The Greek that is translated as “tax collector” in English is translated in Tagbanwa as “money-grabbing official receivers of payment” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation) and in Nyongar as mammarapa boya-barranginy or “people taking money” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation). Likewise, in Cashibo-Cacataibo, it is the “ones who take the money” (source: Bratcher / Nida 1961).
In Mairasi it is translated as “the people who collect money pertaining to head payment.”(Source: Enggavoter 2004)
Click or tap here to see a short video clip about tax collectors in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)
The Greek that is a transliteration of the Hebrew Pərūšīm and is typically transliterated into English as “Pharisee” is transliterated in Mandarin Chinese as Fǎlìsài (法利賽 / 法利赛) (Protestant) or Fǎlìsāi (法利塞) (Catholic). In Chinese, transliterations can typically be done with a great number of different and identical-sounding characters. Often the meaning of the characters are not relevant, unless they are chosen carefully as in these cases. The Protestant Fǎlìsài can mean something like “Competition for the profit of the law” and the Catholic Fǎlìsāi “Stuffed by/with the profit of the law.” (Source: Zetzsche 1996, p. 51)
In Finnish Sign Language it is translated with the sign signifying “prayer shawl”. (Source: Tarja Sandholm)
In British Sign Language it is translated with a sign that depicts “pointing out the law.” (Source: Anna Smith)
“Pharisee” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)
Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023) translates it into English as Observant. He explains (p. 302): “Pharisee has become a public, universal pejorative term for a hypocrite. Pharisees were observant of the interpretation of the Covenant Code called the ‘tradition of the elders.’ They conformed their behaviors to the interpretation. Among the various groups of Jews at the time of Jesus, they were perhaps closest to Jesus in their overall concern to make a radical commitment to the will of God (as they understood it).”
The Greek that is translated as “sinner” in English is translated as “people with bad hearts” (“it is not enough to call them ‘people who do bad things,’ for though actions do reflect the heart, yet it is the hearts with which God is primarily concerned — see Matt. 15:19”) in Western Kanjobal, “people who are doing wrong things in their hearts” in San Blas Kuna (source: Nida 1952, p. 148), “people with bad stomachs” in Q’anjob’al (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. ), “those others who don’t fully obey our laws” in Tagbanwa (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation), or “people with dirty hearts” or “people who are called ‘bad'” in Mairasi (source: Enggavoter 2004).
In Central Mazahua and Teutila Cuicatec it is translated as “(person who) owes sin.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 9:11:
Uma: “There were some Parisi people who saw that. Those Parisi people said to the disciples of Yesus: ‘Why does your teacher eat together with tax collectors and sinners!'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
Yakan: “There were Pariseo there. When they saw this they said to the disciples of Isa, ‘Why does your teacher eat together with (lit. mix in eating with) the tax collectors and the other sinful people?'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
Western Bukidnon Manobo: “There were some Pharisees who saw these people, and they said to the disciples of Jesus, ‘As for your boss, why does he eat and drink with cheating tax collectors and law breakers?'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
Kankanaey: “When the Pharisees saw them, they said to Jesus’ disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat-with collectors of taxes and other sinful people?'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
Tagbanwa: “When the Pariseo saw that, they questioned Jesus’ disciples. They said, ‘Why does your teacher eat together with money-grabbing official-receivers of payment and those others who don’t fully obey our (incl.) laws ?'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
Tenango Otomi: “The Pharisees saw what Jesus did and questioned his learners, saying: ‘How come your teacher eats together with the tax collectors and with other people who have many sins?’ they said.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
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):
Waorani: “one who lives following Jesus” (source: Wallis 1973, p. 39)
Ojitlán Chinantec: “learner” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
Javanese: “pupil” or “companion” (“a borrowing from Arabic that is a technical term for Mohammed’s close associates”)
German: Jünger or “younger one” (source for this and one above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
Germandas Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022). “student” or “special student” (using the traditional German term Gnade)
Nyongar: ngooldjara-kambarna or “friend-follow” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)
Scot McKnight (in The Second Testament, publ. 2023) translates it into English as apprentice.
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.
In American Sign Language it is translated with a combination of the signs for “following” plus the sign for “group.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)
In British Sign Language a sign is used that depicts a group of people following one person (the finger in the middle, signifying Jesus). Note that this sign is only used while Jesus is still physically present with his disciples. (Source: Anna Smith)
“Disciple in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)
Most modern translations do not slavishly follow the form of the Semitic Greek and do not retain the And at the beginning of this structure.
For Pharisees, see comments on 3.7. Note that the text says the Pharisees, as if they had already been mentioned or were assumed to be present wherever Jesus went. Since they have not been mentioned, “Some Pharisees” as in Good News Translation may be better.
For stylistic reasons, with tax collectors and sinners is translated “with such people” by Good News Translation.
The question of the Pharisees is a rhetorical one. They are not so much asking for information as they are criticizing what Jesus is doing. The teachers of the Jewish religion had many regulations regarding eating. Anyone who willingly sat with outcasts indicated his acceptance of them and in a sense identified himself with them. To convey the tone of criticism, some translators have said “Your teacher eats with tax collectors and other sinners. Is that proper?”
Many languages must have an object with eat, possibly “eat food” or “eat a meal.”
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 .