word (Japanese honorifics)

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 to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “word” or “bidding” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-kotoba (おことば), combining “word” (kotoba) with the respectful prefix o-.

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

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on Judges 13:12

And Manoah said …: With what follows, we see that Manoah has clearly accepted what the angel has told his wife. His concern here is what he should do after the child is born. Here again said can be rendered by a more specific verb, for example, “Manoah then asked” (Contemporary English Version).

Now when your words come true: The Hebrew adverb rendered Now is not a marker of time here, but an introductory marker, which may be translated “Now then” (Good News Translation) or “Well then.” Your words refers back to the angel’s original promise in verse 13.3-5. The Hebrew term for words comes from the same root (d-b-r) as the verb rendered “spoke” in the previous verse. Your words may be rendered “your promise” (Contemporary English Version). There is a slight problem in the Hebrew here since the noun for words is plural and the verb for come is singular, but translators can simply harmonize them. Come true is literally “come.” Revised Standard Version adds the word true to express the correct sense in this context. We may also say “come to pass” (King James Version) or “are fulfilled” (New International Version). Most English versions use a time clause here, but the Hebrew verb here could also express a wish, so New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh says “May your words soon come true!” However in most languages, considering this as a temporal clause will provide a natural introduction to the question that follows.

What is to be the boy’s manner of life…? is literally “what will be the judgment of the boy…?” There is a play on words here, since the Hebrew word for “judgment” comes from the same root as the word for “judge” used so often in this book. Here this root refers to rules to live by, so Revised Standard Version renders it manner of life (see verse 1 Sam 8.11, where it has a similar sense). It will be virtually impossible to keep this play on words in other languages, so the best solution is to render the meaning here. If desired, a footnote might point out this play on words. For boy see verse 13.5. This question may be rendered “how should we raise the boy?” or “how should we bring the boy up?”

And what is he to do is literally “and his work.” Revised Standard Version repeats the interrogative word what from the previous clause. In the first question Manoah asks about the parents’ responsibility. Here he asks about the boy’s own task. He wants to know the kind of special task this child will have.

Translation models for this verse are:

• Manoah said, “Oh, may your promise come true! But then, how should we raise the boy? What kind of work will he do?”

• Manoah asked, “Well then, when your words are fulfilled, how are we to raise the boy and what will he do?”

Quoted with permission from Zogbo, Lynell and Ogden, Graham S. A Handbook on Judges. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .