In Mark 5:20 and elsewhere where the astonishment is a response to listening to Jesus, the translation is “listened quietly” in Central Tarahumara, “they forgot listening” (because they were so absorbed in what they heard that they forgot everything else) in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec, “it was considered very strange by them” in Tzeltal (source: Bratcher / Nida), “in glad amazement” (to distinguish it from other kinds of amazement) (Quetzaltepec Mixe) (source: Robert Bascom), or “breath evaporated” (Mairasi) (source: Enngavoter 2004).
In Low German it is translated as grote Oken maken or “make big eyes” (sometime followed by: un kreegn dat Stillswiegen: “and became silent”) (translation by Johannes Jessen, publ. 1933, republ. 2006).
The Greek that is translated as a form of “teach” is translated with some figurative phrases such as “to engrave the mind” (Ngäbere) or “to cause others to imitate” (Huichol). (Source: Bratcher / Nida)
In Nyongar it is translated as karni-waangki or “truth saying” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).
Lalana Chinantec: “one who is a teacher of the law which God gave to Moses back then”
Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “one who know well the law” (Source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
Huixtán Tzotzil: “one who mistakenly thought he was teaching God’s commandments”(Huixtán Tzotzil frequently uses the verb -cuy to express “to mistakenly think something” from the point of view of the speaker; source: Marion M. Cowan in Notes on Translation 20/1966, pp. 6ff.)
Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022): “theologian”
English translation by Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023): Covenant Code scholar
Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 1:22:
Uma: “The people were surprised to hear his teaching. Because he did not teach like the religion teachers. His teaching [was] like a person who really had-authority/power.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “The people were amazed/wondered when they heard his preaching/teaching. For the teaching of Isa was really different from the teaching (usihat) of the religious-teachers of the religious law. For Isa had power when he spoke.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “The people, when they heard his teaching, were very amazed, for his teaching was not like the teaching of the teachers of the law of the Jews. For Jesus, by contrast, had great power to teach.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “The many-people were surprised by the way he taught, because in his teaching, they could-see that he had authority, which was not like the way of the teachers of the law.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “The people were amazed, because it was clear from his words/speech that he was one who had true wisdom/understanding of what he was teaching. Not like the explainers of law who always mention/refer-to what had been taught by others.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Balinese: “Ah, astonished were all the people there at His teaching, because He taught in the way of a man full of power, wholly otherwise than is the way of those learned in the religion of Taurat [Torah].” (Source: J.L. Swellengrebel in The Bible Translator 1950 p. 75ff. )
God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is traditionally confined to “he” (or in the forms “his,” “him,” and “himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).
Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility. Here, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (tā), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is “he,” 她 is “she,” and 它/牠 is “it” and their respective derivative forms). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.
In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande (王元德) coined a new “godly” pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: tā. But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that each person of the Trinity has no gender aside from being God.
While the most important Protestant and Catholic Chinese versions respectively have opted not to use 祂, some Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. Among the translations that use 祂 to refer to “God” were early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970). R.P. Kramers (in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.) explains why later versions of Lü’s translation did not continue with this practice: “This new way of writing ‘He,’ however, has created a minor problem of its own: must this polite form be used whenever Jesus is referred to? Lü follows the rule that, wherever Jesus is referred to as a human being, the normal ta (他) is written; where he is referred to as divine, especially after the ascension, the reverential ta (祂) is used.”
In that system one kind of pronoun is used for humans (male and female alike) and one for natural elements, non-liquid masses, and some spiritual entities (one other is used for large animals and another one for miscellaneous items). While in these languages the pronoun for spiritual entities used to be employed when referring to God, this has changed into the use of the human pronoun.
Lynell Zogbo (in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 401ff) explains in the following way: “From informal discussions with young Christians especially, it would appear that, at least for some people, the experience and/or concepts of Christianity are affecting the choice of pronoun for God. Some people explain that God is no longer ‘far away,’ but is somehow tangible and personal. For these speakers God has shifted over into the human category.”
In Kouya, God (the Father) and Jesus are referred to with the human pronoun ɔ, whereas the Holy Spirit is referred to with a non-human pronoun. (Northern Grebo and Western Krahn make a similar distinction.)
Eddie Arthur, a former Kouya Bible translation consultant, says the following: “We tried to insist that this shouldn’t happen, but the Kouya team members were insistent that the human pronoun for the Spirit would not work.”
In Burmese, the pronoun ko taw (ကိုယ်တော်) is used either as 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (he, him, his) reference. “This term clearly has its root in the religious language in Burmese. No ordinary persons are addressed or known by this pronoun because it is reserved for Buddhist monks, famous religious teachers, and in the case of Christianity, the Trinity.” (Source: Gam Seng Shae in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 202ff.)
In Thai, the pronoun phra`ong (พระองค์) is used, a gender-neutral pronoun which must refer to a previously introduced royal or divine being. Similarly, in Northern Khmer, which is spoken in Thailand, “an honorific divine pronoun” is used for the pronoun referring to the persons of the Trinity (source: David Thomas in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 445). In Urak Lawoi’, another language spoken in Thailand, the translation often uses tuhat (ตูฮัด) — “God” — ”as a divine pronoun where Thai has phra’ong even though it’s actually a noun.” (Source for Thai and Urak Lawoi’: Stephen Pattemore)
The English “Contemporary Torah” addresses the question of God and gendered pronouns by mostly avoiding pronouns in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (unless God is referred to as “lord,” “father,” “king,” or “warrior”). It does that by either using passive constructs (“He gave us” vs. “we were given”), by using the adjective “divine” or by using “God” rather than a pronoun.
Some Protestant English Bibles use a referential capitalized spelling when referring to the persons of the Trinity with “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself.” This includes for instance the New American Standard Bible, but most translations, especially those published in the 21st century, do not. Two other languages where this is also done (in most Bible translations) are the closely related Indonesian and Malay. In both languages this follows the language usage according to the Qur’an, which in turn predicts that usage (see Soesilo in The Bible Translator 1991, p. 442ff. and The Bible Translator 1997, p. 433ff. ).
See also this chapter in the World Atlas of Language Structures on different approaches to personal pronouns.