complete verse (Matthew 25:24)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 25:24:

  • Uma: “‘After that, the ordered-one who had gotten a thousand arrived too, he said: ‘Noble, I knew you (sing.) were mean/strict. You (sing.) reap what is not your (sing.) planted-thing, you (sing.) get what you (sing.) did not work-hard-for.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Then the one servant who had been given one thousand pesos also went and he said, ‘Sir, I know that you have no pity/mercy on people. You take what is not yours and you harvest what you have not worked for.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And the servant to whom he had given a thousand went there also. He said, ‘Chief, I know that you have no pity because you harvest what you did not plant, and you get gain from what you do not invest.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘After that the one who was entrusted with only-one talent went and said, ‘Sir, I know that you (sing.) are a cruel/harsh/unyielding person. You (sing.) are taking what you (sing.) didn’t work-for (lit. tire-for) and you (sing.) also are harvesting what you (sing.) didn’t plant.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “That one left in charge of one thousand also handed-over. He said, ‘Master, I know that you are strict. You harvest what it wasn’t you who put-in-the-hard-work. You take profit on what it wasn’t you who persevered.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “At the last there arrived the worker to whom he had given one thousand monies. He said to the boss: ‘Listen, boss, I know that you speak strongly. You ask for what you haven’t gained. You harvest where you haven’t worked.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

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. )

addressing someone respectfully in direct speech in Japanese

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.

This is evident in these verses in the Shinkaiyaku Bible from the form anata-sama (あなた様) “you” which is the combination of the nominal “you” anata and the suffix title –sama.

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

second person pronoun with high register

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 Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of a second person pronoun (“you” and its various forms) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. The most commonly used anata (あなた) is typically used when the speaker is humbly addressing another person.

In these verses, however, the more venerable anata-sama (あなた様) is used, which combines anata with the with a formal title -sama.

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

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.

formal pronoun: Jesus addressing his disciples and common people

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, Jesus is addressing his disciples, individuals and/or crowds with the formal pronoun, showing respect.

In most Dutch translations, Jesus addresses his disciples and common people with the informal pronoun, whereas they address him with the formal form.

Translation commentary on Matthew 25:24

In the words of one commentator, this servant “shows as soon as he opens his mouth that he is not interested in his lord’s advantage but in saving his own skin.”

The adjective hard is used only here in the Gospel of Matthew; elsewhere in the New Testament it is found in John 6.60; Acts 26.14; James 3.4 (“strong” of wind); Jude 15 (“harsh”). The two illustrations (sowing and reaping; winnowing and gathering) probably reflect proverbial sayings (see Job 31.8; John 4.37); they are used to illustrate what the servant means by the accusation that his master is a hard man. Most translators describe the master here as “strict” or, as in Barclay, “a shrewd and ruthless businessman.”

The four verbs (reaping … sow … gathering … winnow) may require the explicit mention of objects, as for example, “reap harvests,” “sow (or, plant) seeds,” “gather crops,” and “winnow chaff.” But this is complicated by the observation that the final verb in this series is literally “scatter” and may mean either “scatter” (of seed) or “winnow” (of chaff). The Good News Translation rendering “scatter seed” probably is best in this context. In either case the idea of taking profits where someone else has done the work is clear.

It is possible to follow chronological order, shift to a comparison, and at the same time combine the two figures of speech into one: “You are a hard man. You are like someone who does not plant seeds but expects to gather a crop” or “You are like someone who expects to gather a crop from a garden (or, field) that someone else has planted.”

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 .