The Greek that is translated in English as “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” is translated in Martu Wangka as “I came to the earth to teach bad people who are like those sick ones so that they can hear the Father’s word and become his relatives. I didn’t come for the good people — no.” (Source: Carl Gross)
In El Nayar Cora it is translated as “I came not to call those who think they language are good people, but those who think they are sinners.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)
In Huixtán Tzotzil, the first part is “those who mistakenly think their hearts are straight.” 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, p. 6ff.)
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.)
Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 2:17:
Uma: “Yesus heard their words, that is why he spoke this parable to them, he said: ‘People who are not sick, it is not necessary to be medicined. It is people who are sick who need to be medicined. I did not come to call people whose behavior is straight. I came here to call the sinners so that they repent from their sins.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “When Isa heard this, he said to them, ‘The sick people go hep to the doctor; those who are well have no need/use to go to the doctor. I have not come to look for the straight/righteous people but I have come to look for the sinful people.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Jesus heard this and he answered them with a parable, he said, ‘He who has no sickness doesn’t need to be medicined; only he who has a sickness. As for me, I did not come here so that I might cause righteous people to stop doing bad, but rather, those who transgress against God.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “But Jesus heard what they inquired and he said parabling, ‘It is not the healthy people who need someone-to-medicine/heal-them but rather the sick. I did not come to go call/invite the righteous people but rather the sinful.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “Jesus heard their question, therefore he was the one who answered, saying, ‘As for those who are ill, they really are the ones who have need of a doctor (lit. mediciner, any kind). Not those who have no illness. Why I came here wasn’t to call the straight/righteous but on the contrary the sinners, those who need to submit themselves to God.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
The Greek, Hebrew, and Latin terms that are translated in English mostly as “righteous” as an adjective or personified noun or “righteousness” (also as “justice”) are most commonly expressed with concept of “straightness,” though this may be expressed in a number of ways. (Click or tap here to see the details)
Following is a list of (back-) translations of various languages:
Mossi: “have a white stomach” (See also Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”)
Nuer: “way of right” (“there is a complex concept of “right” vs. ‘left’ in Nuer where ‘right’ indicates that which is masculine, strong, good, and moral, and ‘left’ denotes what is feminine, weak, and sinful (a strictly masculine viewpoint!) The ‘way of right’ is therefore righteousness, but of course women may also attain this way, for the opposition is more classificatory than descriptive.”) (This and all above from Bratcher / Nida except for Bilua: Carl Gross; Tiv: Rob Koops; Muna: René van den Berg)
Ekari: maakodo bokouto or “enormous truth” (the same word that is also used for “truth“; bokouto — “enormous” — is being used as an attribute for abstract nouns to denote that they are of God [see also here]; source: Marion Doble in The Bible Translator 1963, p. 37ff. ).
Guhu-Samane: pobi or “right” (also: “right (side),” “(legal) right,” “straightness,” “correction,” “south,” “possession,” “pertinence,” “kingdom,” “fame,” “information,” or “speech” — “According to [Guhu-Samane] thinking there is a common core of meaning among all these glosses. Even from an English point of view the first five can be seen to be closely related, simply because of their similarity in English. However, from that point the nuances of meaning are not so apparent. They relate in some such a fashion as this: As one faces the morning sun, south lies to the right hand (as north lies to the left); then at one’s right hand are his possessions and whatever pertains to him; thus, a rich man’s many possessions and scope of power and influence is his kingdom; so, the rich and other important people encounter fame; and all of this spreads as information and forms most of the framework of the people’s speech.”) (Source: Ernest Richert in Notes on Translation 1964, p. 11ff.)
“In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus Christ, Joseph is told that when Mary gives birth to a son ‘you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’ (1:21). This name is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name [Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ) which is a short form of a name meaning] ‘the Lord [Yahweh] saves.’ The name is very significant and is in itself especially dear to Christians around the world. (…) Unquestionably great importance is attached to the name of Jesus by Christians of all persuasions and backgrounds.”
While Iēsous (pronounced: /i.ɛː.suːs/) is transliterated as “Jesus” (pronounced /ˈdʒiːzəs/) in English (but was translated as “Hælend” [the “healing one”] in Old English — see Swain 2019) it is transliterated and pronounced in a large variety of other ways as well, following the different rules of different languages’ orthographies, writing systems and rules of pronunciation. The following is a (partial) list of forms of Jesus in Latin characters: aYeso, Azezi, Cecoc, Chesús, Chi̍i̍sū, Ciisahs, Ciise, Ciisusu, Djesu, Ɛisa, Ƹisa, Eyesu, Gesù, Gesû, Gesü, Ġesù, Ghjesù, Giêsu, ꞌGiê‑ꞌsu, Giê-xu, Gyisɛse, Hesu, Hesús, Hisuw, Ià-sŭ, Ié:sos, Iesu, Iesui, Iesusɨn, Iesusiva, Ié:sos, Ihu, Iisus, Ijeesu, iJisọsị, Iji̍sɔ̄ɔsi, Iosa, Íosa, Ìosa, İsa, I’sa, Isiso, Ísu, Isus, Isusa, Iisussa, Isuthi, Itota, Îtu, Isuva, Izesu, Izesuq, Jasus, Jeeju, Jeesus, Jeesus, Jeezas, Jehu, Jeisu, Jeju, Jejus, Jeso, Jesoe, Jesosa, Jesoshi, Jesosy, Jesu, Jesû, Jesua, Jesuh, Jesús, Jésus, Jesúsu, Jethu, Jezed, Jezi, Jézi, Ježiš, Jezu, Jezus, Jézus, Jėzus, Jēzus, Jezusi, Jėzus, Jezuz, Jíísas, Jiizas, Jiijajju, Jisas, Jisase, Jisasi, Jisasɨ, Jisasɨ, Jisaso, Jisesi, Jisɛ̀, Jisos, Jisọs, Jisɔs, Jisu, Jiszs, Jizọs, Jizɔs, Jizọsi, Jizọsu, Jòso, Jusu, Jweesus, Ketsutsi, Njises, Sesi, Sisa, Sísa, Sisas, Sīsū, Sizi, Txesusu, uJesu, Ujísɔ̄si, ŵaYesu, Xesosi, ´Xesús, Xesús, Yasu, Ya:su, Ɣaysa, Yecu, Yeeb Sub, Yeeh Suh, Yeesey, Yeeso, Yeesso, Yēēsu, Yēēsu, Yehsu, Yëësu, Yeisu, Yeisuw, Yeshu, Yeso, Yesò, Yëso, Yɛso, ye-su, Yésu, Yêsu, Yẹ́sụ̃, Yésʉs, Yeswa, Yet Sut, Yetut, Yexus, Yezo, Yezu, Yiisu, Yiitju, Yis, Yisɔs, Yisufa, Yitati, Yusu, ‑Yusu, :Yusu’, Zeezi, Zezi, Zezì, Zezwii, Ziizɛ, Zîsɛ, Zjezus, Zozi, Zozii, and this (much more incomplete) list with other writings systems: ᔩᓱᓯ, ᒋᓴᔅ, Հիսուս, ᏥᏌ, ኢየሱስ, ያሱስ, ܝܫܘܥ, Ісус, Їисъ, 耶稣, იესო, ईसा, イエス, イイスス, イエスス, 예수, येशू, येशो, ਈਸਾ, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ජේසුස්, যীশু, ଯୀଶୁ, ཡེ་ཤུ་, ‘ঈছা, இயேசு, ಯೇಸು, ພຣະເຢຊູ, ယေရှု, ઇસુ, जेजू, येसु, เยซู, យេស៊ូ, ᱡᱤᱥᱩ, ယေသှု, యేసు, ᤕᤧᤛᤢ᤺ᤴ, އީސާގެފާނު, ਯਿਸੂ, ꕉꖷ ꔤꕢ ꕞ, ⵏ⵿ⵗⵢⵙⴰ, ଜୀସୁ, يَسُوعَ,ㄧㄝㄙㄨ, YE-SU, ꓬꓰ꓿ꓢꓴ, 𖽃𖽡𖾐𖼺𖽹𖾏𖼽𖽔𖾏, ꑳꌠ, ᠶᠡᠰᠦᠰ (note that some of these might not display correctly if your device does not have the correct fonts installed).
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In some languages the different confessions have selected different transliterations, such as in Belarusian with Isus (Ісус) by the Orthodox and Protestant churches and Yezus (Езус) by the Catholic church, Bulgarian with Iisus (Иисус) by the Orthodox and Isus (Исус) by the Protestant church, Japanese with Iesu (イエス) (Protestant and Catholic) and Iisusu (イイスス) (Orthodox), or Lingala with Yesu (Protestant) or Yezu (Catholic). These differences have come to the forefront especially during the work on interconfessional translations such as one in Lingala where “many hours were spent on a single letter difference” (source: Ellington, p. 401).
In Chinese where transliterations of proper names between the Catholic and Protestant versions typically differ vastly, the Chinese name of Jesus (Yēsū 耶稣) remarkably was never brought into question between and by those two confessions, likely due to its ingenious choice. (Click or tap here to see more).
The proper name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh (YHWH), is rendered in most Chinese Bible translations as Yēhéhuá 耶和華 — Jehovah. According to Chinese naming conventions, Yēhéhuá could be interpreted as Yē Héhuá, in which Yē would be the family name and Héhuá — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, Yē 耶 would be the family name of Jesus and Sū 稣 would be his given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, Jehovah, would be illustrated through this. Though this line of argumentation sounds theologically unsound, it is indeed used effectively in the Chinese church (see Wright 1953, p. 298).
Moreover, the “given name” of Sū 稣 carries the meaning ‘to revive, to rise again’ and seems to point to the resurrected Jesus. (Source: J. Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff., see also tetragrammaton (YHWH))
There are different ways that Bible translators have chosen historically and today in how to translate the name of Jesus in predominantly Muslim areas: with a form of the Arabic Isa (عيسى) (which is used for “Jesus” in the Qur’an), the Greek Iēsous, or, like major 20th century Bible translations into Standard Arabic, the Aramaic Yēšūaʿ: Yasua (يَسُوعَ). (Click or tap here to see more.)
Following are languages and language groups that use a form of Isa include the following (note that this list is not complete):
Some languages have additional “TAZI” editions (TAZI stands for “Tawrat, Anbiya, Zabur, and Injil” the “Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospel”) of the New Testament that are geared towards Muslim readers where there is also a translation in the same language for non-Muslims. In those editions, Isa is typically used as well (for example, the Khmer TAZI edition uses Isa (អ៊ីសា) rather than the commonly used Yesaou (យេស៊ូ), the Thai edition uses Isa (อีซา) rather than Yesu (เยซู), the Chinese edition uses Ěrsā (尔撒) vs. Yēsū (耶稣), and the English edition also has Isa rather than Jesus.)
In German the name Jesus (pronounced: /ˈjeːzʊs/) is distinguished by its grammatical forms. Into the 20th century the grammatical rules prescribed a unique Greek-Latin declination: Jesus (nominative), Jesu (genitive, dative, vocative), Jesum (accusative), from which today only the genitive case “Jesu” is still in active use. Likewise, in Seediq (Taroko), the morphological treatment of “Jesus” also occupies a special category by not falling under the normal rule of experiencing a vowel reduction when the object-specific suffix an is added “since it was felt that the readers might resent that the name has been changed that drastically.” (Compare Msian for “Moses” (Mosi) as an object, but Yisuan for “Jesus” (Yisu).) (Source: Covell 1998. p. 249)
In Lamba the name ŵaYesu consists of a transliteration Yesu and the prefix ŵa, a plural form for “proper names when addressing and referring to persons in any position of seniority or honor.” While this was avoided in early translations to avoid possible misunderstandings of more than one Jesus, once the church was established it was felt that it was both “safe” and respectful to use the honorific (pl.) prefix. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff. )
The style of the following drawing of Jesus by Annie Vallotton is described by the artist as this: “By using few lines the readers fill in the outlines with their imagination and freedom. That is when the drawings begin to communicate.” (see here )
Illustration by Annie Vallotton, copyright by Donald and Patricia Griggs of Griggs Educational Service.
Following is the oldest remaining Ethiopian Orthodox icon of Jesus from the 14th or possibly 13th century (found in the Church of the Saviour of the World in Gurji, Ethiopia). As in many Orthodox icons, Jesus’ right hand forms the Greek letters I-C-X-C for IHCOYCXPICTOC or “Jesus Christ.”
Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )
After hamartōlous ‘sinners’ Textus Receptus adds eis metanoian ‘to repentance’ (assimilated from the parallel passage Lk. 5.32): all modern editions of the Greek text reject eis metanoian.
autois ‘to them’: that is, to those who asked the question.
chreian (2.25; 11.3; 14.63) ‘need,’ ‘necessity’: echein chreian means ‘be in need,’ ‘lack something’ .
iatrou (5.26) ‘of a physician.’
hoi ischuontes ‘those who are strong,’ ‘those who are healthy’: the verb ischuō ‘be strong,’ ‘be able’ occurs further in 5.4; 9.18; 14.37. In contrast, in this verse, with hoi kakōs echontes (cf. 1.32) ‘those who are ill,’ hoi ischuontes are ‘those who are well,’ ‘those who are in good health.’
ēlthon ‘I came’: the meaning here is more than merely local and temporal (cf. the same use of the verb in 10.45). There is reference here to the whole mission and purpose of Jesus’ ministry (whether or not we understand, with Lagrange, that ‘I came’ means ‘I came into the world’ with a reference to his preexistence).
kalesai ‘call’: the word in this passage carries theological content, and does not mean ‘invite to eat.’
dikaious … hamartōlous ‘righteous … sinners’: the words reflect the attitude of the Pharisees toward themselves (cf. Lk. 16.15) and others (cf. John 7.49). There is, perhaps, a tinge of irony in Jesus’ use of these words (cf. Rawlinson).
Heard it may be in some languages best translated as ‘heard what they said,’ in order to make the reference precise.
To them, referring to the scribes, must often be made quite explicit, for there are three other intervening third person plural referents: the sinners, the tax collectors, and the disciples.
Well is often ‘strong,’ ‘healthy’ or just ‘not sick.’
To have no need may be variously rendered: ‘do not go looking for’ (Southern Subanen), ‘do not have to consult’ (Barrow Eskimo), ‘do not go in search of a physician’ (Pamona).
Physician should be translated by a respectful term applied to the medical profession. This may be either the word used for the foreign mission doctor (if there is a special usage applied to this type of person) or the name of the indigenous medicine man, who may not be highly regarded by foreigners but who may enjoy a great deal more prestige among the local people than a translator may suspect.
The extent of ellipsis which may be employed in translating the clause but those who are sick depends upon the syntactic requirements of the receptor language. In some instances the full form must be given, ‘but those who are sick need a doctor.’
In order that came may mean more than simply ‘to come to this banquet,’ it may be useful to employ the most generic expression possible, which would also be used in phrases referring to ‘the coming of the Lord.’ This would then permit this phrase to express more of its theological content.
There is a tendency to translate righteous merely as ‘the good ones.’ This may be all that can be done in some languages, but wherever possible it is advantageous to attempt to find some word which will indicate more of the idea of conformity to standard, so that a differentiation may be made between ‘good’ and ‘righteous.’ On the other hand, it is not advisable to translate righteous as ‘to have no sin,’ for this involves many theological problems which are better not introduced in such a general word as ‘righteous.’
The most common expression for righteous involves the concept of ‘straightness,’ though this may be expressed in a number of ways: ‘to be straight’ (Bambara, Southern Bobo Madaré, Chokwe, Amganad Ifugao, Chol, Maninka, Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona, Batak Toba), ‘to follow the straight way,’ ‘to straight-straight,’ a reduplicated form (Laka), and ‘to have a straight heart’ (Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Kekchi). Some languages imply conformity to truth, e.g. ‘to do the truth’ (Kipsigis), ‘to do according to the truth’ (Mesquital Otomi), and ‘to have truth’ (Huautla Mazatec). The sense of obligation is highlighted in other instances, e.g. ‘to fulfill what one should do’ (Piro), ‘people who are true’ (Indonesian), ‘to do just so’ (Navajo), and ‘to do as it should be’ (Anuak). In some languages, of course, certain highly figurative expressions are used, e.g. ‘to have a white stomach’ (Mossi ).
In Nuer there is a complex concept of ‘right’ vs. ‘left,’ in which ‘right’ indicates that which is masculine, strong, good, and moral, and ‘left’ denotes what is feminine, weak, and sinful (a strictly masculine viewpoint!) The ‘way of right’ is therefore righteousness, but of course women may also attain this way, for the opposition is more classificatory than descriptive.
But sinners may need expansion into its fuller implied form, i.e. ‘but I came to call sinners.’
If the translation in question must follow a text having to repentance, see 1.4 for comments on the lexical problems involved in repentance. The syntactic problems often require an expansion, e.g. ‘call sinners so that they would change their hearts.’
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 .