The Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic that is translated as “angel” in English versions is translated in many ways:

  • Pintupi-Luritja: ngaṉka ngurrara: “one who belongs in the sky” (source: Ken Hansen quoted in Steven 1984a, p. 116.)
  • Tetela, Kpelle, Balinese, and Mandarin Chinese: “heavenly messenger”
  • Shilluk / Igede: “spirit messenger”
  • Mashco Piro: “messenger of God”
  • Batak Toba: “envoy, messenger”
  • Navajo: “holy servant” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida 1961; Igede: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Central Mazahua: “God’s worker” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
  • Saramaccan: basia u Masa Gaangadu köndë or “messenger from God’s country” (source: Jabini 2015, p. 86)
  • Mairasi: atatnyev nyaa or “sent-one” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “word bringer” (source: James Lauriault in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 32ff. )
  • Apali: “God’s one with talk from the head” (“basically God’s messenger since head refers to any leader’s talk”) (source: Martha Wade)
  • Michoacán Nahuatl: “clean helper of God” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Noongar: Hdjin-djin-kwabba or “spirit good” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Wè Northern (Wɛɛ): Kea ‘a “sooa or “the Lord’s soldier” (also: “God’s soldier” or “his soldier”) (source: Drew Maust)
  • Iwaidja: “a man sent with a message” (Sam Freney explains the genesis of this term [in this article): “For example, in Darwin last year, as we were working on a new translation of Luke 2:6–12 in Iwaidja, a Northern Territory language, the translators had written ‘angel’ as ‘a man with eagle wings’. Even before getting to the question of whether this was an accurate term (or one that imported some other information in), the word for ‘eagle’ started getting discussed. One of the translators had her teenage granddaughter with her, and this word didn’t mean anything to her at all. She’d never heard of it, as it was an archaic term that younger people didn’t use anymore. They ended up changing the translation of ‘angel’ to something like ‘a man sent with a message’, which is both more accurate and clear.”)

See also angel (Acts 12:15) and this devotion on YouVersion .

complete verse (John 5:4)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 5:4:

  • Uma: “Because sometimes an angel of the Lord descended to that pool to stir-up the water. And whoever got into the pool first when its water was stirred-up, he was healed from the disease that he suffered from.]]” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “For sometimes, an angel from God went to the pool and stirred the water. And the first one getting into the water, after the water had stirred, was healed no matter what his sickness was.)” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For it was reported that there was a time when an angel of God would come down to the pool, and he would stir the water. And then the first person to jump into the water would become well of whatever sickness he had.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because from-time-to-time reportedly, there was an angel of God who went and entered to move/ripple the water. And the one who went-first to enter the water upon the angel’s moving/rippling-it, whatever was his sickness was removed.]” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Because according to their folklore, an angel of God sometimes came down and he stirred up the water. Whoever was first to go down and step into that water which was stirred up, whatever illness was his illness would then get better.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Because at times an angel arrived and disturbed the water in the pool. That one of the sick people who first got into the water when it was disturbed was healed of whatever sickness he had.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on John 5:4

In Greek this verse begins with the pronominal phrase “in these,” which Good News Translation makes explicit as on the porches and New English Bible as “in these colonnades.”

Good News Translation takes sick people as a generic term, qualified by the specific terms the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. The same exegesis is apparently followed by New English Bible, Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, and Phillips. It is possible to follow Revised Standard Version and others and take sick people as a specific category (“a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed”). However, in Greek this term is very general (literally “those who were weak”), and it is better taken as a generic term followed by the specific types of illness.

A large crowd of sick people may be rendered “many, many sick people.”

Some languages may require an indication of the precise relation between the generic expression sick people and a more specific description of them as blind, lame, and paralyzed. One may say, for example, “These sick people included those who were blind, lame, and paralyzed.” Terms for these conditions may be rendered as negatives, for example, “they could not see, they could not walk, and they could not move.”

In Good News Translation the last half of verse 3 and all of verse 4 are included in a footnote, indicating that these verses do not appear in the earliest and best Greek manuscripts. It seems likely that this part of the text was added by some ancient scribe as a kind of marginal note, explaining why the sick people gathered about the pool and how they reacted when the water was stirred up (perhaps by an underground stream that flowed in from time to time). This explanation probably represents a popular belief held by the people of that day, that is, that the stirring up of the water was caused by an angel of the Lord, and that whoever should be the first sick person to go down into the pool after the water was stirred up was healed from whatever disease he had.

In addition to the fact that they are omitted from the best Greek manuscripts, verses 3b-4 offer serious textual problems.

In selecting a term for “moved” it is important to avoid the impression that the entire body of water moved. One may say, “part of the water moved.” In some languages the term employed suggests “some water flowed in.” In others the meaning is essentially equivalent to “some water.”

The temporal expression every now and then is indefinite in meaning, and in the receptor language an expression should be selected which is also indefinite. To do so is difficult in some languages, which demand a choice among expressions meaning “every few hours,” “every few days,” or “every few months.” If a choice is necessary, a translation suggesting “every few days” would probably be the most appropriate.

It may be difficult to say in some languages was healed from whatever disease he had. An equivalent may be “would get well, no matter what disease he had” or “got well, even if he had any kind of disease.”

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 .