In Ghari different words are used for a husband divorcing a wife and a wife divorcing a husband. (Source: David Clark)

In Mairasi the term that is used means “discard.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)

complete verse (Matthew 19:7)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 19:7:

  • Uma: “The Parisi people replied/argued: ‘If thus, why did Musa give-opportunity for a man to give a letter of divorce to a woman, if he wants to divorce her?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “So-then the Pariseo said to him, ‘Na, why does Musa in the law allow a man to sign a letter of divorce and then he can divorce his wife?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And the Pharisees asked again, ‘Then why does Moses permit a man to give his wife a document of separation if he wants to divoce that wife of his?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘Yes granted perhaps,’ they said. ‘But why then does the law of Moses permit a man to give his wife a writing that confirms that they divorced, then he makes-her-leave?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He was again questioned by the Pariseo, ‘Well why did Moises command that a man just give his wife a writing as a sign that they are now divorced, and then it’s possible/acceptable for them to be separated?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The Pharisees said: ‘But how come Moses said that a man can make out a paper to divorce his wife?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)


The name that is transliterated as “Moses” in English is signed in Spanish Sign Language and Polish Sign Language in accordance with the depiction of Moses in the famous statue by Michelangelo (see here ). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff. )

“Moses” in Spanish Sign Language, source: Sociedad Bíblica de España

American Sign Language also uses the sign depicting the horns but also has a number of alternative signs (see here).

In French Sign Language, a similar sign is used, but it is interpreted as “radiance” (see below) and it culminates in a sign for “10,” signifying the 10 commandments:

“Moses” in French Sign Language (source )

The horns that are visible in Michelangelo’s statue are based on a passage in the Latin Vulgate translation (and many Catholic Bible translations that were translated through the 1950ies with that version as the source text). Jerome, the translator, had worked from a Hebrew text without the niqquds, the diacritical marks that signify the vowels in Hebrew and had interpreted the term קרו (k-r-n) in Exodus 34:29 as קֶ֫רֶן — keren “horned,” rather than קָרַו — karan “radiance” (describing the radiance of Moses’ head as he descends from Mount Sinai).

Even at the time of his translation, Jerome likely was not the only one making that decision as this article alludes to.

In Swiss-German Sign Language it is translated with a sign depicting holding a staff. This refers to a number of times where Moses’s staff is used in the context of miracles, including the parting of the sea (see Exodus 14:16), striking of the rock for water (see Exodus 17:5 and following), or the battle with Amalek (see Exodus 17:9 and following).

“Moses” in Swiss-German Sign Language, source: DSGS-Lexikon biblischer Begriffe , © CGG Schweiz

In Vietnamese (Hanoi) Sign Language it is translated with the sign that depicts the eye make up he would have worn as the adopted son of an Egyptian princess. (Source: The Vietnamese Sign Language translation team, VSLBT)

“Moses” in Vietnamese Sign Language, source: SooSL

In Estonian Sign Language Moses is depicted with a big beard. (Source: Liina Paales in Folklore 47, 2011, p. 43ff. )

See also Moses and Elijah during the Transfiguration.

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Moses .

Translation commentary on Matthew 19:7

They said to him: Good News Translation, together with Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch and Bible en français courant, identifies the speakers as “The Pharisees” on the basis of verse 3. The Greek verb “say” covers a wide area of meaning in English, and the translations vary; for example, “they objected” (New English Bible), “they asked” (New International Version), and “they retorted” (Phillips).

Why then did Moses command one … and to put her away is once again a literal representation of the Greek text, except for the inclusion of the pronouns one and her. Both of these pronominal forms are necessary in English, though one is entirely absent from the Greek text, and her is found only in some Greek manuscripts. In the UBS Greek text, the pronoun her is placed in brackets in order to indicate that its position in the text is doubtful. Since the Greek text is very concise, it is quite possible that her was introduced by some later scribe for the sake of clarification (other Greek manuscripts have “his wife,” which is surely a scribal clarification). On the other hand, her may have been dropped from the text so as to make the passage read like its parallel in Mark 10.4. In either case most languages will require not only the specification of the object but of the subject. New English Bible (similarly Good News Translation) indicates both subject and object of the divorce procedure: “Why then … did Moses lay it down that a man might divorce his wife by note of dismissal?” Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch is slightly different in its restructuring: “Why is it then, that according to the Law of Moses a man may send his wife away by means of a written notice of divorce?” On the other hand, New Jerusalem Bible translates without indicating either subject or object of the transaction: “Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?”

The Revised Standard Version text is a little awkward and may give the impression that Moses commanded people to get a divorce. The correct meaning is that Moses allowed a man to get a divorce if he wished to, and he provided a way to do it. So the sentence can be translated “But Moses provided (or, gave) a law that says a man may divorce his wife by giving her a divorce notice and sending her away. Why did he do that?” or “Why, then, did Moses give a commandment about how a man can divorce his wife by giving her a divorce notice and sending her away?”

The phrase put her away is better rendered as “send her away” (Good News Translation) or “have her leave his house.”

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 .