zeal, zealous

The Greek, Latin and Hebrew that is often translated in English as “zeal” or “zealous” is translated in Moken as “great love” (“my zeal” — cewui lak tho: “my great love.”) (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is likewise translated as “love, commitment, enthusiasm” (not jealousy). (Source: Robert Bascom)

In Khasi is is translated with shitrhem which conveys the “idea of loving or devoted enthusiasm.” (Source: B. J. Syiemlieh)


The Greek transliteration of the Aramaic kanan (קַנָאַן) has the same meaning than the Greek zēlōtḗs (Ζηλωτὴν) (see Zealot) but is often transliterated itself in English Bible translations as “Cananaean” or similar. Some modern English translations, however, translate the Aramaic form identical to the way they translate the Greek term in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. The Good News Bible (publ. 1966/1976), for instance, uses “Patriot” for both and the Contemporary English Version (publ. 1995) uses “Eager One.”

Likewise, Yakan translates it as “challenger” in both cases and Kankanaey as “Patriota because he had-concern-for his country.”

In Iyojwa’ja Chorote, the translation for the Aramaic term is “one who fought against the Romans who had made themselves chiefs of the Jews” (and for the Greek: “who belonged the parties of the Zealots.”) (Source: Roger Omanson in The Bible Translator 1989. p. 416ff. )

complete verse (Mark 3:18)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 3:18:

  • Uma: “These are the names of those twelve: Simon (Yesus named him Petrus); Yakobus child of Zebedeus; and Yohanes the relative of Yakobus (Yesus named them Boanerges–its meaning: people who are like thunder); after that, Andreas; Filipus; Bartolomeus; Matius; Tomas; Yakobus child of Alfeus; Tadeus; Simon the Zelot-person; and Yudas Iskariot (he’s the one who will sell Yesus to hisenemies.)” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “He also chose Andariyas, Pilip, Bartolome, Mateo, Tomas, Yakub son of Alpa, Taddeo, Simon the person who challenges/fights” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “These are the names of the twelve people whom Jesus chose: Simon whom he titled Peter, and James the son of Zebedee, and John the younger brother of James. These two he entitled Boanerges, which is to say, impulsive people. He also chose Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeaus. And he also chose Simon, one member of the former organization called Canaanista. Jesus also chose Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. After Jesus had chosen them he went home.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Andrew, Felipe, Bartolome, Mateo, Tomas, Santiago the child of Alfeus, Taddeus, Simon who was called Patriota because he showed-concern-for their country/town” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Others were Andres, Felipe, Bartolome, Mateo, Tomas, Santiago who was the son of Alfeo, Tadeo, Simon the Cananeo ,” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Mark 3:18 – 3:19


In verse 19 instead of erchetai ‘he goes’ of Tischendorf, Merk, Souter, Westcott and Hort, Taylor, and Nestle, the plural erchontai ‘they go’ is preferred by Textus Receptus, Soden, Vogels, Lagrange, and Kilpatrick.


Iakōbon ton tou Alphaiou ‘James the sons of Alphaeus’ (cf. 2.14).

Simōna ton Kananaion ‘Simon the Cananaean’: this is not ‘Simon from Cana’ (which would be Kanaios) or ‘Simon the Canaanite’ (which would be Chananaios, cf. Mt. 15.22); rather as a transliteration of the Aramaic qunʾan ‘enthusiast,’ ‘zealous,’ it means ‘Simon the Zealot’ (cf. Lk. 6.15 and Acts 1.13). Instead of “Cananaean” (Revised Standard Version, Translator’s New Testament), therefore, it would be better, in order to avoid misunderstanding, to translate “Zealot” (Goodspeed, Moffatt, O Novo Testamento de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo. Revisdo Autorizada, Lagrange); some (Swete, Lagrange) see the name as an indication of religious fervor, rather than adherence to the extremist party of Zealots (cf. Manson, “the Zealous”).

kai Ioudan Iskariōth, hos kai paredōken auton ‘and Judas Iscariot, who also delivered him up.’

Iskariōth ‘Iscariot’: generally taken to be a transliteration of ʾish qerioth ‘man from Kerioth’ (for other suggestions cf. Taylor).

kai ‘also’: should not be omitted, as does Revised Standard Version (cf. Swete): it means ‘in addition to being one of the Twelve’; it does not mean ‘who also (besides other men) delivered him up.’

paradidōmi (cf. 1.14) ‘hand over,’ ‘deliver up (to judgment or prison)’: in certain contexts it is better to preserve the literal sense of the word in a translation rather than use the common ‘betray’ (cf. 1.14 and Mt. 26.15 as striking examples of the use of the verb where ‘betray’ would be grossly inaccurate). The ‘delivering up’ of Jesus was in fact a betrayal on the part of Judas; that does not mean, however, that paradidōmi means ‘betray’ (cf. prodidōmi ‘betray,’ Liddell and Scott).

eis oikon ‘home’ (Revised Standard Version), ‘His home’ (Translator’s New Testament): cf. en oikō ‘at home’ in 2.1.


Cananaean should be translated in the same manner as Zealot. In general this term, which comes out of a complex religious, social and political context, is perhaps most appropriately related to what might be primarily a political entity in another culture (though politics are rarely separable from social and religious considerations). Some translators have used designations which would imply that Simon was one of the ‘nationalist party.’ Others have characterized him as ‘always campaigning’ (i.e. politically zealous, without specifying his cause). The Southern Subanen describe this type of zealous, politically-minded person as ‘brave to speak.’ Within this general area of significance it is usually possible to find some relatively adequate equivalent.

Judas Iscariot should in general be transliterated, rather than translated, in the sense of ‘the man from Kerioth.’

Betrayed in this context may be rendered as ‘handed him over to enemies’ (Conob) or ‘cause his enemies to apprehend him’ (or ‘to arrest him’).

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 .