boat, ship

The Hebrew, Latin and Greek that is translated “boat” or “ship” in English is translated in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “that with which we can walk on water” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.), in Chitonga as a term in combination with bwato or “dugout canoe” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 72), and in Tangale as inj am or “canoe-of water” (inj — “canoe” — on its own typically refers to a traditional type of carved-out log for sleeping) (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).

In Kouya it is translated as ‘glʋ ‘kadʋ — “big canoe.”

Philip Saunders (p. 231) explains how the Kouya team arrived at that conclusion:

“Acts chapter 27 was a challenge! It describes Paul’s sea voyage to Italy, and finally Rome. There is a storm at sea and a shipwreck on Malta, and the chapter includes much detailed nautical vocabulary. How do you translate this for a landlocked people group, most of whom have never seen the ocean? All they know are small rivers and dugout canoes.

“We knew that we could later insert some illustrations during the final paging process which would help the Kouya readers to picture what was happening, but meanwhile we struggled to find or invent meaningful terms. The ‘ship’ was a ‘big canoe’ and the ‘passengers’ were ‘the people in the big canoe’; the ‘crew’ were the ‘workers in the big canoe’; the ‘pilot’ was the ‘driver of the big canoe’; the ‘big canoe stopping place’ was the ‘harbour’, and the ‘big canoe stopping metal’ was the ‘anchor’!”

See also ships of Tarshish, harbor, anchor, and sailor.

complete verse (Mark 6:32)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 6:32:

  • Uma: “So, they got in a boat and went to an uninhabited place.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So-then they left by boat going to the lonely place, just they.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “They got into the boat to go to a place where there were no people.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “And-so they rode in a boat and went.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Therefore they sailed in a boat. They went to a wilderness place.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Mark 6:32 – 6:33


In v. 33 after hupagontas ‘going’ Textus Receptus adds hoi ochloi ‘the crowds,’ omitted by all modern editions of the Greek text.

After epegnōsan ‘recognized’ Textus Receptus adds auton ‘him’; Tischendorf, Merk, Soden, and Kilpatrick add autous ‘them’; no addition is made by Nestle, Westcott and Hort, Vogels, Souter, Lagrange, and Taylor.

At the end of the verse after autous ‘them’ Textus Receptus adds kai sunēlthon pros auton ‘and they gathered to him,’ which is omitted by all modern editions of the Greek text.


kai eidon ‘and they saw’: most translations take polloi ‘many’ to be the subject of eidon ‘saw’; some, however, understand eidon in an impersonal sense, ‘people saw,’ with polloi ‘many’ the subject of epegnōsan ‘recognized’ alone – so The Modern Speech New Testament ‘but the people saw them going, and many recognized them’ (cf. Lagrange, Taylor).

epegnōsan (cf. 2.8) ‘they perceived,’ ‘they recognized’: this rendering better expresses the meaning of the verb here than ‘knew’ (Revised Standard Version).

pezē (only here in Mark) ‘by land’ (opposed to en ploiō ‘by boat’), ‘on foot’ .

apo pasōn tōn poleōn ‘from all the cities’: cf. 1.5 for another example of this vivid manner in portraying an action involving many people.

sunedramon ekei kai proēlthon autous ‘they ran there and arrived before them’: the adverb ‘there’ refers to the lonely spot to which Jesus and his disciples were going.

suntrechō (only here in Mark) ‘run together’: used of a number of persons who run to a place and gather there.

proerchomai (14.35) ‘come ahead,’ ‘arrive before (someone).


They went away must refer to Jesus as well as the disciples.

Lonely place is ‘an uninhabited place’ or ‘a place where there were no people living.’

Many is often rendered as ‘many people.’

Knew them is often better translated as ‘recognized them’ or ‘knew who they were.’

There is a very ambiguous adverb, which must be made more precise in some languages, e.g. ‘to where the boat was headed’ or ‘to where the disciples and Jesus were going.’ A number of languages require very well defined distinctions of place and direction, as determined by the position of the participants in an action. Care must be exercised to be sure that the proper adverb, or adverbial phrase, is employed.

Ahead of them means, of course, ‘before Jesus and his disciples arrived,’ though it is rarely necessary to employ such an extensive paraphrase.

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 .