complete verse (John 4:8)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 4:8:

  • Uma: “His disciples continued on into the town to buy food. Not long [after that], a Samaria woman came to get water. Yesus said to her: ‘Ma’am, please give me some water to drink.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “His disciples were not there because they had gone to the town to buy their food. It wasn’t long when a Samariya woman came to draw water. Isa said to her, ‘Woman, give me (some) water to drink.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “There was also was the well that Jacob had made long ago. And as for Jesus, since he was very tired from walking, he sat down there near the well. And then the sun reached the zenith. He was alone because his disciples, they had gone into the village because they would buy food. And there arrived a Samaritan woman in order to fetch water. And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, let me drink.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “His followers though, they went to the town to go buy what they would eat. When they had gone, there was a woman who resided in Samaria who went to get-water. ‘I will please drink,’ Jesus said to her.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “(None of his disciples were there because they had gone to buy something to eat in the town.)” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The learners of Jesus had gone to the town in order to buy food to eat.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

John as a first-person evangelist (John 4:8)

In the Yatzachi Zapotec translation of the Gospel of John, any reference to the evangelist and presumed narrator is done in the first person.

The translator Inez Butler explains (in: Notes on Translation, September 1967, pp. 10ff.):

“In revising the Gospel of John in Yatzachi Zapotec we realized from the start that the third person references of Jesus to himself as Son of Man had to be converted into first person references, but only more recently have we decided that similar change is necessary in John’s references to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ As I worked on those changes and questioned the informant about his understanding of other passages in the Gospel, I discovered that the reader misses the whole focus of the book as an eyewitness account unless every reference to the disciples indicates the writer’s membership in the group. In view of that we went back through the entire book looking for ways to cue in the reader to the fact that John was an eyewitness and a participant in a many of the events, as well as the historian.

“When the disciples were participants in events along with Jesus, it was necessary to make explicit the fact that they accompanied him, although in the source language that is left implicit, since otherwise our rendering would imply that they were not present.”

In this verse, the Yatzachi Zapotec says: “We went into the village to buy something to eat.”


The Greek that is often translated as “disciple” in English typically follows three types of translation: (1) those which employ a verb ‘to learn’ or ‘to be taught’, (2) those which involve an additional factor of following, or accompaniment, often in the sense of apprenticeship, and (3) those which imply imitation of the teacher.

Following are some examples (click or tap for details):

In Luang several terms with different shades of meaning are being used.

  • For Mark 2:23 and 3:7: maka nwatutu-nwaye’a re — “those that are taught” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ before the resurrection, while Jesus was still on earth teaching them.”)
  • For Acts 9:1 and 9:10: makpesiay — “those who believe.” (“This is the term used for believers and occasionally for the church, but also for referring to the disciples when tracking participants with a view to keeping them clear for the Luang readers. Although Greek has different terms for ‘believers’, ‘brothers’, and ‘church’, only one Luang word can be used in a given episode to avoid confusion. Using three different terms would imply three different sets of participants.”)
  • For Acts 6:1: mak lernohora Yesus wniatutunu-wniaye’eni — “those who follow Jesus’ teaching.” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ after Jesus returned to heaven.”)

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