In certain languages some types of possession simply cannot be used. For example in Hopi one cannot speak of [what is translated in English as] “(Yahweh) my God,” for God cannot be possessed. One must say, “the God in whom I believe.” (p. 206)
The Hebrew text of Psalm 119 uses an acrostic that separates the 176 verses into 22 sections of 8 verses each, all starting with the same successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Some Bible translations note this by using the Hebrew letters or their transcriptions as section titles, others, including the translation into Natügu (see here ) or the Hungarian translations by Szenczi Molnár Albert from 1606 (see here) or by Hajdók János from 1978 (see here ), use a different letter of their alphabet for the first line of each of the sections.
The DanishBibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.) translated Psalm 119 into an acrostic in which each of the verses in each section starts with the same letter, although not following the successive order of the Danish alphabet.
Click or tap here for the complete psalm in Danish
1 Velsignede er de, som gør Guds vilje,
alle de, som adlyder Herrens love.
2 Velsignede er de, som holder fast ved hans bud,
og søger ham af hele deres hjerte.
3 Vi ved, at han ønsker, vi skal følge hans vej,
derfor vælger vi at gøre hans vilje.
4 Vi kender dine befalinger, Herre,
som du forventer, vi følger til punkt og prikke.
5 Hvor ville jeg dog inderligt ønske,
at jeg kunne følge dine bud uden at vakle.
6 Ved at fokusere på alle dine befalinger
undgår jeg at blive gjort til skamme.
7 Vore hjerter bryder ud i tak,
når vi forstår dine retfærdige love.
8 Vær tålmodig med mig,
for jeg ønsker at adlyde dine bud.
9 Jeg opfordrer de unge til at følge dit ord,
for det hjælper dem til at blive på din vej.
10 Jeg søger dig af hele mit hjerte,
lad mig ikke fare vild fra dine bud.
11 Jeg gemmer dit ord i mit hjerte
for ikke at synde imod dig.
12 Jeg lover og priser dig, Herre,
lær mig alle dine lovbud.
13 Jeg gentager igen og igen
alle de bud, du har givet mig.
14 Jeg glæder mig over dine befalinger,
som var de alverdens rigdomme.
15 Jeg grunder over dine formaninger
og holder fast ved dine forskrifter.
16 Jeg glæder mig over din vejledning
og vil aldrig glemme dit ord.
17 Lad mig få øjnene op for din godhed,
så jeg kan tjene dig hele mit liv.
18 Luk mine øjne op, så jeg kan se
de vidunderlige ting i din lov.
19 Livet her på jorden er kort,
og jeg har brug for dine love til at lede mig.
20 Længslen efter at kende dig ligger i mit hjerte,
mind mig om dine love hver eneste dag.
21 Lovløse mennesker, der gør oprør mod dig,
vil blive dømt for deres egenrådige stolthed.
22 Lad dem ikke hovere over mig,
fordi jeg adlyder dine bud.
23 Lederne i samfundet bagtaler mig,
men jeg vil tjene dig og handle på dit ord.
24 Lovene, du har givet mig, gør mig glad,
og jeg ønsker at følge din vejledning.
25 Jeg er nedslået og fortvivlet.
Giv mig nyt mod ved dit ord.
26 Jeg fortalte dig det hele, og du hjalp mig.
Lær du mig nu dine principper.
27 Jeg vil gerne forstå hensigten med dine bud,
og jeg beundrer dine gode love.
28 Jeg føler mig så udkørt og trist.
Styrk mig ved dit ord.
29 Jeg vil altid være ærlig over for dig,
lad din lov forvandle min karakter.
30 Jeg har valgt at være trofast,
sat mig for at følge dine lovbud.
31 Jeg klynger mig til dit ord,
for jeg ved, du ikke skuffer mig, Herre.
32 Jeg vil ivrigt adlyde alle dine bud,
for du har givet mig viljen til at gøre det.
33 Lær mig at følge dine love, Herre,
så jeg altid er lydig imod dem.
34 Lad mig vokse i forståelsen af din lov,
så jeg kan holde den af hele mit hjerte.
35 Led mig fremad på lydighedens vej,
for at følge dine bud er min lyst.
36 Lad mit hjertes ønske være at følge dit ord
i stedet for at stræbe efter penge og profit.
37 Livet uden dig er ikke andet end tomhed,
men at følge dit ord giver mig indhold i livet.
38 Lad mig hvile i troen på dine løfter,
som gælder alle, der adlyder dig.
39 Lad dem, der håner mig, blive til skamme,
for jeg ved, at dine bud er gode.
40 Længslen efter dine love ligger i mit hjerte,
hjælp mig til altid at efterleve dem.
41 Du har lovet at redde mig, Herre.
Vis mig nu din trofasthed og grib ind.
42 Det er dit ord, jeg har sat min lid til.
Giv mig et svar til dem, der håner mig.
43 Det, at du redder mig og griber ind,
vil bevise, at det, jeg har sagt om dig, er sandt.
44 Da vil jeg altid holde din lov,
både nu og til evig tid.
45 Det giver mig en vældig frimodighed,
at jeg bygger mit liv på dine love.
46 Derfor skammer jeg mig ikke over dit ord,
men forkynder det frimodigt selv for konger.
47 Det er en stor glæde at kende dine bud.
Åh, hvor jeg elsker dem.
48 Dagligt rækker jeg hænderne ud efter dem.
Det fryder mig at kunne meditere over dem.
49 Herre, jeg tjener dig i tillid til dine løfter,
for det er dem, der giver mig håb.
50 Hver gang jeg kommer ud for modstand,
giver dit ord mig nyt mod på livet.
51 Hån og spot hagler ned over mig,
men jeg holder fast ved dit ord.
52 Herre, jeg holder mig dine bud for øje,
de har stået deres prøve, og de giver mig trøst.
53 Harmen vælder op i mig,
når de gudløse gør nar af dine bud.
54 Hvor jeg end opholder mig,
hylder jeg dine befalinger med glæde.
55 Herre, selv om natten tænker jeg på dig,
også da vil jeg adlyde dine bud.
56 Hver dag vil jeg følge dine bud,
for det giver mig glæde i livet.
57 Jeg bygger mit liv på dig, Herre,
og jeg har besluttet at følge dine bud.
58 Jeg beder dig af hele mit hjerte:
vær nådig imod mig, som du har lovet.
59 Jeg har gjort status over mit liv
og har valgt at rette mig efter dit ord.
60 Jeg vil ikke vente eller tøve,
men straks gøre det, du siger, jeg skal.
61 Jeg vil aldrig glemme din lov,
selv om de gudløse prøver at få mig i fælden.
62 Jeg kan stå op midt om natten
for at takke dig for dine gode love.
63 Jeg er ven med alle, der tjener dig
og overholder dine forordninger.
64 Jorden er fuld af din trofasthed, Herre,
lær mig at forstå dine bud til bunds.
65 Du har holdt dit løfte, Herre.
Du har velsignet mig som din tjener.
66 Dine befalinger og bud er gode,
lær mig at forstå dem og bruge dem ret.
67 Der var engang, hvor jeg gik mine egne veje,
men du ydmygede mig, og nu følger jeg dit ord.
68Du er god og gør altid det gode.
Hjælp mig at adlyde dine befalinger.
69 Det kan godt være, de gudløse bagtaler mig,
men jeg vil helhjertet holde din lov.
70 De er både tykhovedede og stivnakkede,
men at adlyde dit ord giver mig glæde.
71 Det var godt, at du ydmygede mig,
så jeg kunne lære at overholde dine bud.
72 Dit ord er mere værd for mig
end guld og sølv i dynger.
73 Dine hænder formede min krop.
Giv mig nu forstand til at fatte dine bud.
74 De gudfrygtige hilser mig med glæde,
for jeg har sat min lid til dit ord.
75 Dine domme er retfærdige, det ved jeg,
du ydmygede mig for mit eget bedste.
76 Din nåde og barmhjertighed rejste mig op igen,
akkurat som du havde lovet din tjener.
77 Din nåde gav mig nyt livsmod,
for jeg elsker trods alt dine bud.
78 De hovmodige spottere bliver gjort til skamme,
for de bagtaler mig uden grund.
Men jeg vil grunde over dine befalinger.
79 De der kender dine bud og adlyder dig,
dem vil jeg gerne have fællesskab med.
80 Din lov vil jeg følge af hele mit hjerte,
så behøver jeg aldrig at skamme mig.
81 Herre, jeg længes efter, at du redder mig.
Jeg har sat min lid til dine løfter.
82 Hvornår griber du ind og hjælper mig?
Jeg er snart træt af at vente.
83 Herre, jeg er som en indtørret, tilrøget lædersæk,
men dine bud glemmer jeg aldrig.
84 Hvor mange dage skal der gå?
Hvornår vil du straffe mine forfølgere?
85 Hovmodige mennesker, som hader din lov,
har gravet en faldgrube for mig.
86 Hele din lov er troværdig og pålidelig,
åh, hjælp mig mod de gudløses angreb.
87 Herre, de har næsten gjort det af med mig,
men jeg vil ikke svigte dine bud.
88 Hold mig i live på grund af din trofasthed,
så jeg kan adlyde de befalinger, du har givet mig.
89 Dit ord, Herre, står ved magt til evig tid,
det er fast forankret i Himlen.
90 Din trofasthed rækker fra slægt til slægt,
du har grundfæstet jorden, så den ikke kan rokkes.
91 Dine love står fast til denne dag,
for du er universets Herre.
92 Dit ord gav mig den trøst, jeg havde brug for,
ellers var jeg for længst gået til grunde.
93 Dine love vil jeg aldrig glemme,
for det er dem, der holder mig i live.
94 Dig tilhører jeg, for du er min Gud.
Hjælp mig, for jeg ønsker at følge dine bud.
95 De gudløse lurer på at slå mig ihjel,
men jeg har altid dine love i tanke.
96 De fleste ting har deres begrænsning,
men dine befalinger har uanede dybder.
97 Jeg elsker dine bud, Herre.
Dagen igennem er de i mine tanker.
98 Jeg mediterer over dit ord hver dag,
det giver mig et fortrin frem for mine fjender.
99 Jeg har altid dine bud i mine tanker,
de gør mig visere end mine vejledere.
100 Ja, jeg er klogere end de gamle og erfarne,
for jeg adlyder dine befalinger.
101 Jeg holder mig væk fra enhver form for ondskab,
for jeg ønsker at adlyde dit ord.
102 Jeg går ikke vild, men følger dine bud,
for du er den, der underviser mig.
103 Jeg elsker at smage på dit ord,
det er sødere på tungen end honning.
104 Jo mere indsigt jeg får i dine bud,
des mere hader jeg løgnens vej.
105 Dit ord er en lygte for min fod,
et lys på vejen foran mig.
106 Dine love er gode og retfærdige,
jeg har lovet mig selv altid at overholde dem.
107 Der er mange, som er imod mig, Herre,
men du giver mig nyt mod, som du har lovet.
108 Du fortjener min lovsang og tak, Herre,
fortsæt med at lære mig din vilje.
109 Dine bud vil jeg aldrig glemme,
også selv om det bringer mig i livsfare.
110 De gudløse sætter fælder for mig,
men jeg viger ikke en tomme fra dit ord.
111 Dine love er mit evige eje,
de fylder mit hjerte med glæde.
112 Det er min faste beslutning at adlyde dit ord,
indtil jeg drager mit sidste suk.
113 Dem, der følger dig halvhjertet, hader jeg,
men jeg elsker din lov af hele mit hjerte.
114 Du er min tilflugt og mit skjold,
dit ord er det, der giver mig håb.
115 Der er ingen, der kan hindre mig i at adlyde Gud,
de, der vil prøve, tager jeg afstand fra.
116 Du har lovet at give mig styrke til at leve efter dit ord.
Jeg er overbevist om, at du ikke skuffer mig.
117 Den hjælp og støtte, jeg får fra dig,
betyder, at jeg fortsat kan adlyde dine bud.
118 Du forkaster dem, der foragter dit ord,
de er falske og fulde af løgn.
119 Du lader alle de gudløse ende som aske.
Er det da mærkeligt, at jeg elsker dit ord?
120 Dine domme er retfærdige og kan ikke appelleres,
derfor bæver jeg for dig i ærefrygt.
121 Jeg forsøger altid at gøre det rigtige.
Lad ikke mine fjender få bugt med mig.
122 Jag de stolte og overmodige mennesker væk,
så de ikke har mulighed for at skade mig.
123 Jeg er træt af at vente på, at du redder mig,
selv om jeg ved, at du altid holder dine løfter.
124 Jeg ved, at din kærlighed omslutter mig,
lær mig at kende din vilje.
125 Jeg er din tjener, giv mig forstand
til at fatte dine formaninger.
126 Jeg græmmes, når de gudløse overtræder dine bud.
Herre, hvornår griber du ind?
127 Jeg foretrækker din lov
frem for guld og grønne skove.
128 Jeg hader løgn og bedrag,
men elsker at adlyde dine bud.
129 Din vejledning er vidunderlig,
jeg ønsker at rette mig efter den.
130 Dit ord bringer lys, når det bliver forstået,
selv begyndere kan fatte det.
131 Dit ord skaber en længsel i mig,
jeg kan aldrig få nok af det.
132 Din nåde og barmhjertighed gør mig godt,
du er god mod alle, som elsker dig.
133 Dit ord viser mig den vej, jeg skal gå,
så jeg ikke bliver overrumplet af det onde.
134 Der er mennesker, som vil føre mig på vildspor.
Hjælp mig til at holde fast ved dine bud.
135 Du velsigner mig med dit nærvær.
Hjælp mig at tjene dig bedre.
136 Der er mange, der ikke holder dine bud,
derfor strømmer tårerne ned over mine kinder.
137 Du er en god Gud, Herre,
alle dine love er retfærdige.
138 Dine principper er fuldkomne,
og din trofasthed er stor.
139 Der er mange, som ignorerer din vejledning,
og det skærer mig i hjertet at se det.
140 Dit ord er ædelt som renset sølv,
derfor elsker jeg det så højt.
141 Der er ikke noget særligt ved mig,
men jeg forsømmer ikke at adlyde dine bud.
142 Din retfærdighed varer evigt,
din lov vil altid være sand.
143 Det sker, at jeg tynges af bekymring og uro,
men dine bud gør mig glad igen.
144 Din lov står altid ved magt,
lad mig forstå den bedre dag for dag.
145 Jeg beder dig inderligt om hjælp, Herre.
Svar mig, og jeg vil adlyde dine bud.
146 Jeg råber til dig: „Red mig,
så jeg kan adlyde dine bud.”
147 Jeg er oppe før daggry for at råbe om hjælp,
for jeg sætter min lid til løfterne i dit ord.
148 Jeg ligger vågen om natten
og mediterer over dit ord.
149 Jeg beder dig, Herre, hør min bøn,
vær mig nådig og red mit liv.
150 Jeg gruer for, hvad mine fjender vil gøre,
for de er ligeglade med din lov.
151 Jeg ved dog, at du er mig nær, Herre,
alle dine bud er grundet på sandheden.
152 Jeg har for længe siden lært,
at dit ord står urokkeligt fast.
153 Vær nådig og fri mig fra mine lidelser,
for jeg har ikke taget let på din lov.
154 Ved at høre dine løfter får jeg nyt mod.
Kæmp på min side og red mig.
155 Ved at gøre oprør mod dig og dine bud,
har de gudløse mistet håbet om frelse.
156 Hvor er din nåde dog stor, Herre,
du har magt til at redde mit liv.
157 Vel er mine fjender og modstandere mange,
men jeg holder fast ved dine lovbud.
158 Ved synet af de gudløse bliver jeg fyldt med foragt,
for de gør oprør mod dine bud og befalinger.
159 Vis mig din kærlighed og red mit liv,
Tænk dog på, hvor højt jeg elsker dine love.
Giv mig liv, for du elsker mig med trofast kærlighed!
160 Værdien af dit ord er ubeskrivelig,
det er troværdigt og står fast for evigt.
161 Der er magtfulde mænd, som angriber mig uden grund,
men jeg vil holde fast ved dit ord i mit hjerte.
162 Din vejledning fylder mig med glæde,
som en, der har vundet en stor gevinst.
163 Det er løgn og bedrag, jeg hader,
men jeg elsker dit ord.
164 Dag efter dag vil jeg takke dig
for dine retfærdige lovbud.
165 De, der elsker din lov, lever trygt,
intet kan rokke dem.
166 Der er en forvisning i mit hjerte om, at du vil redde mig,
og jeg vil blive ved med at adlyde dine bud.
167 Dine befalinger har jeg altid for øje,
jeg elsker dem af hele mit hjerte.
168 Du ved, at jeg har adlydt dine bud,
for mit liv ligger udbredt for dig.
169 Jeg beder om hjælp, Herre, lyt til mit råb.
Lad dit ord give mig råd og vejledning.
170 Ja, jeg beder så inderligt om nåde,
grib ind og red mig, som du har lovet.
171 Jeg vil lovprise dig, Herre,
for du har lært mig at forstå dine bud.
172 Jeg vil synge en sang om dit ord,
for alle dine love er gode og retfærdige.
173 Jeg venter på, at du griber ind,
for jeg har valgt at gøre din vilje.
174 Jeg længes efter, at du redder mig, Herre,
og jeg glæder mig over dine lovbud.
175 Jeg ønsker at leve i lovprisning til dig.
Lad dit ord være min støtte på livsvejen.
176 Jeg er som et får, der er faret vild.
Kom og red mig, for jeg har holdt fast ved dine bud.
In the translation by Josua Boesch into the Zürich German dialect (Züritüütsch) of Swiss German (publ. 2009), the Psalms were also translated while maintaining the acrostic.
Click or tap here for the first 24 verses of this psalm in Zürich German
1 Am beschte gaat s dène,
wo uufrächt de wääg gönd
i de spuure vo IMM siner TORAA.
2 Am schöönschte isch s läbe
im gsprööch mit imm,
und wämen inn suecht vo ganzem hèèrze.
3 Au tuet mer käis unrächt uf dèm wääg,
won èr mit äim gaat.
4 A diich wott i miich halte,
duu säisch mer wodure.
5 Ach, gieng ich min wääg
doch fescht und entschlosse,
esoo wie duu mer en zäigt häsch.
6 A reschpäkt wüür s mer nöd fèèle,
Wän i diini gebott imer wüür reschpektiere.
7 Au iich wott diir tanke us luuterem hèèrze,
wän i uswändig leere,
was duu mer verordnisch.
8 A diini voorschlèèg wott ich mi halte,
las mi doch nöd im stich.
9 Bi diir und diim woort sich oriäntiere,
daas bewaart uf em graade wääg,
wä me jung isch.
10 Bi diir suech i raat,
las mi nöd abchoo vo dèmm,
wo duu mer raatisch.
11 Behüete wott i diis woort ganz zinnerscht,
a diir wett i mi scho nöd verfèèle.
12 Bewundere wott i nu DICH
prèèg mer fescht ii, was duu mi gleert häsch.
13 Bi diir bliibt e käis woort verschlosse,
duu läisch mer s uf d lippe,
das i s wiiter verzele.
14 Bim grööschte riichtum wèr i nöd eso glückli
wien uf diim wääg, won i gfunde han.
15 Bi dène wääg, wo duu mit öis gaasch,
gspüürt me ganz tüütli, wo s duregaat.
16 Begläitet häsch duu miich,
wien i mer s nie hett la tröime.
Wie chönnt i diis woort au vergässe!
17 Chumm, gib dèm,
wo für diich läbt und liidet, nöis läbe,
dänn chan er dis woort scho erfüle.
18 Chèèntsch mer nöd d augen uuftue,
das iich a de wunder vo diner TORAA
19 Chumm doch,
ich bi nu en gascht uf der èrde,
verbiirg mer nöd s ghämnis vo diine gebott.
20 Chumm duu doch sälber
und hilf mer i minere seensucht
nach diir und diineren antwort.
21 Chumm lueg,
und weer dfene, wo sich so ubermüetig benämed.
Verfluecht, wèr diis gebott umgaat!
nimm mer d schand und de spott,
ich ha ja ghalte, was du verlangt häsch.
23 Chumm lueg,
wie di groosse mis läbe verhandled,
aber iich anerchäne nu daas,
wo duu über miich pschlüüssisch.
24 Chumm äntli,
nu s gsprööch mit diir
cha mer raate und cha mi rächt fröje.
The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains almost every Hebrew acrostic (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew). Due to the higher number of letters in the English alphabet, it skips the letters Q, X, Y, and Z.
Click or tap here for the complete Psalm in English
1 Ah, blessed they, who pass through life’s journey unstained, who follow the law of the Lord!
2 Ah, blessed they, who cherish his decrees, make him the whole quest of their hearts!
3 Afar from wrong-doing, thy sure paths they tread.
4 Above all else it binds us, the charge thou hast given us to keep.
5 Ah, how shall my steps be surely guided to keep faith with thy covenant?
6 Attentive to all thy commandments, I go my way undismayed.
7 A true heart’s worship thou shalt have, thy just awards prompting me.
8 All shall be done thy laws demand, so thou wilt not forsake me utterly.
9 Best shall he keep his youth unstained, who is true to thy trust.
10 Be thou the whole quest of my heart; never let me turn aside from thy commandments.
11 Buried deep in my heart, thy warnings shall keep me clear of sin.
12 Blessed art thou, O Lord, teach me to know thy will.
13 By these lips let the awards thou makest ever be recorded.
14 Blithely as one that has found great possessions, I follow thy decrees.
15 Bethinking me still of the charge thou givest, I will mark thy footsteps.
16 Be thy covenant ever my delight, thy words kept in memory.
17 Crown thy servant with life, to live faithful to thy commands.
18 Clear sight be mine, to contemplate the wonders of thy law.
19 Comfort this earthly exile; do not refuse me the knowledge of thy will.
20 Crushed lies my spirit, longing ever for thy just awards.
21 Chastener of the proud, thy curse lies on all who swerve from thy covenant.
22 Clear me of the reproach that shames me, as I was ever attentive to thy claims.
23 Closeted together, princes plot against me, thy servant, that thinks only of thy decrees.
24 Claims lovingly cherished, decrees that are my counsellors!
25 Deep lies my soul in the dust, restore life to me, as thou hast promised.
26 Deign, now, to shew me thy will, thou who hast listened when I opened my heart to thee.
27 Direct me in the path thou biddest me follow, and all my musing shall be of thy wonderful deeds.
28 Despair wrings tears from me; let thy promises raise me up once more.
29 Deliver me from every false thought; make me free of thy covenant.
30 Duty’s path my choice, I keep thy bidding ever in remembrance.
31 Disappoint me, Lord, never, one that holds fast by thy commandments.
32 Do but open my heart wide, and easy lies the path thou hast decreed.
33 Expound, Lord, thy whole bidding to me; faithfully I will keep it.
34 Enlighten me, to scan thy law closely, and keep true to it with all my heart.
35 Eagerly I long to be guided in the way of thy obedience.
36 Ever let my choice be set on thy will, not on covetous thoughts.
37 Eyes have I none for vain phantoms; let me find life in following thy ways.
38 Establish with me, thy servant, the promise made to thy worshippers.
39 Ease me of the reproach my heart dreads, thou, whose awards are gracious.
40 Each command of thine I embrace lovingly; do thou in thy faithfulness grant me life.
41 For me too, Lord, thy mercy, for me too the deliverance thou hast promised!
42 Fit answer for those who taunt me, that I rely on thy truth.
43 Faithful thy promise, let me not boast in vain; in thy covenant lies my hope.
44 For ever and for evermore true to thy charge thou shalt find me.
45 Freely shall my feet tread, if thy will is all my quest.
46 Fearlessly will I talk of thy decrees in the presence of kings, and be never abashed.
47 Fain would I have all my comfort in the law I love.
48 Flung wide my arms to greet thy law, ever in my thoughts thy bidding.
49 Go not back on the word thou hast pledged to thy servant; there lies all my hope.
50 Good news in my affliction, thy promises have brought me life.
51 Ground down by the scorn of my oppressors, never from thy law I swerve aside.
52 Gracious comfort, Lord, is the memory of thy just dealings in times long past.
53 Great ruth have I to see wrong-doers, and how they abandon thy law.
54 Gone out into a land of exile, of thy covenant I make my song.
55 Gloom of the night finds me still thinking of thy name, Lord, still observant of thy bidding.
56 Guerdon I ask no other, but the following of thy will.
57 Heritage, Lord, I claim no other, but to obey thy word.
58 Heart-deep my supplication before thee for the mercies thou hast promised.
59 Have I not planned out my path, turned aside to follow thy decrees?
60 Haste such as mine can brook no delay in carrying out all thy bidding.
61 Hemmed in by the snares which sinners laid for me, never was I forgetful of thy law.
62 Hearken when I rise at dead of night to praise thee for thy just dealings.
63 How well I love the souls that fear thee, and are true to thy trust!
64 How thy mercy fills the earth, Lord! Teach me to do thy will.
65 In fulfilment of thy promise, Lord, what kindness thou hast shewn thy servant!
66 Inspire, instruct me still; all my hope is in thy covenant.
67 Idly I strayed till thou didst chasten me; no more shall thy warnings go unheeded.
68 Indeed, indeed thou art gracious; teach me to do thy bidding.
69 In vain my oppressors plot against me; thy will is all my quest.
70 Inhuman hearts, curdled with scorn! For me, thy law is enough.
71 It was in mercy thou didst chasten me, schooling me to thy obedience.
72 Is not the law thou hast given dearer to me than rich store of gold and silver?
73 Jealous for the handiwork thou hast made, teach me to understand thy commandments.
74 Joy shall be theirs, thy true worshippers, to see the confidence I have in thy word.
75 Just are thy awards; I know well, Lord, it was in faithfulness thou didst afflict me.
76 Judge me no more; pity and comfort thy servant as thou hast promised.
77 Judge me no more; pardon and life for one that loves thy will!
78 Just be their fall, who wrong me scornfully; thy law is all my study.
79 Joined to my company be every soul that worships thee and heeds thy warnings.
80 Jealously let my heart observe thy bidding; let me not hope in vain.
81 Keeping watch for thy aid, my soul languishes, yet I trust in thy word.
82 Keeping watch for the fulfilment of thy promise, my eyes languish for comfort still delayed.
83 Kitchen-smoke shrivels the wine-skin; so waste I, yet never forget thy will.
84 Knowest thou not how short are thy servant’s days? Soon be my wrongs redressed.
85 Knaves will be plotting against me still, that are no friends to thy law.
86 Knaves they are that wrong me; bring aid, as thy covenant stands unchanging.
87 Keep thy bidding I would, though small hope of life they had left me.
88 Kind as thou ever wert, preserve me; then utter thy bidding, and I will obey.
89 Lord, the word thou hast spoken stands ever unchanged as heaven.
90 Loyal to his promise, age after age, is he who made the enduring earth.
91 Long as time lasts, these shall stand, obeying thy decree, Master of all.
92 Lest I should sink in my affliction, thou hast given thy covenant to be my comfort.
93 Life-giving are thy commands, never by me forgotten.
94 Lend me thy aid, for thine I am, and thy bidding is all my quest.
95 Let sinners go about to destroy me, I wait on thy will.
96 Look where I may, all good things must end; only thy law is wide beyond measure.
97 My delight, Lord, is in thy bidding; ever my thoughts return to it.
98 Musing still on thy commandments, I have grown more prudent than my enemies.
99 More wisdom have I than all my teachers, so well have I pondered thy decrees.
100 More learning have I than my elders, I that hold true to thy charge.
101 Mindful of thy warnings, I guide my steps clear of every evil path.
102 Meek under thy tuition, thy will I keep ever in view.
103 Meat most appetizing are thy promises; never was honey so sweet to my taste.
104 Made wise by thy law, I shun every path of evil-doing.
105 No lamp like thy word to guide my feet, to shew light on my path.
106 Never will I retract my oath to give thy just commands observance.
107 Nothing, Lord, but affliction, never the saving help thou didst promise me?
108 Nay, Lord, accept these vows of mine; teach me to do thy bidding.
109 Needs must I carry my life in my hands, yet am I ever mindful of thy law.
110 Nearly the snares of the wicked caught my feet, yet would I not swerve from thy obedience.
111 Now and ever thy covenant is my prize, is my heart’s comfort.
112 Now and ever to do thy will perfectly is my heart’s aim.
113 Out upon the men that play traitor to the law I love!
114 Other defence, other shield have I none; in thy law I trust.
115 Out of my path, lovers of wrong; I will keep my God’s commandments.
116 Only let thy promised aid preserve me; do not disappoint me of the hope I cherish.
117 Only do thou sustain me in safety, looking ever to thy will.
118 Obey thee who will not, shall earn thy disdain; idle is all their scheming.
119 Outcasts they are that profane the land with wrong; for me, thy law is enough.
120 Overcome is my whole being with the fear of thee; I am adread of thy judgements.
121 Protect the justice of my cause; never leave me at the mercy of my oppressors.
122 Pledge thyself still to befriend me; save me from the oppression of my enemies.
123 Pining away, I look for thy saving help, the faithful keeping of thy promises.
124 Pity thy own servant, and teach him thy decrees.
125 Perfect in thy own servant’s heart the knowledge of thy will.
126 Put off the hour, Lord, no more; too long thy commandment stands defied.
127 Precious beyond gold or jewel I hold thy law.
128 Prized be every decree of thine; forsworn be every path of evil-doing.
129 Right wonderful thy decrees are, hard to read, and well my heart heeds them.
130 Revelation and light thy words disclose to the simple.
131 Rises ever a sigh from my lips as I long after thy covenant.
132 Regard and pity me, as thou hast pity for all that love thy name.
133 Rule thou my path as thou hast promised; never be wrong-doing my master.
134 Rescue me from man’s oppression, to wait henceforth on thy bidding.
135 Restore to thy servant the smile of thy living favour, and teach him to know thy will.
136 Rivers of tears flow from my eyes, to see thy law forgotten.
137 So just, Lord, thou art, thy awards so truly given!
138 Strict justice and utter faithfulness inspire all thy decrees.
139 Stung by love’s jealousy, I watch my enemies defy thy bidding.
140 Shall not I, thy servant, love thy promises, tested and found true?
141 Still despised and disinherited, I do not forget thy charge.
142 Stands thy faithfulness eternally, thy law for ever changeless.
143 Sorrow and distress have fallen on me; in thy commandments is all my comfort.
144 Sentence eternal is thy decree; teach me the wisdom that brings life.
145 Thy audience, Lord, my whole heart claims, a heart true to thy trust.
146 To thee I cry, O grant deliverance; I will do all thy bidding.
147 Twilight comes, and I awake to plead with thee, hoping ever in thy promises.
148 Through the night my eyes keep watch, to ponder thy sayings.
149 Thine, Lord, to listen in thy mercy, and grant life according to thy will.
150 Treacherous foes draw near, that are strangers to thy covenant.
151 Thou, Lord, art close at hand; all thy awards are true.
152 Taught long since by thy decrees, I know well thou hast ordained them everlastingly.
153 Unblessed is my lot; look down and rescue me, that still am mindful of thy law.
154 Uphold my cause, and deliver me; true to thy promise, grant me life.
155 Unknown thy mercy to the sinner that defies thy bidding.
156 Unnumbered, Lord, are thy blessings; as thy will is, grant me life.
157 Under all the assaults of my oppressors, I keep true to thy charge.
158 Unhappy I, that watch thy warnings to the sinner go unheeded!
159 Up, Lord, and witness the love I bear thy covenant; in thy mercy bid me live!
160 Unchanging truth is thy word’s fountain-head, eternal the force of thy just decrees.
161 Vexed by the causeless malice of princes, my heart still dreads thy warnings.
162 Victors rejoice not more over rich spoils, than I in thy promises.
163 Villainy I abhor and renounce; thy law is all my love.
164 Votive thanks seven times a day I give thee for the just awards thou makest.
165 Very great peace is theirs who love thy law; their feet never stumble.
166 Valiantly, Lord, I wait on thee for succour, keeping ever true to thy charge.
167 Vanquished by great love, my heart is ever obedient to thy will.
168 Vigilantly I observe precept and bidding of thine, living always as in thy sight.
169 Wilt thou not admit my cry, Lord, to thy presence, and grant me thy promised gift of wisdom?
170 Wilt thou not countenance my plea, redeem thy pledge to deliver me?
171 What praise shall burst from my lips, when thou makest known thy will!
172 What hymns of thankfulness this tongue shall raise to the author of all just decrees!
173 Wouldst thou but lift thy hand to aid me, that take my stand on thy covenant!
174 Weary it is, Lord, waiting for deliverance, but thy law is my comfort.
175 When will thy just award grant redress, that I may live to praise thee?
176 Wayward thou seest me, like a lost sheep; come to look for thy servant, that is mindful still of thy bidding.
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
There are various approaches to the translation of the Greek theos, the Latin Deus, and the Hebrew elohim or el that are translated as “God” in English. Click or tap here to see more.
While some of the main language groups of European languages have the origin of their translations go back to somewhat nebulous sources (see below), many other languages use a translation that can be more easily traced back to its original meaning.
Click or tap here to see the translations by many Germanic, Romance, or Slavic languages.
Eugene Nida (1947, p. 204ff.) provided a theoretical framework for ways to select a translation for “God.” (Click or tap here to see)
“The name for God in an aboriginal language is one of the keystones to the entire theological structure and Bible teaching. The problem is by no means as simple as it may at first appear. Some translators, not finding in the pagan religious system, exactly the word which they think appropriate, have introduced a foreign name for God, e.g. Spanish Dios or English God. They have thought that such a word would have prestige because it comes from the language of a culturally dominant group. The fact that such a borrowed word seems to have no bad connotations appears to justify its use. It is assumed that the native people will automatically come to understand by the borrowed word for ‘God’ exactly what we understand by the same term. The translator has counted upon taking a word with zero meaning and giving it the proper content. This is not so easily done as imagined. In almost every case the native will immediately try to equate this new name of God with one of the gods of his own religious system. Since all people attempt to understand the unknown in terms of the known, it will not be very long before the natives will have worked out what seems to them a perfectly consistent equivalent for the new term.
“On the other hand, the translator may attempt to use some native word for ‘God’ which seems applicable. A further investigation may reveal that there are many characteristics which are given to this god in native legend which are quite inconsistent with Biblical truth. The translator’s examination must be thorough, for he does not want to run the risk of using a term which does not contain at least the central core of meaning which is essential.
“The translator should not be fearful of using a native word for ‘God.’ He should remember that in terms of the native culture the Greek word theos, the Latin deus, and the Gothic guþ could hardly be termed exact equivalents to the concept of God as taught in the Bible. Nevertheless, these terms did possess the essential core of meaning. It is interesting to note that they are generic terms. In no case were they the names of one particular god. The use of names such as Zeus, Jupiter, or Woden would not have been wise, for these specific names included a great deal of legend as to the individual peculiarities, excesses, and immoral actions of the particular gods. In the generic terms, however, there existed enough of the fundamental core of religious significance that they have been used successfully. In Greek, theos designated any god. In the plural it could be used to include all the gods. In the Bible this generic term is used and made to apply specifically to only one God. The Christians took a term which designated any important supernatural entity and by context and teaching made it apply to only one such entity. Where this same situation exists in another culture, there is no reason for believing that this process could not be repeated, and with good results.
“In choosing the name for God it is important to consider the usage of the trade language. Very frequently the native church is assimilated into the church group speaking the trade language or the national language. The native church also draws much of its leadership from among those who speak the trade language. A similar name for God is valuable, but it is not absolutely essential.”
Following are examples of what Nida above considers “native words.” (Click or tap here to see)
Lakota: Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka (“the universal spiritual power” — source: Steve Berneking in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 119 — click or tap here to see more)
“The Lakota translators have intentionally chosen to use the traditional Lakota name of the Deity instead of the name ‘God.’ Past missionary movements across North America have colonized Indian people to assume that the word ‘God’ is the appropriate gloss for traditional understandings of the Deity. Even more troubling, the waves of violence — physical, social, and psychological — were more often than not carried out in the name of ‘God.’ In an intentional strike against this violence (…) these Lakota translators are using the name Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka. Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka is the universal spiritual power, sometimes wrongly rendered in English ‘Creator’ or ‘Great Spirit.’ In Lakota spirituality, however, Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka is not personified with any name. What Christians would refer to as ‘God’ is understood as a spiritual force or energy that permeates all of creation and is manifest in numerous ways in the world around us at any given moment and in any given place. So, to assume that the name ‘God’ is an appropriate gloss to translate Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka fully and culturally not only reflects some latent ‘imperial’ attitude, it also negates and oppresses the deep understanding of Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka for the Lakota people. Therefore, the choice of the Lakota translators to bring Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka into the biblical text is an attempt to heal and to reconcile the brokenness in the history of their people.”
Ebira: Ohomorihi (“the great one that makes the rain” — as farmers the Ebira people depend on rain made by God for survival) (Source: David O Moomo in Scriptura 88 (2005), p. 151ff. )
Northwestern Ojibwa: Kishemanitoo (“the Great Spirit”) (Donald Hekman in Notes on Translation 1999, p. 17ff.)
Mohawk: Rawenní:io: “Supreme Being,””Great Spirit,” or “God”
Kamo: Yamba, which is the capitalized form of yamba) which means “sky/heaven” (source: David Frank)
Ap Ma: Yamom (“the creator” — click or tap here to see more)
“Yamom is the creator. He made the trees and everything else we see in the world around us. There is no tradition as to where Yamom lives, and he is never seen. ‘We do not know him directly. We know only that he was in his own place and at his word everything was created. A person might sit somewhere and reflect, ‘How could such a thing as a coconut tree grow out of that nut?’ The answer is that these things that people could never do could only have been done by Yamom. Yamom is sometimes referred to as Yadima, which means ‘word’ or ‘story.’ It is a kind of euphemism so that one doesn’t have to say the real name. There is a feeling that if the name is used carelessly, the person may experience some kinds of problems. According to the traditional culture, Yamom himself never gave anyone direct messages. However, the konim ‘spirits,’ would sometimes mention him: ‘Yamom says the rains are coming,’ or ‘Yamom says the eels are coming.'”
Keapara: palagu (“God” or “spirit of humanness” — click or tap here to see more)
“Apart from the meaning ‘God,’ palagu is used in ordinary speech to mean something like ‘spirit of humanness.’ Each person is born with their own palagu, and this is what makes them able to become mature human beings. If the palagu leaves a person, then that person will begin to act in strange ways. In this way it is rather like the English word ‘mind.’ There is a special concern for babies, because the palagu of a baby is easily separated from the baby. When preparing to give a baby a bath, or if a person is carrying a baby under big trees, or at night, people are often encouraged to call out Kivani palaguna O, onove rake kaumai — ‘Baby’s spirit, come after us.’ If the baby’s palagu does not come, then the baby will become very fussy and difficult. The family must then try to figure out how to get the palagu to come back. Perhaps they will pray. There is often a feeling that something has gone wrong within the family, and this must be straightened out before the baby’s palagu will return.”
Mbandja: Chuchu (the traditional maker of world and mankind — click or tap here to see more)
“People claim that he made the world and mankind. What is more, he likes mankind. But his people did not like him. To escape from him, they ran away and have practically forgotten about him, though he has never forgotten about them. Here, embedded in the legends of the people, lies the truth which the missionary may use. He may show the people how far they have wandered from God and how He has not forgotten about them. In fact, He sent His Son in order that He might reconcile them to Himself.”
Kovai: Yoba Maro (variant of Molo, a traditional cultural hero)
Misima-Panaeati: Yabowaine (traditional god who lives in the sky and helps with journeys or fights)
Zimakani: ‘Bi’bukia’mene (“True supernatural being” — source for this and above: Norm Mundhenk in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 215ff. — click or tap here to see more)
In Zimakani there were supernatural beings called ‘bi’buki. The stars are among the ‘bi’buki, as are the sun and moon. Kau was the traditional god of the Zimakani, their ancestral folk hero. They would say Kau is our ‘bi’buki. Using this term as a base, a form ‘Bi’bukia’mene was developed. It means ‘The True (masculine, singular) ‘bi’buki‘ This is the term being used for ‘God.'”
Matigsalug Manobo: Manama — Traditionally known as creator of the lesser gods as well the earth
Thai: phra’ cao (พระเจ้า) (“Divine Lord”) (Phra’ cao is also used to refer to the king in Thailand; source: Stephen Pattemore — see also pronoun for “God”).
Bacama: Həmɨnpwa: “king of up” (“In pre-Christian days, this was the name for the highest among the gods. Sometimes the shorter form Pwa is used.” Source: David Frank in this blog post )
Giziga: Bumbulvuŋ — “derived from the phrase Buy mulvuŋ, meaning ‘chief of spirits of ancestors.'”
North Mofu: Bay’ərlam — “also meaning ‘chief of spirits of ancestors.'” (Source for this and above: Michel Kenmogne in Noss 2007, p. 381f.)
Tiv: Aondo — “sky” — created the earth and everything within it (source )
Dholuo / Logooli / Gusii: Nyasaye (Gusii: Nyasae): “The fertility that comes through pleading” (note that this origin is disputed; source: Jim Harries)
Northern Ngbandi: Nzapa — Nzapa is the traditional creator and the ultimate cause of all things. He rarely intervenes directly in the affairs of men but has created the spirits and they are his messengers and workers here below, interfering, meddling, or assisting in the details of life. The ancestral spirits in particular are important in the government of society. The Ngbandis speak of Nzapa saying, “Nzapa is there above everything.” He is indeed conceived of as being quite detached and disinterested in his creation. — Source: Quentin Nelson in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 145ff. )
Toraja-Sa’dan: Puang Matua, an indigenous term with the meaning of “the Lord enthroned in the midst of the firmament,” a supreme being with other gods under him. In Christian meaning today the one and only God. (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21ff. )
Konkomba: Uwonbɔr or Uwumbɔr — Uwonbɔr is an “ancient God of a bygone era and distant dreams, who no longer had any relationship with the tribe. Uwonbɔr was the creator of everything: heaven and earth, and the first family. At first he was very close to earth but then, according to the Konkombas, ‘One of our ancestors committed a wicked deed and because of that offence Uwonbɔr no longer wishes to be God of the Konkombas.’ The details of that terrible crime have long since been forgotten, but because of it Uwonbɔr went far away and took heaven with him. There was no way back to meet Uwonbɔr any more, so the people had to seek other ways of minimising the suffering caused by his absence.” (Source: Lidorio 2007, p. 21)
Lamba: ŵaLesa — the prefix ŵa is a plural form for “proper names when addressing and referring to persons in any position of seniority or honor.” While this was avoided in early translations to avoid possible misunderstandings of more than one God, once the church was established it was felt that it was both “safe” and respectful to use the honorific (pl.) prefix. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)
Ngaju: Hatalla — the name of the the male part of the supreme male/female god of the indigenous Kaharingan religion . (See Hermonogenes Ugang in The Bible Translator 1987, p. 433ff. about this somewhat controversial choice.) The Ma’anyan New Testament uses a parallel choice with Alatalla. The Ma’anyans traditionally are also followers of Kaharingan.
Yala: Ɔwɔ — this term traditionally covered the following semantic areas: spirit; creator and ultimate cause of everything; father of all; Male counterpart of aje; related to aje as a husband is to a wife; above all other spiritual powers; gives or withholds rain; gives each person a special gift at birth; knows everything; watches over the world with an all-seeing eye; sky (source: Eugene Bunkowske in The Bible Translator 1977, p. 226ff. )
“During my early years as translation consultant with the Bible Society in South America, I had the privilege of checking the translation of the New Testament into the Maquiritari language spoken in south-western Venezuela. As we neared the completion of that New Testament. I began to feel increasingly uneasy about the word for ‘God,’ Diyo, which the team was using. Each time I voiced my concern about the fact that the name was borrowed from a European language and not a Maquiritari name, the translators assured me that they too, felt uncomfortable about that name, but that there was nothing they could do about it, because the Maquiritari language just did not have an adequate word. There was, they said, a culture hero called Wanaadi. He was spoken of as having done some of the things the Bible ascribes to God, but he was also the ‘lyingest,’ ‘cheatingest’ and most immoral character in tribal folklore and hence totally unfit for the divine name in the Bible.
“When we had completed checking the New Testament I still could not shake off my uneasiness about the divine name, so I asked that the team take several months to pray and to listen carefully to see if there really was no local name for God that could be used. I promised that if after three months of honest search on their part, they did not turn up an adequate answer. 1 would authorize the printing of the New Testament using the loanword Diyo to express God.
“Before two months had passed I received an excited letter. The translators, true to their promise, had accompanied a team of evangelists to a remote corner of Maquiritariland. The evangelists preached and taught and the translators listened. To the surprise of the translators the evangelists, all Maquiritari church elders, dropped the name Diyo and preached only about Wanaadi as soon as they got into the previously unevangelized area. The trip lasted several weeks and during the whole time the name Diyo was never used.
“On the way home the translators confronted the evangelists with the question: ‘How come you always used the name Wanaadi among these people while in our churches at home you always use Diyo to speak about God?’
“The answer: ‘These people know no Spanish, so they have never heard the name Dios or Diyo. The only name for God they know is Wanaadi.’
“’But what about all the deception and all the acts of immorality which Wanaadi committed? How could he be the God of the Bible?’
“The answer: ‘Oh, those things? Don’t you know that they are all bad gossip stories that the devil invented so that the people would not follow Wanaadi‘s way?’
“With one bold stroke a whole tribal mythology of the now ‘bad’ stories about Wanaadi had been reinterpreted. And the end result was that the church decided to use Wanaadi rather than Diyo to express God in the New Testament about to be printed.
Ajië: Bao (“a spirit,” “an ancestor,” or “a corpse” — source: Clifford, p. 79-91 — click or tap here to see more)
Maurice Leenhardt, the missionary and translator in charge of the first and only Ajië translation “believed at first that the Melanesian experience of Divinity could be brought directly over into Christianity. In 1905 he began experimenting with using bao (a spirit, an ancestor, or corpse) to clarify in the native language the ‘visions’ spoken of in the Gospels. (…) The Christian God had to appropriate the essence of Melanesian spirits by taking possession of their generic name, Bao. (…) [Leenhardt wrote to his father in 1913:] If Jehovah is really that which is visible since the creation then the pagans must have an obscure revelation of God at the heart of their beliefs. This is a minimum of experiences upon which the preaching of the Gospel can be based, And this we shouldn’t reject the entire jumble of their gods in order to give them a new god with a foreign name; rather we should search for the word in their language, even the strangest word, into which can be translated the visible experience of God. (…) The bao concept would have to be reunderstood, not as a generic term but capitalized, as a personal name. (…) Leenhardt was encouraged by his discovery that bao had always been a highly adaptable concept. It could apply not merely to a corpse, recent ancestor, or magical divinity, but its masculine ‘power’ could sometimes fuse spontaneously with feminine-totemic principle of life. (…) In adopting the language of totemic myth to evoke the Christian Bao (…) Leenhardt in effect broadened the God of European orthodoxy in two crucial ways. In translating his deity, the missionary made ‘Him’ more androgynous, a totem-bao of feminine ‘life’ as well as of masculine power.”
Ngäbere: Ngöbö (source: Nida 152, p. 37f. — click or tap here to see more)
Nida tells this story: “Frequently the translator is indebted to pagan shamans for some of the most important terms. For years Efrain Alphonse tried to find the Ngäbere name for ‘God.’ Many of the people did not know the word, and others refused to give it. Though there was a belief in a beneficent Creator, His name was too sacred to be known by the uninitiated. On one occasion, Mr. Alphonse went with some of his Ngäbe helpers to visit an old medicine woman back in the recesses of the tropical forest of Bocas del Toro. After being ushered into the presence of this greatly revered (…) woman, they answered at length the many questions she asked. Finally she began to chant and sing and as her voice rose higher and higher, she shouted out in trance-like ecstacy so that all could hear, ‘These men are talking about Ngöbö, the God of heaven and earth, Listen to them!’ There was the name ‘Ngöbö,’ the very word which Mr. Alphonse had been seeking for so many years. It came from the lips of a native diviner and sorceress, but all agreed that this was the name of God, and throughout the years it has been used by the Ngäbe Christians.”
Gbaya: sõ (originally: “to ooze; to anoint, to rub on” also “spirit” later “god” and finally a proper name for “God” — source: Noss, Current Tends 2002, p. 157ff. — click or tap here to see more)
“When the Gbaya translator of the Bible, like the Protestant and Catholic missionaries who first translated Scripture texts into Gbaya, adopts the traditional term for God, what does this mean theologically? The issue is not whether this term fits into the broad sweep of African Traditional Religion as it is referred to by modem African theologians, but what kind of God is this? The noun sõ may be derived from the verb so which means ‘to ooze; to anoint, to rub on.’ This term, which may have a basic meaning similar to ‘spirit,’ has come to be used as the equivalent of ‘god’ and as a proper name for ‘God.’ Folk etymology explains that this word depicts the unique power of God in that he created himself like sap oozing from the trunk of a tree. This God is the Creator God who created Adam and Eve and who also created the Gbaya ancestors. To the Gbaya this is YHWH of the Old Testament. (…) The theological implications of this practice are two-fold. First, the use of a vernacular term offers legitimacy to traditional beliefs. Secondly, there may appear to be a clash between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the translated text if the traditional term is retained (…) Lamin Sanneh observes two possible explanations with regard to this issue (1988:18). The first is that what any one language may say may not totally describe God; the second is that all languages may be inherently inadequate with regard to religious truth. Gbaya readers interpret the translated text in the light of tradition and transmitted knowledge. Adam and Eve are seen against the backdrop of the folklore heroes, Wanto and his wife Laaiso. Like Adam and Eve, Wanto and Laaiso are archetypes of humankind whose descendants pay the price of their misdeeds in those ancient times of the beginning. Just as Adam and Eve suffer the consequences of their deeds and are deprived of their pristine garden, so also Wanto and Laaiso lose the paradise that is created for them by an unknown benefactor of Gbaya myth.”
“If we take an African example and consider the Akan of Ghana we see that they recognize Onyame or Onyankopon as the supreme God. Both of these names are personal and cannot be pluralized, but they also recognize the abosom, called idols or fetishes in the earlier dictionaries, but now called god/gods by Akan scholars. A is the prefix which pluralizes a root, bo means ‘stone’ or rock’ and som means ‘to worship.’ Thus the word as a whole literally means ‘rock things people worship.’ While the above example is from a single tribal society, the model it presents is duplicated in many, if not most West African societies. In such situations, the local word ‘gods’ will probably cover the domain of two Hebrew words gods and idols.”
Northern Indian languages including Hindi, Nepali, Assamese, and Bengali use “Ishwar (Assamese: ঈশ্বৰ, Bengali: ঈশ্বর) or Param-Ishwar (“Supreme Ishwar”) (Hindi and Bengali: परमेश्वर). “This is a term used widely in Hindu scriptures in different senses. It is mainly used as a title, usually associated with the Hindu god ‘Siva.’ But there are passages in some scriptures where Ishwar is used as a name of a personal god who is the maker or master of the universe.”
Southern Indian languages tend to use Deva, “another term tor a divine being. But this is not a personal name: it is a term to refer to any divine being, of which there are plenty in the Hindu pantheon. The term means ‘respectable or glorious being,’ so it has a positive sense.” Languages include Gujarati: દેવ, Kannada: ದೇವರ, Marathi: देव, Malayalam: ദൈവം, Tamil தேவன், Telugu దేవుడు (source for this and above: B. Rai in The Bible Translator 1992, p. 443ff. and Hooper, p. 86f.). This term is also used in some Indonesian languages: Sangir and Batak Toba: Debata (source: Rosin, p. 200)
“The word is Polynesian, although it has long been used in parts of Melanesia too. In Polynesia, it originally had various meanings, many of which were very distant from the Christian meaning. In the first place there are countless atuas, while the Christian God is one only, even though He be a Trinity in Unity — and that difficulty would have to be faced later. But at bottom an atua is only a spirit, not necessarily masculine, or good or powerful, and certainly a very poor foundation for conveying the Christian concept of God. The term atua is applied to gods possessing personal names, as well as to ancestral spirits and even to dead chiefs. In many ways its coverage corresponds to that of kami in Japanese. In Samoa one could even speak of an atua of war, thunder, etc. Yet this term atua has been employed everywhere in Polynesia by all the missions, from the first efforts of the London Missionary Society up to the present time.” (Source: A. Capell in The Bible Translator 1969, 154ff.)
See here for a representation of “Atua” by Māori artist Darryn George.
The Indonesian “Tuhan,” which is also used in Malay and Urak Lawoi’ (as Tuhat) possibly derives from atua as well (source: Stephen Pattemore)
The Mongolian Bible uses two, competing translations: burhan (Бурхан) — “Buddha” or Yertentsin Ezen (Ертөнцийн Эзэн) — “Master of the Universe.” (Source Daud Soesilio in Noss 2007, p. 179; click or tap here to see more)
“There has been significant disagreement within the Mongolian Christian community regarding the correct terms to use for the name of God and other key theological terms. The first Mongolian meaning-based New Testament, published in 1990, uses a composite name for God, Yertentsin Ezen, which translates literally as ‘Master of the Universe.’ Their conviction was that new Christians should not be confused into equating the biblical God with Buddha, through use of the local term burhan ‘Buddha’ (Bur means burhesen or ‘covered, everything, the whole universe’; and han means ‘king/ruler’). (…) However, another group that prepared a formal-equivalence Bible in Mongolian, first published in 2000, insisted that the local term burhan is suitable to refer to the biblical God. (For more, see also this statement of the Bible Society of Mongolia )
The Seediq term Utux Baraw is a combination of the traditional word for “spirit” (utux) and “above” (see also the entry for Seediq in tetragrammaton (YHWH)). Likewise, the term of the neighboring Atayal is Utux Kayal (“Spirit of the Sky”). (Source: Covell 1998, p. 246)
The Nyarafolo Senoufo term Kulocɛliɛ is the proper name of the traditional supreme God. David DeGraaf (in: Notes on Translation 3/1999, p. 34ff.) explains some of the considerations of using that name (click or tap here to see more)
“In Nyarafolo, the term that of necessity must be used to translate ‘elohim (when its referent is the creator God) is Kulocɛliɛ. Although this is a proper name, there is really no other term in the language available. [Problems that required workarounds for that solution included that] Kulocɛliɛ could not be possessed or pluralized. Like the moon, Kulocɛliɛ is both distant and unique in the universe. Thus, it makes no more sense to talk of ‘your Kulocɛliɛ’ or ‘the Kulocɛliɛ of Abraham’ than it does to talk of ‘your moon’ or ‘the moon of Abraham’.'”
Adoptions of terms from other languages
Translations of God with loan words (what Nida above styles as “introduction of a foreign name for God”) include the following. (Click or tap here to see)
The term used for God is Allah or some variation of this word in most predominantly Muslim regions in the Middle East (Arabic, Pashto, Urdu, Dari, etc.), but also in other Muslim parts of the world as a loan word from Arabic, including in Wolof (Yàlla), Kpelle (Ɣâla), Hausa and Pulaar (Allah), Malay, Crimean Tatar (Алла) and Indonesian (Allah — depending on the version sometimes for YHWH and in exchange with Tuhan — see Atua above — click or tap here to see more)
Reasons for using Allah include that “the loan word Allah is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew names of God El, Elohim, Eloah in the Hebrew Old Testament;” that “Arab Christians from before the dawn of Islam have been praying to Allah, and Allah was used by Christian theologians writing in Arabic. So the Christian usage of Allah is actually older than Islam;” “Allah is the word used for ‘God’ in all Arabic versions of the Bible;” “Christians in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and other places in Asia and Africa where the languages are in contact with Arabic, have almost all been using the word Allah as the Creator God and the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Source: D. Soesilo in The Bible Translator 2001: p. 414ff., reproduced online here .)
A number of languages in predominantly Spanish-speaking areas are using forms of Spanish Dios, including Tojolabal (Dyosi), Poqomchi’ (Tiox), Chol (Dios), Quetzaltepec Mixe (Tios), Kekchí, K’iche’ (all: Dios) (Source: Robert Bascom). Ottman (p. 130) shows that in the 16th century the use of Dios in materials for Classical Nahuatl equated with a proper name for “God”: “The new God not only has the proper name of ‘Dios,’ rather than ‘God,’ in accordance with the almost universal practice of the Church in the Spanish Indies, but is not always referred to as a ‘god’ at all, as if the word were irretrievably contaminated by its association with the old deities.”
A number of languages in Papua New Guinea use the English “God” and the German “Gott” (dating back to the German occupation of PNG in the late 19th and early 20th centuries), including Tok Pisin / Waboda / Mussau-Emira: God, West Kewa: Gote, Goto, Onobasulu: Gode, Bamu, and Yagaria: Godi (Source: Norm Mundhenk in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 215ff.). Other languages with Bible translations that use the German “Gott” under the influence of German missionaries include Arawak in Suriname (source: Jabini 2015, p. 21).
The traditional Kâte term Anutu was adopted by a number of other languages in Papua New Guinea: Adzera: Anutu; Dedua: Anutu; Nukna: Ánutu — source: Norm Mundhenk in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 215ff.) — click or tap here to see more)
“‘Anutu’ — despite his apparent insignificance in the mythological system — could not be placated by humans. ….Thus, although the … name Anutu had several variations and was understood in several ways, it was apparently for the Kâte people, living in the cradle of the Lutheran Mission, the most acceptable translation for ‘the Lord’ or ‘God.’ (…) Kâte was selected by the early Lutheran missionaries working in the area to serve as a church lingua franca. As the Lutheran church spread through the Finisterre Mountains and on into the Highlands, the Kâte language went along. God therefore became known in all of these areas as Anutu. In areas where the Lutherans remain strong, the name Anutu tends to be used even today. In other areas, such as among the Melpa speakers around Mount Hagen, many Lutherans continue to use Anutu, but this name has not been acceptable to Christians of other denominations. On the other hand, Anutu is still used in the Baiyer River area, north of Mount Hagen, even though most Christians in the area are now Baptist rather than Lutheran.”
The Bunun term kamisama is a loan word from the JapaneseKami-sama (神様) that was adopted during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. (Source: Covell 1998, p. 246)
Translations of attributes of God for a translation of “God”
A translation principle not described by Nida is the translation of “God” with descriptive terms. Following are some examples. (Click or tap here to see)
Pirahã: Baíxi Hioóxio (“Up-High Father”) (source: Everett 2008, p. 265)
Samo: oye ayo (“our authority person”) (source: Source: Shaw / Van Engen 2003. p. 178) — click or tap here to see more)
Daniel Shaw explains the genesis of this term: “Eventually I discovered the concept of the ayo, of the oldest among a group of brothers who lived in a longhouse. This was a benevolent, caring man who was never in charge but always in control — a traffic director for the entire household. They spoke of him as ‘the authority person.’ When combined with an all-inclusive possessive pronoun this term eventually became the term we used for God — oye ayo, ‘our authority person.’ When extended to all the people who ‘sleep in all the places of the earth’ (a way to communicate “the world”) the Samo began to appreciate God in a whole new way, in relationship to themselves and to their enemies. The relationship between the ayo and those in a longhouse reflected a strong, caring concern for everyone in the household — ‘love.’ For the Samo, a very practical, down to earth people surviving in a hostile environment, belief was a matter of experience. How do they know something is true? They see it, hear it, feel it! In short, they experience truth. This has profound implications far beyond trying to translate John 3:16. It relates to the broader context of all of John chapter 3, including Nicodemus’s awe of Christ and Israel’s experience with the brass serpent in the desert, particular experiences tied to the history of a specific people in a particular time and place. More broadly, it is about how humans experience God.”
Translations of “God” in maturing contexts
In some cases it took failed attempts before finding the “right” translation for “God.” (Click or tap here to see)
“When the first missionaries, teachers, and catechists came to the Huli country in the 1950s, they may have done some investigation of the Huli worldview before they began to preach.
“But they apparently did not find any obvious local word for ‘God,’ and they began teaching the people about ‘Ngode,’ a Huli-ized form of the English name. In recent years some Huli people have suggested that in fact the Huli did have their own name for God: ‘Datagaliwabe.’
“This led the missionaries of both the Evangelical Church of Papua and of the Roman Catholic Church to investigate the matter more carefully. It soon became clear that there was a traditional figure with the name Datagaliwabe who was still talked about by the Huli people.
“According to traditional Huli belief, Datagaliwabe lives up above the clouds in a place called Dahuliya andaga. This is in fact the term which has been used to translate ‘heaven’ in the Huli Bible. Datagaliwabe is very concerned about how people act. People know what is right, but they often act in ways that they know are not right. When they do this, Datagaliwabe may punish them. He is able to know what people are doing wherever they are. It is not possible to hide one’s actions from him or to deceive him. If a person wants to get away from one of the evil spirits, one can always run away to another area. One cannot run away from Datagaliwabe.
Before Huli people became Christian, they were very much afraid of powerful spirits who could do much to harm them, such as causing sickness. It was important to make offerings to appease these spirits and to keep them on one’s good side.
Datagaliwabe was not like these evil spirits who had to be ‘paid’ in order to get their help. One never made offerings to him. Therefore he must be God.
“In times of sickness or trouble, people would sometimes call out, ‘Father Datagaliwabe, help me.’ All of these traditional beliefs certainly supported the possible connection of Datagaliwabe with God. On the other hand, there was at least one problem. For the Huli, Datagaliwabe was not the creator. The old Huli stories said that it was the Sun (Ni) who created the world. This seemed to be a relatively small point that could easily be dealt with. The most serious problem seemed in fact to be that Christians were used to calling God Ngode.
“Would they be willing to change? The translation of the Old Testament was in process while this investigation was going on, so the matter was discussed in detail by the checking team, which included representatives of almost all of the major churches working in the area. Most of the group felt that it was willing to give Datagaliwabe a chance. As books were being completed, it was the policy of the team to publish trial editions. So for several years an experiment was conducted, using both Ngode and Datagaliwabe together in the text. Readers were told that they were not supposed to read both names, but to choose whichever one they preferred.
“In the meantime, a more serious problem surfaced. Representatives from one of the churches on the edge of the language argued that in their area Datagaliwabe has other characteristics different from those described above, which make it inappropriate to use this name as a name for God. As the time for publication of the Bible neared, it was clearly necessary to make a choice. At first, different churches made different choices, and it looked as though the Bible Society might be put in the unhappy position of having to publish separate editions with different names for God. However, as the Huli people thought about the implications of this decision, they themselves realized that some other solution must be found. Representatives from the different churches were invited to another series of meetings, where they were apparently convinced of the importance of finding a single solution that everyone could accept.
“The eventual decision was to continue the practice of the various trial editions, printing both names together in the text, as ‘Ngode Datagaliwabe.'”
“Missionaries working in the Pawaia language reported that the local people had originally been using the word “Got.” However, this name had been confused by the people with “an unsavory character in a legend.” Because of this the missionaries decided to try an expression meaning “The Powerful One.” They say that the term chosen has been accepted by the people.” (Source for this and above: Norm Mundhenk in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 215ff.)
The Basque word for God
Since it’s unclear where Jainko, the Basque word for “God” originated, it doesn’t seem to fit into any of the above categories. One likely expanation is that it’s a contraction from Jaungoikoa, itself a portmanteau from jaun “lord” and goiko “who is on high.” (Source: Blas Pedro Uberuaga)
The Chinese and the Korean “Term Question”
The translation of the Greek theos and the Hebrew elohim (or in the case of early Catholics, the Latin deus) into Chinese was easily the most passionately discussed translation in the history of Bible translation. (Click or tap here to see)
Jesuit missionaries that had come to China in the late 16th century had to find a Chinese term for “God.” An early Chinese term for “God” was dousi 陡斯, a mere transliteration of the Latin deus, but from 1583 on tianzhu — “Lord of Heaven” — was used. It was seen to be of no or little previous religious coinage. Very soon, though, the leader of the Jesuit mission Matteo Ricci, embraced the terms tian 天 — “heaven” — and shangdi 上帝 he had found the Christian God in Chinese literature. After Ricci’s death this caused conflict in the Catholic mission, because Franciscan and Dominican missionaries understood these terms as too pre-occupied by Chinese notions of religion. The question was eventually brought to Rome during the 1630s. In 1705 and again in 1742 the Vatican forbade the use of these terms. The whole episode is known as one part of the “Question of Rites.” The Catholic church in China today still employs tianzhu 天主for the translation of “God,” clearly shown in the Chinese term for “Catholicism” — tianzhujiao 天主教.
Protestants who arrived much later started to have a similar argument in in 1847, when missionaries of various nationalities and Protestant denominations attempted to have a common Bible version for China. This lead to the greatest controversy of the Protestant mission in China, the “Term Question.”
For them, the most important terms in question were shen 神 and shangdi 上帝.
“The side supporting shen held that it was the only true translation for the biblical ‘God,’ even though it never had had this meaning historically because of the absence of a Chinese monotheistic faith. However, it was comparable to the Greek θεός and the Latin deus in its being a generic term describing the highest class of Chinese gods, including shangdi. This also made it possible to use this term in the plural. For these reasons, shen was held to be the term which could best be adapted to the meaning of the Christian God. Shangdi, on the other hand, was understood as a name rather than a generic term, which could not be used in the plural.
“The other side maintained that the Christian God had revealed himself in ancient China, especially during the time of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1122-255 BC). Belief in him had been set forth even in the Confucian classics, where shangdi was described as the highest deity. Shangdi was regarded in Chinese mythology as the creator of all things, including shen, which in most cases meant ‘spirit’ and in only very rare cases ‘deity,’ although it was used for ‘false gods.’ Shen could not be used for ‘God’ but only for another person of the Trinity, namely the ‘Spirit.’ This final point complicated the matter immensely, and made a compromise much more difficult because the shen advocates had determined ling 灵 to be the right term for Spirit.’
“These few examples only touch the surface of the numerous arguments that were raised from either side. The reasons behind the arguments were of an ideological nature and basic for the understanding of mission work in China. Those who argued for shen were convinced that the Chinese had never known the Christian God, and had therefore no equivalent term to describe him; they believed, however, that shen could grow into a suitable term. The other side represented an Old Testament belief that God had revealed himself even in China, and had been to some extent known throughout Chinese history. They believed that it was only necessary to ‘reawaken’ the Chinese knowledge of Christianity, whereas the other side had to introduce a whole new concept. In addition, the conflict often also had the appearance of a national struggle, because to a high degree the lines were drawn between British (and German) (pro-shangdi) and American missionaries (pro-shen).
“This conflict resulted in various editions of Bibles being published by the different sides with their respective preferred terminology. A modern analysis of the conflict even reveals a positive aspect of the use of two terms. According to at least one view, one of the terms represents a concept of divine immanence (shen), while the other one represents transcendence (shangdi) which gives the Chinese church an advantage that other churches don’t have.
“The same kind of pragmatism can be found in the fact that the (one character term) shen is typically preceded by a ‘reverential’ space which allowed the printing plates to be used twice by accommodating the (two character term shangdi.” (Source: Zetzsche 1999, p. 83f., 90, 275).
While the Korean translation of God did not develop into as full-blown a conflict as the one in China, it’s still interesting to follow. (Click or tap here to see)
The Protestant translation of elohim and theos in Korean is ha-na-nim 하나님, the supreme deity revered and worshiped by most of the Korean people even when their national religions were Confucianism, Buddhism, or Taoism.” (Source: Min Suk Kee in The Bible Translator 2013, p. 332ff.)
According to Ahn (2011, p. iif.) there “was a significant theological continuity between the Chinese and Korean Term Questions. The Term Question in both China and Korea proceeded on a similar pattern; it was a terminological controversy between an indigenous theistic term (Chinese Shangdi and Korean Ha-na-nim) on the one hand and a neologism (Chinese Tianzhu and the corresponding Korean Ch’on-zhu) or a generic term (Chinese Shen and the corresponding Korean Shin) on the other hand. Central to both Term Questions was the theological issue of whether a primitive monotheism, congruent with Christian belief, had existed among the Chinese and Koreans. It will suggest that whilst those who adhered to a degeneration theory of the history of religions used either Shangti or Ha-na-nim as the name of the God of the Bible, those who rejected the existence of primitive monotheism preferred to use the neologism or the generic term.
“[However], a significant divergence between the Term Question in China and that in Korea. Whereas the Term Question in China became polarized for over three centuries between two equal and opposite parties — between the Jesuits (Shangdi) and the Dominicans-Franciscans (Tianzhu), and later between the Shangdi party and the Shen party in Protestant missions, in Korea it was a short-term argument for three decades between a vast majority (of the Ha-na-nim party) and a small minority (the opponents of Ha-na-nim). (…) The disproportion in Korea in favor of Ha-na-nim was due to the much closer analogy between Ha-na-nim and the Christian trinity, as seen in the Dan-Gun myth [of Ha-na-nim sending his son to earth], than was the case with Shangdi in Chinese religion. For this reason, the thesis concludes by suggesting that the adoption of the indigenous monotheistic term, Ha-na-nim, in a Christian form contributed to the higher rate of growth of the Korean church compared to that of the church in China.”
Kee agrees: “(…) Such a rapid growth of Christianity in Korea should be ascribed to ha-na-nim, the indigenous god deeply rooted and long revered in the hearts of Koreans. Surely, as some evangelists have claimed, the Israelite god was incarnated as ha-na-nim in Korea. Or, to put it the other way round, ‘ha-na-nim was baptized to be born again,’ as Sung Deuk Ok has wittily observed.”
The popularity of ha-na-nim is maybe even more surprising since, unlike the similar Catholic term ha-neu-nim 하느님 for God, it is ungrammatical in Korean. Kee says:
“Reviewing the history of the survival of the name is truly intriguing. We may enjoy the irony which is evident when a logical absurdity no longer matters in the face of purely practical considerations. Ha-na-nim is composed of ha-na and nim. While the latter means ‘dear one’ or ‘lord,’ the tricky problem lies with the first part, ha-na. The earliest form of this is ha-nă or ha-nal meaning ‘heaven,’ which orthographically developed into both ha-nal and ha-neul. When the suffix nim is added, they are spelled, respectively, ha-na-nim (하나님) and ha-neu-nim (하느님), with the phoneme /l/ (ㄹ) omitted, as is common in Korean orthography. Though both mean the same, ‘heavenly lord,’ ha-na-nim was much preferred to ha-neu-nim. This is partly due to a wordplay on ha-na. While it is a shortened form of ha-năl (“heaven”), ha-na by itself, independent of ha-năl, signifies the number ‘one.’ Consequently ha-na-nim, regardless of its original meaning ‘heavenly lord,’ sounds like a proud reference to ‘One Lord.’
“Could the spelling ha-neu-nim possibly challenge ha-na-nim again in the future? I would answer that this is very unlikely and unnecessary. The name ha-na-nim may be absurd, but ironically its inherent weakness may turn to great advantage in situations where it is challenged. The proud oneness of the Christian God implied and applied in the name must be left untouched.”
A number of languages are using female words to translate the Greek theos and the Hebrew elohim and have developed different strategies to deal with that. (Click or tap here to see)
In Albanian, the word for “God” is Perëndi(a) (originally: “kingdom,” “kingly power,” “majesty”). While Perëndi(a) is strictly speaking a feminine noun it is often — albeit inconsistently — not treated as such in existing Bible translations. (For an analysis of this see Valwery M. Sardushkan in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 137ff.)
In Mundang, “God” is translated with the feminine term Masing, but since third person singular pronouns don’t have genders in Mundang, it does not interfere with the image of God as that of a male being. (Source: Rodney Venberg in The Bible Translator 1984, p. 415ff. )
In Turkana the term for “God” is the grammatically feminine Akuj. What specifically presents a problem is that the term for “Lord” is Ekapolon which is masculine and that the compound phrase Ekapolon Akuj is used for “YHWH” in the ongoing Old Testament translation. “This combination does not match well and causes problems in the choice of prefixes for verbs and adjectives in reference to YHWH. Since this word is very crucial, it is important to go about it very carefully and to consult reviewers and church leaders before any decision is reached.” (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen) (See also tetragrammaton (YHWH)).
An often-quoted example for the use of a feminine word to translate “God” is that of Iraqw. Aloo Mojola (in Noss 2007, p. 159f.) tells this story: “An illustrative example of this process may be seen in the case of the name of the deity for the Iraqw of northern Tanzania. The Iraqw-speaking Christians initially preferred the use of the traditional Iraqw name for God, Looah. Interestingly, Looah satisfies the Christian qualities and attributes for the supreme God, such as creator of the universe, loving, empowering and sustaining the created order, providing for all, concerned about fairness and justice, requiring mercy, moral order, etc. The complication came from the fact that Looah, in the Iraqw religious world view, is understood and believed to be both female and Mother. This belief is justified in terms of the traditional cultural roles expected of human mothers as creators, as those who give birth to the new, as being more loving and more caring, as those who provide for the family. This is in clear contrast to human males who in that system are compared to thee Evil one and the destroyer, Neetlangw (equated with Satan in the Christian system). Iraqw Christian leaders, however, believing the Christian God to be of male gender, held that a Christianized Looah cannot be female as required by the traditional Iraqw religious logic. Since the Iraqw linguistic system already classifies Looah as female, it proved impossible to give masculine gender to Looah, who in the collective unconscious of the people cannot be anything but female. And so in the vernacular translation the name Looah, although still widely in use even by some Christian evangelists, has been dropped from the newly translated Iraqw Bible (publ. 2003) and replaced with the Swahili name for God, Mungu. Moreover, Mungu in the Iraqw Bible is given a masculine gender as well. In the Swahili/Bantu cosmology, gender marking is not essential. The Bantu linguistic system operates on a system of semantic classification whereby the divine being is placed in the class of humans/persons. This has doubtlessly introduced some internal contradictions in the Iraqw religious mind and speech which may take time to resolve. A number of similar unsatisfactory solutuions have had to be adopted to satisfy Christian sensibilities — but also for lack of solutions attracting a wider consensus.”
Elsewhere, Mojola says (see here ): “In the case of the Iraqw the question still arises: why was it necessary to borrow the name of God from the Swahili? Borrowing God’s name from another language is very uncommon here in East Africa. I have encountered only one other example, in North-eastern Zaire where the missionary translators following a mission board decision decided to borrow Mungu God’s name in Swahili for use by the Alur of North-eastern Zaire. The Alur are a Nilotic group also found in Uganda. The Uganda Alur and their Zaire counterpart are essentially one people only separated by an artificial border. The missionaries who worked on this problem in Zaire found the local deity objectionable and not suitable to be taken as a starting point. They concluded that the local deity as they were led to understand on the basis of their observations and preconceptions, had more in common with the devil than with the God of the Bible as they understood it. Interestingly, on the Uganda side of the border the deity rejected in Zaire was adopted for use in the church and in the Alur-Uganda Bible but not in the as yet unfinished Alur-Zaire Bible translation. The latter preferred the Swahili Mungu.”
In Paiwan articles dont’t differentiate differentiate between genders but whether the noun refers to someone personal of something non-personal. The paiwan Christians insisted on using a non-personal pronoun with the word for God (Cemas) because “to use a personal article with God would single him out from other gods as if he were one of many.” (Source: Covell 1998, p. 246)
Translators of different languages have found different ways with what kind of formality God is addressed. The first example is from a language where God is always addressed distinctly formal whereas the second is one where the opposite choice was made.
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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.
In these verses, in which humans address God, the informal, familiar pronoun is used that communicates closeness.
Voinov notes that “in the Tuvan Bible, God is only addressed with the informal pronoun. No exceptions. An interesting thing about this is that I’ve heard new Tuvan believers praying with the formal form to God until they are corrected by other Christians who tell them that God is close to us so we should address him with the informal pronoun. As a result, the informal pronoun is the only one that is used in praying to God among the Tuvan church.”
In Gbaya, “a superior, whether father, uncle, or older brother, mother, aunt, or older sister, president, governor, or chief, is never addressed in the singular unless the speaker intends a deliberate insult. When addressing the superior face to face, the second person plural pronoun ɛ́nɛ́ or ‘you (pl.)’ is used, similar to the French usage of vous.
In this strophe (letter samek, verses 113-120) the psalmist denounces his enemies, prays to Yahweh for help, and expresses his love for God’s law. The Good News Translation heading may have to be recast for translation. One possibility is “The psalmist is safe because he obeys the Law of the LORD.”
In verse 113a the psalmist uses a word not found elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe those he hates; the Septuagint translates “transgressors (of the Law)”; Vulgate has “wicked.” Most translations are like Revised Standard Versiondouble-minded men or “double heart”; Biblia Dios Habla Hoy has “hypocritical people,” and Bible en français courant “duplicity.” Kirkpatrick defines them as “unstable waverers, half Israelites, half heathen.” The word seems to describe those whose religious commitment is not total; they do not have “pure hearts,” that is, single-minded devotion to Yahweh. For I love thy law in verse 113b, see verse 97a. Verse 113 is structured in Hebrew as a contrast: this I hate, but that I love. It can also be translated as two coordinate statements: “I love people who are fully loyal to you, and I love your law.” However, it will be best to maintain the stylistic device of the psalmist, unless, of course, such contrast carries an unwanted meaning.
In verse 114a, for hiding place see 32.7, and for shield see 3.3; 28.7; both indicate protection and safety. Verse 114b is identical with verse 81b.
For verse 115a see 6.8; here you evildoers are the psalmist’s enemies, of whom he repeatedly complains in this psalm. They try to keep him from obeying the commands of the Torah. For verse 115b see similar statements in verses 55b, 67b. My God can be translated “the God I serve (or, worship).”
Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Psalms. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1991. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .