vision

The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek that is translated as “vision” in English is translated in a variety in the following languages:

  • Chol: “as if in a dream” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Obolo: ilaak ọkpọchieen̄ or “dreaming awake” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “a showing like dreams”
  • Desano: “see in a dream what God will send”
  • Rincón Zapotec: “see what God shows”
  • Mayo: “see things from God as in a dream”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “dream how it is going to be”
  • Chuj: “like dreaming they see”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “understand what they see as if in a dream”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “see that which will happen” (source for this and seven above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Tagbanwa: “being caused to dream by God” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Chichewa: azidzaona zinthu m’masomphenya: “they will see things as if face-to-face” (interconfessional translation, publ. 1999) (Source: Wendland 1998, p. 69)

The Greek in the books of Revelation and Acts is translated as obq-rmwible: “look-dream” in Natügu. Brenda Boerger (in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 162ff.) tells the story of that translation: “In the book of Revelation, the author, John, talks about having visions. Mr. Simon [the native language translator] and I discussed what this meant and he invented the compound verb obq-rmwible ‘look-dream’ to express it. Interestingly, during village testing no one ever had to ask what this neologism meant.”

See also see a vision.

acrostic in Lamentations 2

The Hebrew text of Lamentations 1-4 uses acrostics, a literary form in which each verse is started with one of the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to Brenda Boerger (in Open Theology 2016, p. 179ff. ) there are three different reasons for acrostics in the Hebrew text: “for ease of memorization,” the representation “of the full breadth and depth of a topic, all the way from aleph to taw (tav),” and the perception of “the acrostic form as aesthetically attractive.” (p. 191)

While most translations mention the existence of an acrostic in a note or a comment, few implement it in their translation. One such exception is the Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 2 in Danish

1 Ak, som en sort og truende tordensky lå Herrens vrede over Jerusalem.
Israels himmelske herlighed ligger knust i støvet.
End ikke Herrens eget tempel blev forskånet for hans vrede.
2 Befolkningen i Juda blev nådesløst jaget fra hus og hjem.
Herren nedbrød i sin vrede hver eneste befæstet by.
Han ødelagde hele kongeriget til skam for dets ledere.
3 Den samlede israelitiske hær blev løbet over ende.
Herren trak sin beskyttende hånd væk, da fjenden angreb.
Hans vrede hærgede landet som en fortærende ild.
4 Eliten blandt landets ungdom blev dræbt.
Herren blev vores fjende og gjorde det af med os.
Han udgød sin vrede over Jerusalems indbyggere.
5 Fjenderne viste sig at være sendt af Herren.
De ødelagde alle paladser og fæstninger i landet
og skabte sorg og smerte overalt i Juda.
6 Grundlaget for at holde sabbat og højtid forsvandt,
da Herren nedrev sit tempel, som var det et skur.
Han forstødte i vrede både konger og præster.
7 Han forkastede sit alter, forlod sit tempel,
lod fjenderne nedbryde palads og bymur.
De jublede i templet som på en højtidsdag.
8 Intet i Jerusalem undgik ødelæggelsens svøbe.
Herren havde besluttet, at bymuren skulle falde.
Alle fæstningsværker og tårne blev lagt i ruiner.
9 Jerusalems portslåer blev smadret og portene splintret.
Kongen og landets ledere blev ført bort til et fremmed land.
Toraen bliver glemt og profetisk åbenbaring er forbi.
10 Klædt i sæk og med aske på hovedet
sidder de tilbageblevne ledere tavse på jorden.
De unge kvinder går nedbøjede omkring.
11 Lidelsen er ikke til at bære, mine tårer er brugt op.
Mit hjerte er knust ved at se mit folks smerte.
Børn og spædbørn dør af sult midt på gaden.
12 „Mad! Vand!” klager de små og besvimer.
De falder om som sårede soldater i byens gader.
Langsomt dør de i armene på deres mødre.
13 Nøden og pinen i byen er ufattelig.
Åh, Jerusalem, din trøstesløse sorg er uden sidestykke.
Det er umuligt at lindre din grænseløse smerte.
14 Ordene I hørte fra jeres såkaldte profeter, var falske.
Hvis de havde påtalt jeres synd i stedet for at lyve,
havde I måske kunnet undgå denne frygtelige skæbne.
15 På vejen uden for byen går folk nu forbi og råber hånligt:
„Er det den by, man kaldte verdens skønneste?
Den skulle ellers have bragt glæde til hele jorden.”
16 Raseriet står malet i deres ansigter, mens de håner dig:
„Endelig kom Jerusalem ned med nakken!
Det har vi set frem til meget længe.”
17 Så fik Herren til sidst gjort alvor af sin trussel.
Han gennemførte uden skånsel den straf, han havde lovet.
Han gav fjenderne sejr og lod dem tage æren for det.
18 Tårerne skal strømme som en flod dag og nat.
Græd øjnene ud af hovedet, Jerusalem, råb til Herren.
Lad selv dine nedbrudte mure hulke af gråd.
19 Udgyd dine tårer for Herren natten igennem.
Løft hænderne og bønfald ham om at redde dine indbyggere,
som er ved at dø af sult i dine gader.
20 „Vær nådig, Herre,” råber Jerusalem. „Stands denne frygtelige straf.
Skal mødre virkelig spise deres egne børn, som sad på deres skød?
Skal præster og profeter myrdes i dit hellige tempel?
21 Yngre så vel som ældre ligger døde i gadens snavs.
Både unge mænd og piger blev hugget ned af sværdet.
Herre, du slog dem i din vrede og uden barmhjertighed.
22 Ødelæggeren skabte rædsel overalt, så alle måtte smage din vrede.
Du inviterede mine fjender til at komme, som var det en festdag.
Fjenden dræbte alle mine kære, som var født og opvokset hos mig.”

Copyright © 1985, 1992, 2005, 2013, 2015 by Biblica, Inc.®

The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains most Hebrew acrostics (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew):

1 Alas, what mantle of cloud is this, the divine anger has thrown over unhappy Sion? The pride of Israel cast down from heaven to earth; the ground where the Lord’s feet once rested, now, in his anger, forgotten?
2 Blessed abodes of Jacob, by the Lord’s unsparing vengeance engulfed; towers that kept Juda inviolable hurled to the ground in ruin; kingdom and throne dragged in the dust!
3 Crushed lay all the defences of Israel, under his displeasure; failed us, at the enemy’s onset, the protection of his right hand; Jacob must be hedged about, as by flames of a consuming fire.
4 Deadly his bent bow, steady the play of his right hand assailing us; all that was fairest in poor Sion’s dwelling-place needs must perish, under the fiery rain of his vengeance.
5 Enemies he counts us, and has engulfed the whole of Israel in ruin; gone the palaces, gone the strongholds; Alas, poor Sion! weeps man, weeps maid, with cowed spirits.
6 Fallen, as it had been some garden shed, his own tabernacle; his own trysting-place with men he would pull down! Feast-day and sabbath should be forgotten in Sion; for king and priest, only anger and scorn.
7 Grown weary of his altar, from his own sanctuary turning away in abhorrence, the Lord has given up yonder embattled towers to the enemy; their cries ring through the temple like shout of holiday.
8 Heedfully the Lord went about his work, to strip the inviolable city of her walls; exact his measuring-line, busy his hand with the task of overthrow, till wall and rampart should lament their common ruin.
9 Idly the gates of her sag towards earth, bars riven and rent; king and chieftain are far away, exiled among the heathen; tradition is dead, nor any prophet learns, in vision, the Lord’s will.
10 Jerusalem’s aged folk sit there in the dust, dumb with sorrow; dust scattered over their heads, and sackcloth their garb; never a maid shall you see but has her head bowed down to earth.
11 Keen anguish for the overthrow of an unhappy race, that dims eye with tears, that stirs my being to its depths, as my heart goes out in boundless compassion! Child and babe lie fainting in the streets.
12 Listen, how they ask where all the bread and wine is gone to! Wound they have none, yet there in the open streets you shall see them faint away, sighing out their lives on their mothers’ bosoms.
13 Might I but confront thee with such another as thyself! What queen so unhappy as Jerusalem, what maid as Sion desolate? How shall I comfort thee? Sea-deep is thy ruin, and past all cure.
14 Never a true vision or a wise thy prophets have for thee, never shew thee where thy guilt rests, and urge thee to repentance; lies and lures are all the burden of their revealing.
15 Openly the passers-by deride thee, poor maid; clap hands, and hiss, and wag their heads at thee; So much, they cry, for the city that was once the nonpareil of beauty, pride of the whole earth!
16 Pale envy mops and mows at thee; how they hiss and gnash their teeth! Now to prey on her carrion! What fortune, that we should have lived to see this day, so long looked for in vain!
17 Quit is the Lord of his oath taken in times past; all his purpose is fulfilled; for thee, ruin relentless, for thy bitter enemy, triumph and high achievement.
18 Round those inviolable defences, cry they upon the Lord in good earnest. Day and night, Sion, let thy tears stream down; never rest thou, never let that eye weary of its task.
19 Sleepless in the night-watches raise thy song; flow thy heart’s prayer unceasingly; lift ever thy hands in supplication for infant lives; yonder, at the street corner, they are dying of famine.
20 Think well, Lord, is there any other people of whom thou hast taken such toll? Shall woman eat her own child, so tiny, hands can still clasp it? In the Lord’s sanctuary, priest and prophet be slain?
21 Untended they lie on the bare earth, the young and the aged; maid and warrior slain by the sword! This day of thy vengeance was to be all massacre, thou wouldst kill unsparingly.
22 Vengeance this day all around me; what mustering of thy terrors, as for a solemn assembly! Escape is none, nor any remnant left; of all I fondled and fostered, the enemy has taken full toll. (Source )

Spanish has a different tradition of acrostics. It uses non-alphabetic acrostics where the first letters of each line (or verse) together form a word or phrase. In the Traducción en lenguaje actual (publ. 2002, 2004), the translators used the first letters of this chapter of Lamentation to spell out “POBRECITA DE TI, JERUSALEN” (“Poor you, little Jerusalem”) which also is the first line of this chapter of Lamentations (for more on the translation process of this, see Alfredo Tepox in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 233ff.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 2 in the Traducción en lenguaje actual


1 ¡Pobrecita de ti, Jerusalén!
Cuando Dios se enojó contigo,
derribó tu templo
y acabó con tu belleza.
Ni siquiera se acordó
de tu reino en este mundo.
2 Ofendido y enojado,
Dios destruyó por completo
todas las casas de Israel.
Derribó las fortalezas de Judá;
quitó al rey de su trono,
y puso en vergüenza a sus capitanes.
3 Borró Dios nuestro poder
cuando se enojó con nosotros.
Nos enfrentamos al enemigo,
pero Dios nos retiró su ayuda.
¡Todo Israel arde en llamas!
¡Todo lo destruye el fuego!
4 Rompió en mil pedazos
las casas de Jerusalén,
y acabó con nuestros seres queridos.
Como si fuera nuestro enemigo,
decidió quitarnos la vida;
su enojo fue como un fuego
que nos destruyó por completo.
5 El llanto por los muertos
se oye por todo Judá.
Dios parece nuestro enemigo,
pues ha acabado con nosotros.
¡Todas sus fortalezas y palacios
han quedado en ruinas!
6 Como quien derriba una choza,
Dios destruyó su templo.
Ya nadie en Jerusalén celebra
los sábados ni los días de fiesta.
Dio rienda suelta a su enojo
contra el rey y los sacerdotes.
7 Incitó al ejército enemigo
a conquistar Jerusalén,
y el enemigo gritó en su templo
como si estuviera de fiesta.
¡Dios ha rechazado por completo
su altar y su santuario!
8 Todos los muros y las rampas
son ahora un montón de escombros.
Dios decidió derribar
el muro que protegía a Jerusalén.
Todo lo tenía planeado;
¡la destruyó sin compasión!
9 ¡Adiós, maestros de la ley!
¡Adiós, profetas!
¡Dios ya no habla con nosotros!
El rey y los capitanes
andan perdidos entre las naciones.
La ciudad quedó desprotegida,
pues Dios derribó sus portones.
10 De luto están vestidos
los ancianos de Jerusalén.
En silencio se sientan en el suelo
y se cubren de ceniza la cabeza.
¡Las jóvenes de Jerusalén
bajan la cabeza llenas de vergüenza!
11 Estoy muy triste y desanimado
porque ha sido destruida mi ciudad.
¡Ya no me quedan lágrimas!
¡Siento que me muero!
Por las calles de Jerusalén
veo morir a los recién nacidos.
12 Tímidamente claman los niños:
«¡Mamá, tengo hambre!»;
luego van cerrando los ojos
y mueren en las calles,
en brazos de su madre.
13 Incomparable eres tú, Jerusalén;
¿qué más te puedo decir?
¿Qué puedo hacer para consolarte,
bella ciudad de Jerusalén?
Tus heridas son muy profundas;
¿quién podría sanarlas?
14 Jamás te dijeron la verdad;
los profetas te mintieron.
Si no te hubieran engañado,
ahora estarías a salvo.
Pero te hicieron creer en mentiras
y no señalaron tu maldad.
15 «¿En dónde quedó la hermosura
de la bella Jerusalén,
la ciudad más alegre del mundo?»
Eso preguntan al verte
los que pasan por el camino,
y se burlan de tu desgracia.
16 Rabiosos están tus enemigos,
y no dejan de hablar mal de ti.
Gritan en son de victoria:
«¡Llegó el día que habíamos esperado!
¡Hemos acabado con Jerusalén,
y hemos vivido para contarlo!»
17 Una vez, años atrás,
Dios juró que te destruiría,
y ha cumplido su palabra:
te destruyó sin compasión,
y permitió que tus enemigos
te vencieran y te humillaran.
18 Sí, bella Jerusalén,
deja que tus habitantes
se desahoguen ante Dios.
Y tú, no dejes de llorar;
¡da rienda suelta a tu llanto
de día y de noche!
19 Alza la voz y ruega a Dios
por la vida de tus niños,
que por falta de comida
caen muertos por las calles.
Clama a Dios en las noches;
cuéntale cómo te sientes.
Jerusalén
20 Las madres están por comerse
a los hijos que tanto aman.
Los sacerdotes y los profetas
agonizan en tu templo.
Piensa por favor, Dios mío,
¿a quién has tratado así?
21 En tu enojo les quitaste la vida
a los jóvenes y a los ancianos.
Mis muchachos y muchachas
cayeron muertos por las calles
bajo el golpe de la espada;
¡no les tuviste compasión!
22 Nadie quedó con vida
el día que nos castigaste;
fue como una gran fiesta
para el ejército enemigo:
murieron todos mis familiares,
¡nos atacaste por todos lados!

Traducción en lenguaje actual ® © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 2002, 2004.

prophet

Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:

“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):

  • San Blas Kuna: “one who speaks the voice of God”
  • Central Pame and Vai: “interpreter for God”
  • Kaqchikel, Navajo, Yaka: “one who speaks for God”
  • Northern Grebo: “God’s town crier” (see more about this below)
  • Sapo: “God’s sent-word person”
  • Shipibo-Conibo, Ngäbere: “one who speaks God’s word”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “one who speaks-opens” (a compound meaning “one who discloses or reveals”)
  • Sierra Totonac: “one who causes them to know” (in the sense of “revealer”)
  • Batak Toba: “foreteller” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1961, p. 7)
  • Alekano: “the true man who descended from heaven” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)
  • Aguaruna: “teller of God’s word” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
  • Ekari: “person who speaks under divine impulse”
  • Chinese: 先知 xiānzhī — “one who foreknows” (or the 1946/1970 translation by Lü Zhenzhong: 神言人 shényánrén — “divine-word-man”)
  • Uab Meto: “holy spokesman” (source for this and two above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Kouya: Lagɔɔ gbʋgbanyɔ — “the one who seeks God’s affairs” (source: Saunders, p. 269)
  • Kafa: “decide for God only” (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “word passer” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
  • Obolo: ebi nriran: “one with power of divine revelation” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Mairasi: nonondoai nyan: “message proclaimer” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Highland Totonac: “speaker on God’s behalf”
  • Central Tarahumara: “God’s preacher” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Coatlán Mixe: “God’s word-thrower”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “one who talks as God’s representative”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “speaker for God” (source for this and two above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Mezquital Otomi: “God’s messenger” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Nyongar: Warda Marridjiny or “News Traveling” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Kutu: mtula ndagu or “one who gives the prediction of the past and the future” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec a term is used that specifically includes women. (Source: Robert Bascom)

About the translation into Northern Grebo:

“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)

See also prophesy and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.

king

Some languages do not have a concept of kingship and therefore no immediate equivalent for the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated as “king” in English. Here are some (back-) translations:

(Click or tap here to see details)

  • Piro: “a great one”
  • Highland Totonac: “the big boss”
  • Huichol: “the one who commanded” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Ekari: “the one who holds the country” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Una: weik sienyi: “big headman” (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 407)
  • Pass Valley Yali: “Big Man” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Ninia Yali: “big brother with the uplifted name” (source: Daud Soesilio in Noss 2007, p. 175)
  • Ghomála’: Fo (“The word Fo refers to the paramount ruler in the kingdoms of West Cameroon. He holds administrative, political, and religious power over his own people, who are divided into two categories: princes (descendants of royalty) and servants (everyone else).” (Source: Michel Kenmogne in Theologizing in Context: An Example from the Study of a Ghomala’ Christian Hymn))

Faye Edgerton retells how the term in Navajo was determined:

“[This term was] easily expressed in the language of Biblical culture, which had kings and noblemen with their brilliant trappings and their position of honor and praise. But leadership among the Navajos is not accompanied by any such titles or distinctions of dress. Those most respected, especially in earlier days, were their headmen, who were the leaders in raids, and the shaman, who was able to serve the people by appealing for them to the gods, or by exorcising evil spirits. Neither of these made any outward show. Neither held his position by political intrigue or heredity. If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior. If the shaman failed many times in his healing ceremonies, it was considered that he was making mistakes in the chants, or had lost favor with the gods, and another was sought. The term Navajos use for headman is derived from a verb meaning ‘to move the head from side to side as in making an oration.’ The headman must be a good orator, able to move the people to go to war, or to follow him in any important decision. This word is naat’áanii which now means ‘one who rules or bosses.’ It is employed now for a foreman or boss of any kind of labor, as well as for the chairman of the tribal council. So in order to show that the king is not just a common boss but the highest ruler, the word ‘aláahgo, which expresses the superlative degree, was put before naat’áanii, and so ‘aláahgo naat’áanii ‘anyone-more-than-being around-he-moves-his-head-the-one-who’ means ‘the highest ruler.’ Naat’áanii was used for governor as the context usually shows that the person was a ruler of a country or associated with kings.”

(Source: Faye Edgerton in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 25ff.)

tetragrammaton, YHWH

The translation of the tetragrammaton (YHWH or יהוה‎) is easily the most often discussed issue in Bible translation. This is exemplified by the fact that there is virtually no translation of the Bible — regardless of language — where the position of the respective translator or translation team on how to translate the name of God into the respective language is not clearly stated in the preface or introduction.

Click or tap here to read about the different ways the tetragrammaton is and has been translated

The literature on this topic is overwhelming, both as far as the meaning of YHWH and the translation of it by itself and in combination with other terms (including Elohim and Adonai). There is no reason or room to rehash those discussions. Aside from various insightful translations of YHWH into various languages (see below), what’s of interest in the context of the TIPs project are official and semi-official statements regarding the translation by Bible translation agencies and churches. These include the 1992 statement by United Bible Societies’ “Names of God” Study Group (see The Bible Translator 1992, p. 403-407 ) or the “Letter to the Bishops’ Conference on ‘The Name of God'” by the Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Discriplina Sacramentorum of 2008 (see here et al.).

In summary, the UBS study group gives six different options on how to translate YHWH: 1) transliterate (some form of “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” if this is an already established term); 2) translate (along the lines of kurios — κύριος in the Septuagint); 3) translate the meaning of YHWH; 4) use a culture-specific name; 5) translate Elohim and YHWH in the same way; or 6) use a combination of any of these options.

The official Catholic directive states that for liturgical purposes YHWH is to be translated as an equivalent of Kurios (“Lord”) unless when appearing in combination with Elohim (“God”) or Adonai (“lord”), in which case it’s to be translated with “God.”

In the following collection of examples, any of the above-mentioned strategies are used.

Use of Typographical Means to Offset the Name of God

A large number of Bible translations in many Western European languages have used a similar strategy to translate YHWH as an equivalent of Kurios or Adonai (“lord” in Greek in Hebrew) but have used either small caps or all caps to denote these occurrences as an equivalent to a proper name. Here are some examples:

  • English: Lord
  • Danish: Herren (In recent editions: Herren and Gud (“God”))
  • Swedish: Herren (traditionally: YHWH Herren and Elohim Herren)
  • French: SEIGNEUR (in the Traduction œcuménique de la Bible)
  • German: Herr or Herr (see also the translation by Buber/Rosenzweig below)
  • Dutch: HERE
  • Portuguese: Senhor
  • Welsh: ARGLWYDD
  • Spanish: Señor

None of the European languages have found a “cultural-linguistic equivalent” with the possible exception of Eternal or l’Éternel (see below).

The rendering of the translation of YHWH in bold (and uppercase) characters is for instance used in Guhu-Samane: QOBEROBA (a term of address for a respected person and also connotes “forever”) (for “forever”, see below under Translations of the Name of God) and the upper-casing in Bible translations in several other languages in Papua New Guinea:

  • Bola: BAKOVI DAGI (“BIG MAN”)
  • Sinaugoro: VEREGAUKA (“BIG ONE”)
  • Kamano: RA ANUMAZA (“BIG STRONG”)
  • Dedua: KEBU (“LORD”)
  • Nukna: TÁWI (“BIG ONE”)
  • Gizrra: LOD (“LORD”)
  • Ubir: BADA (“BIG MAN/CHIEF”)
  • Mailu: GUBINA (“MASTER”) (Source: Phil King in The Bible Translator 2014, p. 194ff.)

In Cebuano (Ang Pulong sa Dios edition, 2010) and Hiligaynon (all versions), Ginoo, a typographical variant of Ginoo (“Lord”) is used. Bible translation consultant Kermit Titrud (SIL): “‘Yahweh’ is too close to Yahwa, their word for ‘Satan.’ We were afraid that in the pulpits readers might misread ‘Yahweh’ and say ‘Yahwa.’ So we went with the tradition found in most English translations. Ginoo for ‘Yahweh’ and Ginoo for ‘adonai.'”

In languages where capitalization is not a typographical option, other options are available and used, such as in Japanese, where the generic term shu for “Lord” is bolded in some translations to offset its meaning (Source: Omanson, p. 17).

A graphical way of representation beyond typography was used by André Chouraqui in his French La Bible hebraique et le Nouveau Testament (publ. 1974-1977) for which he superimposed adonai and Elohim over (the French rendition) of the tetragrammaton:

(Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin in Noss / Houser, p. 618ff.)

Translations of the Name of God

A translation of YHWH with a rendering of the meaning of “Eternal” was done in English by James Moffatt (between 1926 and 1935) with Eternal, The Voice translation with Eternal One (2012), in French versions as L’ÉTERNEL by J. F. Ostervald in 1904 or l’Éternel by L. Segond (1910-1938) and Zadoc Kahn (1964) (for the French translation, see also LORD of hosts), or in Obolo as Okumugwem: “The Ever-Living” (source: Enene Enene).

Similarly and at the same time expanding its meaning, the Nzima translation of 1998 translated YHWH as Ɛdεnkεma, the “Eternal All-Powerful Creator and Sustainer” (Source: David Ekem, The Bible Translator 2005, p. 72).

Nepali, Bengali, and Hindi are all derived from Sanskrit and have (eventually) all found similar translations of YHWH. In Bengali “God” is translated as Ishwar (ঈশ্বর) (widely used in Hindu scriptures, where it’s used as a title, usually associated with “Siva”) and YHWH as Shodaphrobhu (সদাপ্রভু) — “Eternal Lord”; in Nepali YHWH is translated as Paramaprabhu (परमप्रभु)– “Supreme Lord”; and Hindi translates YHWH as Phrabu (प्रभु) — “Lord.”. In earlier translations all three languages used transliterations of Jehovah or Yahweh. (Source: B. Rai in The Bible Translator 1992, p. 443ff. and Barrick, p. 124).

  • The influential German Jewish translation of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig (between 1925 and 1961) translates YHWH in Exodus 3:15 with “Ich bin da” (“I exist” or “I am”) and in all other instances with pronouns in small caps (Er, Ihm, Ihn, Ich — “he,” “him,” “his,” “I”).
  • Akan uses “Forever-Owner” (Source: Jacob Loewen, The Bible Translator 1985, p. 401ff. ).
  • Warlpiri uses Kaatu Jukurrarnu (Kaatu is a transcription of “God” and Jukurrarnu means “timelessness” and shares a root with jukurrpa — dreamings) (Source: Stephen Swartz, The Bible Translator 1985, p. 415ff. ).
  • The translation of YHWH into Weri with Aniak Tupup or “man of the holy house” intends “to maintain the Jewish practice of not uttering God’s name [with] the use of another vernacular phrase that signals that a ‘taboo’ name is being referred [which] could give a cue that would be recognizable in written or oral communication” (Source: P. King, The Bible Translator 2014, p. 195ff.).
  • Aruamu translates it as Ikiavɨra Itir God or “Ever Present God” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Ruund uses Chinawej a term that is otherwise used as a response of approval. Anna Lerbak (in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 84ff. ) tells the genesis of this term (click or tap to see an explanation):

    “The name ‘Jehovah’ had been used in some contexts, but I had the feeling that it did not mean much to the people, and when I asked the pastors they all said it didn’t, and worse, it very often confused people, especially in the villages. During the conversation it was suggested that the name Chinawej be used in the place of ‘Jehovah’, and this met with immediate approval. A few days later I was working on a Psalm in which ‘Jehovah’ was used frequently, so I wrote Chinawej in its place and then read the Psalm to them. The response was about like this: “That is it, now people will understand, that is how Chinawej is. The Jews call God ‘Jehovah’, we call Him Chinawej, it is the same God. but we know Him as Chinawej as the Jews know Him as ‘Jehovah’ “. They often call God Chinawej in prayer, it seems to indicate warmth and intimacy.

    The same word is used in two other ways. It is the name of a snake which never attacks human beings. And it is used as a response of approval. When told of something they are pleased to hear, something they find good, just, helpful, generous, they often respond by saying, Chinawej. When they call God Chinawej, it indicates that they think of Him as One Who is good and just and generous towards them. When it was suggested at the committee that we use Chinawej in place of ‘Jehovah’ it was accepted immediately and unanimously.

  • Ebira has Eneyimavara. Eneyimavara was created by merging a praise phrase that was only used for the traditional deity Ohomorihi (see here), that had become the word for the Christian God: ene e yi ma vara or “the one that never changes.” “The translators came to the agreement that this praise name that describes the unchangeableness of God is very close in meaning to the probable meaning of YHWH.” (Source: David O Moomo in Scriptura 88 (2005), p. 151ff. )
  • The Uzbek Bible uses the term Ega (Эга) — “master, owner” in various forms (including Egam / Эгам for “my Owner” or Egamiz / Эгамиз for “our Owner.” (Click or tap to see an explanation):

    Jim Zvara (2019, p. 6) explains: “The Uzbek term ega means owner or master (‘master,’ in the historical context of an owner-slave relationship). By extension, it is natural for an Uzbek to speak to or refer to God as Egam (‘my owner’/’master’). In the Uzbek context to be God’s slave is a positive way of understanding one’s relation to him. It suggests that one is in a dependent and obedient relationship to God. The team felt that this relational connection and what it implies fits well with the concept of YHWH as the God who is in a covenant relationship with his people. In the Uzbek context, the choice of Ega was deemed to be the best balance of natural language with meaningful translation.”

  • The Seediq Bible translation team chose Utux Tmninun (“the weaving god”) for their translation of YHWH. (Click or tap to see a retelling of the process of how that decision was reached):

    “(…) The Seediq team requested that we spend time with them on key terms. They had compiled a list of key terms that they wanted input on, and we went through the list item by item. The most important item was how to deal with the divine name. They had tentatively translated it as Yehoba, transliterated from Jehovah, but they were also aware that this transliteration may not be accurate, and they were keen to explore other options.

    “We explored various alternatives. Were they interested in following the ancient Jewish practice of substituting ‘Lord’ for the divine name? Would capitalising the letters help? Would they be bold enough to use ‘Yahweh,’ following the opinion of most Old Testament scholars who regard this as the correct pronunciation? Was it feasible to adopt a mixed approach in dealing with the divine name (…)? Each option had its advantages as well as disadvantages.

    “In the midst of the discussion, a participant said, ‘Our ancestors, as well as we today, always call God by the term Utux Tmninun. I suggest we use this term.’ The term Utux Tmninun in the Seediq culture means ‘the weaving God.’ In their culture, God is the weaver, the one who weaves life together. All the participants were excited about this proposal. They tried this term with all the composite terms that involve the divine name, and it seemed to work well, so they decided tentatively to adopt this term. After the workshop, the participants went back to their villages and sought feedback from the wider community, and eventually they confirmed the use of the term Utux Tmninun as the rendering of the divine name.

    Translating the divine name as Utux Tmninun, the weaving God, is a creative solution. This term is viewed very positively in the Seediq community. It also correlates well with the concept of God as the creator (Gen. 1-2) and as the weaver who formed our inward parts and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13). It also has the advantage of portraying God beyond the traditional masculine form.

    “Some may argue that since names are usually transliterated, we should do the same with YHWH, most likely pronounced ‘Yahweh.’ Unfortunately, due to the influence of Chinese Union Version for almost one hundred years now, Chinese Christians only know God as Yehehua. Attempts to change the term Yehehua to Yahweh have not been successful. This is a reality that the Seediq Christians have to live with.

    “Others may argue on theological grounds that YHWH is not only the creator, but also the God of the covenant, hence any attempt to substitute another term for YHWH will not do justice to the Hebrew text. In the case of the Seediq translation, there are significant similarities between Utux Tmninun and YHWH, though the terms are not identical. This is a reality translators often have to struggle with. Exact correspondence is hard to come by. Often it is a matter of approximation, give and take. Besides theological considerations, one has to deal with the constraints of past traditions (‘Jehovah,’ in this instance), the biblical cultures and one’s own culture, and audience acceptance. Hopefully, by using Utux Tmninun for YHWH, the Seediq term will be transformed and take on the aspect of the covenant God as well.” (Source: Yu Suee Yan, The Bible Translator 2015, p. 316ff.)

  • In Tok Pisin it is translated as Bikpela: “the Big One” or “the Great One.” (See: Norm Mundhenk in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 442ff. See also under LORD God / Lord God)
  • For a major new translation into Chichewa, we have a detailed retelling of why the term Chauta (“Great-One-of-the-Bow”) was chosen for YHWH (Click or tap to see the detailed story):

    “The name Chauta, literally ‘Great-One-of-the-Bow’, i.e. [is] either the rainbow (descriptively termed uta-wa-Leza ‘the-bow-of-God’) or, less likely, the hunter’s bow. And yet Chauta was also distinct from Mulungu [“God”] in that it has reference to the specific tribal deity of the Chewa people — the God who ‘owns’ yet also ‘belongs to’ them — and hence it carries additional positive emotive overtones. Although research indicated that in an ancient traditional setting, Chauta too was probably associated with the indigenous ancestral rain cult, in the Christian era it has been progressively generalized to encompass virtually all religious contexts in which God may be either appealed to, proclaimed, or praised. After prolonged deliberation, therefore, the translation committee determined Chauta to be the closest functional equivalent to YHWH of the Hebrew Scriptures. The choice of this name is not without its difficulties, however, and these were carefully considered by the Chewa committee. For example, the use of a more specific local term, as opposed to the generic Mulungu, carries a greater likelihood of bringing along with it certain senses, connotations, and situations that were (and no doubt still are) associated with the indigenous, pre-Christian system of worship. If these happened to remain strong in any contemporary sacred setting, then of course the dangers connected with conceptual syncretism might well arise. In the case of Chauta, however, it appeared that the process of positive Christian contextualization had already reached an advanced stage, that is, judging from the widespread use of this name in all aspects of religious life and practice. A more scholarly argument against Chauta takes the position that there is too great a female component associated with this term because it was traditionally applied (by figurative metonymy) to refer also to the ritual ‘wife of God’, i.e. the chief officiant at a traditional rain shrine and worship sanctuary. However, this usage seems to be quite remote, and most people questioned do not even recognize the connection anymore. Besides, in a matrilineal society such as the Chewa, it does not seem inappropriate to have this aspect of meaning lying in the background, particularly since it is not completely foreign to the notion of God in the Bible (cf. Ps. 36:7; 73:15; Isa. 49:14-15; Mt. 23:37). In terms of ‘connotative fit’ or emotive identification and appeal, there can be little doubt that the name Chauta is by far the closest natural equivalent to YHWH in the contemporary Chewa cultural and religious environment. This aspect of meaning was probably also utmost from the ancient Jewish perspective as well; in other words, “for them the associated meaning of this special name [YHWH], in terms of their history and culture, far outweighed any meaning it may have suggested because of its form or derivation”. To be sure, this ‘new’ divine name — that is, new as far as the Scriptures are concerned — may take some getting used to, especially in the formal setting of public worship. But this is not a foreign god whom we are talking about; rather, he is certainly by now regarded as the national deity of the Chewa nation. Chauta is the great God who for one reason or another ‘did not make himself known to them by his holy name, the LORD’ (Exod. 6:3), that is, in the prior translations of his Word into Chewa. He is, however, and always has been “a God who saves … the LORD (Chauta), our Lord, who rescues us from death” (Ps. 68:20, Good News Bible)!” (Source: Wendland 1998, 120f.; see also The Bible Translator 1992, 430ff. )

Transliteration of YHWH

A 12th century reading of the Masoretic vowel points around יהוה‎ (יְהֹוָה) was interpreted to be pronounced as Yehowah from which Iehouah and Jehovah were derived. This was reflected in the English versions of Tyndale (publ. 1530) and the Geneva Bible (significantly based on Tyndale and publ. in 1560) and again the King James Version (Authorized Version) (publ. 1611) which all used Iehouah or Jehovah in 7 different verses in the Old Testament. The translators and editors of the American Standard Version (publ. 1901), a review of the King James Version used Jehovah for all appearances of the tetragrammaton something that the Spanish Reina-Valera (publ. 1602) had already done as well.

In English versions, Yahweh as a transliteration of the tetragrammaton is used by the Catholic Jerusalem Bible (publ. 1966), the Protestant Holman Christian Standard Bible (publ. 2004) and the Legacy Standard Bible (publ. 2021). The Catholic translation by Knox (publ. 1949) occasionally uses Javé, “to make it a Latin name, to match all the other names in the Old Testament.” (Source Knox 1949, p. 80)

Mandinka for instance uses Yawe for YHWH. “The use of Yawe for YHWH is good and may be a trendsetter in this part of Africa.” (Source: Rob Koops)

In a group of related languages in another part of Africa an interesting development from a transliteration to a indigenous translation can be shown: In the Nandi Bible (1938) Jehovah was used as a translation for YHWH. Kamuktaindet (“The Powerful One”) was used as a translation for Elohim (“God”). This was taken over by a translation into the macrolanguage Kalenjin (1969) (intended to include the closely related Keiyo, Kipsigis, Markweeta, Nandi, Okiek, Sabaot, Terik, and Tugen). Sabaot, Markweeta, Tugen and Okiek later wanted there own translations. Both Sabaot and Markweeta use the indigenous word for “Creator” (Yēyiin in Sabaot and Iriin in Markweeta) to translate Elohim and YHWH of the Old Testament and Theos of the New Testament. The Kalenjin Bible has recently been revised to cater to Keiyo, Kipsigis, Nandi and Terik, and this revision has completely dropped Jehovah in favour of Kamuktaindet. (Source: Iver Larsen)

Early translations into Gilbertese faced a problem when transliterating “Jehovah” (a form of “Jehovah” was first used in Spanish Bible translations in 1569 and 1602): “There are only thirteen letters in the Kiribati alphabet: A, E, I, O, U, M, N, NG, B, K, R, T (pronounced [s] when followed by ‘i’), W For instance, ‘Jehovah’ is rendered Iehova, but Kiribati speakers can only pronounce it as ‘Iowa,’ since the phonemes [h] and [v] do not exist in Kiribati.” (source: Joseph Hong, The Bible Translator 1994, p. 329ff. .)

Other transliterations include Yoba (Kovai), Iaue (Mussau-Emira), Jawe (Waskia), Iave (Maiadomu), Iawe (Waboda) (source: P. King, The Bible Translator 2014, p. 194ff.), Yawi (Western Tawbuid, Eastern Tawbuid), or Yihowah (Kapingamarangi).

In a recent edition of a Thai translation (Thai Standard Version, publ. 2011) a combination of translation and transliteration is used: phra’ ya(h)we (h) (พระยาห์เวห์) (“Divine Yawe”). (Source: Stephen Pattemore)

In Nyarafolo Senoufo the transliteration is Yewe which also means “the being one” or “he that is.” David DeGraaf (in: Notes on Translation 3/1999, p. 34ff.) explains: “Since it is widely recognized that the vowels of the name are uncertain, another possible transliteration is Yewe. This proposal is in accord with the Nyarafolo rules of vowel harmony and is thus open to being understood as a normal nominalization in the language. Second, Yewe is exactly the word that would be formed by nominalizing the verb ‘to be’ in the class that includes sentient beings. Thus, Yewe can be understood as ‘the being one’ or ‘he that is’. This solution accords well with YHWH’s self-revelation to Moses in Exodus 3:14, ‘I am who I am.'”

In the Chinese (Protestant) tradition the transliteration of “Jehovah” is historically deeply rooted, even though there are also some historical burdens (Click or tap to see more details):

“YHWH” is rendered in the Chinese Union Version—the most widely used Bible translation in China—as well as most other Chinese Bible translations as yehehua 耶和華. According to Chinese naming conventions, yehehua could be interpreted as Ye Hehua, in which Ye would be the family name and Hehua — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, Ye would be the family name of Jesus (transliterated as yesu 耶穌) and Su would be the given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, yehehua, would be illustrated through this. Though this line of argumentation sounds theologically unsound, it is indeed used effectively in the Chinese church.” (see Wright 1953, p. 298, see also Jesus).

Ye 耶, an interrogative particle in classical Chinese, is part of the same phonetic series as ye 爺, which gives it a certain exchangeability. Ye 爺 carries the meaning “father” or is used as an honorable form of address. The choice of the first Bible translators to use the transliteration yehehua 爺火華 for Jehovah had a remarkable and sobering influence on the history of the 19th century in China by possibly helping to shape the fatal Taiping ideology, a rebellion that ended up costing an estimated 20 million lives.

“The founder of the Taiping rebellion, Hong Xiuquan, was given a tract (…) [that he used to] interpret a nervous breakdown he had had in 1837 as his “call” to be the “Messiah.” This “vision” that Hong experienced is likely to have had a direct correlation with the name of “God” in that tract. Shen yehuohua 神爺火華 (directly translated: ‘God (or: spirit); old man (or: father); fire; bright)” was the term that was used in that tract for ‘God Jehovah,’ but this was not indicated as a (in its second part) transliteration of a proper name. In his vision, Hong saw ‘a man venerable in years (corresponding with ye), with golden (corresponding with huo and hua) beard and dressed in a black robe,’ an image likely to have been inspired by a direct translation from that name for ‘God,’ especially as it appeared at the beginning of the tract. That this term was considered to be a term of some relevance to the Taiping ideology is demonstrated by the fact that both yehuohua 爺火華 as the personal name of God and ye 爺 as “God the Father” later appeared in Taiping writings.” (Source: Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff.)

For further reading on the translation of YHWH, see Rosin 1956, p. 89-125 and Andy Warren-Rothlin in Noss / Houser, p. 618ff.

See also Lord, God, and Exod. 3:14-15.