Elijah was a human being like us

The Greek that is translated as “Elijah was a human being like us” or similar in English is translated as “Do you remember the prophet Elijah formerly? He was a man just like us.” in Kinaray-A. The rhetorical question here functions as an introduction to a new theme which is about earnest prayer. Without the rhetorical question the translation would sound too abrupt. (Source: Balbina Abadiano in Notes on Translation 1988, p. 40ff.)

zeal, zealous

The Greek and Hebrew that is often translated in English as “zeal” or “zealous” is translated in Moken as “great love” (“my zeal” — cewui lak tho: “my great love.”) (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is likewise translated as “love, commitment, enthusiasm” (not jealousy). (Source: Robert Bascom)

In Khasi is is translated with shitrhem which conveys the “idea of loving or devoted enthusiasm.” (Source: B. J. Syiemlieh)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Jas. 5:17)

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, translators typically select the inclusive form (“just like is” in English) (including the reader).

Source: SIL International Translation Department (1999).

complete verse (James 5:17)

Following are a number of back-translations of James 5:17:

  • Uma: “Remember the account of the prophet Elia long ago. This prophet Elia, he was just a man/human too like us. He prayed with his real heart that it wouldn’t rain. Rain didn’t fall for three years and six months.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Nabi Eliyas was simply human like we (incl.) are. In old times he prayed whole-heartedly to God that it should not rain and it really did not rain for three and one half years.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for Elijah long ago, he was just a human like we are. But in spite of that, his praying was strong that it might not rain. And it really did not rain for three and a half years.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Think-about Elias. He was a person just like us, but when he persisted in praying that it not rain, it truly didn’t-rain for three and a half years.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Consider this, that as for that Elias of long ago, he was a person like us indeed. When he prayed that it wouldn’t rain, isn’t it so that for three and a half years it truly didn’t rain?” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The prophet Elias also was just a person like us. But he earnestly prayed from the heart, he asked that it wouldn’t rain. And it didn’t rain for three and a half years.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

pray

The Greek that is translated as a form of “pray” in English is often translated as “talking with God” (Central Pame, Tzeltal, Chol, Chimborazo Highland Quichua, Shipibo-Conibo, Kaqchikel, Tepeuxila Cuicatec, Copainalá Zoque, Central Tarahumara).

Other solutions include:

  • “to beg” or “to ask,” (full expression: “to ask with one’s heart coming out,” which leaves out selfish praying, for asking with the heart out leaves no place for self to hide) (Tzotzil)
  • “to cause God to know” (Huichol)
  • “to raise up one’s words to God” (implying an element of worship, as well as communication) (Miskito, Lacandon) (Source of this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Shilluk: “speak to God” (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
  • Mairasi: “talk together with Great Above One (=God)” (source: Enggavoter, 2004)
  • San Blas Kuna: “call to one’s Father” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
  • Ik: waan: “beg.” Terrill Schrock (in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 93) explains (click or tap here to read more):

    What do begging and praying have to do with each other? Do you beg when you pray? Do I?

    “The Ik word for ‘visitor’ is waanam, which means ‘begging person.’ Do you beg when you go visiting? The Ik do. Maybe you don’t beg, but maybe when you visit someone, you are looking for something. Maybe it’s just a listening ear.

    When the Ik hear that [my wife] Amber and I are planning trip to this or that place for a certain amount of time, the letters and lists start coming. As the days dwindle before our departure, the little stack of guests grows. ‘Please, sir, remember me for the allowing: shoes, jacket (rainproof), watch, box, trousers, pens, and money for the children. Thank you, sir, for your assistance.’

    “A few people come by just to greet us or spend bit of time with us. Another precious few will occasionally confide in us about their problems without asking for anything more than a listening ear. I love that.

    “The other day I was in our spare bedroom praying my list of requests to God — a nice list covering most areas of my life, certainly all the points of anxiety. Then it hit me: Does God want my list, or does he want my relationship?

    “I decided to try something. Instead of reading off my list of requests to God, I just talk to him about my issues without any expectation of how he should respond. I make it more about our relationship than my list, because if our personhood is like God’s personhood, then maybe God prefers our confidence and time to our lists, letters, and enumerations.”

In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning (click or tap here to read more):

  • For Acts 1:14, 20:36, 21:5: kola ttieru-yawur nehla — “hold the waist and hug the neck.” (“This is the more general term for prayer and often refers to worship in prayer as opposed to petition. The Luang people spend the majority of their prayers worshiping rather than petitioning, which explains why this term often is used generically for prayer.”)
  • For Acts 1:14, 28:9: sumbiani — “pray.” (“This term is also used generically for ‘prayer’. When praying is referred to several times in close proximity, it serves as a variation for kola ttieru-yawur nehla, in keeping with Luang discourse style. It is also used when a prayer is made up of many requests.”)
  • For Acts 8:15, 12:5: polu-waka — “call-ask.” (“This is a term for petition that is used especially when the need is very intense.”)

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.