boat, ship

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated “boat” or “ship” in English is translated in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “that with which we can walk on water” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.), in Chitonga as a term in combination with bwato or “dugout canoe” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 72), and in Tangale as inj am or “canoe-of water” (inj — “canoe” — on its own typically refers to a traditional type of carved-out log for sleeping) (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).

In Kouya it is translated as ‘glʋ ‘kadʋ — “big canoe.”

Philip Saunders (p. 231) explains how the Kouya team arrived at that conclusion:

“Acts chapter 27 was a challenge! It describes Paul’s sea voyage to Italy, and finally Rome. There is a storm at sea and a shipwreck on Malta, and the chapter includes much detailed nautical vocabulary. How do you translate this for a landlocked people group, most of whom have never seen the ocean? All they know are small rivers and dugout canoes.

“We knew that we could later insert some illustrations during the final paging process which would help the Kouya readers to picture what was happening, but meanwhile we struggled to find or invent meaningful terms. The ‘ship’ was a ‘big canoe’ and the ‘passengers’ were ‘the people in the big canoe’; the ‘crew’ were the ‘workers in the big canoe’; the ‘pilot’ was the ‘driver of the big canoe’; the ‘big canoe stopping place’ was the ‘harbour’, and the ‘big canoe stopping metal’ was the ‘anchor’!”

See also ships of Tarshish, harbor, anchor, and sailor.


The Greek terms that are used for what is translated as “net” in English are translated in languages like Navajo where fishing with nets is not known as “instruments to catch (or: bring out) the fish.” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Rundi the term urusenga is used. Rosemary Guillebaud (in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 15ff. ) tells this story:

“[People living close to lakes] produced further problems for us over fishing terms when we reached the revision of the Gospels. Fishing is practically unknown in the mountain streams and rivers, so there is hardly any vocabulary for it up-country. In Mat. 4:18 we read that Jesus saw two brethren “casting a net into the sea.” The word we used for net (urusenga) is used all over Rundi for a fishing net, whatever it is like, but when I read this to some people who live by the lake they said it was the wrong word, as from the context this happened during the daytime, and urusenga-fishing is only done at night. It appears that the urusenga is something like a shrimping net, and is used on moonless nights, when the fishermen hold flares over the side of the boat and attract a certain variety of very small fish which swim about in shoals. The net they use for day-time fishing is something like a drag-net and is called urukwabu. On enquiry inland, I never discovered a single person who knew this word. It was obviously the right one, technically speaking, but we felt that the few thousand lake-dwellers could not be weighed against almost the entire population of the country, so we had to employ the up-country word, putting an explanatory note in the margin that by the lake this net is called urukwabu.”

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing net-fishing in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

complete verse (John 21:6)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 21:6:

  • Uma: “He said to them: ‘Throw your nets on the right side of the boat, you will definitely be fortunate.’ They did throw their nets, and they were not able to pull it, because no kidding the manyness of the fish in it.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Isa said, ‘Throw your net there to the right side of your boat so that you will catch.’ Therefore they threw their net. They could not pull the net into the boat because of the many fish they had caught.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Jesus said, ‘Spread out the net on the right side and you will catch something.’ And they spread out the net again, and when they pulled it up they couldn’t lift it because of the many fish that they had caught.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Jesus then said, ‘Toss-the-net on the right-side of the boat and you will get something.’ When they then tossed-the-net, they were not able-to-pull-it-up on-account-of the large-number (lit. manyness) of fish that they-had-net-fished.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He said next to them, ‘Let your fishnet drop on the right of that boat of yours. You will be able to get some.’ They let it drop. What else but they could no longer pull it up because it was full of fish which had now entered.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Then Jesus said, ‘Throw the net to the right side of the boat and you will catch the fish.’ They cast the net. Then they couldn’t pull the net out of the water because there were many fish caught in it.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

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.