dual vs. plural (Matt. 9:32)

Many languages in the world distinguish between plural and dual (and sometimes trial) pronouns (for instance, “you” specifically addressing many, two, or three people).

In Matt. 9:32 (“As they were going out…” in one English translation) it is left open whether “them” refers to the two blind men or Jesus and the two blind men.

Both the Bislama translators (in the Nyutesteman long Bislama of 1980) and the Uripiv use a dual (indicating that this refers to just the two blind men).

One of the translators explains: “(1) Only Jesus is mentioned as going into the house (Matt. 9:28). The disciples no doubt entered with him, but it is a fair enough working assumption that if they were explicitly mentioned in one place (Matt. 9:32) they would have also been in the other. So we conclude that the ‘they’ in 9:32 is probably not referring to Jesus and the disciples. (2) A reasonably close parallel, as far as the Greek text is concerned, supporting this interpretation can be seen in Matt. 2:13. (First verb of new section repeats last verb of previous section, with same subject, in a genitive absolute construction, with de and followed by idou introducing new participants.)”

Source: Ross McKerras in Notes on Translation 2/1 1988, p. 53-56.


The Greek that is typically translated/transliterated in English as “demon” is translated in Central Mazahua as “the evil spirit(s) of the devil” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).

In Sissala it is translated with kaŋtɔŋ, which traditionally referred to “either a spirit of natural phenomena such as trees, rivers, stones, etc., or the spirit of a deceased person that has not been taken into the realm of the dead. Kaŋtɔŋ can be good or evil. Evil kaŋtɔŋ can bring much harm to people and are feared accordingly. A kaŋtɔŋ can also dwell in a person living on this earth. A person possessed by kaŋtɔŋ does not behave normally.” (Source: Regina Blass in Holzhausen 1991, p. 48f.)

In Umiray Dumaget Agta it is translated as hayup or “creature, animal, general term for any non-human creature, whether natural or supernatural.” Thomas Headland (in: Notes on Translation, September 1971, p. 17ff.) explains some more: “There are several types of supernatural creatures, or spirit beings which are designated by the generic term hayup. Just as we have several terms in English for various spirit beings (elves, fairies, goblins, demons, imps, pixies) so have the Dumagats. And just as you will find vast disagreement and vagueness among English informants as to the differences between pixies and imps, etc., so you will find that no two Dumagats will agree as to the form and function of their different spirit beings.” This term can also be used in a verb form: hayupen: “creatured” or “to be killed, made sick, or crazy by a spirit.

In Yala it is translated as yapri̍ija ɔdwɔ̄bi̍ or “bad Yaprija.” Yaprijas are traditional spirits that have a range presumed activities including giving or withholding gifts, giving and protecting children, causing death and disease and rewarding good behavior. (Source: Eugene Bunkowske in Notes on Translation 78/1980, p. 36ff.)

See also devil and formal pronoun: demons or Satan addressing Jesus.

complete verse (Matthew 9:32)

Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 9:32:

  • Uma: “When those blind ones had gone away, there were also those who carried a sick person coming to Yesus. That person was not able to speak because he was possessed [ridden] by a demon.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “When those people had left other people arrived and they brought a dumb person. The reason that he was dumb was that he was possessed by a demon.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “But before the blind men had left, some people arrive who had brought with them to Jesus a person who was dumb because he had been entered by a demon.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “As they were leaving, someone escorted to where Jesus was a dumb man who was possessed by an evil-spirit.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Just as those two left, some arrived bringing a dumb person who was possessed by an evil-spirit.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “As the men who had been blind left, there arrived people bringing to Jesus a man who had been made dumb by an evil spirit.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)