The Greek that is translated in English as “prison” is translated in Dehu as moapokamo or “house for tying up people” (source: Maurice Leenhardt in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 97ff. ) and in Nyongar as maya-maya dedinyang or “house shut” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).
Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)
The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).
For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding the Lord).
Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 25:39:
- Uma: “When did we see you (sing.) sick or in prison and we went to visit you (sing.)?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “And when were you sick and in prison and we visited you?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “When did we visit you in prison?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “When moreover were you (sing.) sick and we (excl.) took-care-of you (sing.), and you (sing.) were in-prison and we (excl.) visited you (sing.) in order that we (excl.) would help-you (sing.)?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “And also when did we find out that you were sick or imprisoned and we checked up on you?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “When did we see that you were sick or that you were in jail and we went to see you?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
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.