he put mud on my eyes

The Greek that is translated as “he put mud on my eyes” in English (leaving it open at what point in the past this was in reference to) in translated in Marubo as “(earlier today) he put mud on my eyes.”

The translation facilitator explains:

“Marubo has a ‘graded’ or ‘metrical’ tense system, where different verbal suffixes are used depending on when the event occurs relative to a certain reference point (usually the moment of utterance).

“So, for instance, if one wants to communicate that their relative went to the city, they could use several different forms:

  • Today’s past (the going occurred sometime earlier today)
  • Past 1 (yesterday to a few weeks ago)
  • Past 2 (a few weeks ago to years ago)
  • Past 3 (many many, years ago/childhood)
  • Past 4 (pre-birth events)

“For this passage the marker for today’s past was used.”


The Greek that is a transliteration of the Hebrew Pərūšīm and is typically transliterated into English as “Pharisee” is transliterated in Mandarin Chinese as Fǎlìsài (法利賽 / 法利赛) (Protestant) or Fǎlìsāi (法利塞) (Catholic). In Chinese, transliterations can typically be done with a great number of different and identical-sounding characters. Often the meaning of the characters are not relevant, unless they are chosen carefully as in these cases. The Protestant Fǎlìsài can mean something like “Competition for the profit of the law” and the Catholic Fǎlìsāi “Stuffed by/with the profit of the law.” (Source: Zetzsche 1996, p. 51)

In Finnish Sign Language it is translated with the sign signifying “prayer shawl”. (Source: Tarja Sandholm)

“Pharisee” in Finnish Sign Language (source )

In British Sign Language it is translated with a sign that depicts “pointing out the law.” (Source: Anna Smith)

“Pharisee” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023) translates it into English as Observant. He explains (p. 302): “Pharisee has become a public, universal pejorative term for a hypocrite. Pharisees were observant of the interpretation of the Covenant Code called the ‘tradition of the elders.’ They conformed their behaviors to the interpretation. Among the various groups of Jews at the time of Jesus, they were perhaps closest to Jesus in their overall concern to make a radical commitment to the will of God (as they understood it).”

complete verse (John 9:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 9:15:

  • Uma: “The Parisi people also asked him, they said: ‘What happened with the result that you can see?’ He said to them: ‘He smeared my eyes with mud, and when I washed my face, I could see.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The person who had been blind was asked also by the Pariseo as to how he came to see. He said to them, ‘Isa placed mud on my eyes. Then I washed-my-face. After I had washed-my-face, immediately I could see.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And the Pharisees, they asked the person again the way that his seeing was cured. And he said, ‘Jesus rubbed mud on my eyes and I went and washed my face and now I can see.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then the Pharisees inquired what had happened to him, after-which he could-see. The man said, ‘He applied/rubbed some mud on my eyes, I then went and washed-my-face, and here-now I am able-to-see.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He was interrogated by the Pariseo as to how he could now see. ‘Well that’s how it was,’ he said, ‘he applied mud to these eyes of mine, and then I went and washed my face. Well it’s like this now, that I can now see.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The Pharisees also asked how it was that the eyes were opened. He told them, ‘He rubbed the mud on my eyes. I went to wash my eyes. And now my eyes are open.'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

pronoun for "God"

God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is traditionally confined to “he” (or in the forms “his,” “him,” and “himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).

Modern Mandarin Chinese, however, offers another possibility. Here, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (tā), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is “he,” 她 is “she,” and 它/牠 is “it” and their respective derivative forms). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.

In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande (王元德) coined a new “godly” pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: tā. But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that each person of the Trinity has no gender aside from being God.

While the most important Protestant and Catholic Chinese versions respectively have opted not to use 祂, some Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. Among the translations that use 祂 to refer to “God” were early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970). R.P. Kramers (in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.) explains why later versions of Lü’s translation did not continue with this practice: “This new way of writing ‘He,’ however, has created a minor problem of its own: must this polite form be used whenever Jesus is referred to? Lü follows the rule that, wherever Jesus is referred to as a human being, the normal ta (他) is written; where he is referred to as divine, especially after the ascension, the reverential ta (祂) is used.”

In Kouya, Godié, Northern Grebo, Eastern Krahn, Western Krahn, and Guiberoua Béte, all languages of the Kru family in Western Africa, a different kind of systems of pronouns is used (click or tap here to read more):

In that system one kind of pronoun is used for humans (male and female alike) and one for natural elements, non-liquid masses, and some spiritual entities (one other is used for large animals and another one for miscellaneous items). While in these languages the pronoun for spiritual entities used to be employed when referring to God, this has changed into the use of the human pronoun.

Lynell Zogbo (in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 401ff) explains in the following way: “From informal discussions with young Christians especially, it would appear that, at least for some people, the experience and/or concepts of Christianity are affecting the choice of pronoun for God. Some people explain that God is no longer ‘far away,’ but is somehow tangible and personal. For these speakers God has shifted over into the human category.”

In Kouya, God (the Father) and Jesus are referred to with the human pronoun ɔ, whereas the Holy Spirit is referred to with a non-human pronoun. (Northern Grebo and Western Krahn make a similar distinction.)

Eddie Arthur, a former Kouya Bible translation consultant, says the following: “We tried to insist that this shouldn’t happen, but the Kouya team members were insistent that the human pronoun for the Spirit would not work.”

In Burmese, the pronoun ko taw (ကိုယ်တော်) is used either as 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (he, him, his) reference. “This term clearly has its root in the religious language in Burmese. No ordinary persons are addressed or known by this pronoun because it is reserved for Buddhist monks, famous religious teachers, and in the case of Christianity, the Trinity.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 202ff.)

In Thai, the pronoun phra`ong (พระองค์) is used, a gender-neutral pronoun which must refer to a previously introduced royal or divine being. Similarly, in Northern Khmer, which is spoken in Thailand, “an honorific divine pronoun” is used for the pronoun referring to the persons of the Trinity (source: David Thomas in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 445). In Urak Lawoi’, another language spoken in Thailand, the translation often uses tuhat (ตูฮัด) — “God” — ”as a divine pronoun where Thai has phra’ong even though it’s actually a noun.” (Source for Thai and Urak Lawoi’: Stephen Pattemore)

The English “Contemporary Torah” addresses the question of God and gendered pronouns by mostly avoiding pronouns in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (unless God is referred to as “lord,” “father,” “king,” or “warrior”). It does that by either using passive constructs (“He gave us” vs. “we were given”), by using the adjective “divine” or by using “God” rather than a pronoun.

Some Protestant English Bibles use a referential capitalized spelling when referring to the persons of the Trinity with “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself.” This includes for instance the New American Standard Bible, but most translations, especially those published in the 21st century, do not. Two other languages where this is also done (in most Bible translations) are the closely related Indonesian and Malay. In both languages this follows the language usage according to the Qur’an, which in turn predicts that usage (see Soesilo in The Bible Translator 1991, p. 442ff. and The Bible Translator 1997, p. 433ff. ).

See also this chapter in the World Atlas of Language Structures on different approaches to personal pronouns.

Translation: Chinese





Translator: Simon Wong

Translation commentary on John 9:15

Most translations render the Greek verb (imperfect tense) by asked, though New American Bible translates “began to inquire.” The verb may also have either force.

The adverb again must not be taken to imply that the Pharisees were asking the man a second time how he had received his sight. Again refers back to the question raised by the people in verse 10. To avoid the implication that the Pharisees had previously interrogated the man, it may be necessary to introduce the meaning of again as a separate sentence, for example, “The Pharisees then asked the man how he had been cured of his blindness. This was the second time the man had been questioned” or “… the Pharisees also questioned the man, just as the other people had.”

Only rarely can one translate literally received his sight, since a verb meaning “receive” normally refers to the receipt of some kind of object, while “sight” refers to a state of being, that is, the capacity to see. In many languages one must say “how he had become able to see” or “how he was caused to see.”

The verb washed my face is the same verb as used in verses 7 and 11. Moffatt again translates “I washed them,” referring back to “my eyes.”

And now I can see (so also New English Bible; Jerusalem Bible “and I can see”) is literally the contrast between the present condition of the man and his previous blindness.

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 .