salvation

The Greek that is translated with “salvation” in English is translated in the following ways:

  • San Blas Kuna: “receive help for bad deeds” (“this help is not just any kind of help but help for the soul which has sinned)
  • Northwestern Dinka: “help as to his soul” (“or literally, ‘his breath'”) (source for this and the one above: Nida 1952, p. 140)
  • Central Mazahua: “healing the heart” (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Tzeltal: col: “get loose,” “go free,” “get well” (source: Marianna C. Slocum in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 49f. )
  • Aari: “the day our Savior comes” (in Rom 13:11) (source: Loren Bliese)

in Mairasi its is translated as “life fruit” or “life fruit all mashed out.” Lloyd Peckham explains: “In secret stories, not knowable to women nor children, there was a magical fruit of life. If referred to vaguely, without specifying the specific ‘fruit,’ it can be an expression for eternity.” And for “all masked out” he explains: “Bark cloth required pounding. It got longer and wider as it got pounded. Similarly, life gets pounded or mashed to lengthen it into infinity. Tubers also get mashed into the standard way of serving the staple food, like the fufu of Uganda, or like poi of Hawaii. It spreads out into infinity.” (See also eternity / forever)

In Lisu a poetic construct is used for this term. Arrington (2020, p. 58f.) explains: “A four-word couplet uses Lisu poetic forms to bridge the abstract concrete divide, an essential divide to cross if Christian theology is to be understood by those with oral thought patterns. Each couplet uses three concrete nouns or verbs to express an abstract term. An example of this is the word for salvation, a quite abstract term essential to understanding Christian theology. To coin this new word, the missionary translators used a four-word couplet: ℲO., CYU. W: CYU (person … save … person … save). In this particular case, the word for person was not the ordinary word (ʁ) but rather the combination of ℲO., and W: used in oral poetry. The word for ‘save’ also had to be coined; in this case, it was borrowed from Chinese [from jiù / 救]. These aspects of Lisu poetry, originally based on animism, likely would have been lost as Lisu society encountered communism and modernization. Yet they are now codified in the Lisu Bible as well as the hymnbook.”

See also save and save (Japanese honorifics) / salvation (of God) (Japanese honorifics).

the Jews (Jewish people)

In the English Good News Bible (2nd edition of 1992), this occurrence of the Greek hoi Ioudaioi, traditionally “the Jews” in English, is translated with a term that refers to the Jewish people or is not translated at all if it implicitly refers to the Jewish people (for example “Passover” instead of “Passover of the Jews”). For an explanation of the differentiated translation in English as well as translation choices in a number of languages, see the Jews.

worship

The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are often translated as “worship” (also, “kneel down” or “bow down”) are likewise translated in other languages in certain categories, including those based on physical activity, those which incorporate some element of “speaking” or “declaring,” and those which specify some type of mental activity.

Following is a list of (back-) translations (click or tap for details):

  • Javanese: “prostrate oneself before”
  • Malay: “kneel and bow the head”
  • Kaqchikel: “kneel before”
  • Loma (Liberia): “drop oneself beneath God’s foot”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “wag the tail before God” (using a verb which with an animal subject means “to wag the tail,” but with a human subject)
  • Tzotzil: “join to”
  • Kpelle: “raise up a blessing to God”
  • Kekchí: “praise as your God”
  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “say one is important”
  • San Blas Kuna: “think of God with the heart”
  • Rincón Zapotec: “have one’s heart go out to God”
  • Tabasco Chontal: “holy-remember” (source of this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Q’anjob’al: “humble oneself before” (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. )
  • Alur: rwo: “complete submission, adoration, consecration” (source: F. G. Lasse in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 22ff. )
  • Obolo: itọtọbọ ebum: “express reverence and devotion” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Ngäbere: “cut oneself down before” (“This figure of speech comes from the picture of towering mahoganies in the forest which, under the woodman’s ax, quiver, waver, and then in solemn, thunderous crashing bury their lofty heads in the upstretched arms of the surrounding forest. This is the experience of every true worshiper who sees ‘the Lord, high and lifted up.’ Our own unworthiness brings us low. As the Valientes say, ‘we cut ourselves down before’ His presence. Our heads, which have been carried high in self-confidence, sink lower and lower in worship.)
  • Tzeltal: “end oneself before God.” (“Only by coming to the end of oneself can one truly worship. The animist worships his deities in the hope of receiving corresponding benefits, and some pagans in Christendom think that church attendance is a guarantee of success in this life and good luck in the future. But God has never set a price on worship except the price that we must pay, namely, ‘coming to the end of ourselves.'”) (Source of this and the one above: Nida 1952, p. 163)
  • Folopa: “die under God” (“an idiom that roughly back-translates “dying under God” which means lifting up his name and praising him and to acknowledge by everything one does and thanks that God is superior.”) (Source: Anderson / Moore, p. 202)
  • Chokwe: kuivayila — “rub something on” (“When anyone goes into the presence of a king or other superior, according to native law and custom the inferior gets down on the ground, takes a little earth in the fingers of his right hand, rubs it on his own body, and then claps his hands in homage and the greeting of friendship. It is a token of veneration, of homage, of extreme gratitude for some favor received. It is also a recognition of kingship, lordship, and a prostrating of oneself in its presence. Yet it simply is the applicative form of ‘to rub something on oneself’, this form of the verb giving the value of ‘because of.’ Thus in God’s presence as king and Lord we metaphorically rub dirt on ourselves, thus acknowledging Him for what He really is and what He has done for us.”) (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff. )

In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:

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

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 4:22)

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 the addressee).

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

complete verse (John 4:22)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 4:22:

  • Uma: “You Samaria people, you do not know who it is that you worship. We(excl.) Yahudi people, we (excl.) know who it is that we (excl.) worship, because there is a promise of God that says the goodness/salvation of mankind will appear from the midst of the Yahudi people.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “You the tribe of Samariya, you worship but you are ignorant as-to what you worship. We (excl.) the Yahudi, we (excl.) know as-to whom we worship, for the one who saves mankind comes out of the Yahudi tribe hep.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “As for you Samaritan people, you do not know who it is you worship. But we Jews, we know, by contrast, who it is we are worshipping because by means of us Jews God will set mankind free.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Whereupon Jesus said, ‘Mother (vocative for any older woman), you from-Samaria, you definitely don’t know God whom you are worshipping, but we (excl.) Jews by-contrast, we (excl.) know-(him), because the one who will save all people, he was born a Jew. Believe (sing.) (strong command particle) what I say now. In the time that will arrive, it will not be on this mountain and neither also in Jerusalem where-people -will-worship God the Father.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “You (pl.) Samaritano really don’t know the one you worship. But as for us (excl.) Judio, we know whom we worship, because as for salvation, it will come from our nation.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The natives of Samaria do not know God whom they worship. But the Jews know God whom they worship. Because God chose that one person who is a Jew should appear as a savior.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

He deliberately took time to draw near to social outcasts (image)

“Jesus is dressed in a different style of clothing than the style of the woman who is shown as a Lanna Thai northerner. It is unusual for him to talk to a person from a different region, especially a woman. The clothes, the roof of the house in the background, and the dipper for water all indicate that this is in northern Thailand.”

Drawing by Sawai Chinnawong who employs northern and central Thailand’s popular distinctive artistic style originally used to depict Buddhist moral principles and other religious themes; explanation by Paul DeNeui. From That Man Who Came to Save Us by Sawai Chinnawong and Paul H. DeNeui, William Carey Library, 2010.

For more images by Sawai Chinnawong in TIPs see here.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Woman at the Well .

first person pronoun referring to God

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of a first person singular and plural pronoun (“I” and “we” and its various forms) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. The most commonly used watashi/watakushi (私) is typically used when the speaker is humble and asking for help.

In these verses, where God / Jesus is referring to himself, watashi is also used but instead of the kanji writing system (私) the syllabary hiragana (わたし) is used to distinguish God from others.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

See also pronoun for “God”.

Translation commentary on John 4:22

You Samaritans is literally “you” (plural), while we Jews is literally “we.” Good News Translation and several other translations identify thus the persons referred to.

Whom you worship is literally “what you worship.” Most other translations render this phrase literally, using the neuter “what” rather than the masculine whom. Although the term used in the Greek text is neuter, the reference is obviously to God, and Good News Translation accordingly uses the masculine rather than the neuter. (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch makes the reference to God explicit: “you Samaritans do not know God.”) In John 10.29 the neuter is used of the believers whom the Father has given to the Son, and in 1 John 1.1 a neuter pronoun is used in reference to the Word. Phillips certainly misses the point in rendering “You are worshiping with your eyes shut. We Jews are worshiping with our eyes open.”

Though some form of worship is universal, in various parts of the world, the ways in which worship is designated may differ radically. In some instances one may use simply an expression for “prayer,” for example, “to speak to God.” In others the attitude of the worshiper is in focus, for example, “to be reverent before God” or “to be silent before God.” Sometimes the emphasis is upon the position of the worshiper, for example, “to kneel down before God” or “to bow low before God.” Sometimes some activity associated with worship may be mentioned, for example, “to bring gifts to God” or even “to sacrifice to God.”

Because it is from the Jews that salvation comes affirms the reality of the historical situation, in which God has revealed himself in a unique way to the Jewish people. This verse both indicates that the Gospel is not anti-Semitic in the modern sense of the word, and it affirms the historical reality of the situation. A literal translation of because it is from the Jews that salvation comes may be misleading in some languages and may even suggest that the Jews are the ones who will save people. God, of course, is the agent of salvation, but the knowledge about how God saves people comes from the Jews. This truth may be expressed in some languages as “because the Jews are the ones who can tell how God saves people,” or “… through whom God promised salvation.” This ability of the Jews to point the way to salvation reflects the historical reality of God’s special dealings with the Jewish nation.

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 .