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.), or “people with dirty hearts” (Mairasi) (Enggavoter 2004).
The Greek that is translated as “scribe” in English “were more than mere writers of the law. They were the trained interpreters of the law and expounders of tradition.”
Here are a number of its (back-) translations:
- Yaka: “clerks in God’s house”
- Amganad Ifugao: “men who wrote and taught in the synagogue”
- Navajo: “teaching-writers” (“an attempt to emphasize their dual function”)
- Shipibo-Conibo: “book-wise persons”
- San Blas Kuna: “those who knew the Jews’ ways”
- Loma: “the educated ones”
- San Mateo del Mar Huave: “those knowing holy paper”
- Central Mazahua: “writers of holy words”
- Indonesian: “experts in the Torah”
- Pamona: “men skilled in the ordinances” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Sinhala: “bearer-of-the-law”
- Marathi: “one-learned-in-the-Scriptures”
- Shona (1966): “expert of the law”
- Balinese: “expert of the books of Torah”
- Ekari: “one knowing paper/book”
- Tboli: “one who taught the law God before caused Moses to write” (or “one who taught the law of Moses”) (source for this and 5 above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Mairasi: people who write and explain Great Above One’s (=God’s) prohibitions” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Nyanja: “teachers of Laws” (source: Ernst Wendland)
- North Alaskan Inupiatun: “teachers of law”
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “writer”
- Yatzachi Zapotec: “person who teaches the law which Moses wrote”
- Alekano: “man who knows wisdom” (source for this and four above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
- Saint Lucian Creole French: titcha lwa sé Jwif-la (“teacher of the law of the Jews”) (source: David Frank in Lexical Challenges in the St. Lucian Creole Bible Translation Project, 1998
- Chichimeca-Jonaz: “scribes the ones who teach the holy writings”
- Atatláhuca Mixtec: “teachers of the words of the law”
- Coatlán Mixe: “teachers of the religious law”
- Lalana Chinantec: “people who are teachers of the law which God gave to Moses back then”
- Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “the men that know well the law” (Source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 2:16:
- Uma: “There also were there several religion teachers who followed the Parisi teaching. When they saw Yesus eating with these people who had evil character, they said saying to his disciples: ‘Why does your teacher eat at-one-time tax collectors and sinner people!'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “There were Pariseo there, teachers of the religious law. When they saw that Isa was eating together with the sinful people and the people collecting taxes, they said to the disciples of Isa, ‘Why does Isa mix in eating with the tax collectors and the other sinful people?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And there were there also some Pharisees who were teachers of the law. And when they saw that Jesus was eating with these law breakers and tax collectors, they asked the disciples of Jesus, they said, ‘Why is Jesus eating and drinking with these cheating tax collectors and law breakers?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “When the teachers of the law who were Fariseo (Pharisees) saw that Jesus was eating-with people like those, they said to Jesus’ disciples, ‘Why does he eat-with tax collectors and other sinful people?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “This was seen by some of the explainers of law who were members of the Pariseo. Therefore they questioned those disciples of Jesus. They said, ‘Why does he join in eating with the money-grabbing official-receivers of payment to the government and those others who don’t fully obey our (incl.) laws?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
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 searchers”
- Yaka: “those who learned from Jesus”
- Navajo, Western Highland Purepecha, Tepeuxila Cuicatec, Lacandon: “those who learned”
- San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “those who studied with Jesus”
- Northern Grebo: “the ones Jesus taught”
- Toraja-Sa’dan: “children (i.e. followers) of the master”
- Indonesian: “pupils”
- Central Mazahua: “companions whom Jesus taught”
- Kipsigis, Loma, Copainalá Zoque: “apprentices” (implying continued association and learning)
- Cashibo-Cacataibo: “those 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: “learners” (source: Larson 1998, p. 107)
- Waorani: ones who live following Jesus” (source: Wallis 1973, p. 39)
- Ojitlán Chinantec: “learners” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
- Javanese: “pupils” or “companions” (“a borrowing from Arabic that is a technical term for Mohammed’s close associates”)
- German: “Jünger” (“younger ones”) (source for this and one above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
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.
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” in many English Bible translations when referring to the persons of the Trinity with the capitalized “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).
Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility (click or tap here to read more):
In modern Chinese, 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, many other Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. (Source: Zetzsche)
Early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970) also used 祂 to refer to “God.” Kramers points out: “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.”
Source: R. P. Kramers in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.
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.)
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,” “kind,” 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.
Translator: Simon Wong