Housed in the Société des Auxiliaires des Missions Collection – Whitworth University
The interconfessional Chichewa translation (publ. 1999) uses the ideophone bata to describe complete quietness. (Source: Wendland 1998, p. 105)
Philip Noss (in The Bible Translator 1976, p. 100ff. ) explains the function of an ideophone: “The ideophone may be identified with onomatopoeia and other sound words frequently seen in French and English comic strips, but in [many] African languages it comprises a class of words with a very wide range of meaning and usage. They may function verbally, substantively, or in a modifying role similar to adverbs and adjectives. They describe anything that may be experienced: action, sound, color, quality, smell, or emotion. In oral literature they are used not only with great frequency but also with great creativity.”
The following is a representation of the story of Jesus calming the sea in Shor with traditional throat singing. The singers are Lubov Arbachakova (with no instrument) and Irena Kiskurova:
A translation of the Russian subtitles into English:
0:11 Once Jesus was at the sea with his disciples.
0:24 A multitude of people gathered, and he began to teach them.
0:36 When evening came, He said to His disciples:
0:45 “Let’s move to the other side.”
0:48 The disciples asked the people to leave,
0:56 they were all in the boat together in Jesus and set out on the other side of the sea.
1:22 Suddenly there was a strong storm.
1:30 The waves beat the boat so that it was filled with water.
1:42 And Jesus at this time slept in the stern of the boat, laying his head on the steersman’s seat.
1:58 The disciples woke him up and said:
2:08 “Teacher! Do you really care that we are dying?”
2:11 Jesus stood up, calmed the wind, and said to the sea:
2:20 «Hush, shut up!»
2:23 The wind died down, and there was a complete calm on the sea.
2:35 And Jesus rebuked the disciples:
2:46 “Why are you so timid? Do you have absolutely no faith?”
2:52 They continued sailing, and the disciples spoke to each other with fear:
3:11 “Who is He, that even the wind and the sea listen to Him?”
Video provided by Bronwen Cleaver.
See also examples of Southern Altai throat singing.
Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 4:39:
diegertheis (only here in Mark) ‘awakening,’ ‘arousing.’
epitimēsen (cf. 1.25) ‘he stopped,’ ‘he checked.’
pephimōso (cf. 1.25) ‘Be silent!,’ ‘Be quiet!’ (used with the unclean spirit in 1.25).
ekopasen (6.51) ‘it abated,’ ‘it ceased,’ ‘it stopped.’
galēnē (only here in Mark) ‘calm,’ ‘stillness.’
Rebuked is equivalent in some instances to ‘scold,’ but in many instances must be translated as ‘commanded the wind strongly.’
The sea is ‘the lake’ or ‘the water in the lake.’
Peace is often translated by two different types of expressions: (1) a term indicating cessation of war and (2) one denoting quietness, inactivity, or calm. It is the latter meaning which is important here, e.g. ‘be quiet,’ ‘be calm.’ In Southern Subanen one may say ‘calm; that’s enough.’
In Greek the word translated in the Revised Standard Version as be still refers primarily to quietness, in contrast with noise. However, in some languages the figure of cessation of violent movement (speaking of the waves) would be more meaningful, especially as the second part of the command to the waters of the lake.
The wind ceased is expressed in a number of ways ‘the wind stopped,’ ‘the wind went down,’ ‘the wind stood still,’ ‘the wind passed over’ (Tabasco Chontal), and ‘the wind healed’ (South Bolivian Quechua).
There was a great calm is in Piro ‘the water was doing nothing at all.’ ‘There were no waves’ can also be used.
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 .