go vs. return

Kayaw has two main verbs of movement: lè for movement in a direction away from one’s home, and the ge for movement in a direction returning back to one’s home. So in Kayaw, you “go somewhere”, but you never “go home”, you only “return home”. Thus, in John 14:2-5, Jesus speaks of returning to his Father’s house in heaven, rather than going to his Father’s house in heaven. In verse 5 Thomas says that he and the other disciples don’t know where Jesus is returning, or the way that would enable them to go there (for them a new place, not their home). This use of return implies that Thomas is confused about both Jesus’ origin (coming down from his Father) and Jesus’ destination (returning to his Father). This fits well with verses 6-11 where Jesus uses Thomas’ confusion to expound on his relationship to the Father. (Source: Anonymous)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 1:45)

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 exclusive form (excluding Jesus).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

complete verse (John 14:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 14:5:

  • Uma: “Tomas said: ‘We(excl.) do not even know where you (sing.) are going, Lord. How can we (excl.) know the way?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Tomas said to him, ‘Sir, we (excl.) do not know where you are going. How can we (excl.) know the way there?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Thomas said to Jesus, ‘We don’t know where you’re going. How can we find the way you are going on?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then Tomas said, ‘Lord, we (excl.) don’t know the path, because we (excl.) don’t know where you (sing.) are going.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When Tomas heard, he asked, ‘Lord/Chief, we (excl.) don’t know where you will go to. How can we know the trail?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord. We don’t know where you are going so how can we know the road you are talking about?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on John 14:5

In 11.16 and 20.24 Thomas is further qualified as “the one called the twin.”

The way to get there (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch “the way there”) is literally “the way” Phillips translates “what road you’re going to take.” In some languages the way to get there is expressed as “the road that leads there” or “the path by which one goes in order to arrive there” or “the road which one must follow in order to go there.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .