inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 17:4 / Mark 9:5 / Luke 9:33)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“Lord, it is good for us to be here” in English translations), Yagua translators selected the exclusive form (excluding Jesus), whereas Avaric, Tok Pisin, Jarai, Fijian, and Adamawa Fulfulde translators chose the inclusive form (which includes Jesus).

Source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff. and Magomed-Kamil Gimbatov and Yakov Testelets in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 434ff.

SIL International Translation Department (1999) documents that there are reasonable differences of opinions about the use of the inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun for this verse mentioned above.

In Mark and Luke the second plural pronoun (“let us put us a tent” in English) is always translated with an exclusive pronoun (excluding Jesus). Likewise, in Fijian, the exclusive trial keitou (I and two others but not you) is used, specifically including Peter, James and John, but not Jesus.

Elijah

The name that is transliterated as “Elijah” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language as “whirlwind” (according to 2 Kings 2:11) (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)


“Elijah” in Spanish Sign Language, source: Sociedad Bíblica de España

Click or tap here to see how other sign languages are translating “Elijah”

In American Sign Language it is translated with a depiction of being taken up to heaven with a chariot of fire. (Source: ASL Sign Language Directory )


“Elijah” in American Sign Language (source )

Likewise in Estonian Sign Language, but with a different sign (source: Liina Paales in Folklore 47, 2011, p. 43ff.)


“Elijah” in Estonian Sign Language (source )

In Finnish Sign Language it is translated with the sign signifying “fire” (referring to 1 Kings 18:38). (Source: Tarja Sandholm)


“Elijah” in Finnish Sign Language (source )

Following is a Russian Orthodox icon of Elijah from the late 13h century.

 
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 Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration.

Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration

“In a number of languages, including Yanesha’ of Peru, there is an obligatory morpheme that must be suffixed to the name of any person referred to after his death. An interesting problem arises in the transfiguration account as to whether or not Moses’ name should have the ‘dead’ suffix. The translators have decided to leave the suffix off the name of Moses in the transfiguration story, since his obvious physical presence would be contradictory to the reference to his death. They are using it with the names of the characters of the Old Testament when they are mentioned in the New in other contexts and with the names of characters of the New Testament only if they have reason to believe that the person was dead when the record was written.” (Source: Larson 1998, p. 46)

In Yatzachi Zapotec the translators encountered the same grammatical requirement but decided differently. Otis Leal (in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 164ff. ) explains: “Zapotecs never refer to a person who has died without indicating this fact. Thus the sentence. In Mark 9:4 Moses and Elijah spoke with Christ. Moses was obviously dead and was so designated in the translation. The question arose regarding Elijah. The informant was positive that he also should be referred to as dead since he no longer inhabited this mortal world. Should that be conceded, however, it would seem that Christ would also have to be referred to as dead at any time after the ascension. Thus Paul would be represented as beginning Romans, ‘Paul, a servant of the dead Jesus Christ.’ But because of the resurrection of Jesus, He is always spoken of as alive.”

See also Moses and Elijah.

dwelling, tent

The Greek that is translated as “tent” or “dwelling” in English is translated in Estado de Mexico Otomi as “little houses made of branches” and in Tzotzil as “grass houses.” (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.)

Transfiguration (icon)

Following is a Ukrainian Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration by Ivan Rutkovych (c. 1650 – c. 1708) (for the Church of Christ’s Nativity in Zhovkva, Ukraine, today in the Lviv National Museum).

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 )

Peter

Following is a Armenian Orthodox icon of Peter (found in the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shusha, Azerbaijan).

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 )

Following is a hand colored stencil print on momigami of Peter by Sadao Watanabe (1970):

Image taken with permission from the SadaoHanga Catalogue where you can find many more images and information about Sadao Watanabe. For other images of Sadao Watanabe art works in TIPs, see here.

In Finnish Sign Language it is translated with the sign signifying “key” (referring to Matthew 16:19). (Source: Tarja Sandholm)


“Peter” or “Cephas” in Finnish Sign Language (source )

In Swiss-German Sign Language it is translated with the sign for “rock,” referring to the meaning of the Greek word for “Peter.”


“Peter” in Swiss-German Sign Language, source: DSGS-Lexikon biblischer Begriffe , © CGG Schweiz

See also Peter – rock.

formal pronoun: disciples addressing Jesus

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, individual or several disciples address Jesus with the formal pronoun, expressing respect. Compare this to how that address changes after the resurrection.

In most Dutch as well as in Western Frisian and Afrikaans translations, the disciples address Jesus before and after the resurrection with the formal pronoun.

See also this devotion on YouVersion .

complete verse (Luke 9:33)

Following are a number of back-translations of Luke 9:33:

  • Noongar: “The two men started leaving Jesus. Peter said, ‘Lord, it is very good for us standing here! We will make three houses, for you, for Moses and for Elijah.’ Peter did not really know the things he was saying.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • Uma: “When those two were ready to leave/almost leaving, Petrus said: ‘Teacher, it is very good that we stay here! It is better that we (excl.) make three huts here. One is your (sing.) portion, Teacher, one the portion of Musa, and one also the portion of Elia.’ (But he did not know what he was saying [lit, the landing-place of his words,)” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “After this, when the two were soon leaving from Isa, Petros said to Isa, ‘Sir, it is good that we (excl.) are here. We (excl.) will make three huts. One for you, one for Musa and one for Prophet Eliyas.’ He was just speaking but he did not know as to what he was saying.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And as those two were leaving him, Peter said, ‘Lord, it’s very good that we are here. We will make three shelters — one is yours, one is for Moses and one is for Elijah.’ Peter did not remember that he spoke these words. (Manobo way of saying: ‘He didn’t know what he was saying.’)” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “When those two men were leaving from where Jesus was, Pedro said to him, ‘Lord, it’s indeed a-good-thing that we have been here. We (excl.) will indeed make three shelters so that one will be yours (sing.), one will be Moses’, and one will be Elias’.’ But he just-for-no-reason said that, because he didn’t (sympathy particle) know what he was talking about.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When those two who were close to Jesus were about to leave, Pedro spoke. He said, ‘Master, it’s really good that we (incl.) are here now. And probably it would be good if we (excl.) make three shelters. One for you, one for Moises and one for Elias.’ Pedro hadn’t thought about that which he said.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)