In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage:
the Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) translates as “all-transformative good news” (alles verändernde gute Botschaft), also “good news”
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):
“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”
The Greek that is translated as “all the gentiles” or “all nations” in English is translated as “all people” in Tzeltal, as “all mankind” in Highland Totonac, or “the peoples who are everywhere” in Chicahuaxtla Triqui. (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
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, Jesus is addressing his disciples, individuals and/or crowds with the formal pronoun, showing respect.
In most Dutch translations, Jesus addresses his disciples and common people with the informal pronoun, whereas they address him with the formal form.
eis panta ta ethnē ‘in all nations,’ ‘among all peoples,’ ‘to all the Gentiles.’
eis ‘in,’ ‘to.’ Moule calls the use of eis in this verse equivalent to a pure dative.
ta ethnē in a general sense ‘all nations’; it could, however, have the meaning ‘all the Gentiles.’
prōton ‘first’ is an adverb, modifying the verbal phrase dei kēruchthēnai ‘it is necessary (that) be preached.’ It is generally taken to indicate time, ‘first,’ that is ‘before’ (something happens: in this case, before the End comes): so most translations; by some, however, it is taken to indicate degree of rank or importance: cf. Manson, “the first essential”; Le Nouveau Testament. Version Synodaletout d’abord; Lagrange “avant tout, tout d’abord.”
For dei ‘it is necessary’ cf. 8.31; kērussō ‘proclaim,’ ‘preach’ cf. 1.4; euaggelion ‘the gospel’ cf. 1.1.
For gospel see 1.1, and for preached see 1.4. A typical rendering is ‘the good news must first be announced.’
All nations may be ‘all peoples’ or ‘the people of all different places.’ In the first instance the point of view is the diversity of kinds and in the second the distinction in place, differences which must be carefully observed in some languages.
In the active form, as required by some languages, one may translate as ‘people must announce the good news to….’
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 .