(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)

The Greek terms that are typically translated as “mercy” (or “compassion”) in English are translated in various ways. Bratcher / Nida classify them in (1) those based on the quality of heart, or other psychological center, (2) those which introduce the concept of weeping or extreme sorrow, (3) those which involve willingness to look upon and recognize the condition of others, or (4) those which involve a variety of intense feelings.

Here are some (back-) translations:

complete verse (Romans 9:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of Romans 9:15:

  • Uma: “Just remember the words of God to the prophet Musa long ago that say: ‘I myself am the one that decides whom I will show my love to and whom I will love.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “But/instead God is the one who rules whom he chooses (and) makes his people. He said/says to Musa, ‘I am the one who rules/governs whom I will pity/have mercy on. I am the one who rules as to whom I will have compassion for (lit. emotionally-stirred liver).'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Because God said long ago to Moses, ‘I am the one who will say who I will have pity on and who will be precious in my breath,’ He said.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “God had the authority to do that, because God said to Moses, ‘I will show-mercy to whom I want to show-mercy.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “God said to Moses: ‘Whoever I determine to pity, that one I will pity and be kind to him.'” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)


The name that is transliterated as “Moses” in English is signed in Spanish Sign Language in accordance with the depiction of Moses in the famous statue by Michelangelo (see here). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)

“Moses” in Spanish Sign Language (source)

Another depiction in Spanish Sign Language (source: Carlos Moreno Sastre):

The horns that are visible in Michelangelo’s statue are based on a passage in the Latin Vulgate translation (and many Catholic Bible translations that were translated through the 1950ies with that version as the source text). Jerome, the translator, had worked from a Hebrew text without the niqquds, the diacritical marks that signify the vowels in Hebrew and had interpreted the term קרו (k-r-n) in Exodus 34:29 as קֶ֫רֶן — keren “horned,” rather than קָרַו — karan “radiance” (describing the radiance of Moses’ head as he descends from Mount Sinai).

Even at the time of his translation, Jerome likely was not the only one making that decision as this recent article alludes to.