complete verse (Matthew 13:27)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 13:27:

  • Uma: “The paid workers [lit., those who ate salary] came and said to the gardener: ‘Father, it was good seed that we sowed. Where did that grass come from?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The servants went to the owner of the field and they said, ‘O Sir, you planted hep good seeds in your field. Where do the weeds come from?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And then the servants of that person, they went to him and said, ‘Chief, the thing we (incl.) planted in your field were good plants. Now where did these bad plants come from?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “The servants of the rice-field’s owner went to him, and they said, ‘Sir, wasn’t (rhet. question) it good rice that we (incl.) planted in your (sing.) rice-field? Where then do-you-suppose the weeds came-from?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “When the field-owner’s slaves observed this, they said, ‘Master, isn’t it so that only wheat is what you planted? Well where have these poisonous weeds come from which are sprouting?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “When the workers of the owner of the field saw what was going on in the field, they went to tell the boss. They said: ‘Listen boss, when we sowed the field, we sowed good seed. How come weeds are along with the wheat now?’ they said.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

master (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage of appropriate suffix title referred to as keishō (敬称) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017 by either using -san or –sama with the latter being the more formal title.

These titles are distinct from nominal titles such as “master.” This is evident from the forms such as go-shujin-sama (ご主人様) “master” or “lord” which is the combination of the nominal title shujin “master,” the honorific prefix go- and the suffix title –sama.

In some cases, it can also be used as go-shujin (ご主人), i.e. with the honorific prefix go- but without the suffix title –sama. You can find that in Genesis 19:2, 23:6, 23:11, 23:15, 24:51, 32:18, 39:8, 39:9, 44:8, 44:9; 1 Samuel 25:17; and 2 Kings 2:16 and 4:26.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Translation commentary on Matthew 13:27

The servants of the householder (Good News Translation “The man’s servants”) are the servants or slaves (RSV footnote) of the owner of the house, the man who sowed good seed in his field (verse 24). (See comments on householder at verse 52.) Good News Translation attempts to translate so as to make clear that verses 24 and 27 refer to the same person, “The man.” New American Bible renders “The owner’s slaves.” It may be helpful in translation to identify the man in verse 24 as the owner of the field; for example, “24 … a man who owned a field and sowed good seed in it.” Then verse 27 can be translated either “The owner’s slaves…” or “The man’s slaves….” In many languages the identity will be clear if translators use a demonstrative pronoun such as “the servants of that farmer,” or “… of that man,” or “… of that man who owned the field.”

Came will be “went” in some languages.

Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? translates a question which expects the answer “Yes, I did sow good seed in my field.” Good News Translation shifts to a statement, to ease understanding of the difficult negative question: “Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field.” Phillips (see also Barclay) retains the question form, but in a conversational style which makes comprehension less difficult than Revised Standard Version‘s more complicated style: “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?” For Sir, see comments on 8.2.

How then has it weeds? (Good News Translation “where did the weeds come from?”) may also be rendered as a statement: “But now there are many weeds in the field.” In fact, since the men are giving a report to their master, it may be better to restructure entirely: “Sir, many weeds are now growing in the field where you planted the wheat.” Some would add to this statement “How can this be?” or “How did this come about?”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Stine, Philip C. A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1988. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .