sycamore, sycomore

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “sycamore” in English is translated in Chichewa as mkuyu or “fig tree.” (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 72)

Note that the tree referred to in these instances is the “Sycomore Fig (Ficus sycomorus), also called the “Mulberry Fig” (compare German Maulbeerfeigenbaum), is a type of fig that is found especially in low-land areas in the Mediterranean region. It was known in Egypt as early as 3000 B.C. but also in the Indus Valley in India. (…) The sycomore fig is not a tall tree (up to 10 meters [33 feet]) but has large low, spreading branches.” (Source: Koops 2012, p. 67)

complete verse (Luke 19:4)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 19:4:

  • Nyongar: “Jesus was coming on the road, so he ran ahead and climbed a tree to see Jesus.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “So, he ran ahead of the crown, and he climbed a fig tree so that he could look-down on Yesus when he passed by there.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Therefore he ran ahead of the people and climbed up on a tree sikamol at the edge of the road so that he could see Isa when he passed by.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “So what Zacchaeus did was, he ran on up ahead and he climbed up in a tree named sycamore, where Jesus was to pass by, so that ha might see Jesus very well as he passed by.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “So he ran to-go-ahead of plural Jesus and went and climbed a sikomoro tree so that thus he would have a way of seeing Jesus when he passed.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Therefore what he did was, he ran on ahead and climbed a sikumoro tree so that he would see Jesus well when he passed by.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Luke 19:4


prodramōn eis to emprosthen lit. ‘after running on ahead.’ eis to emprosthen lit. ‘to the front,’ hence ‘ahead,’ which is pleonastic since protrechō means ‘to run ahead.’

anebē epi sukomorean hina idē auton ‘he climbed up a fig-mulberry tree in order to see him.’

sukomorea ‘ficus sycomorus,’ ‘fig-mulberry tree,’ a fig tree whose leaves resemble those of a mulberry tree.

hoti ekeinēs ēmellen dierchesthai ‘because he was going to pass that way,’ with hodou ‘way’ understood with ekeinēs.


He ran on ahead, i.e. some distance in front of Jesus and his companions.

Sycamore tree. Where the exact species is unknown the term for ‘(wild) fig tree,’ is an acceptable rendering; or simply, ‘a tree’ (Tae’ 1933), the kind of tree not being of specific relevance here.

For he (or, Jesus) was to pass that way, stating explicitly what has been implied already in the words “ran on ahead”, i.e. that Zacchaeus could foresee along which road Jesus would come; hence, ‘expecting that Jesus was going to take that way’ (cf. The Four Gospels – a New Translation) is an acceptable rendering also.

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.