truth

The Greek and Hebrew that is usually translated in English as “truth” is translated in Luchazi with vusunga: “the quality of being straight.” (Source: E. Pearson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 160ff.)

In Obolo is is translated as atikọ or “good/correct talk” (source: Enene Enene).

The translation committee of the Malay “Good News Bible” (Alkitab Berita Baik, see here) wrestled with the translation of “truth” in the Gospel of John (source: Barclay Newman in The Bible Translator 1974, p. 432ff.):

“Our Malay Committee also concluded that ‘truth’ as used in the Gospel of John was used either of God himself, or of God’s revelation of himself, or in an extended sense as a reference to those who had responded to God’s self-disclosure. In John 8:32 the New Malay translation reads ‘You will know the truth about God, and the truth about God will make you free.’ In John 8:44 this meaning is brought out by translating, ‘He has never been on the side of God, because there is no truth in him.’ Accordingly Jesus ‘tells the truth about God’ in 8:45, 46 (see also 16:7 and 8:37a). Then, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ becomes ‘I am the one who leads men to God, the one who reveals who and what God is, and the one who gives men life.” At 3:21 the translation reads ” … whoever obeys the truth, that is God himself, comes to the light …’; 16:13a appears as ‘he will lead you into the full truth about God’; and in 18:37 Jesus affirms ‘I came into the world to reveal the truth about God, and whoever obeys God listens to me.’ On this basis also 1:14 was translated ‘we saw his glory, the glory which he had as the Father’s only Son. Through him God has completely revealed himself (truth) and his love for us (grace)’; and 1:17 appears as ‘God gave the law through Moses; but through Jesus Christ he has completely revealed himself (truth) and his love for us (grace).'”

Helen Evans (in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff.) tells of the translation into Kui which usually is “true-thing.” In some instances however, such as in the second part of John 17:17 (“your word is truth” in English), the use of “true-thing” indicated that there might be other occasions when it’s not true, so here the translation was a a form of “pure, holy.”

complete verse (John 14:17)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 14:17:

  • Uma: “That Helper, he is the Holy Spirit, who leads you to the true teaching. People who do not believe cannot receive him, because they do not see him and they also do not know him. But as for you, you know him, because he is with you now, and will dwell in your hearts.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “This helper is the Spirit of God. He tells the truth about God. But the people who do not follow God, cannot receive the Spirit of God because they do not understand him. But you, you know the Spirit of God because he is there with you and he is remaining in your liver.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “He is the Holy Spirit who teaches the truth. This one will not be accepted by the people here in the world who are enemies of God because they do not recognize him and they do not understand who he is. But as for you, you understand who he is because he lives there to you and he does not go away from you.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Those who don’t believe me, they will not be able-to-receive him, because they do not recognize and neither do they know him. But you though, you know him, because here-now he is staying where you are and later he will be in you.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “The Espiritu Santo is the one I mean by this. He is the one whose-job-is-to-make-you-know the truth. As for the mass of people who don’t believe-in/obey me, the help of this Espiritu Santo won’t be theirs, for they don’t acknowledge him and they have no understanding/wisdom concerning him. But you know him, because he is keeping close to you now and the day will come when he will now enter to indwell your bodies.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The people who do not believe God are not able to be in fellowship with the Holy Spirit because they do not see him nor know him. But you know him because the Holy Spirit now is here with you and he will be your companion forever.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

pronoun for "God"

God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is traditionally confined to “he” (or in the forms “his,” “him,” and “himself” in many English Bible translations when referring to the persons of the Trinity with the capitalized “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).

Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility (click or tap here to read more):

In modern Chinese, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (tā), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is “he,” 她 is “she,” and 它/牠 is “it” and their respective derivative forms). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.

In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande (王元德) coined a new “godly” pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: tā. But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that each person of the Trinity has no gender aside from being God.

While the most important Protestant and Catholic Chinese versions respectively have opted not to use 祂, many other Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. (Source: Zetzsche)

Early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970) also used 祂 to refer to “God.” Kramers points out: “This new way of writing ‘He,’ however, has created a minor problem of its own: must this polite form be used whenever Jesus is referred to? Lü follows the rule that, wherever Jesus is referred to as a human being, the normal ta (他) is written; where he is referred to as divine, especially after the ascension, the reverential ta (祂) is used.”

Source: R. P. Kramers in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.

In Kouya, Godié, Northern Grebo, Eastern Krahn, Western Krahn, and Guiberoua Béte, all languages of the Kru family in Western Africa, a different kind of systems of pronouns is used (click or tap here to read more):

In that system one kind of pronoun is used for humans (male and female alike) and one for natural elements, non-liquid masses, and some spiritual entities (one other is used for large animals and another one for miscellaneous items). While in these languages the pronoun for spiritual entities used to be employed when referring to God, this has changed into the use of the human pronoun.

Lynell Zogbo (in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 401ff) explains in the following way: “From informal discussions with young Christians especially, it would appear that, at least for some people, the experience and/or concepts of Christianity are affecting the choice of pronoun for God. Some people explain that God is no longer ‘far away,’ but is somehow tangible and personal. For these speakers God has shifted over into the human category.”

In Kouya, God (the Father) and Jesus are referred to with the human pronoun ɔ, whereas the Holy Spirit is referred to with a non-human pronoun. (Northern Grebo and Western Krahn make a similar distinction.)

Eddie Arthur, a former Kouya Bible translation consultant, says the following: “We tried to insist that this shouldn’t happen, but the Kouya team members were insistent that the human pronoun for the Spirit would not work.”

In Burmese, the pronoun ko taw (ကိုယ်တော်) is used either as 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (he, him, his) reference. “This term clearly has its root in the religious language in Burmese. No ordinary persons are addressed or known by this pronoun because it is reserved for Buddhist monks, famous religious teachers, and in the case of Christianity, the Trinity.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 202ff.)

The English “Contemporary Torah” addresses the question of God and gendered pronouns by mostly avoiding pronouns in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (unless God is referred to as “lord,” “father,” “kind,” or “warrior”). It does that by either using passive constructs (“He gave us” vs “we were given”), by using the adjective “divine” or by using “God” rather than a pronoun.

Translation: Chinese

在现代汉语中,第三人称单数代词的读音都是一样的(tā),但是写法并不一样,取决于性别以及是否有生命,即男性为“他”,女性为“她”,动物、植物和无生命事物为“它”(在香港和台湾的汉语使用,动物则为“牠”)。这些字的部首偏旁表明了性别(男人、女人、动物、无生命事物),而另一偏旁通常旁提示发音。

到1930年为止,基督教新教《圣经》经过整整一百年的翻译已经拥有了十几个译本,当时的一位圣经翻译者王元德新造了一个“神圣的”代词“祂”,偏旁“礻”表示神明。一般汉语读者会立即知道这字的发音是tā,而这个偏旁表示属灵的事物,因此他们明白这个字指出,三位一体的所有位格都没有性别之分,而单单是上帝。

然而,最重要的新教圣经译本(1919年的《和合本》)和天主教圣经译本(1968年的《思高圣经》)都没有采用“祂”;虽然如此,许多其他的圣经译本采用了这个字,另外还广泛出现在赞美诗和其他基督信仰的书刊中。(资料来源:Zetzsche)

《吕振中译本》的几个早期版本也使用“祂”来指称“上帝”;这个译本的《新约》于1946年译成,整部《圣经》于1970年完成。克拉默斯(Kramers)指出:“‘他’的这种新写法(即‘祂’)产生了一个小问题,就是在指称耶稣的时候,是否一律使用这个敬语代词?《吕振中译本》遵循的原则是,在称呼耶稣这个人的时候,用一般的‘他’,而在称呼耶稣神性的时候,特别是升天之后的耶稣,则用尊称‘祂’。”

Translator: Simon Wong

formal pronoun: Jesus addressing his disciples and common people

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, Jesus is addressing his disciples, individuals and/or crowds with the formal pronoun, showing respect.

In most Dutch translations, Jesus addresses his disciples and common people with the informal pronoun, whereas they address him with the formal form.