mutual / among yourselves (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.

The Greek that is translated as “mutual” or “among yourselves” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-tagai (お互い), combining “one another” (tagai) with the respectful prefix o-.

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

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 .

build up

The Greek that is translated as “building up” in many English versions is translated in Chol with a term that specifically indicates to make others better (here and elsewhere, in their faith in Christ). (Source: Robert Bascom)

In Huehuetla Tepehua it is translated as “have more confidence in Christ,” in Chicahuaxtla Triqui as “cause that their hearts grow strong with reference to the way of God,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “to become stronger in their faith,” and in Central Tarahumara as “so that they can believe better yet.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Rom. 14:19)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including the writer of the letter and the readers).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

complete verse (Romans 14:19)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 14:19:

  • Uma: “That’s why we must exert effort to live in harmony with others and mutually strengthen each others’ hearts.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Therefore we (incl.) ought-to/must really persevere in doing the deeds which cause harmony with/please our (incl.) companions and we (incl.) should help each other so that our (incl.) trusting in God becomes stronger.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “The reason we carefully correct our behavior is so that our peaceful relationship with our companions may not be removed, and also so that the faith of each one of us might be drawn tight.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Therefore let us do all in our power to do what leads to our harmony and what strengthens the faith of each one.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “Now let us search for the word that we will not argue about. Each one of us, let us search for how to strengthen the faith of our fellow believers.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)

Translation commentary on Romans 14:19

This verse is introduced with the same particles that introduce verse 12. Must always aim at translates a subjunctive in Greek, which most translations take with the force of an imperative. Some Greek manuscripts have this verb in the indicative, “we aim at.” The UBS text committee gives the reading retained in the text a “D” rating, indicating that there is a high degree of doubt concerning it. The choice between the two readings is difficult, but practically all translators apparently prefer to follow the subjunctive. The tense of this subjunctive is present, and the Good News Translation interprets it to have the force of must always aim at.

We must always aim at those things that bring peace is literally “we must pursue those things of peace.” “To pursue peace” is a Semitic idiom which means “to try to live in peace with one’s fellow-man.” The genitive expression “those things of peace” means those things that bring peace (New English Bible “the things that make for peace”).

We must always aim at those things may be translated in some languages as “we must always try to do those things.” Such an expression may be readily combined with the restrictive clause that bring peace, and the first part of verse 19 may then be translated as “we must always try to do what causes peace” or “… causes people to live peacefully together.” In some languages the idea of eliminating “strife” may be an effective way of speaking of “peace” in this type of context—for example, “we must always try to do whatever removes strife.”

That help strengthen one another is a genitive clause in Greek, which the Good News Translation has translated as a verb expression. The strength referred to is, of course, spiritual strength. The final restrictive clause, that help strengthen one another, may be combined with the preceding as “we must always try to do … what helps one another become strong,” “… what causes other believers to become strong,” or “… what causes other people to become strong in their faith.”

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1973. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .