The Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek that is translated as “vision” in English is translated in a variety in the following languages:

  • Chol: “as if in a dream” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Obolo: ilaak ọkpọchieen̄ or “dreaming awake” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “a showing like dreams”
  • Desano: “see in a dream what God will send”
  • Rincón Zapotec: “see what God shows”
  • Mayo: “see things from God as in a dream”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “dream how it is going to be”
  • Chuj: “like dreaming they see”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “understand what they see as if in a dream”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “see that which will happen” (source for this and seven above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Tagbanwa: “being caused to dream by God” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Chichewa: azidzaona zinthu m’masomphenya: “they will see things as if face-to-face” (interconfessional translation, publ. 1999) (Source: Wendland 1998, p. 69)
  • Mandarin Chinese yì xiàng (异象 / 異象), lit. “different (or: strange) appearance.” (Source: Zetzsche)

The Greek in the books of Revelation and Acts is translated as obq-rmwible: “look-dream” in Natügu. Brenda Boerger (in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 162ff.) tells the story of that translation: “In the book of Revelation, the author, John, talks about having visions. Mr. Simon [the native language translator] and I discussed what this meant and he invented the compound verb obq-rmwible ‘look-dream’ to express it. Interestingly, during village testing no one ever had to ask what this neologism meant.”

See also see a vision.

Tobit is blinded (image)

Image taken from the Wiedmann Bible. For more information about the images and ways to adopt them, see here .

For other images of Willy Wiedmann paintings in TIPs, see here.

Translation commentary on Tobit 2:10

Sparrows: In cultures where sparrows are unknown, translators may say, for example, “I didn’t know that some small birds were [or, perched] on the wall above me.”

Their fresh droppings fell into my eyes: The Greek describes the sparrows’ droppings as “warm,” although fresh is another way of saying the same thing. The Greek does not exactly say that the droppings fell into Tobit’s eyes, or even that his eyes were open. The droppings “settled” in his eyes, which may be a way of saying that somehow, perhaps during the night, they got there; but to get there they had to fall from above him. The alternate Greek text, followed by Revised Standard Version, does say that Tobit’s eyes were open, and that the birds’ droppings, let us say, “dropped” into them.

White films were produced on Tobit’s eyes. The author probably had in mind what we call cataracts, although we now know that cataracts form within the eye. White films may be rendered as “a layer of some white substance.”

I went to physicians to be healed; that is, “I went to doctors to have them treat me.”

But the more they treated me with ointments may be rendered “but the more medicine they smeared on my eyes” (Contemporary English Version). The physicians’ “medicines” may be thought of as ointments, but the Greek speaks only of medicines.

The more my vision was obscured by the white films may be translated “the more the white film covered the clear area of my eyes.” The verb form for obscured indicates that Tobit kept getting more and more blind as he was being treated.

In some languages it will be difficult to translate the English comparatives in the middle of this verse. In such cases translators may say something like:

• I went to doctors to have them heal me. They would smear ointment on my eyes to get rid of the white film. I went back to have them do this many times. But the ointment did not help me, and I finally became completely blind.

All my kindred were sorry for me: For my kindred, see 1.3. The verb tense of were sorry makes clear that the relatives “were deeply concerned” all during the four years of his blindness. They did not just get concerned for a while when the blindness struck. They got concerned and stayed so—a contrast with Job’s experience.

Ahikar took care of me for two years before he went to Elymais: Although Elymais is identified as a Persian city in 1 Macc 6.1, it is probably thought of more correctly as a region, in all likelihood the province elsewhere known in the Hebrew Bible as “Elam” (so Good News Translation). Ahikar’s journey there seems to be introduced as old information; perhaps the readers shared with the author some knowledge of this legendary figure, although none of the Ahikar material surviving from the ancient world mentions such a trip. The journey is probably mentioned for literary purposes, to remove Ahikar from the scene. The simplest way for Tobit to regain his money (1.14-15) would have been for his nephew Ahikar, a high royal official, to intervene. But that would be to lose the delightful story in this book. Ahikar will reappear in 11.18, but back home in Nineveh. To avoid the impression that the journey is already known to the reader, a possible improvement would be, “Ahikar supported me for two years, when he left and went to the land of Elam.”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Tobit. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.