gospel

In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage:

  • “good story” (Navajo)
  • “joyful telling” (Tausug)
  • “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • cohuen ñoñets or “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
  • “good news” (Yanesha’) (source: Martha Duff in Holzhausen 1991, p. 11)
  • “voice of good spirit” (San Blas Kuna)(source: Claudio Iglesias [Mr. and Mrs.] in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff. )
  • suviśēṣattinṟe (0സുവിശേഷം) or “good narrative” (Malayalam)
  • susmachar (ସୁସମାଚାର) or “good matter” (Odia)
  • suvārteya (ಸುವಾರ್ತೆಯ) or “good word” (Kannada) (source for this and two above: Y.D. Tiwari in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 132ff. )
  • the German das Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) translates as “all-transformative good news” (alles verändernde gute Botschaft), also “good news”
Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”

For “good news,” see also Isaiah 52:7.

save

The Greek term that is translated as a form of “save” in English is translated in Shipibo-Conibo with a phrase that means literally “make to live,” which combines the meaning of “to rescue” and “to deliver from danger,” but also the concept of “to heal” or “restore to health.”

In San Blas Kuna it is rendered as “help the heart,” in Laka, it is “take by the hand” in the meaning of “rescue” or “deliver,” in Huautla Mazatec the back-translation of the employed term is “lift out on behalf of,” in Anuak, it is “have life because of,” in Central Mazahua “be healed in the heart,” in Baoulé “save one’s head” (meaning to rescue a person in the fullest sense), in Guerrero Amuzgo “come out well,” in Northwestern Dinka “be helped as to his breath” (or “life”) (source: Bratcher / Nida), and in Nyongar barrang-ngandabat or “hold life” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

In South Bolivian Quechua it is “make to escape” and in Highland Puebla Nahuatl, it is “cause people to come out with the aid of the hand.” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 222.)

See also salvation.

complete verse (Mark 8:35)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 8:35:

  • Uma: “Who[ever] hangs-on-to his own desires, he won’t get good life. But who[ever] releases his own desires because he is following me and because of the Good News, even if it means his death, he is the one who will get good life.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “For,’ said Isa, ‘if a person cherishes his life, he has no everlasting life. But if a person does not cherish his life and submits yet to die because of his persevering in following me and proclaiming the good news, na, that person has everlasting life.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For if there is a person who sets his heart on his life, he will die just the same. But if there is a person who follows me and spreads the good news even though it leads to his death, God will give him back his life and he will no longer die again forever.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because the one who esteems/considers-important himself, he will die just the same, but the one who dies on account of his faith in me and his preaching of the good news, there is life that has no end that God will give to him.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “For the one who really values his life, it will indeed be lost to him. But the one who holds-fast to me and the spreading of the Good News even though it may cause his life/breath to be severed, life which is far-from-ordinary will really be his.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tlahuitoltepec Mixe: “Whoever restrains himself, whoever will not let himself do (that is, protects himself) for my sake, his soul will go to ruin; and whoever with all his heart offers himself, who does not pity himself for my sake and for the good word’s sake, his soul will go to be saved.”
  • Ocotlán Zapotec: “He who does not want to die for me, will die, but he who loses his life for me and for the words of the gospel will live forever, will be saved.” (Source for this and above: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)