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).


The Hebrew and Greek that is translated in English as “hungry” is translated in Nyongar as koborl-wirt or “without stomach.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 25:44)

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.

complete verse (Matthew 25:44)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 25:44:

  • Uma: “‘They will also say to me: ‘Lord, when did we see you (sing.) hungry or thirsty or like a passer-by, or not clothed, or sick or in prison, and we didn’t help you (sing.)?'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Then they will ask me, they will say, ‘Sir, when did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we see you as a stranger, or without clothes or sick or in prison and did not help you?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And they will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, no place to go up into, without clothing, sick and in prison and we didn’t help you?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘Then they will inquire of me, ‘Lord, when did we (excl.) see you (sing.) hungry and thirsty and a stranger and having no clothes and sick and in-prison and we (excl.) did not help you (sing.)?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Well, without anything further, they will also answer, ‘It’s like we weren’t aware of you being hungry, thirsty, having come as a stranger/visitor, without-clothes, sick or there in prison and we didn’t serve you.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “The people replied and said to the Lord: ‘Listen, Lord, when did we see that you were hungry, and we did not give you food to eat? When did we see that you were thirsty and we did not give you water to drink? When did we see that you were a stranger in the land and we did not give you a resting place? When did we see that you didn’t have clothing to wear and we did not give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in the jail and we did not go to greet you?'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

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.