Eysa (عيسی or عيسىٰ for Southern Pashto), Sindhi uses Eysey (عيسيٰ), Southern Balochi Issa (ایسّا), Central Kurdish (Sorani) and Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji) use Îsa (عیسای and Иса respectively), Turkmen has Isa, and Tajik Isoi (Исои — compare Iso/Исо in the Tajik Qur’an)
  • Turkic languages: Turkish uses İsa, Kazakh, Kumyk, Nogai, Crimean Tatar all have Isa (Иса), Kirghiz has Iysa (Ыйса), Uzbek has Iso (Исо — compare Iiso/Ийсо in the Uzbek Qur’an), Bashkir uses Aaisa (Ғайса), North Azerbaijani İsa, Uighur uses Eysa (ئەيسا), and Kara-Kalpak İysa (Ийса)
  • Caucasian languages: Bezhta and Lezghian use Isa (Иса), Avaric has Aisa (ГІиса), and Chechen Iza (Иза)
  • Various African languages: Somali, a Cushitic language, has Ciise, Kabyle has Ɛisa and Tahaggart Tamahaq has Yeswa (both Berber languages), the Saharan languages Central Kanuri, Manga Kanuri have Isa, the Atlantic-Congo languages Dagbani, Mampruli, and Bimoba use Yisa, and the Chadian Arabic Bible has Isa (عِيسَى)
  • In Indonesian, while most Bible translations had already used Yesus Kristus rather than Isa al Masih, three public holidays used to be described using the term Isa Al Masih. From 2024 on the government is using Yesus Kristus in those holiday names instead (see this article in Christianity Today ).
  • Some languages have additional “TAZI” editions (TAZI stands for “Tawrat, Anbiya, Zabur, and Injil” the “Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospel”) of the New Testament that are geared towards Muslim readers where there is also a translation in the same language for non-Muslims. In those editions, Isa is typically used as well (for example, the Khmer TAZI edition uses Isa (អ៊ីសា) rather than the commonly used Yesaou (យេស៊ូ), the Thai edition uses Isa (อีซา) rather than Yesu (เยซู), the Chinese edition uses Ěrsā (尔撒) vs. Yēsū (耶稣), and the English edition also has Isa rather than Jesus.)

In German the name Jesus (pronounced: /ˈjeːzʊs/) is distinguished by its grammatical forms. Into the 20th century the grammatical rules prescribed a unique Greek-Latin declination: Jesus (nominative), Jesu (genitive, dative, vocative), Jesum (accusative), from which today only the genitive case “Jesu” is still in active use. Likewise, in Seediq (Taroko), the morphological treatment of “Jesus” also occupies a special category by not falling under the normal rule of experiencing a vowel reduction when the object-specific suffix an is added “since it was felt that the readers might resent that the name has been changed that drastically.” (Compare Msian for “Moses” (Mosi) as an object, but Yisuan for “Jesus” (Yisu).) (Source: Covell 1998. p. 249)

In Lamba the name ŵaYesu consists of a transliteration Yesu and the prefix ŵa, a plural form for “proper names when addressing and referring to persons in any position of seniority or honor.” While this was avoided in early translations to avoid possible misunderstandings of more than one Jesus, once the church was established it was felt that it was both “safe” and respectful to use the honorific (pl.) prefix. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff. )

In virtually all sign languages, “Jesus” is signed with the middle finger of each hand pointing to the palm (or wrist) of the other in succession (signing the nails of the cross). In the context of Bible translation this has been pointed out as theologically problematic since the “semantic connections of the original name Jesus do point towards ‘salvation,’ they do not naturally lead to crucifixion.” (Source: Phil King in Journal of Translation 1 (2020), p. 33ff.)


“Jesus” in German Sign Language (source )

Following is the oldest remaining Ethiopian Orthodox icon of Jesus from the 14th or possibly 13th century (found in the Church of the Saviour of the World in Gurji, Ethiopia). As in many Orthodox icons, Jesus’ right hand forms the Greek letters I-C-X-C for IHCOYC XPICTOC or “Jesus Christ.” Another interpretation of the right hand is that it shows three fingers pointing to the Trinity, while the two other fingers point to Jesus’ two natures.

source (c) Jacques Mercier and Alain Mathieu

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 )

The style of the following drawing of Jesus by Annie Vallotton is described by the artist as this: “By using few lines the readers fill in the outlines with their imagination and freedom. That is when the drawings begin to communicate.” (see here )

Illustration by Annie Vallotton, copyright by Donald and Patricia Griggs of Griggs Educational Service.

Other visual representation of Jesus in TIPs include several non-Western styles of art: traditional Korean art, traditional Chinese art, modern Chinese abstract art, northern and central Thailand’s popular art, Japanese prints.

See also this devotion on YouVersion .

Moses

The name that is transliterated as “Moses” in English is signed in Spanish Sign Language and Polish Sign Language in accordance with the depiction of Moses in the famous statue by Michelangelo (see here ). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)


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

American Sign Language also uses the sign depicting the horns but also has a number of alternative signs (see here).

In French Sign Language, a similar sign is used, but it is interpreted as “radiance” (see below) and it culminates in a sign for “10,” signifying the 10 commandments:


“Moses” in French Sign Language (source )

The horns that are visible in Michelangelo’s statue are based on a passage in the Latin Vulgate translation (and many Catholic Bible translations that were translated through the 1950ies with that version as the source text). Jerome, the translator, had worked from a Hebrew text without the niqquds, the diacritical marks that signify the vowels in Hebrew and had interpreted the term קרו (k-r-n) in Exodus 34:29 as קֶ֫רֶן — keren “horned,” rather than קָרַו — karan “radiance” (describing the radiance of Moses’ head as he descends from Mount Sinai).

Even at the time of his translation, Jerome likely was not the only one making that decision as this recent article alludes to.

In Swiss-German Sign Language it is translated with a sign depicting holding a staff. This refers to a number of times where Moses’s staff is used in the context of miracles, including the parting of the sea (see Exodus 14:16), striking of the rock for water (see Exodus 17:5 and following), or the battle with Amalek (see Exodus 17:9 and following).


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

In Estonian Sign Language Moses is depicted with a big beard. (Source: Liina Paales in Folklore 47, 2011, p. 43ff.)

See also Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration.

Translation commentary on Hebrews 3:3 – 3:4

These verses introduce the first point of contrast between Moses and Jesus. Good News Translation makes the comparison clearer by reversing the two halves of verse 3, so that the general statement of principle comes first, and the application to Moses and Jesus afterward. This order is more logical and also makes the sentence easier to follow, as a comparison with Revised Standard Version shows. Verse 4, which several translations put in round brackets (parentheses), explains the background of the argument in verse 3, and so it is possible to adopt the order 4, 3b, 3a. Verse 4 in Good News Bible would follow smoothly after verse 2, and it would only be necessary to add a “now,” corresponding to RSV’s “For,” at the beginning of verse 3, to mark the transition. Verse 5 in any case marks a new beginning. The result would be to reverse TEV’s verses 4 and 3. In the following discussion, however, the order of Good News Bible will be followed.

In one sense, Moses could be considered as the “founder” of the nation of Israel. However, this does not fit the context here. As Numbers 12.7 implies, Moses is part of the house, that is, the people, that God has made. Jesus, on the other hand, is closely associated with God in building the house.

The word for builds, repeated three times in verses 3-4, may also include the meaning “equip, fit out.” This meaning is probably present in 9.6 (arranged), and possibly in 9.2 (put up) as well as in 11.7 (built). Here, however, building rather than equipping is suggested by the context.

After having introduced a more or less literal translation of A man who builds a house, it may be important to introduce a marginal note indicating clearly that the term house at this point is the same Greek term which has been translated as “household” or “family” or even “people” in the preceding verse.

Honor in verse 3a and 3b translates two different Greek words, usually translated “glory” and “honor,” but they have a similar meaning. Earlier editions of Good News Translation had more glory than Moses. The writer uses the word for honor in 5.4 in speaking about men, and the word for glory in 1.3 and 13.21 in speaking of God or Christ. However, the two words are used together in 2.7 (quoting Psa 8.5) and 2.9, and there is no sharp distinction between them there or here in verse 3. He probably uses another word for the sake of variety. In its latest edition, Good News Bible is therefore justified in using the same word honor in both sentences. In English, “glory” is more often used in church language than in common language.

Receives more honor is a kind of substitute passive and may be translated “is more honored.” If an active expression is required, one may say “people honor more a man who builds a house than they honor the house itself.” In some languages a term such as honor must be expressed in the form of direct discourse; for example, receives more honor may be rendered as “they say of him, ‘He is greater.’ ”

The transitional phrase In the same way may be rendered in some languages as “Therefore.” In other instances, one may use a clause such as “Since this is true.”

Jesus is understood; the Greek text is literally “this one” (masculine), referring back to Jesus in verse 1. Yet Jesus is preferable to Phillips “this Man,” since at the moment the writer is not emphasizing that Jesus is a man, but as in 1.2, that he cooperated closely with God in the founding of God’s people.

As “has been counted worthy” in Revised Standard Version shows, is worthy translates a passive verb. The writer probably suggests that God has counted Jesus worthy of much greater honor than Moses. Jerusalem Bible expresses this by saying “he has been found to deserve a greater glory than Moses”; similarly Moffatt. “Even greater honor” would be a possible translation. This verse presupposes that Moses has some glory; Numbers 12 narrates a glorious appearance of God to Moses in the pillar of cloud, and it is clear that God has set Moses apart from all other human beings.

Jesus is worthy of much greater honor may be expressed as “people ought to honor Jesus even more.” One of the most difficult terms to render satisfactorily in some languages is the expression of “worthiness” or “that which is deserved.” All such expressions, however, imply some kind of obligation of the basis of what is right and fitting, and therefore the meaning may be frequently conveyed by a modal verb or adverb meaning “ought to,” “deserves,” or “should.”

In some languages this expression of comparison is particularly difficult, and instead of using an expression such as “more … than” (Revised Standard Version), a positive-negative is employed; for example, “they should honor Jesus, they should not honor Moses.” However, this kind of positive-negative construction does not mean literally what it says. It does not refer to a positive in contrast with a completely negative statement as to what should or should not take place, but to a comparative degree. In a number of other languages, comparison is often expressed by a verb meaning “to surpass”; for example, “in honoring Jesus they should surpass the way they honor Moses.”

Every house, of course, is built by someone must be expressed in some languages as an active construction, and this may be done by saying “There is, of course, always someone to build every house” or “If there is a house, then certainly someone has built it.” If, however, a translator can employ a word meaning “household” or “family,” it would be possible to say “There is always someone who has caused a family to be what it is.” In a similar manner the final clause of verse 4 may be rendered as “and God is the one who has called all things to be what they are.”

Quoted with permission from Ellingworth, Paul and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Letter of the Hebrews. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1983. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .