John as a first-person evangelist (John 9:1)

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 were walking together with Jesus when he saw . . .”

complete verse (John 9:1)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 9:1:

  • Uma: “While Yesus was walking, he saw a person who had been blind from his birth.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “While Isa was walking, he saw a certain person blind from birth.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And while Jesus was walking around he saw a person who, beginning from his birth, he was already totally blind.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When Jesus was walking-along, he saw a man who was born blind.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Once when Jesus was journeying, he came across a blind man. This blindness of his was from birth.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “There where Jesus was going by, he saw a man who was blind from since he was born.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)