Annunciation to Mary (icon)

Following is a Serbian Orthodox icon of the Annunciation to Mary from the 14th century (found in the Church of Theotokos the Perivleptos, Ohrid, today in the National Museum of Serbia).


Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )

Mary (mother of Jesus)

The name that is transliterated as “Mary” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language with arms folded over chest which is the typical pose of Mary in statues and artwork. (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)

“Mary” in Spanish Sign Language (source )

In American Sign Language it is translated with a sign for the letter M and the sign for “virgin,” which could also be interpreted as “head covering,” referring to the way that Mary is usually portrayed in art works. (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)

“Mary” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor


The name that is transliterated as “Jerusalem” in English is signed in French Sign Language with a sign that depicts worshiping at the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem” in French Sign Language (source )

While a similar sign is also used in British Sign Language, another, more neutral sign that combines the sign “J” and the signs for “place” is used as well. (Source: Anna Smith)

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


The Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic that is translated as “angel” in English versions is translated in many ways:

  • Pintupi-Luritja: ngaṉka ngurrara: “one who belongs in the sky” (source: Ken Hansen quoted in Steven 1984a, p. 116.)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “word-carrier from heaven”
  • Tetela, Kpelle, Balinese, and Mandarin Chinese: “heavenly messenger”
  • Shilluk / Igede: “spirit messenger”
  • Mashco Piro: “messenger of God”
  • Batak Toba: “envoy, messenger”
  • Navajo: “holy servant” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida 1961; Igede: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
  • Central Mazahua: “God’s worker” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
  • Saramaccan: basia u Masa Gaangadu köndë or “messenger from God’s country” (source: Jabini 2015, p. 86)
  • Mairasi: atatnyev nyaa or “sent-one” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “word bringer” (source: James Lauriault in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 32ff. )
  • Apali: “God’s one with talk from the head” (“basically God’s messenger since head refers to any leader’s talk”) (source: Martha Wade)
  • Michoacán Nahuatl: “clean helper of God” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Nyongar: Hdjin-djin-kwabba or “spirit good” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Wè Northern (Wɛɛ): Kea ‘a “sooa or “the Lord’s soldier” (also: “God’s soldier” or “his soldier”) (source: Drew Maust)
  • Iwaidja: “a man sent with a message” (Sam Freney explains the genesis of this term [in this article): “For example, in Darwin last year, as we were working on a new translation of Luke 2:6–12 in Iwaidja, a Northern Territory language, the translators had written ‘angel’ as ‘a man with eagle wings’. Even before getting to the question of whether this was an accurate term (or one that imported some other information in), the word for ‘eagle’ started getting discussed. One of the translators had her teenage granddaughter with her, and this word didn’t mean anything to her at all. She’d never heard of it, as it was an archaic term that younger people didn’t use anymore. They ended up changing the translation of ‘angel’ to something like ‘a man sent with a message’, which is both more accurate and clear.”)

See also angel (Acts 12:15) and this devotion on YouVersion .

complete verse (Luke 1:34)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 1:34:

  • Nyongar: “Mary said to the angel, ‘I am a virgin. How will this happen?'” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “Maria said saying to the angel: ‘How can what you (sing.) say happen? Because I am not yet married.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Mariyam said to the angel, ‘How can this be possible and-what’s-more I haven’t a husband yet.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then Mary said to the angel, she said, ‘How can this be? Because I am a virgin and I have never been approached by a man.’ (euphemism for sexual relations)” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Whereupon Maria said to the angel, ‘Yes, but how perhaps can it be, because absolutely no one has touched me?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Maria spoke, saying, ‘How is that, since I haven’t yet had experience with any man?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Luke 1:34


pōs estai touto lit. ‘how will this be’; touto refers to what is announced in v. 31, and the clause expresses Mary’s astonishment, rather than curiosity or unbelief.

pōs ‘how,’ inquires after the way in which something happens, but also after the possibility as in 20.41, 44; Jn. 12.34; hence the translation ‘how can this be?’

epei andra ou ginōskō ‘since I have no sexual relationship with a man’; andra means ‘any man’ including Joseph. The phrase does not refer to marriage (cf. on v. 27). The present tense implies that Mary expects the angel’s prophecy to be fulfilled shortly. ginōskō denoting sexual intercourse is Hebrew usage, cf. e.g. Gen. 4.1, 17.

epei ‘because,’ ‘since.’


How can this be, or, ‘how will this be possible’ (Bible en français courant), or “how will this be brought about” (The Four Gospels – a New Translation), or more explicitly, ‘how can I become pregnant’ (Cuyono).

I have no husband, lit. ‘I do not know a man.’ In several other languages besides Hebrew and Greek the verb ‘to know’ can be used with reference to sexual intercourse (or especially to the first intercourse a person has), e.g. in Marathi, Sranan Tongo, Balinese, Uab Meto, Mossi , where necessary slightly adjusting the clause, e.g. ‘there is no man that knows my body’ (Tae’). In the many languages, however, where ‘to know’ cannot have this metaphorical meaning, another current expression for cohabitation must be used, which should be clear without being vulgar, cf. “I have not lain with any man” (The Four Gospels – a New Translation), “I am a virgin” (Good News Translation), ‘I live with no man’ (Bolivian, Quechua), the dual form of the verb ‘to stay/be-present’ (Ekari), ‘I have not been/joined with a man’ (Kituba, Thai). In some languages a speaker has to use a specific negative particle when he knows, or supposes, that the event he is denying for the present will happen in the future. As it is normal for a betrothed girl to suppose sexual relationship in the future, several versions use ‘not-yet’ here, e.g. Apache, Navajo, Tboli, Sranan Tongo, Bahasa Indonesia, Balinese, also Thai, Kituba (see above). To demonstrate the importance of this point Navajo may be cited, in which language the rendering ‘my-husband yet being-lacking’ conveys the intended meaning, whereas without ‘yet’ the phrase would suggest either, ‘I have no husband,’ or, ‘my husband is not here just now,’ or, ‘my husband is dead.’

Quoted with permission from Reiling, J. and Swellengrebel, J.L. A Handbook on the Gospel of Luke. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1971. For this and other handbooks for translators see here . Make sure to also consult the Handbook on the Gospel of Mark for parallel or similar verses.