complete verse (Matthew 15:38)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 15:38:

  • Uma: “The number of those who ate at that time, four thousand men, not counted the women and children.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “The people who ate were four thousand men, not counting the women and children.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Four thousand males ate, and they didn’t include in the counting the women and children that ate also.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “The number of those-who-ate, it was four thousand old-men and young-men, excluding women and children.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “As for the number of those who ate, there were four thousand men only, not counting women and children.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “These people who ate were four thousand men. The women and the children weren’t counted. Yet all were filled. When the people finished eating, the learners of Jesus gathered seven baskets of bread which were left over.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

large numbers in Angguruk Yali

Many languages use a “body part tally system” where body parts function as numerals (see body part tally systems with a description). One such language is Angguruk Yali which uses a system that ends at the number 27. To circumvent this limitation, the Angguruk Yali translators adopted a strategy where a large number is first indicated with an approximation via the traditional system, followed by the exact number according to Arabic numerals. For example, where in 2 Samuel 6:1 it says “thirty thousand” in the English translation, the Angguruk Yali says teng-teng angge 30.000 or “so many rounds [following the body part tally system] 30,000,” likewise, in Acts 27:37 where the number “two hundred seventy-six” is used, the Angguruk Yali translation says teng-teng angge 276 or “so many rounds 276,” or in John 6:10 teng-teng angge 5.000 for “five thousand.”

This strategy is used in all the verses referenced here.

Source: Lourens de Vries in The Bible Translator 1998, p. 409ff.

See also numbers in Ngalum and numbers in Kombai.

Translation commentary on Matthew 15:38

Whereas in 14.21 the number of men are said to have been “about five thousand,” the Greek text here says specifically four thousand. Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch, on the assumption that the number was intended to be a round number instead of a precise number, translates “about four thousand men.”

Those who ate were four thousand men can be expressed in different ways: “The number of men who ate was four thousand” (Good News Translation), “There were four thousand men who ate,” or “Four thousand men had eaten.”

Besides women and children may be translated as a separate sentence: “Many women and children also ate” or “This does not count the women and children who ate.”

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 .