zeal, zealous

The Greek and Hebrew that is often translated in English as “zeal” or “zealous” is translated in Moken as “great love” (“my zeal” — cewui lak tho: “my great love.”) (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is likewise translated as “love, commitment, enthusiasm” (not jealousy). (Source: Robert Bascom)

In Khasi is is translated with shitrhem which conveys the “idea of loving or devoted enthusiasm.” (Source: B. J. Syiemlieh)

Zeal for your house will consume me

The Greek (and Hebrew) that is translated on many English versions as “Zeal for your house will consume me” is translated in various ways in other languages:

  • Yanesha’: “My protectiveness for your house completely possesses me.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “So very much I want the house of God to be honored. And because of this I am treated with contempt.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “I look with respect on your house, even though I lose my life.”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “I cannot stand it, so much do I value the house where they worship You.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

In Gbaya, the notion of “consume” (or “burn like a fire” in the Good News Translation) is emphasized with lɛk-lɛk, an ideophone “that is often used to describe the flames of a fire.”

Philip Noss (in The Bible Translator 1976, p. 100ff.) explains: “A descriptive device common to Gbaya oral literature that is often found in translations of the Psalms is the ideophone. The ideophone may be identified with onomatopoeia and other sound words frequently seen in French and English comic strips, but in Gbaya and other African languages it comprises a class of words with a very wide range of meaning and usage. They may function verbally, substantively, or in a modifying role similar to adverbs and adjectives. They describe anything that may be experienced: action, sound, color, quality, smell, or emotion. In oral literature they are used not only with great frequency but also with great creativity.

Conforming to Gbaya literary style, the team used ideophones in its translation of the Psalms, although an average of less than two per psalm is a considerably lower rate of occurrence than in Gbaya narrative. There were two reasons for this limited usage. The first was that the Psalms are poetry rather than action narrative where their occurrence would be more common. The second was that in a tale being performed for artistic reasons, the ideophone may predominate over the action, whereas in the psalm the ideophone must complement without dominating or overshadowing the message. However, since the ideophone is an integral part of Gbaya literary expression, it could not be omitted. To do so would have rendered the translation colorless and unliterary.”

See also zeal and complete verse (John 2:17).

complete verse (Romans 15:3)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 15:3:

  • Uma: “For Kristus also did not seek his own happiness, he was ready to undergo suffering in his following God. In the Holy Book long ago there are words that foretell the Lord Yesus that say: ‘All their words disparaging God have struck/hit me.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Because Isa Almasi he did not please himself but he yielded/surrendered to be criticized/to-be-put-down. It was written about this in the holy-book, saying, ‘The evil words spoken by people to you, God, hit me.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “For as for Christ, he did not think about what He wanted. For a prophecy was written long ago which is His words to God in which He says, ‘The evil words of people who insulted you, this was also an insult to me,’ which is to say, if He obeyed His own desires, then people would not have insulted Him.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Because even Cristo, it was not what pleased himself that he thought about, because there is a written word of God concerning him which says, ‘The people’s despising of you (sing.), God, I am the one who was despised.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Because Christ didn’t look for just his own good. The Holy Book says what word he told God. He said: ‘The people who speak against you also speak against me.’ he said.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

addressing God

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.

Accordingly, the translators of the current version of the Gbaya Bible chose to use the plural ɛ́nɛ́ to address God. There are a few exceptions. In Psalms 86:8, 97:9, and 138:1, God is addressed alongside other “gods,” and here the third person pronoun o is used to avoid confusion about who is being addressed. In several New Testament passages (Matthew 21:23, 26:68, 27:40, Mark 11:28, Luke 20:2, 23:37, as well as in Jesus’ interaction with Pilate and Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well) the less courteous form for Jesus is used to indicate ignorance of his position or mocking (source Philip Noss).

In Dutch translations, however, God is always addressed with the formal pronoun.