desert, wilderness

The Greek that is translated as “desert” or “wilderness” in English is translated in a number of ways:

Note that in Luke 15:4, usually a term is used that denotes pastoral land, such as “eating/grazing-place” in Tagbanwa (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

See also wilderness and desolate wilderness.


The Greek that is typically translated/transliterated in English as “demon” is translated in Central Mazahua as “the evil spirit(s) of the devil” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).

In Sissala it is translated with kaŋtɔŋ, which traditionally referred to “either a spirit of natural phenomena such as trees, rivers, stones, etc., or the spirit of a deceased person that has not been taken into the realm of the dead. Kaŋtɔŋ can be good or evil. Evil kaŋtɔŋ can bring much harm to people and are feared accordingly. A kaŋtɔŋ can also dwell in a person living on this earth. A person possessed by kaŋtɔŋ does not behave normally.” (Source: Regina Blass in Holzhausen 1991, p. 48f.)

In Umiray Dumaget Agta it is translated as hayup or “creature, animal, general term for any non-human creature, whether natural or supernatural.” Thomas Headland (in: Notes on Translation, September 1971, p. 17ff.) explains some more: “There are several types of supernatural creatures, or spirit beings which are designated by the generic term hayup. Just as we have several terms in English for various spirit beings (elves, fairies, goblins, demons, imps, pixies) so have the Dumagats. And just as you will find vast disagreement and vagueness among English informants as to the differences between pixies and imps, etc., so you will find that no two Dumagats will agree as to the form and function of their different spirit beings.” This term can also be used in a verb form: hayupen: “creatured” or “to be killed, made sick, or crazy by a spirit.

In Yala it is translated as yapri̍ija ɔdwɔ̄bi̍ or “bad Yaprija.” Yaprijas are traditional spirits that have a range presumed activities including giving or withholding gifts, giving and protecting children, causing death and disease and rewarding good behavior. (Source: Eugene Bunkowske in Notes on Translation 78/1980, p. 36ff.)

In Lamnso’ it is translated as aànyùyi jívirì: “lesser gods who disturb, bother, pester, or confuse a person.” (Source: Fanwong 2013, p. 93)

See also devil and formal pronoun: demons or Satan addressing Jesus.

spirit/demon comes (out)

The Greek that is translatede as “spirit/demon comes (out)” in various forms in English is translated in
as “spirit/demon pour (out),” because “ephe (‘come’), sounds as if the demons are human beings. We use only ephe for human beings.” (Source: Samuel Iyoku in The Bible Translator 1977, p. 404ff. )

complete verse (Luke 8:29)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 8:29:

  • Nyongar: “He said this because Jesus had told the evil spirits, ‘Go out of him!’ The evil spirits always seized him. People restrained him and tied his feet and hands with rope, but he could break the rope and the evil spirits drove him into the desert.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: (incl. v. 27, 28) “There was there a townsperson who was possessed by many demons. For a long time that person had not worn-clothes and he did not live in a house. His living-place was just the graves. He was often possessed. Even if he has bound by ropes and chains and continually watched, he could still break his bindings and escape/run-away going to the empty-place, because he was carried by the strength of the demons that possessed him. When Yesus landed/disembarked from the boat going to the shore, that possessed person came to meet him. When he saw Yesus, he shouted and kneeled in front of him. Yesus ordered those demons to go-out. That person said loudly: ‘Ee Yesus, Child of God who is in heaven! Why have you (sing.) come? I request that you (sing.) do not torment me!'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “He spoke like this because Isa commanded hep the demon to come out from him. Formerly he had often hep been ruled over by demons and even if he was tied with a chain and was watched by people, he eventually broke the chain and was taken by the demon to the lonely country.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: (incl. v. 27, 28) “And when Jesus got out of the boat, he happened on to a person who had before been inhabitant there in the town of the Gergesenes, and he was afflicted with demons. And as for that person, for a long time he had not worn clothes; he did not live in a house, rather he lived there in the burial caves. It was not just a few times only that that man was controlled by that which wants to harm him, and even though he was often fastened with chains and guarded by people, he easily broke the chains and the demon lead him away into the land where no people lived. But when he saw Jesus he shouted out and he fell on his face in front of Jesus, saying with a very loud voice, ‘You Jesus, son of the very high God, what are you going to do with me? I beg you that you do not punish me yet!’ He said this because Jesus said to the demon that he should come out of him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: (incl. v. 28) “Often also he was hardshipped by the evil-spirits, and even though his townmates repeatedly-confined him and repeatedly-chained his hands and feet, he snapped the chains nonetheless while the evil-spirits also made-him-run to isolated places. So when he saw Jesus, he screeched and immediately-knelt face-down to him. Then he said shouting, ‘Ay Jesus, Child of the Highest God, why are you (sing.) bothering-us/me? Please-be-so-kind (strong request) as to not punish-us/me!’ That is what he said, because Jesus commanded the evil-spirits to leave him.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He spoke like that for Jesus had ordered that one possessing/making-crazy to leave that man. That being-made-crazy of his was really continuous now. No matter what would be done to take-care-of him, it couldn’t be done. For even with fettering him, binding him with chains, he couldn’t be detained, for he would snap them. Well that one possessing him kept leading him there to the wilderness place.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The Greek Iēsous is “only” a proper name but one with great importance. The following quote by John Ellington (in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 401ff. ) illustrates this:

“In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, Joseph is told that when Mary gives birth to a son ‘you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (1:21). This name is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name [Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ) which is a short form of a name meaning] ‘the Lord [Yahweh] saves.’ The name is very significant and is in itself especially dear to Christians around the world. (…) Unquestionably great importance is attached to the name of Jesus by Christians of all persuasions and backgrounds.”

While Iēsous (pronounced: /i.ɛː.suːs/) is transliterated as “Jesus” (pronounced /ˈdʒiːzəs/) in English (but was translated as “Hælend” [the “healing one”] in Old English — see Swain 2019) it is transliterated and pronounced in a large variety of other ways as well, following the different rules of different languages’ orthographies, writing systems and rules of pronunciation. The following is a (partial) list of forms of Jesus in Latin characters: aYeso, Azezi, Cecoc, Chesús, Chi̍i̍sū, Ciisahs, Ciise, Ciisusu, Djesu, Ɛisa, Ƹisa, Eyesu, Gesù, Gesû, Gesü, Ġesù, Ghjesù, Giêsu, ꞌGiê‑ꞌsu, Giê-xu, Gyisɛse, Hesu, Hesús, Hisuw, Ià-sŭ, Ié:sos, Iesu, Iesui, Iesusɨn, Iesusiva, Ié:sos, Ihu, Iisus, Ijeesu, iJisọsị, Iji̍sɔ̄ɔsi, Iosa, Íosa, Ìosa, İsa, I’sa, Isiso, Ísu, Isus, Isusa, Iisussa, Isuthi, Itota, Îtu, Isuva, Izesu, Izesuq, Jasus, Jeeju, Jeesus, Jeesus, Jeezas, Jehu, Jeisu, Jeju, Jejus, Jeso, Jesoe, Jesosa, Jesoshi, Jesosy, Jesu, Jesû, Jesua, Jesuh, Jesús, Jésus, Jesúsu, Jethu, Jezed, Jezi, Jézi, Ježiš, Jezu, Jezus, Jézus, Jėzus, Jēzus, Jezusi, Jėzus, Jezuz, Jíísas, Jiizas, Jiijajju, Jisas, Jisase, Jisasi, Jisasɨ, Jisasɨ, Jisaso, Jisesi, Jisɛ̀, Jisos, Jisọs, Jisɔs, Jisu, Jiszs, Jizọs, Jizɔs, Jizọsi, Jizọsu, Jòso, Jusu, Jweesus, Ketsutsi, Njises, Sesi, Sisa, Sísa, Sisas, Sīsū, Sizi, Txesusu, uJesu, Ujísɔ̄si, ŵaYesu, Xesosi, ´Xesús, Xesús, Yasu, Ya:su, Ɣaysa, Yecu, Yeeb Sub, Yeeh Suh, Yeesey, Yeeso, Yeesso, Yēēsu, Yēēsu, Yehsu, Yëësu, Yeisu, Yeisuw, Yeshu, Yeso, Yesò, Yëso, Yɛso, ye-su, Yésu, Yêsu, Yẹ́sụ̃, Yésʉs, Yeswa, Yet Sut, Yetut, Yexus, Yezo, Yezu, Yiisu, Yiitju, Yis, Yisɔs, Yisufa, Yitati, Yusu, ‑Yusu, :Yusu’, Zeezi, Zezi, Zezì, Zezwii, Ziizɛ, Zîsɛ, Zjezus, Zozi, Zozii, and this (much more incomplete) list with other writings systems: ᔩᓱᓯ, ᒋᓴᔅ, Հիսուս, ᏥᏌ, ኢየሱስ, ያሱስ, ܝܫܘܥ, Ісус, Їисъ, 耶稣, იესო, ईसा, イエス, イイスス, イエスス, 예수, येशू, येशो, ਈਸਾ, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ජේසුස්, যীশু, ଯୀଶୁ, ཡེ་ཤུ་, ‘ঈছা, இயேசு, ಯೇಸು, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ယေရှု, ઇસુ, जेजू, येसु, เยซู, យេស៊ូ, ᱡᱤᱥᱩ, ယေသှု, యేసు, ᤕᤧᤛᤢ᤺ᤴ, އީސާގެފާނު, ਯਿਸੂ, ꕉꖷ ꔤꕢ ꕞ, ⵏ⵿ⵗⵢⵙⴰ, ଜୀସୁ, يَسُوعَ,ㄧㄝㄙㄨ, YE-SU, ꓬꓰ꓿ꓢꓴ, 𖽃𖽡𖾐𖼺𖽹𖾏𖼽𖽔𖾏, ꑳꌠ, ᠶᠡᠰᠦᠰ (note that some of these might not display correctly if your device does not have the correct fonts installed).

Click or tap here to read more.

In some languages the different confessions have selected different transliterations, such as in Belarusian with Isus (Ісус) by the Orthodox and Protestant churches and Yezus (Езус) by the Catholic church, Bulgarian with Iisus (Иисус) by the Orthodox and Isus (Исус) by the Protestant church, Japanese with Iesu (イエス) (Protestant and Catholic) and Iisusu (イイスス) (Orthodox), or Lingala with Yesu (Protestant) or Yezu (Catholic). These differences have come to the forefront especially during the work on interconfessional translations such as one in Lingala where “many hours were spent on a single letter difference” (source: Ellington, p. 401).

In Chinese where transliterations of proper names between the Catholic and Protestant versions typically differ vastly, the Chinese name of Jesus (Yēsū 耶稣) remarkably was never brought into question between and by those two confessions, likely due to its ingenious choice. (Click or tap here to see more).

The proper name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh (YHWH), is rendered in most Chinese Bible translations as Yēhéhuá 耶和華 — Jehovah. According to Chinese naming conventions, Yēhéhuá could be interpreted as Yē Héhuá, in which would be the family name and Héhuá — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, 耶 would be the family name of Jesus and 稣 would be his given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, Jehovah, 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).

Moreover, the “given name” of 稣 carries the meaning ‘to revive, to rise again’ and seems to point to the resurrected Jesus. (Source: J. Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff., see also tetragrammaton (YHWH))

There are different ways that Bible translators have chosen historically and today in how to translate the name of Jesus in predominantly Muslim areas: with a form of the Arabic Isa (عيسى) (which is used for “Jesus” in the Qur’an), the Greek Iēsous, or, like major 20th century Bible translations into Standard Arabic, the Aramaic Yēšūaʿ: Yasua (يَسُوعَ). (Click or tap here to see more.)

Following are languages and language groups that use a form of Isa include the following (note that this list is not complete):

  • Indo-Iranian languages: Persian, Dari, Central Pashto, Southern Pashto all use Eysa (عيسی or عيسىٰ for Southern Pashto), Sindhi uses Eysey (عيسيٰ), Southern Balochi Issa (ایسّا), Central Kurdish (Sorani) and Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji) use Îsa (عیسای and Иса respectively), Turkmen has Isa, and Tajik Isoi (Исои — compare Iso/Исо in the Tajik Qur’an)
  • Turkic languages: Turkish uses İsa, Kazakh, Kumyk, Nogai, Crimean Tatar all have Isa (Иса), Kirghiz has Iysa (Ыйса), Uzbek has Iso (Исо — compare Iiso/Ийсо in the Uzbek Qur’an), Bashkir uses Aaisa (Ғайса), North Azerbaijani İsa, Uighur uses Eysa (ئەيسا), and Kara-Kalpak İysa (Ийса)
  • Caucasian languages: Bezhta and Lezghian use Isa (Иса), Avaric has Aisa (ГІиса), and Chechen Iza (Иза)
  • Various African languages: Somali, a Cushitic language, has Ciise, Kabyle has Ɛisa and Tahaggart Tamahaq has Yeswa (both Berber languages), the Saharan languages Central Kanuri, Manga Kanuri have Isa, the Atlantic-Congo languages Dagbani, Mampruli, and Bimoba use Yisa, and the Chadian Arabic Bible has Isa (عِيسَى)
  • In Indonesian, while most Bible translations had already used Yesus Kristus rather than Isa al Masih, the use of Yesus Kristus was prescribed by the government in 2023 (see this article in Christianity Today ).
  • Some languages have additional “TAZI” editions (TAZI stands for “Tawrat, Anbiya, Zabur, and Injil” the “Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospel”) of the New Testament that are geared towards Muslim readers where there is also a translation in the same language for non-Muslims. In those editions, Isa is typically used as well (for example, the Khmer TAZI edition uses Isa (អ៊ីសា) rather than the commonly used Yesaou (យេស៊ូ), the Thai edition uses Isa (อีซา) rather than Yesu (เยซู), the Chinese edition uses Ěrsā (尔撒) vs. Yēsū (耶稣), and the English edition also has Isa rather than Jesus.)

In German the name Jesus (pronounced: /ˈjeːzʊs/) is distinguished by its grammatical forms. Into the 20th century the grammatical rules prescribed a unique Greek-Latin declination: Jesus (nominative), Jesu (genitive, dative, vocative), Jesum (accusative), from which today only the genitive case “Jesu” is still in active use. Likewise, in Seediq (Taroko), the morphological treatment of “Jesus” also occupies a special category by not falling under the normal rule of experiencing a vowel reduction when the object-specific suffix an is added “since it was felt that the readers might resent that the name has been changed that drastically.” (Compare Msian for “Moses” (Mosi) as an object, but Yisuan for “Jesus” (Yisu).) (Source: Covell 1998. p. 249)

In Lamba the name ŵaYesu consists of a transliteration Yesu and the prefix ŵa, a plural form for “proper names when addressing and referring to persons in any position of seniority or honor.” While this was avoided in early translations to avoid possible misunderstandings of more than one Jesus, once the church was established it was felt that it was both “safe” and respectful to use the honorific (pl.) prefix. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff. )

In sign languages, including American Sign Language, Costa Rican Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language, Auslan (Australian Sign Language), Brazilian Sign Language, British Sign Language, and German Sign Language “Jesus” is signed with the middle finger of each hand pointing to the palm (or wrist) of the other in succession (signing the nails of the cross). In the context of Bible translation this has been pointed out as theologically problematic since the “semantic connections of the original name Jesus do point towards ‘salvation,’ they do not naturally lead to crucifixion.” (Source: Phil King in Journal of Translation 1 (2020), p. 33ff.)

“Jesus” in German Sign Language (source )

The style of the following drawing of Jesus by Annie Vallotton is described by the artist as this: “By using few lines the readers fill in the outlines with their imagination and freedom. That is when the drawings begin to communicate.” (see here )

Illustration by Annie Vallotton, copyright by Donald and Patricia Griggs of Griggs Educational Service.

Following is the oldest remaining Ethiopian Orthodox icon of Jesus from the 14th or possibly 13th century (found in the Church of the Saviour of the World in Gurji, Ethiopia). As in many Orthodox icons, Jesus’ right hand forms the Greek letters I-C-X-C for IHCOYC XPICTOC or “Jesus Christ.”

source (c) Jacques Mercier and Alain Mathieu

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 )

See also this devotion on YouVersion .

Translation commentary on Luke 8:29


parēggeilen gar tō pneumati tō akathartō ‘for he had commanded the unclean spirit,’ implying that this had preceded the cry of the possessed man. Nestle reads parēggellen (imperfect) and with that reading the clause means ‘for he was (already, i.e. while the man was approaching) commanding the unclean spirit.’ For paraggellō cf. on 5.14. The singular tō pneumati tō akathartō takes up the plural daimonia (cf. also daimonia polla ‘many demons’ in v. 30) because an unclean spirit is considered a plurality of spirits, or demons, cf. on 4.34.

pollois gar chronois sunērpakei auton ‘for on many occasions it had seized him,’ and this is what will happen when Jesus commands the unclean spirit to go out. gar indicates that this clause is also part of the explanation of the man’s fear in the preceding clause. For pollois chronois cf. on v. 27.

sunarpazō ‘to seize by violence.’

kai edesmeueto halusesin kai pedais phulassomenos ‘and then he was bound with chains and fetters being watched,’ iterative imperfect. The participle phulassomenos may either refer to an independent event (Revised Standard Version) or indicate the intention with which he was bound (cf. New English Bible “for safety’s sake”); the latter is preferable.

desmeuō ‘to bind.’

halusis ‘chain.’

pedē ‘fetter,’ ‘shackle.’

diarrēssōn ta desma ēlauneto hupo tou daimoniou eis tas erēmous ‘snapping his bonds he was driven by the demon to the desert.’ For diarrēssō cf. on 5.6. For eis tas erēmous cf. on 1.80.

desmos (also 13.16, with plural desma in the neuter) ‘bond.’ As compared with halusis and pedē it is more general and comprehensive.

elaunō ‘to drive.’


For, or, to clarify the connexion with what precedes, ‘he said so, because…’ (cf. Good News Translation, Balinese), ‘the reason (why he did) so was because’ (Bahasa Indonesia KB).

He, i.e. Jesus, usually has to be specified.

For the unclean spirit see 4.33, 36; for come out see 4.35.

(For many a time … into the desert) interrupts the narrative. It may have to be marked as such by the following linguistic means, (1) a tense form referring to what had been happening, or used to happen, in the past, as e.g. in Ekari, Kele, Marathi, or markers with similar meaning such as, ‘usually/used to,’ ‘often’ (Sinhala), ‘formerly’ (Cuyono), ‘already how many times now’ (Tboli), ‘for a long time already’ (Tzeltal); (2) a more explicit introduction of the sentence, e.g. ‘now the fact was that…’ (cf. Zürcher Bibel), ‘it-should-be-known’ (Bahasa Indonesia RC); or a combination of these means, cf. e.g. ‘as to the demon, often already…’ (Balinese).

It had seized him, or, ‘it had taken possession of him,’ see on 4.33.

He was kept under guard, preferably, ‘in order to keep him under guard’ (cf. Exegesis). The verb has also been rendered “to keep prisoner” (Good News Translation), ‘to detain’ (Willibrord), ‘to keep him in the eye’ (Sranan Tongo).

Bound with chains and fetters, or, ‘he was chained and fettered’ (Bahasa Indonesia), ‘he was chained and put-in-the-stocks’ (Batak Toba), or, since a reference to hands and feet is implied, ‘his hands and feet were chained and fettered’ (Balinese), ‘bound by metal on hands and feet’ (Kekchi), ‘people had bound his-hands and his-feet’ (Tae’). In Wantoat “chains” has to be rendered ‘vines,’ the normal binding material.

And was driven by the demon, or ‘and then the demon chased-away, or, led-away (the term used also of a thief that is run in) him, or, ran-away-with him’ (cf. Bahasa Indonesia; Javanese; Balinese).

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.