tax collector

The Greek that is translated as “tax collector” in English is translated in Tagbanwa as “money-grabbing official receivers of payment” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation) and in Noongar as mammarapa boya-barranginy or “people taking money” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation). Likewise, in Cashibo-Cacataibo, it is the “ones who take the money” (source: Bratcher / Nida 1961).

In Mairasi it is translated as “the people who collect money pertaining to head payment.”(Source: Enggavoter 2004)

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about tax collectors in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also Matthew.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Tax Collectors and Sinners .

Jesus in Levi's house (image)

Hand colored stencil print on momigami by Sadao Watanabe (1964).

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.



The Greek that is translated as “sinner” in English is translated as “people with bad hearts” (“it is not enough to call them ‘people who do bad things,’ for though actions do reflect the heart, yet it is the hearts with which God is primarily concerned — see Matt. 15:19”) in Western Kanjobal, “people who are doing wrong things in their hearts” in San Blas Kuna (source: Nida 1952, p. 148), “people with bad stomachs” in Q’anjob’al (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. ), “those others who don’t fully obey our laws” in Tagbanwa (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation), or “people with dirty hearts” or “people who are called ‘bad'” in Mairasi (source: Enggavoter 2004).

In Central Mazahua and Teutila Cuicatec it is translated as “(person who) owes sin.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

Mark 2:13-17 in Russian Sign Language

Following is the translation of Mark 2:13-17 into Russian Sign Language with a back-translation underneath:

Source: Russian Bible Society / Российское Библейское Общество

There is a lake in Galilee. Jesus went back again to this lake. The crowds followed Jesus everywhere. Jesus was teaching the people. Then Jesus went on his way and passed by the place where the tax collectors sit. There was a man there named Levi. His father’s name was Alphaeus. Jesus was walking by, saw Levi and said: “Follow me.” Levi decided to leave his occupation and followed Jesus. After a while, Jesus and his disciples entered Levi’s house. A large table with food was prepared there. Jesus sat down at the table. The disciples, the tax collectors, and the sinners also sat down. Where were these people from? They were all those who had followed Jesus. They ate together, drank together, socialized together.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees found out that Jesus was eating and drinking with the tax collectors and with the sinners. “How is this possible,” they began to say. They turned to Jesus’ disciples:

— Your teacher eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners. How can he do this? It is an abomination.

Jesus heard and said:

— Here is a doctor. Does he need to go to healthy people to treat them? No! A doctor needs to go to sick people to treat them. So do I — I don’t need to go to the righteous, I need to go to sinners to call them.

Original Russian back-translation (click or tap here):

В Галилее есть озеро. Иисус вернулся снова к этому озеру. Толпа народа повсюду шла за Иисусом. Иисус учил народ. Потом Иисус отправился в путь и проходил мимо места, где сидят сборщики налогов. Там был человек по имени Левий. Имя его отца — Алфей. Иисус шел мимо, увидел Левия и сказал: «Следуй за мной». Левий решил оставить свое занятие и последовал за Иисусом. Спустя какое-то время Иисус вместе с учениками вошли в дом Левия. Там был приготовлен большой стол с едой. Иисус сел за стол. Сели также ученики, сборщики налогов, а также грешники. Откуда были эти люди? Это все те, кто следовали за Иисусом. Они вместе ели, пили, общались.

Учителя закона и фарисеи узнали, что Иисус ест и пьет вместе со сборщиками налогов и с грешниками. «Как же это возможно» — стали говорить они. Они обратились к ученикам Иисуса:

— Ваш учитель ест и пьет вместе со сборщиками налогов и грешниками. Как он может так поступать? Это мерзко.

Иисус услышал и сказал:

— Вот врач. Разве нужно ему идти к здоровым людям, их лечить? Нет! Врачу нужно идти к больным, чтобы их лечить. Так же и я — мне не нужно мне идти к праведникам, мне нужно идти к грешникам, чтобы призвать их.

Back-translation by Luka Manevich

<< Mark 2:1-12 in Russian Sign Language
Mark 2:18-22 in Russian Sign Language >>

See also Mark 2:13-17 in Mexican Sign Language.

Mark 2:13-17 in Mexican Sign Language

Following is the translation of Mark 2:13-17 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)

Jesús estaba caminando y enseñando y la gente iba con él, y allá había personas que estaban sentadas cobrando impuestos, y había un hombre llemado Levi que estaba sentado cobrando impuestos, y Jesús caminando lo vio (y dijo): “Ven conmigo”.

Levi se paró y se acercó al grupo y fue con el grupo y algunas otras personas, pecadores, seguían la idea y también fueron con el grupo.

Fueron a la casa de Levi y Jesús y los discípulos y las personas alrededor estaban comiendo y bebiendo.

Los maestros de la ley y los Fariseos vinieron y lo vieron, y lo consideraron raro y dijeron a los discípulos: “Jesús acepto estar con los cobradores de impuesto y otros pecadores y está comiendo y bebiendo en medio de ellos, ¿cómo?”

Jesús estaba comiendo y los oyó y se volvió y dijo: “Miren, un ejemplo, personas que están bien y sanos no necesitan ir al doctor, sino otras personas enfermas necesitan ir al doctor.

En la misma manera, yo no he venido para advertir a las personas buenas y perfectas que necesitan ser salvados, sino todas estas pecadores necesitan ser salvados.”

Jesus went again to the area close to the lake.

Jesus was walking and teaching and the people went along with him, and there were oeople sitting there who where collecting taxes and there was a man named Levi who was sitting (at his booth) collecting taxes, and Jesus walked along and saw him (and said): “Come with me”.

Levi stood up and joined the group and went with them and some other people, sinners, followed suit and also went with the group.

They went to the house of Levi and Jesus and his disciples and the people around were eating and drinking.

The teachers of the law and the Farisees came and saw it and they thought it was strange and they said to the disciples: “Jesus accepts being with tax collectors and other sinners, and he is eating among them, how?”

As Jesus was eating he heard this and he turned around and said: “Look here, an example, people who are well and healthy do not need to go to a doctor, but other people who are ill need to go to a doctor.

In the same way I have not come to warn people who are good and perfect that they need to be saved, on the contrary, all these people who are sinners need to be saved.”

Source: La Biblia en LSM / La Palabra de Dios

<< Mark 2:1-12 in Mexican Sign Language
Mark 2:18-22 in Mexican Sign Language >>

See also Mark 2:13-17 in Russian Sign Language.

complete verse (Mark 2:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 2:15:

  • Uma: “After that, Yesus and his disciples ate at Lewi’s house, and many other people whom the people said were evil came to eat with them, because many of them followed Yesus.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So-then Isa was eating there in the house of Libi. Also many people collecting taxes and sinful people were sitting and eating together with him and his disciples. For many of them were following him.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And while Jesus and his disciples were eating in the house of Levi, there were many tax collectors and law breakers eating with them, for many had followed him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “While Jesus and his disciples were eating in plural Levi’s house, there were many eating-with who were tax collectors and other sinful people. Because there were many who were accompanying Jesus.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “And then when Jesus and his disciples went to the house of Levi to eat with him, many joined them in eating who were official-receivers-of-payment and others who were regarded by the leaders of the Judio as sinners. There were now many of these who went around with Jesus. They all ate together.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)


The Greek that is often translated as “disciple” in English typically follows three types of translation: (1) those which employ a verb ‘to learn’ or ‘to be taught’, (2) those which involve an additional factor of following, or accompaniment, often in the sense of apprenticeship, and (3) those which imply imitation of the teacher.

Following are some examples (click or tap for details):

  • Ngäbere: “word searcher”
  • Yaka: “one who learned from Jesus”
  • Navajo, Western Highland Purepecha, Tepeuxila Cuicatec, Lacandon: “one who learned”
  • San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “one who studied with Jesus”
  • Northern Grebo: “one Jesus taught”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan: “child (i.e., follower) of the master”
  • Indonesian: “pupil”
  • Central Mazahua: “companion whom Jesus taught”
  • Kipsigis, Loma, Copainalá Zoque: “apprentice” (implying continued association and learning)
  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “one who followed Jesus”
  • Huautla Mazatec: “his people” (essentially his followers and is the political adherents of a leader)
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: based on the root of “to imitate” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Chol: “learner” (source: Larson 1998, p. 107)
  • Waorani: “one who lives following Jesus” (source: Wallis 1973, p. 39)
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “learner” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Javanese: “pupil” or “companion” (“a borrowing from Arabic that is a technical term for Mohammed’s close associates”)
  • German: Jünger or “younger one” (source for this and one above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • German das Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022). “student” or “special student” (using the traditional German term Gnade)
  • Noongar: ngooldjara-kambarna or “friend-follow” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
  • French 1985 translation by Chouraqui: adept or “adept” (as in a person who is skilled or proficient at something). Watson (2023, p. 48ff.) explains (click or tap here to see more):

    [Chouraqui] uses the noun “adept,” which is as uncommon in French as it is in English. It’s an evocative choice on several levels. First, linguistically, it derives — via the term adeptus — from the Latin verb adipiscor, “to arrive at; to reach; to attain something by effort or striving.” It suggests those who have successfully reached the goal of their searching, and implies a certain struggle or process of learning that has been gradually overcome. But it’s also a term with a very particular history: in the Middle Ages, “adept” was used in the world of alchemy, to describe those who, after years of labor and intensive study, claimed to have discovered the Great Secret (how to turn base metals like lead into gold); it thus had the somewhat softened meaning of “someone who is completely skilled in all the secrets of their field.”

    Historians of religion often use the term adept with reference to the ancient mystery religions that were so prevalent in the Mediterranean in the centuries around the time of Jesus. An adept was someone who, through a series of initiatory stages, had penetrated into the inner, hidden mysteries of the religion, who understood its rituals, symbols, and their meaning. To be an adept implied a lengthy and intensive master-disciple relationship, gradually being led further and further into the secrets of the god or goddess (Isis-Osiris, Mithras, Serapis, Hermes, etc.) — secrets that were never to be revealed to an outsider.

    Is “adept” a suitable category in which to consider discipleship as we see it described in the Gospels? On some levels, the link is an attractive one, drawing both upon the social-religious framework of the ancient Mediterranean, and upon certain aspects of intimacy and obscurity/secrecy that we see in the relationship of Jesus and those who followed him. The idea that disciples are “learners” — people who are “on the way” — and that Jesus is portrayed as (and addressed as) their Master/Teacher is accurate. But the comparison is unsatisfactory on several other levels.

    First, the Gospels portray Jesus’s ministry as a largely public matter — there is relatively little of the secrecy and exclusiveness that is normally associated with both the mystery cults and medieval alchemy. Jesus’s primary message is not destined for a small, elite circle of “initiates” — although the Twelve are privy to explanations, experiences and teachings that are not provided to “the crowds.” For example, in Matthew 13:10-13:

    Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to [the crowds] in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’”

    Etymologically, adeptus suggests someone who “has arrived,” who has attained a superior level of understanding reserved for very few. However, what we see in the Gospels, repeatedly, is a general lack of comprehension of many of Jesus’s key teachings by many of those who hear him. Many of his more cryptic sayings would have been virtually incomprehensible in their original context, and would only make sense in retrospect, in the wake of the events of Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection. The intense master-student relationship is also lacking: the Gospels largely portray “the disciples” as a loose (and probably fluctuating) body of individuals, with minimal structure or cohesion. Finally, there seems to be little scholarly consensus about the degree to which the mystery cults had made inroads in Roman-ruled Palestine during the decades of Jesus’s life. According to Everett Ferguson in his Backgrounds of Early Christianity.

    Although Christianity had points of contact with Stoicism, the mysteries, the Qumran community, and so on, the total worldview was often quite different….So far as we can tell, Christianity represented a new combination for its time…. At the beginning of the Christian era a number of local mysteries, some of great antiquity, flourished in Greece and Asia Minor. In the first century A.D. the vonly mysteries whose extension may be called universal were the mysteries of Dionysus and those of the eastern gods, especially Isis.

    And Norman Perrin and Dennis C. Duling note, in their book The New Testament:

    Examples of such mystery religions could be found in Greece… Asia Minor… Syria-Palestine… Persia… and Egypt. Though the mysteries had sacred shrines in these regions, many of them spread to other parts of the empire, including Rome. There is no clearly direct influence of the mysteries on early Christianity, but they shared a common environment and many non-Christians would have perceived Christians as members of an oriental Jewish mystery cult.56

    Given the sparse archaeological and literary evidence from this period regarding mystery cults in Roman Palestine, and the apparent resistance of many Palestinian Jews to religious syncretism, Chouraqui’s use of the noun adept implies a comparison between the historical Jesus and mystery cults that is doubtful, on both the levels of chronology and religious culture. Personally, I believe this choice suggests a vision of Jesus that distances him from the religious world of ancient Judaism, thus creating a distorted view of what spiritually inspired him. But the idea of the disciples as “learners” on a journey (as the Greek term suggests) is a striking one to consider; certainly, the Gospels show us the Twelve as people who are growing, learning, and developing…but who have not yet “arrived” at the fullness of their vocation.

Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023) translates it into English as apprentice.

In Luang several terms with different shades of meaning are being used.

  • For Mark 2:23 and 3:7: maka nwatutu-nwaye’a re — “those that are taught” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ before the resurrection, while Jesus was still on earth teaching them.”)
  • For Acts 9:1 and 9:10: makpesiay — “those who believe.” (“This is the term used for believers and occasionally for the church, but also for referring to the disciples when tracking participants with a view to keeping them clear for the Luang readers. Although Greek has different terms for ‘believers’, ‘brothers’, and ‘church’, only one Luang word can be used in a given episode to avoid confusion. Using three different terms would imply three different sets of participants.”)
  • For Acts 6:1: mak lernohora Yesus wniatutunu-wniaye’eni — “those who follow Jesus’ teaching.” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ after Jesus returned to heaven.”)

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.

In American Sign Language it is translated with a combination of the signs for “following” plus the sign for “group.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)

“disciples” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor

In British Sign Language a sign is used that depicts a group of people following one person (the finger in the middle, signifying Jesus). Note that this sign is only used while Jesus is still physically present with his disciples. (Source: Anna Smith)

“Disciple in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

See also disciples (Japanese honorifics).

pronoun for "God"

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 Mandarin 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 Kouya, Godié, Northern Grebo, Eastern Krahn, Western Krahn, and Guiberoua Béte, all languages of the Kru family in Western Africa, a different kind of systems of pronouns is used (click or tap here to read more):

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 first person pronoun referring to God.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Gender of God .

Translation: Chinese





Translator: Simon Wong