virgin

The Greek that is mostly translated as “virgin” in English can be translated as “woman that is untouched” in Batak Toba or “a woman with a whole (i.e. unopened) body” in Uab Meto. In some cases, however, such terms, or descriptive phrases like, “a woman who has not been with a man,” are felt to be too outspoken. Hence, in English versions the rendering has been toned down from “virgin,” via “maiden” (Goodspeed 1923/1935, Rieu 1954), to “girl” (New English Bible 1961/1970), and in Batak Toba from “woman that is untouched” to “girl” (lit. “female child”).

Similar words for “girl,” “unmarried young woman,” suggesting virginity without explicitly stating it, are found in Marathi, Apache, or Kituba. Cultural features naturally influence connotations of possible renderings, for instance, the child marriage customs in some Tboli areas, where the boy and girl are made to sleep together at the initial marriage, but after that do not live together and may not see each other again for years. Hence, the closest attainable equivalent, “female adolescent,” does not imply that a young girl is not living with her husband, and that she never had a child, but leaves uncertain whether she has ever slept with a male person or not. Accordingly, in Luke one has to depend on Luke 1:34 to make clear that Mary and Joseph had not had sexual intercourse. A different problem is encountered in Pampanga, where birhen (an adaptation of Spanish “virgen” — “virgin”), when standing alone, is a name of the “Virgin Mary.” To exclude this meaning the version uses “marriageable birhen,” thus at the same time indicating that Mary was relatively young. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Navajo, the term that is used is “no husband yet” (Source: Wallis, p. 106) and in Gola the expression “trouser girl.” “In the distant past young women who were virgins wore trousers. Those who were not virgins wore dresses. That doesn’t hold true anymore, but the expression is still there in the language.” (Source: Don Slager)

The term in Djimini Senoufo is katogo jo — “village-dance-woman” (women who have been promised but who are still allowed to go to dances with unmarried women). (Source: Übersetzung heute 3/1995)

betrothed, engaged

The Greek that is translated as “engaged” or “betrothed” in English is translated in Pampanga as “having-been-given-approval” and Tagalog as “having-been-brought-before-the authorities” (both implying a couple which has already applied to the local civil registrar or priest for a license to marry). Tboli uses “braceleted” (a figurative expression for the giving of property for the dowry, an act that finalizes the marriage contract) and Uab Meto has “publicly pledged to marry (lit. “reciprocally-bound”)” (a term indicating that an interchange of gifts as a pledge for marriage has taken place).

complete verse (Luke 1:27)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 1:27:

  • Uma: “to meet a young woman named Maria. That young woman was engaged to a young man named Yusuf, a descendant of King Daud long ago.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “He was told to go to a certain virgin called Mariyam. This Mariyam was betrothed to a man called Yusup, a descendant of King Da’ud ley.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “The one he was sent to was a virgin named Mary. And as for this Mary, she was promised to a young man named Joseph. And as for this Joseph, he was a descendent of the king long ago David.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because he had something to say to a young-lady who was a virgin (lit. whom no one had touched) who was engaged to be married to Jose a descendant of the former King David. The name of that young-lady was Maria.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He was caused to go to a still single girl/woman whose name was Maria, whose marriage to Jose had been agreed upon but wasn’t finalized yet, still being in-the-works. As for that Jose, he was indeed a descendant of past King David.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

David

The name that is transliterated as “David” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language with the sign signifying a sling and king (referring to 1 Samuel 17:49 and 2 Samuel 5:4). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)


“David” in Spanish Sign Language (source)

The (Protestant) Chinese transliteration of “David” is 大卫 (衛) / Dàwèi which carries an additional meaning of “Great Protector.”

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about David (source: Bible Lands 2012)