The term that is translated as “test” or “trap” in English is rendered in Santa Cruz (Natügu) with the phrase “catch him in a net.”
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 19:3:
- Uma: “Several Parisi people came to tempt Yesus. They asked him: ‘According to the laws of our (incl.) religion, may a man divorce his wife, even for an unimportant reason?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “Some Pariseo came close to/approached him in order to trap him, they asked him, ‘In the law is it possible for a man to divorce his wife for whatever reason?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “There were some Pharisees who went to him because they were looking for a way to accuse him. They asked him, ‘Does the law allow us (dual) to divorce our wives even though we don’t have any reason?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “There were also some Pharisees who went to Jesus so that they would try to deceive-him -with-a-verbal-argument. They said, ‘Does our law allow a man to divorce his wife on just-any grounds?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “There were Pariseo who went there to Jesus, because the motive in their minds was to test him with this question of theirs, which said, ‘Is is in harmony with the law for a man to divorce his wife for whatever cause?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “Some Pharisees approached Jesus hunting how to bring it about that Jesus would speak something wrong. They said to him: ‘Is there permission for a man to divorce his wife for whatever reason he may have?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
God transcends gender, but most languages are limited to grammatical gender expressed in pronouns. In the case of English, this is traditionally confined to “he” (or in the forms “his,” “him,” and “himself” in many English Bible translations when referring to the persons of the Trinity with the capitalized “He,” “His,” “Him,” or “Himself”), “she” (and “her,” “hers,” and “herself”), and “it” (and “its” and “itself”).
Modern Chinese, however, offers another possibility (click or tap here to read more):
In modern Chinese, the third-person singular pronoun is always pronounced the same (tā), but it is written differently according to its gender (他 is “he,” 她 is “she,” and 它/牠 is “it” and their respective derivative forms). In each of these characters, the first (or upper) part defines the gender (man, woman, or thing/animal), while the second element gives the clue to its pronunciation.
In 1930, after a full century with dozens of Chinese translations, Bible translator Wang Yuande (王元德) coined a new “godly” pronoun: 祂. Chinese readers immediately knew how to pronounce it: tā. But they also recognized that the first part of that character, signifying something spiritual, clarified that each person of the Trinity has no gender aside from being God.
While the most important Protestant and Catholic Chinese versions respectively have opted not to use 祂, many other Bible translations do and it is widely used in hymnals and other Christian materials. (Source: Zetzsche)
Early versions of Lü Zhenzhong’s (呂振中) version (New Testament: 1946, complete Bible: 1970) also used 祂 to refer to “God.” Kramers points out: “This new way of writing ‘He,’ however, has created a minor problem of its own: must this polite form be used whenever Jesus is referred to? Lü follows the rule that, wherever Jesus is referred to as a human being, the normal ta (他) is written; where he is referred to as divine, especially after the ascension, the reverential ta (祂) is used.”
Source: R. P. Kramers in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 152ff.
In Kouya, Godié, Northern Grebo, Eastern Krahn, Western Krahn, and Guiberoua Béte, all languages of the Kru family in Western Africa, a different kind of systems of pronouns is used (click or tap here to read more):
In that system one kind of pronoun is used for humans (male and female alike) and one for natural elements, non-liquid masses, and some spiritual entities (one other is used for large animals and another one for miscellaneous items). While in these languages the pronoun for spiritual entities used to be employed when referring to God, this has changed into the use of the human pronoun.
Lynell Zogbo (in The Bible Translator 1989, p. 401ff) explains in the following way: “From informal discussions with young Christians especially, it would appear that, at least for some people, the experience and/or concepts of Christianity are affecting the choice of pronoun for God. Some people explain that God is no longer ‘far away,’ but is somehow tangible and personal. For these speakers God has shifted over into the human category.”
In Kouya, God (the Father) and Jesus are referred to with the human pronoun ɔ, whereas the Holy Spirit is referred to with a non-human pronoun. (Northern Grebo and Western Krahn make a similar distinction.)
Eddie Arthur, a former Kouya Bible translation consultant, says the following: “We tried to insist that this shouldn’t happen, but the Kouya team members were insistent that the human pronoun for the Spirit would not work.”
The English “Contemporary Torah” addresses the question of God and gendered pronouns by mostly avoiding pronouns in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (unless God is referred to as “lord,” “father,” “kind,” or “warrior”). It does that by either using passive constructs (“He gave us” vs “we were given”), by using the adjective “divine” or by using “God” rather than a pronoun.
Translator: Simon Wong