complete verse (Mark 8:20)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 8:20:

  • Uma: “Yesus asked further: ‘And the seven [loaves of] bread that I fed the four thousand with, how many baskets of leftovers did you gather?’ They said: ‘Seven.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “‘And don’t you remember the seven breads that I divided among the four thousand people? How many baskets full of left-overs did you gather?’ They said, ‘Seven.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Jesus said again, ‘And when I broke the seven pieces of bread to feed the four thousand people, how many baskets did you fill of leftover pieces?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘And the seven breads that sufficed for the over four thousand people, how many baskets did you fill with left-overs?’ ‘Seven,’ they said.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “‘Well when I also broke up the seven breads with which to feed the four thousand, well how many large-baskets did you put into which you filled with what was in excess?’ ‘Seven large-baskets,’ was the reply of those disciples.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)

formal pronoun: Jesus addressing his disciples and common people

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, Jesus is addressing his disciples, individuals and/or crowds with the formal pronoun, showing respect.

In most Dutch translations, Jesus addresses his disciples and common people with the informal pronoun, whereas they address him with the formal form.

Translation commentary on Mark 8:20


This question refers to the second feeding of the multitude, narrated in 8.6-9.

hote tous hepta literally ‘when the seven’: as the previous verse shows, this is the concise way of saying, ‘When I broke the seven loaves….’

posōn spuridōn plērōmata klasmatōn ērate; ‘how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?’ The meaning of the question is perfectly obvious but the details of the grammatical relations of the words in Greek should not be overlooked. The verb ērate ‘you took up’ has for its direct object posōn spuridōn plērōmata literally ‘the fillings of how many baskets,’ ‘how many basketfuls’ (cf. 6.43 for identical construction, and for the meaning of plērōma ‘filling,’ ‘complement’); klasmatōn ‘of broken pieces’ is another genitive which indicates the nature of ‘basketfuls,’ i.e. ‘basketfuls of broken pieces.’

spuris (cf. 8.9) ‘basket.’


The key words in this verse should be related to those terms used in 8.6-9.

The seven for the four thousand is a highly elliptical expression, quite regularly employed in many languages, but impossible in others. The expansion may require ‘when seven loaves were given to be eaten by the four thousand people’ (Southern Subanen), or ‘when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand people,’ in order to preserve more parallelism with the preceding verse.

Said to him may be ‘answered him.’

Seven may require expansion to ‘seven baskets’ or ‘we took up seven baskets.’

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 .