Let the Little Children Come

Painting by Chen Yuandu 陳緣督 (1902-1967)
Housed in the Société des Auxiliaires des Missions Collection – Whitworth University

Image taken from Chinese Christian Posters . For more information on the “Ars Sacra Pekinensis” school of art, see this article , for other artworks of that school in TIPs, see here.

Even the least significant members of society he embraced (image)

“Adult activities are only for adults and the activities of child are only for children. Usually only very elderly Thai adults will spend time with children, but here we see Jesus doing it. The shaved hairstyles are different for the different boys and girls. Those with two pony tails are actually boys with two crowns of hair indicative of either great intelligence or belligerence.”

Drawing by Sawai Chinnawong who employs northern and central Thailand’s popular distinctive artistic style originally used to depict Buddhist moral principles and other religious themes; explanation by Paul DeNeui. From That Man Who Came to Save Us by Sawai Chinnawong and Paul H. DeNeui, William Carey Library, 2010.

For more images by Sawai Chinnawong in TIPs see here.


The Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Aramaic that is translated into English as “(to) bless” or “blessed” is translated into a wide variety of possibilities.

The Hebrew term barak (and the Aramaic term berak) also (and originally) means “kneel” (a meaning which the word has retained — see Gen. 24:11) and can be used for God blessing people (or things), people blessing each other, or people blessing God. While English Bible translators have not seen a stumbling block in always using the same term (“bless” in its various forms), other languages need to make distinctions (see below).

In Bari, spoken in South Sudan, the connection between blessing and knees/legs is still apparent. For Genesis 30:30 (in English: “the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned”), Bari uses a common expression that says (much like the Hebrew), ‘… blessed you to my feet.'” (Source: P. Guillebaud in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff. .)

Other examples for the translation of “bless” when God is the one who blesses include (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

  • “think well of” (San Blas Kuna)
  • “speak good to” (Amganad Ifugao)
  • “make happy” (Pohnpeian)
  • “cause-to-live-as-a-chief” (Zulu)
  • “sprinkle with a propitious (lit. cool) face” (a poetic expression occurring in the priests’ language) (Toraja Sa’dan) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • “give good things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • “ask good” (Yakan) (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • “praise, say good things” (Central Yupik) (source: Robert Bascom)
  • “greatly love” (Candoshi-Shapra) (source: John C. Tuggy)
  • “showing a good heart” (Kutu) (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • “good luck — have — good fortune — have” (verbatim) ꓶꓼ ꓙꓳ ꓫꓱꓹ ꓙꓳ — ɯa dzho shes zho (Lisu). This construction follows a traditional four-couplet construct in oral Lisu poetry that is usually in the form ABAC or ABCB. (Source: Arrington 2020, p. 58)

In Tagbanwa a phrase is used for both the blessing done by people and God that back-translates to “caused to be pierced by words causing grace/favor” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

Ixcatlán Mazatec had to select a separate term when relating “to people ‘blessing’ God” (or things of God): “praise(d)” or “give thanks for” (in 1 Cor. 10:16) (“as it is humans doing the ‘blessing’ and people do not bless the things of God or God himself the way God blesses people” — source: Robert Bascom). Eastern Bru and Kui also use “praise” for this a God-directed blessing (source: Bru back translation and Helen Evans in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff. ) and Uma uses “appropriate/worthy to be worshipped” (source: Uma back translation).

When related to someone who is blessing someone else, it is translated into Tsou as “speak good hopes for.” In Waiwai it is translated as “may God be good and kind to you now.” (Sources: Peng Kuo-Wei for Tsou and Robert Hawkins in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. for Waiwai.)

Some languages associate an expression that originally means “spitting” or “saliva” with blessing. The Bantu language Koonzime, for instance, uses that expression for “blessing” in their translation coming from either God or man. Traditionally, the term was used in an application of blessing by an aged superior upon a younger inferior, often in relation to a desire for fertility, or in a ritualistic, but not actually performed spitting past the back of the hand. The spitting of saliva has the effect of giving that person “tenderness of face,” which can be translated as “blessedness.” (Source: Keith Beavon)

Martin Ehrensvärd, one of the translators for the Danish Bibelen 2020, comments on the translation of this term: “As for ‘blessing’, in the end we in most instances actually kept the word, after initially preferring the expression ‘giving life strength’. The backlash against dropping the word blessing was too hard. But we would often add a few words to help the reader understand what the word means in a given context — people often understand it to refer more to a spiritual connection with God, but in the Hebrew texts, it usually has to do with material things or good health or many children. So when e.g. in Isaiah 19:25 the Hebrew text says ‘God bless them’, we say ‘God bless them’ and we add: ‘and give them strength’. ‘And give them strength’ is not found in the overt Hebrew text, but we are again making explicit what we believe is the meaning so as to avoid misunderstanding.” (Source: Ehrensvärd in HIPHIL Novum 8/2023, p. 81ff. )

See also bless (food and drink), blessed (Christ in Mark 11:9), and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

See also “Blessed by ‘The Blessing’ in the World’s Indigenous Languages” and Multilingual version of “The Blessing” based on Numbers 6:24-26 .

Mark 10:13 - 16 in Mexican Sign Language

Following is the translation of Mark 10:13-16 into Mexican Sign Language with back-translations into Spanish and English underneath:

© La Biblia en LSM / La Palabra de Dios

Retrotraducciones en español (haga clic o pulse aquí)

Padres trajeron sus hijos, caragando los bebés y otras personas tomando los niños de la mano para que Jesús les impusiera las manos y los bendeciera.

Los discípulos los vieron (y dijeron): “No, está prohibido, vayanse.” Jesús lo vio y dijo: “No está prohibido, dejan que los niños todos vengan a mi.

Yo les advierto a uds: Adultos que en su carácter/actitud parecen a los niños pueden juntarse al reino de Dios.

Los niños pequeños sí son aceptados a juntarse al reino de Dios.

Si uds, los adultos, no quieren copiar la actitud de los niños y lo rechazan, no pueden juntarse al reino de Dios.”

Jesús llamó a los niños a que vinieran y muchos vinieron y los impuso la manos y los bendijo.

Parents brought their children, carrying the babies and other people taking the children by the hand for Jesus to lay his hands on them and bless them.

The disciples saw this (and said): “It is not allowed, get away.” Jesus saw it and said: “It is not forbidden, leave the children, let them all come to me.

“I warn you: Adults that are like children in their character/attitude can join the Kingdom of God.

“Little children are accepted to join the Kingdom of God.

“If you, the adults, do not want to copy the same mindset as the children and reject it, you cannot join the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus beckoned the children to come and many came, and he lay his hands on them and blessed them.

Source: La Biblia en LSM / La Palabra de Dios

<< Mark 10:1-12 in Mexican Sign Language
Mark 10:13-16 in Mexican Sign Language >>

complete verse (Mark 10:16)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 10:16:

  • Uma: “After he said that, he embraced those children, he laid-hands-on them and blessed them.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So-then Isa took the children on his arms one-after-the-other. He placed his hands on them and asked good/blessing from God for them.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Then he held the children on his lap and placed his hands upon their heads and blessed them.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then he held-those children -on-his-lap and put-his-hands-on them blessing them.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “And then Jesus put-his-arms-around those children and he prayed for them placing his hand on them.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Honorary are / rare constructs denoting God (“bless”)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the usage of an honorific construction where the morphemes rare (られ) or are (され) are affixed on the verb as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. This is particularly done with verbs that have God as the agent to show a deep sense of reverence. Here, shukufukus-are-ru (祝福される) or “bless” is used.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Translation commentary on Mark 10:16


enagkalisamenos (cf. 9.36) ‘embracing,’ ‘taking into (his) arms.’

kateulogei titheis ‘he blessed laying’: most translations have it simply, ‘he laid (his hands upon them) and blessed.’ The participle titheis ‘laying’ may indicate means ‘by laying (his hands upon them),’ or accompanying circumstances ‘as he laid (his hands upon them)’ (cf. Williams, Zürcher Bibel).

kateulogeō (only here in the N.T.; cf. eulogeō 6.41) ‘bless’: in accordance with the customs of the time, we are to understand that Jesus invoked God’s blessings upon them (‘May God bless you’) rather than pronounced a blessing himself (‘I bless you’). Some commentators and translators understand the preposition kata in this compound verb to have the meaning ‘tenderly,’ ‘warmly,’ ‘lovingly.’ The imperfect of the verb describes Jesus blessing the children one by one, not all at the same time.

tithenai tas cheiras (cf. 5.23 for epitithenai tas cheiras) ‘to lay hands,’ ‘to place (his) hands’: as Lagrange points out, this imposition of hands is the mode of the benediction.


Them must refer specifically to the children.

In his arms probably refers to a position on his lap rather than to his simply lifting them up from the ground while he was in a standing position (as a Rabbi he was probably teaching in a seated position). This difference is important in some languages.

For bless see 6.41, but in this instance persons are the object of the blessing, and hence certain adjustments may be required.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1961. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .