formal pronoun: disciples addressing Jesus

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, individual or several disciples address Jesus with the formal pronoun, expressing respect. Compare this to how that address changes after the resurrection.

In most Dutch translations, the disciples address Jesus before and after the resurrection with the formal pronoun.

complete verse (Matthew 26:35)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 26:35:

  • Uma: “Petrus said: ‘Even though I die together with you (sing.), I will indeed not deny that I know you (sing.)!’ So also were the words of the other disciples.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But Petros said, ‘Even if I have to die following you, I will certainly not deny you.’ And all the disciples of Isa, their words were also like this.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And Peter said, ‘Even if I am killed along with you, I will not deny that I know you.’ And like that also was the promise of the other disciples.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Then Pedro said, ‘Even if it-is-necessary that I die-with you (singular), I absolutely will not deny you (singular).’ And so also said all his fellow disciples.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “But Pedro was emphatic, saying, ‘Even if I will be killed along with you, I really will not deny you!’ Like that too was said by all those other disciples.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “But Peter again said: ‘As for that, no. Even though I die along with you, yet I will not deny you,’ he said. All the other learners said the same thing.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

disciple

(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)

The Greek that is often translated as “disciple” in English typically follows three types of translation: (1) those which employ a verb ‘to learn’ or ‘to be taught’, (2) those which involve an additional factor of following, or accompaniment, often in the sense of apprenticeship, and (3) those which imply imitation of the teacher.

Following are some examples (click or tap for details):

In Luang several terms with different shades of meaning are being used.

  • For Mark 2:23 and 3:7: maka nwatutu-nwaye’a re — “those that are taught” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ before the resurrection, while Jesus was still on earth teaching them.”)
  • For Acts 9:1 and 9:10: makpesiay — “those who believe.” (“This is the term used for believers and occasionally for the church, but also for referring to the disciples when tracking participants with a view to keeping them clear for the Luang readers. Although Greek has different terms for ‘believers’, ‘brothers’, and ‘church’, only one Luang word can be used in a given episode to avoid confusion. Using three different terms would imply three different sets of participants.”)
  • For Acts 6:1: mak lernohora Yesus wniatutunu-wniaye’eni — “those who follow Jesus’ teaching.” (“This is the term used for ‘disciples’ after Jesus returned to heaven.”)

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.