John the Evangelist (icon)

Following is a Bulgarian Orthodox icon of John the Evangelist from the 14th century (found in Rila Monastery, Bulgaria).

Orthodox Icons are not drawings or creations of imagination. They are in fact writings of things not of this world. Icons can represent our Lord Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. They can also represent the Holy Trinity, Angels, the Heavenly hosts, and even events. Orthodox icons, unlike Western pictures, change the perspective and form of the image so that it is not naturalistic. This is done so that we can look beyond appearances of the world, and instead look to the spiritual truth of the holy person or event. (Source )

See also John (the disciple).

throne

The Greek that is translated into English versions as “throne” is translated into Naro as ntcõó-q’oo: “he will rule.” The figure of the “throne” cannot be translated in the egalitarian Naro culture, so the idea had to be expressed more explicitly. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

In other languages it is translated as “stool/seat of the king” (Marathi), “seat of commanding/chieftainship” (Highland Totonac, Kituba), “seat of the Supreme one (lit. of-him-who-has-the umbrella)” (Toraja-Sa’dan — the umbrella being a well-known symbol of power in various parts of South and South-East Asia), “glorious place to sit” (Ekari) (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “where God sits and rules” (Estado de México Otomi), “where God reigns” (Central Mazahua) (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), or “bed of kingship” (Kafa) (source: Loren Bliese).

peace (inner peace)

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated into English as “peace” (or “at ease”) is (back-) translated with a variety of idioms and phrases:

In American Sign Language it is signed with a compound sign consisting of “become” and “silent.” (Source: Yates 2011, p. 52)


“Peace” in American Sign Language (source )

See also peace (absence of strife) and this devotion on YouVersion .

grace to you

The Greek that is rendered in English versions with “grace to you” is translated into Naro with cgóm̀, “a word that expresses pity, but also love and care for people. It is the best solution in the Naro culture.” (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

See also grace.

grace

“The Greek word charis, usually translated by English ‘grace,’ is one of the desperations of translators. The area of meaning is exceptionally extensive. Note the following possible meanings for this word in various contexts of the New Testament: ‘sweetness,’ ‘charm,’ ‘loveliness,’ ‘good-will,’ ‘loving-kindness,’ ‘favor,’ ‘merciful kindness,’ ‘benefit,’ ‘gift,’ ‘benefaction,’ ‘bounty,’ and ‘thanks.’ The theological definition of ‘unmerited favor’ (some translators have attempted to employ this throughout) is applicable to only certain contexts. Moreover, it is quite a task to find some native expression which will represent the meaning of ‘unmerited favor.’ In some languages it is impossible to differentiate between ‘grace’ and ‘kindness.’ In fact, the translation ‘kindness’ is in some cases quite applicable. In other languages, a translation of ‘grace’ is inseparable from ‘goodness.’ In San Miguel El Grande Mixtec a very remarkable word has been used for ‘grace.’ It is made up of three elements. The first of these is a prefixial abstractor. The second is the stem for ‘beauty.’ The third is a suffix which indicates that the preceding elements are psychologically significant. The resultant word may be approximately defined as ‘the abstract quality of beauty of personality.’” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 223)

Other translations include (click or tap here to see more):

  • Inuktitut: “God’s kindness that enables us” (source: Andrew Atagotaaluk)
  • Kwara’ae: kwae ofe’ana (“kindness to one who deserves the opposite”) (source: Norman Deck in The Bible Translator 1963, 34ff. )
  • Chichewa: “being favored in the heart by God” (Source: Ernst Wendland)
  • Sayula Popoluca: “God’s favor” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Caribbean Javanese: kabetyikané (“goodness”)
  • Saramaccan: bunhati (“good heart”)
  • Sranan Tongo: bun ati (“good heart”) or gadobun (“God’s goodness”)
  • Eastern Maroon Creole: (gaan) bun ati (“(big) good heart”) (source for this and three above: Jabini 2015)
  • Fasu: “free big help”
  • Wahgi: “save without reward” (source for this and the one above: Deibler / Taylor 1977)
  • Warao: “goodness of his obojona.” Obojona is a term that “includes the concepts of consciousness, will, attitude, attention and a few other miscellaneous notions” (source: Henry Osborn in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 74ff. ) — see other occurrences of Obojona in the Warao New Testament.
  • Nukna: “God gave his insides to one.” (“The ‘insides’ are the seat of emotion in Nukna, like the heart in the English language. To give your insides to someone is to feel love toward them, to want what is best for them, and to do good things for them.” (Source: Matt Taylor in The PNG Experience )
  • Uma: “(God’s) white insides” (source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Hindi, Bengali: anugraha (Hindi: अनुग्रह, Bengali: অনুগ্রহ) from graha: “grasp, a reaching out after, with gracious intent” (source: R.M. Clark in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 81ff. )
  • the German das Buch translation by Roland Werner (publ. 2009-2022) uses a large variety of translations, including “undeserved friendliness,” “wonderful work of God,” “loving attention,” “generous,” but also “undeserved grace” (using the traditional German term Gnade)

In Latvian the term žēlastība is used both for “grace” and “mercy.” (Source: Katie Roth)

For Muna, René van den Berg explains the process how the translation team arrived at a satisfactory solution: “Initial translation drafts in Muna tended to (…) use the single word kadawu ‘part, (given) share, gift,’ but this word is really too generic. It lacks the meaning component of mercy and kindness and also seems to imply that the gift is part of a larger whole. Consequently we now [translate] according to context. In wishes and prayers such as ‘Grace to you and peace from God’ we translate ‘grace’ as kabarakati ‘blessing’ (e.g. Gal 1:3). In many places we use kataano lalo ‘goodness of heart’ (e.g. Gal 1:15 ‘because of the goodness of his heart God chose me’) as well as the loan rahamati ‘mercy’ (e.g. ‘you have-turned-your-backs-on the mercy of God’ for ‘you have fallen away from grace’; Gal 5:4). In one case where the unmerited nature of ‘grace’ is in focus, we have also employed katohai ‘a free gift’ (typically food offered to one’s neighbo-1urs) in the same verse. ‘The reason-you-have-been-saved is because of the goodness of God’s heart (Greek charis, Muna kataano lalo), going-through your belief in Kristus. That salvation is not the result of your own work, but really a free-gift (Greek dooron ‘gift’; Muna katohai) of God.’ (Eph 2:8).

In Burmese, it is translated with the Buddhist term kyeh’jooh’tau (ကျေး​ဇူး​တော်). LaSeng Dingrin (in Missiology 37/4, 2009, p. 485ff.) explains: “As regards the Christian term ‘grace,’ Judson [the first translator of the Bible into Burmese] could not have brought the Burmese Buddhists the good news about the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and its benefits (i.e., forgiveness and salvation), without employing the Burmese Buddhist term kyeh’jooh’tau (‘grace’). Deriving from Pali kataññuta (“gratefulness”), kyeh’jooh’tau denotes ‘good deeds for others or benefits,’ which occur among humans. (…) When Christianized, kyeh’jooh’tau also refers to the atoning work of Jesus and its benefits, and can occur between humans and God. The word kyeh’jooh’tau looks very Burmese Buddhist, but it is Christian, too, and conveys the core of the Christian proclamation. Furthermore, kyeh’jooh’tau itself shows that translatability of Christianity cannot be imagined without reliance on Buddhism.” (See also the Burmese entry for God)

In American Sign Language it is translated with a sign that combines “compassion” and “giving out.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)


“Grace” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor

See also grace to you and grace (of God) (Japanese honorifics).

Translation: Eastern Canadian Inuktitut

ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ ᒍᕇᑭᒃᑯᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖅᑕᖓᑦ ᑐᑭᓕᐅᔾᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᖅ ᐃᒫᒃ “ᓴᐃᒪᓂᖅ” ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑐᓪᓕ ᑐᑭᓕᐅᔾᔭᐅᓯᒪᒻᒪᑦ ᐃᒫᒃ “ᒎᑎᐅᑉ ᑐᙵᓇᕐᓂᖓᓂ ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ ᐱᔪᓐᓇᑎᑦᑎᕙᑦᑐᖅ.”

(Translator: Julia Demcheson)

church

The Greek that is often translated as “church” in English is translated into Avaric as imanl’urazul ahlu: “the community of believers” or “the believing people.”

Magomed-Kamil Gimbatov and Yakov Testelets (in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 434ff. ) talk about the genesis of this term (click or tap here to read more):

“The word ‘Church’ presents particular difficulties, as we might expect when we think that even many Christians do not understand it correctly. When people today say ‘church,’ they often mean a particular building, or an organization consisting chiefly of clergy (priests and monks). It is even harder to find a word or combination of words which adequately translates the meaning for people unfamiliar with Christianity. Surprisingly, the Greek word ekklesia, indicating in the classical language ‘an assembly of the people,’ ‘a gathering of citizens,’ has come into Avar and other Dagestani languages in the form kilisa. This, like the word qanch (‘cross’), is an ancient borrowing, presumably from the time before the arrival of Islam, when Dagestan came under the influence of neighboring Christian states. In modern usage, however, this word indicates a place of Christian worship. Thus it is completely inappropriate as a translation of its New Testament ancestor ekklesia.

“We were obliged to look at various words which are closer to the meaning of the Greek. Some of these words are dandel’i (‘meeting’), danderussin (‘assembly’), the Arabic-derived mazhlis (‘meeting, conference’), zhama’at (‘society, community’), ahlu (‘race, people, family, group of people united by a common goal or interest’, as in the Arabic phrase ahlu-l-kitab ‘people of the Book’ or ‘people of the Scriptures’), which describes both Jews and Christians, and ummat (‘people, tribe’). In Islamic theology the phrase ‘Mohammed’s ummat’ means the universal community of Muslims, the Muslim world, in the same way as the Christian world is known as ‘Isa’s ummat.’ None of these descriptions on their own, without explanation, can be used to translate the word ‘Church’ in the New Testament. Thus, after long consideration, we adopted the phrase imanl’urazul ahlu, meaning ‘the community of believers,’ ‘the believing people,’ This translation corresponds closely to New Testament teaching about the Church.

“It is interesting that the same word ahlu with the meaning ‘tribe, community’ has been used by translators for different reasons in the introduction to the Gospel of Luke in order to translate the expression in the original Greek pepleroforemenon en hemin pragmaton (πεπληροφορημένων ἐν ἡμῖν πραγμάτων), which the Russian Synodal translation renders ‘about the events well-known amongst us’ (Luke 1:1). The expression ‘amongst us’ cannot be translated literally into Avar, but has to be rendered ‘among our people’; and here the same term was used as for the word ‘church’, literally ‘among our tribe, community (ahlu).'”

In Kamo “church” is fang-balla (“owners of writing-people”) when referring to the church community and “house of writing-people” when referring to a church building. David Frank explains: “In Kamo culture, Christianity was associated with writing, so Christianity is called balla, which they say means ‘people who write.’ Christianity is balla, and Christians are called fang-balla, which means ‘owners of Christianity.’ That is the term that is used for the church, in the sense of people, rather than a building. In Philemon 1:1b-2a, Paul says he is writing ‘To our friend and fellow worker Philemon, and to the church (fang-balla ‘owners of Christianity) that meet in your house.’ The word fang “owner’ is very productive in the Kamo language. A disciple is an ‘owner of learning,’ an apostle is an ‘owner of sending,’ a believer is an ‘owner of truth,’ a hypocrite is an ‘owner of seeing eyes.’ The expression ‘house of writing-people’ is used in Matthew 16:18, which reads in Kamo, ‘And so I tell you Peter, you are a rock, and on top of this rock foundation I will build my house of writing-people, and never even death will not be able to overcome it.” (See also Peter – rock)

In Bacama there also is a differentiation between the building (vɨnə hiutə: “house of prayer”) and the community (ji-kottə: “followers”) (source: David Frank in this blog post ).

In 16th-century Classical Nahuatl, a transliteration from Spanish (Santa Yglesia or Santa Iglesia) is typically used rather than a translation, making the concept take on a personified meaning. Ottman (p. 169) explains: “The church building, or more precisely the church complex with its associated patio, has a Nahuatl name in common usage — generally teopan, something like ‘god-place,’ in contradistinction to teocalli, ‘god-house,’ applied to a prehispanic temple — but the abstract sense is always Santa Iglesia, a Spanish proper name like ‘Dios’ or ‘Santa María’, and like ‘Santa María’ often called ‘our mother.’ As a personified ‘mother,’ in the European tradition as well as in Nahuatl, She instructs Her children or chastises them; as Bride of Christ, She both longs for Her heavenly rest and bears witness to it, in the ‘always-already’ of eschatological time; as successor to the Synagogue, the blindfolded, broken-sceptred elder sister who accompanies Her in painting and sculpture, She represents the triumphant rule of truth. ‘The Church’ can mean the clerical hierarchy; it can also, or simultaneously, mean the assembly of the faithful. It dispenses grace to its members, living and dead, yet it is also enriched by them, living and dead, existing not only on earth but in purgatory and in heaven.”

In Lisu the building (“church”) is called “house of prayer” (source: Arrington 2020, p. 196) whereas in Highland Totonac the community is referred as “those who gather together” (source: Hermann Aschmann in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 171ff. ), in Huehuetla Tepehua as “those who gather together who have confidence in Christ” (source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.), in Uma as “Christian people” (source: Uma Back Translation), in Kankanaey as “the congregation of God’s people” (source: Kankanaey Back Translation), and in Tagbanwa as “you whom God separated-out as his people because of your being-united/tied-together with Jesus Christ” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

In American Sign Language, “church” (as in the community of believers) is made up of the combination of the signs for “Jesus-into-heart” (signifying a believer), followed by the sign for “group.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)


“Church” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor

While British Sign Language also uses a sign that focuses on a group of people believing in Jesus (see here ), another sign that it uses combines the signs for “ringing the (church) bells” and a “group of people.” (Source: Anna Smith)


“Church” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

complete verse (Revelation 1:4)

Following are a number of back-translations of Revelation 1:4:

  • Uma: “This letter is from me, Yohanes, I send it to the followers of Yesus who live in seven towns in the province of Asia. Many greetings: I call out to God, I request that he bless you from his grace [lit., white insides] and give you goodness of life. This blessing is from God who was from the beginning, who is now, and who is forever. And this blessing is from the Seven Spirits of God who are in front of the Seat of God,” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “This writing is from me, Yahiya. I send this writing to the seven gatherings of people belonging to God who are there in the place of Asiya. May God care for you and may he cause-peace in your livers. He is the God who does not change since the beginning of times until now and forever. May you also be cared for by God’s Spirit and may he cause-peace in your livers. God’s Spirit is there facing God’s sitting-place/is before God’s throne.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “I, John, am writing to the seven groups of believers in the province of Asia. I pray that grace be shown to you by God and the Holy Spirit and Jesus Chirst they also give you a peaceful situation. As for God, He existed before anything was created; He still exists today and He cannot go out of existence forever. As for the Holy Spirit who lives in front of the seat of God, He has seven powers. Jesus Christ is the one whose word can be trusted. Of all who die and are raised again, He is the highest in rank. He is the one who controls the kings here on the earth. His breath is big toward us. He freed us from the punishment of our sins by causing His blood to be shed.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Here is my letter to you who meet-as-a-congregation in the seven congregations in the province Asia. May you have mercy/grace/kindness and peace that comes-from God and his Spirit (Ispirito) and Jesu Cristo. God, he exists now, he existed previously and he will-exist forever. His Spirit which is in front of his throne (loan trono), there are seven manifestations/showings of his power (i.e. ways his power is shown). Jesu Cristo, he is one who is faithful to confirm concerning God. He also is the first who came-to-life again who didn’t again die and the one who rules/will-rule all rulers in this world. He loves us, and he set-us -free from our sins through his blood which flowed-out at his death.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “I who am Juan am writing to you there, the groups of those who believe/obey and trust the Lord in seven places in the district of Asia. I pray that hopefully there with you always is the grace/mercy and peace of mind/inner-being which is given by God the Father, and the Lord Jesu-Cristo and the Espiritu Santo. This God the Father, he is alive without ending, for from long ago he already existed and until forever he will still exist. And this Espiritu Santo, he is right there with God who sits on his seat of kingship.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “I, John, greet the believers who live in seven cities which are in the land of Asia. May God bless you and put peace in your hearts. This God lives now and was living in the days gone past and he continues to live throughout the days to come. Also may the Holy Spirit bless you, this one who is like seven lights appearing before God’s chair.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

throne (of God) (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. When the referent is God, the “divine” honorific prefix mi- (御 or み) can be used, as in mi-za (御座), mi-kura (みくら) (Psalm 7:7), or mi-kurai (御位) (Psalm 113:5) in the referenced verses, all relating to the “throne (or: high seat) (of God)”.

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

See also throne (of God).