parable of the wise builder

The parable of the wise builder is translated in Yaosakor Asmat as “the wise builder is like the person who builds a house on stilts made of iron wood which last a long time, while the foolish builder is the one who builds a house on stilts made of white wood which will rot quickly.”

Daud Soesilio (in Noss 2007, p. 175) explains: “In Pirimapun, a swampy area on the southern coast of Indonesian Papua, the parable of the wise builder who builds on stone foundation and the foolish builder who builds on sand was rendered into the Asmat language as ‘the wise builder is like the person who builds a house on stilts made of iron wood which last a long time, while the foolish builder is the one who builds a house on stilts made of white wood which will rot quickly.’ This adaptation is necessary since one cannot find a single stone in this swampy area, and all houses are built on stilts. They use iron wood stilts for their more permanent houses, and they only use white wood stilts for the temporary houses that they use when they go hunting. White wood will not last. It is also interesting to point out that they use sand from the beach to make their walking paths firm.”

house falls (in the parable of two house builders)

Gbaya uses a lot of ideophones (words that express what is perceived by the five senses) which naturally also has an impact on translation. In the case of the two different versions of Jesus’ parable of two house builders in Matthew and Luke, two different ideophones are used to capture the fall of the house and differences in the Greek text.

Philip Noss (in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 423ff.) explains: “The story is short and dramatic, building up from the wisdom of the first man to the foolishness of the second. In addition to using literary and dramatic narrative style to recount the plot line, the Gbaya translators used ideophones to depict the final drama of both versions of the account.

  • Matt. 7:27: ɓɛɛ tua’i gbin a nù gɛ́tɛ́-gɛ́tɛ́ (‘… and it fell—and great was its fall!’ (NRSV))
  • Luke 6:49: ɓɛɛ tua’i gbin a nù nɛ oi-aa lɛŋ mútú-mútú (‘… immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.’ (NRSV))

“In both accounts [many English versions] use the verb ‘fall.’ Gbaya also has a verb ‘to fall,’ but it cannot be used here because the houses did not fall from anywhere. They were on the ground and they broke apart or collapsed. This is expressed in Gbaya by a serial verb construction ‘break-put ground.’ To express Luke’s stronger form of the Greek verb, the Gbaya team added ‘completely.’

“Following the Greek text, [most] English versions add a final emphatic clause which Gbaya expresses by an ideophone. To translate Matthew’s version, the Gbaya team said gɛ́tɛ́-gɛ́tɛ́ which depicts the action of breaking apart, of scattering in small pieces. To emphasize Luke’s portrayal of collapse and total ruin, the Gbaya team said mútú-mútú which describes total destruction, something being crushed and ground to pieces. The Gbaya use of the ideophone is more economical and direct than the Greek original and the English translation which both require an additional term and, in the latter, even an exclamation mark.”

complete verse (Luke 6:49)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 6:49:

  • Uma: “But the people who hear my words and do not follow, they are like a person who built a house on just land/the ground without a foundation-stone. A flood came and struck that house, it fell down, and its destruction was great.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Now if a person listens to my words but does not obey them he is like a person building a house, but does not make a hole for the posts and does not stand them on rock. When the strong flood comes immediately the house falls and breaks to pieces.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Now the person who just listens to my advice but he does not act upon it, he is like the person who built a house on the sand, and when that house was finished, it also was hit by a typhoon, and the house was struck by the force of strong water, and the house fell and was completely broken up.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “But the person who has been listening to what I say and he doesn’t believe/obey it, he is compared to a person who built his house on the soil and he didn’t carve out from the rock a place-upon-which-to-set its foundation. So when the water struck-against that house of his, it fell-down and was totally destroyed.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “But as for that person who, although he hears my teaching, doesn’t obey it, he is like a person who only did a shoddy job when building his house, for he didn’t make it sturdy by putting the posts down deep in the ground. Well when the flood came, it also was engulfed. What else but for the reason that it wasn’t sturdy, it fell at once and was totally broken up.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)