an eye for an eye

The Greek that is translated in English as “an eye for an eye” is translated in Alekano as “if someone gouges out your eye, gouge out his eye,” since in that language body parts need to have an obligatory possessive designator attached. (Source: Larson 1998, p. 42)

See also an eye for an eye.

an eye for an eye

The now commonly-used English idiom “eye for an eye” (meaning revenge or retribution) was first coined in 1526 in the English New Testament translation of William Tyndale. (Source: Crystal 2010, p. 285)

For other idioms in English that were coined by Bible translation, see here.

Likewise in Mandarin Chinese, the phrasing that was coined to translate “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” — yǐyǎn huányǎn, yǐyá huányá (以眼还眼,以牙还牙 / 以眼還眼,以牙還牙) — has also become a Chinese proverb (see here ). (Source: Zetzsche)

See also an eye for an eye.

complete verse (Matthew 5:38)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 5:38:

  • Uma: “‘You know the command long ago that says: ‘If there are people fighting, and one pries/gouges out the eye of the other or pulls out the teeth of the other, pry/gouge his eye out too, and pull out his teeth too.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “‘You have heard this teaching, it says, ‘If a person destroys the eye of his companion, his eye shall also be destroyed, and if a person knocks out a tooth of his companion, his tooth shall also be knocked out.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “You know also that which was taught long ago that if there is a person who inadvertently destroyed the eye of his companion, it can be that his eye also is destroyed. And if there is a person who inadvertently destroyed the tooth of his companion, it can be that his tooth will also be destroyed.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘You have also heard what was commanded back-then saying, ‘An eye is the payment of an eye, a tooth for a tooth.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “‘You (pl.) have also heard this which was said in the law, ‘It is necessary to pass sentence which makes the same. If you (sing.) damaged your companion’s eye, that indeed is to be done to you. If you broke/knocked-out the tooth of someone else, your tooth is to be broken/knocked-out.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “You have heard the word taught to the people in past days, that they were told: ‘Concerning the person who puts out the eye of his fellowman, he also must have his eye put out. Concerning the person who knocks out the teeth of his fellowman, he also must have his teeth knocked out.'” (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.

Translation commentary on Matthew 5:38

The law of An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is mentioned in Exodus 21.24; Leviticus 24.20; and Deuteronomy 19.21; its original intent was humanitarian, to prevent unrestrained blood vengeance (Gen 4.23 is an example). However, its purpose was later reversed, and people began to appeal to it primarily as the means of making their own claims prevail.

For a discussion of You have heard that it was said, see verse 27.

It is important in translations that the phrase An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth be understood in the context of vengeance or retaliation. It is not a matter of “you can give an eye to get an eye,” that is, an exchange, but rather the idea is that “If you cause someone to lose an eye, your eye should be taken out also, and if you cause someone to lose a tooth, your tooth can be taken out.” This can also be “If a person destroys someone’s eye (or tooth), then he should have his eye (or tooth) destroyed.” Whether to use “you” or “someone” depends on what will be best understood by readers of a particular language.

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 .

formal second person plural pronoun

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 formal plural suffix to the second person pronoun (“you” and its various forms) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, anata-gata (あなたがた) is used, combining the second person pronoun anata and the plural suffix -gata to create a formal plural pronoun (“you” [plural] in English).

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