A further question of cultural assumptions arose in Tuvan in the case of “John the Baptist.” The instinctive way to translate this name denotatively would be “John the Dipper,” but this would carry the highly misleading connotation that he drowned people. It was therefore decided that his label should focus on the other major aspect of his work, that is, proclaiming that the Messiah would soon succeed him. (Compare his title in Russian Orthodox translation “Иоанн Предтеча” — “John the Forerunner.”) So he became “John the Announcer,” which fortunately did not seem to give rise to any confusion with radio newsreaders!
Source: David Clark in The Bible Translator 2015, p. 117ff.
See also John.
The name that is transliterated as “Elijah” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language as “whirlwind” (according to 2 Kings 2:11) (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)
“Elijah” in Spanish Sign Language (source)
See also Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration.
The name that is transliterated as “John (the Baptist)” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language as “baptize” (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)
See also John the Baptist.
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, individual or several disciples address Jesus with the formal pronoun, expressing respect. Compare this to how that address changes after the resurrection.
In most Dutch translations, the disciples address Jesus before and after the resurrection with the formal pronoun.
Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 8:28:
- Uma: “They said to him: ‘There are some who say you are Yohanes the Baptizer come back to life. There are also some who say you are the prophet Elia. There are also some who say you are a prophet of long ago who has come back to life. ‘” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “They answered, they said, ‘There are people who say that you are ko’ Yahiya who bathed people being alive again. Others also say that you are ko’ Nabi Eliyas. And there are also some who say that you are ko’ one of the prophets of old.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And they answered, they said, ‘There are some who say that you are John the Baptist raised from the dead, and some say that you are ancient Elijah, – and others say that you are one of the ancient prophets of God.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “‘Some say that you (singular) are Juan the Baptizer. Others say that you (singular) are Elias, and others also say that you (singular) are one of the prophets of long-ago,’ they answered.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “His disciples replied, saying, ‘Some say you are Juan who was baptizing. Well as for others, they say you are Prophet Elias. Well there are those too who say you are one of the prophets of the past who has come alive again.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
Eugene Nida wrote the following about the translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are typically translated with “prophet” in English:
“The tendency in many translations is to use ‘to foretell the future’ for ‘prophesy,’ and ‘one who foretells the future’ for ‘prophet.’ This is not always a recommended usage, particularly if such expressions denote certain special native practices of spirit contact and control. It is true, of course, that prophets of the Bible did foretell the future, but this was not always their principal function. One essential significance of the Greek word prophētēs is ‘one who speaks forth,’ principally, of course, as a forth-teller of the Divine will. A translation such as ‘spokesman for God’ may often be employed profitably.” (1947, p. 234f.)
Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages (click or tap for details):
- San Blas Kuna: “one who speaks the voice of God”
- Central Pame and Vai: “interpreter for God”
- Kaqchikel, Navajo, Yaka: “one who speaks for God”
- Northern Grebo: “God’s town crier” (see more about this below)
- Sapo: “God’s sent-word person”
- Shipibo-Conibo, Ngäbere: “one who speaks God’s word”
- Copainalá Zoque: “one who speaks-opens” (a compound meaning “one who discloses or reveals”)
- Sierra Totonac: “one who causes them to know” (in the sense of “revealer”)
- Batak Toba: “foreteller” (this and all the above acc. to Nida 1961, p. 7)
- Alekano: “the true man who descended from heaven” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation June 1986, p. 36ff.)
- Aguaruna: “teller of God’s word” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
- Ekari: “person who speaks under divine impulse”
- Chinese: 先知 xiānzhī — “one who foreknows” (or the 1946/1970 translation by Lü Zhenzhong: 神言人 shényánrén — “divine-word-man”)
- Uab Meto: “holy spokesman” (source for this and two above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Kouya: Lagɔɔ gbʋgbanyɔ — “the one who seeks God’s affairs” (source: Saunders, p. 269)
- Kafa: “decide for God only” (source: Loren Bliese)
- Martu Wangka: “sit true to God’s talk” (source: Carl Gross)
- Eastern Highland Otomi: “word passer” (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation November 1964, p. 1-22)
- Obolo: ebi nriran: “those with power of divine revelation” (source: Enene Enene)
- Mairasi: nonondoai nyan: “message proclaimer” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Highland Totonac: “speaker on God’s behalf”
- Central Tarahumara: “God’s preacher” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
- Coatlán Mixe: “God’s word-thrower”
- Ayutla Mixtec: “one who talks as God’s representative”
- Isthmus Mixe: “speaker for God” (source for this and two above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
In Ixcatlán Mazatec a term is used that specifically includes women. (Source: Robert Bascom)
About the translation into Northern Grebo:
“In some instances these spiritual terms result from adaptations reflecting the native life and culture. Among the Northern Grebo people of Liberia, a missionary wanted some adequate term for ‘prophet,’ and she was fully aware that the native word for ‘soothsayer’ or ‘diviner’ was no equivalent for the Biblical prophet who spoke forth for God. Of course, much of what the prophets said referred to the future, and though this was an essential part of much of their ministry, it was by no means all. The right word for the Gbeapo people would have to include something which would not only mean the foretelling of important events but the proclamation of truth as God’s representative among the people. At last the right word came; it was ‘God’s town-crier.’ Every morning and evening the official representative of the chief goes through the village crying out the news, delivering the orders of the chief, and announcing important coming events. ‘God’s town-crier’ would be the official representative of God, announcing to the people God’s doings, His commands, and His pronouncements for their salvation and well-being. For the Northern Grebo people the prophet is no weird person from forgotten times; he is as real as the human, moving message of the plowman Amos, who became God’s town-crier to a calloused people.” (source: Nida 1952, p. 20)
See also prophesy and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.