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Featured More Words Hard to Translate

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by John of Japan, Mar 28, 2021.

  1. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    I mentioned slavery in an earlier post, and the word bawih is used in all the cases you have mentioned without distinction. The reason why it is so interesting is because some of the earlier missionaries (but not, to my knowledge, the first missionaries) campaigned successfully to have British lawmakers back in London ban the bawih system and saw this as one of their finest achievements, whereas there were and still are some who were of the opinion that it was a misunderstood welfare system.

    The Mizo uses just as you suggest, a word for refuse/waste.

    There is a very similar problem in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Prologue contains the phrase “shitten shepherd” to refer to corrupt hypocritical priests. He seems to be alluding to the strong language Jesus used against the pharisees. I never use the ‘s’ word in Modern English but enjoy practising Middle English as a hobby and press through this passage keeping in mind that the intention is to condemn hypocrisy and not to endorse it.
     
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  2. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    “Martial arts ministry trip”! Now there’s a phrase I’ve never seen before!

    You are right that various kinds of machete were and still are very common here. They are incredibly versatile, for farming, domestic use and as a weapon, but such a tool is not indicated in the translations of sword. Acts 12 uses khan-daih, Luke 2 uses ngun-hnam, both defined as ‘sword’, though the latter seems to be more associated with some kind of fencing. These are well beyond my lexical range so I have no idea about the historical background of these weapons!
     
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Once a word like "apostle" has become entrenched in a culture it is hard to dislodge it. Meanings become set, words become set, and it is often hard to discern the original Biblical meaning.

    The Hebrew and Greek words are not 100% synonymous, but are fairly close. They both have a wider range of meaning than the English word, or other modern words for the modern disease, such as "Hansen's Disease. Remember that the Hebrew word can even be used for some kind of a fungus in a house, or even in clothing, such as in this verse: "The garment also that the plague of leprosy is in, whether it be a woollen garment, or a linen garment" (Lev. 13:47).

    As to whether or not the Greek word was the same as the Hebrew, I don't think they were exactly the same, as a said, but remember that Jewish culture had become fairly intertwined with Greek culture, so much so that Greek was the lingua franca, and many Jews had gone over to Greek culture, and were called Hellenists. So I think that by the 1st century AD the thinking was the same in the two languages. However, that does not mean that when Moses wrote Lev. in about 1400 BC or so that the meaning was the same as it was when Jesus lived. As you say, pathologies--and words--change over the centuries.
     
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  4. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    In my college years I trained in various Asian martial arts, and was connected to a professional martial arts evangelist--it idea being that you get people (kids and teens, usually) to come see a martial arts demonstration, then you preach the Gospel to them. Down through the years I've had various connections (tournaments, demonstrations, seminars, etc.) with the Christian martial arts community in the States.

    I got to know some young Chinese in Hong Kong who had started such a ministry, and they invited me to come and show them how it was done in the West, as well as teach them for a few days. It was an awesome trip! We ended up with a large sports competition and martial arts demonstration. I preached then, and two young Chinese men trusted Christ as Savior.
    I understand that India has a long and varied martial tradition, with many varied martial arts and weapons. So I'm sure there were not any problems in translating "sword" for your people group. Using the word "machete" would be a valid strategy for a tribal culture that had no real swords.
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    According to Bible translation consultant and theorist Eugene Nida, the Greek word parakletos (παράκλητος) is "one of the most difficult in the Bible to render adequately" (God's Word in Man's Language, p. 20). It has become a theological loan word, Paraclete, and refers to the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, and 1 John 2:7. The KJV translated it "Comforter" most times but "advocate" in 1 John, but most modern versions go for "Helper" in John but agree with the KJV in 1 John with "advocate," but there it refers to Jesus. This echoes the fact that Jesus says the Holy Spirit is "another comforter" in John 14:16, meaning He Himself is a parakletos.

    So, the first problem is where to use each of the main two glosses: "comforter" and "helper," in the book of John. This can be a very difficult thing to figure out in many tribal languages. Nida tells about the Karre people of Africa, where the translator despaired of finding a good Karre word. Finally they told her to use "one who falls down beside us" (ibid, 20-21). She didn't understand until they explained that this is the term for a person who aids someone who has fainted on the jungle trail and cannot get to the safety of the next village. Such a person is in danger of being killed and eaten on the way. So the Holy Spirit is "the One who sustains, protects, and keeps the children of God on their journey toward their heavenly home" (p. 21).
     
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  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    In some languages the words for "believe" (noun, verb) are difficult to translate. The Greek verb for "I believe" is pisteuo (πιστεύω), and the noun for "faith" or "belief" is pistos (πιστός). This is a pretty basic word in English, and I'm sure all of the translations render it the same. Even groups such as the Catholics or Jehovah's Witnesses render it the same. You have to!

    The word is also fairly straightforward in Japanese and Chinese, where the Chinese character is 信. This character is fascinating to me because it is made up of radicals meaning person (人) and word (言). The second one represents lines of speech coming out of the mouth (the square). So "faith" in Chinese and Japanese is trusting in what someone says. It should be easy to translate, then, but I had a run-in years ago with one of the JW translators of the Japanese "New World Bible," They had almost always translated the Greek verb with 信仰を働かせる ("Make your faith work") instead of the obvious "believe." Oddly enough, the English JW translators did not do that!

    Translators into tribal languages sometimes have difficulty finding the right word. Eugene Nida tells of such languages where the rendering for faith is "to hear and take into the soul," or "to hear within one's self and not let go," or "to cause God's word to enter the heart," or "truth entering the soul." (God's Word in Man's Language, 118-119). You can see the difficulty, I'm sure.

    One variant of the Greek is important to get right. When the Greek article comes before the word, as in ὁ πιστός, it usually does not mean a person's individual faith, but "the faith" as the body of beliefs that make up our Christian hope. A good example of this usage is in Acts 16:5, "And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." We usually understand this correctly in English, but it is easy to see how it might be a problem in other languages. It is problematic in the many Asian languages which do not have the article, such as Japanese and Chinese. We were not able to get this nuance into Japanese.
     
  7. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    How about when Jesus stated will he find "faith" at His second coming, and Jude about the faith once and for all delivered to the saints?
     
  8. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Two times in the NT, the Greek word is in the imperative, Luke 8:50 and Acts 16:31. This appears (to me) to be another entreaty, thus pleading for the person to take the action of trusting in God's revelation.

    Sometimes "the faith" simply points to a kind of faith, thus the faith of Abraham refers to his "all in" kind of faith. And sometimes when we see "the faith" in an English translation, the "the" has been supplied and does not appear in the Greek. (1 Timothy 1:2)
     
  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Luke 18:8 has the article in Greek. Jude also does, but in an interesting nuance the article there comes before "saints," so "delivered to the saints faith."
     
  10. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    That might have to wait til that tribe learns the basics of Christianity first.
     
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    You're probably right.
     
  12. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    There is a difficult word in 1 Cor. 7:36, huperakmos (ὑπέρακμος, “flower of her age” in the KJV). It is a hapax legomenon, meaning it occurs only here in the NT. It is also what is called a two- termination adjective. In other words, it only has two possible suffixes (masc./fem., or neuter) instead of the three that the Greek adjective usually has (m, f, n). In this verse it is masc./fem. Thus, in the context it could refer to either a man or a woman. It is used in extra-biblical sources to refer to a virgin woman, so chances are that is the usage here.

    Two commentaries on the Greek, Alford’s Greek Testament and A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, both go with the father as the one being talked to by Paul, and I also think it refers to a father and his virgin daughter. As for the meaning here, I believe it should be translated as "one's prime of life," or maybe "one who has come of age." (Many tribal cultures have "coming of age" customs.) So the message is that a father with a grown daughter getting too old to marry is free to let her enter a courtship.

    Interestingly enough, we are entering a time in American history where truly separated parents, seeking to act right about their daughter, might end up with daughters in the late 20's or early 30's still not married. I know several good, godly families with several unmarried adult daughters. So this passage is becoming more relevant to the modern Christian family.
     
    #52 John of Japan, Apr 8, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  13. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member
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    But "the" of the before "the saints" is dative plural, while "the" before "faith" precedes "delivered". Two different things, and a case of an embedded dative phrase placed inside a longer dative phrase. Read it as "the faith once delivered to the saints".
     
  14. robycop3

    robycop3 Well-Known Member
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    The custom among jews, and others, of that time, was that parents of multiple daughters wanted them to marry in order of their ages, eldest first.
    And there were some who'd started a rumor that Paul had commanded single Christians not to marry, but to be as himself. (This may be where the harmful rule in the RCC, that its clergy be celibate, came from. We see some of the great harm of this practice in the "Boyzz R Us" clubs among that clergy.) Paul knew, of course, that if no one married or had kids, mankind would die off. And he certainly didn't forbid marriage! He was trying to dispel that rumor.
     
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  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Good points.
     
  16. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for the background information.
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I did a thread a long time ago about translating idioms, if I remember correctly. They are not usually just one word, but are often difficult to translate. A good example of this difficulty is in 1 Peter 2:24, where we have tais hamartiais apogenomenoi (ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι), “being dead to sins.” Translating anything to do with death into another language is very often problematic, though there is usually a straightforward word meaning "death." However, quite often circumlocutions are used, just like in English: passed away, passed (a recent usage), went to Heaven, slipped away, etc. In the case of this idiom, the translator must determine what impression the idiom leaves with the hearer.

    It is very hard to make this idiom work literally in Japanese, and one may question its literal rendering in English. It just doesn’t make sense in an Asian language, and may even steer the reader completely away from the authorial intent! So in our new Japanese translation we had to choose a wording that made sense. Thus, we translated this into Japanese as 罪と係わりを断った私たち (refusing connection with sin), an idiom into a non-idiom.

    In illustration of this difficulty, I once preached at a friend's church in Japan, and spoke of "death to self." I suggested that if you walked up to a corpse and slapped it, it would not react. There was an audible gasp from the congregation from two young ladies who were attending church for the very first time. They never came back; the words the missionary used were just too shocking!
     
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    The word "preach" in one form or another occurs in 127 verses in the KJV. The difficulty here is that there are many different words translated in the KJV with "preach" or a cognate. So the question is, do you translate all of these words with the same word in the target language like the KJV did, or do you differentiate between them somehow?

    I'll be giving just basic definitions from F. Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (accessed through BibleWorks). Here they are:

    Kerusso (κηρύσσω): "proclaim aloud, announce, mention publicly, preach most often in reference to God's saving action Mt 10:27; Mk 1:4, 39, 45; 5:20; 7:36; 13:10; Lk 8:39; 9:2; 12:3; 24:47; Ac 15:21; Ro 2:21; 1 Cor 9:27; 15:12; 2 Cor 4:5; Gal 2:2; 5:11; 1 Th 2:9; 2 Ti 4:2; Rv 5:2. Proclaim victory 1 Pt 3:19. [pg. 108].

    Kerugma (κήρυγγμα; a noun): proclamation, preaching [pg. 108].

    Laleo (λαλεω): sound, give forth sounds or tones of inanimate things Hb 11:4; 12:24; Rv 4:1; 10:4 .—2. speak Mt 12:34, 46f; 13:3; Mk 1:34; Lk 1:19, 55; Ac 13:45; 18:9; 1 Cor 13:11; 14:29; Hb 2:5; Rv 13:11. Be able to speak Mk 7:35, 37; Lk 1:20, 64. Proclaim, say Mt 12:36; Mk 2:2; J 3:34; 16:25a; 1 Cor 2:6f. [pg 116]

    euaggelizo (εύαγγελίζω): bring or announce good news Lk 1:19; Rv 14:6. Proclaim, preach (the gospel) Lk 4:43; Ac 13:32; Ro 15:20; 1 Cor 15:1; 2 Cor 10:16; Gal 1:11, 23 ; 1 Pt 1:12. Pass. have good news (the gospel) preached to one Mt 11:5; Hb 4:2, 6. [evangelize] [pg 80]

    diaggelo (διαγγέλλω): proclaim far and wide Lk 9:60; Ro 9:17; Mk 5:19 v.l. Give notice of Ac 21:26.* [pg 45]

    prokerrusso (προκηρύσσω): proclaim beforehand Ac 13:24; pass. 3:20 v.l.* [pg 169]

    kataggello (καταγγέλλω): proclaim Ac 13:5; 16:21; 17:23; Ro 1:8; 1 Cor 9:14; 11:26; Phil 1:17f. [pg 101]

    parresiazomai (παρρησιάζομαι): 1. speak freely, openly, fearlessly; express oneself freely Ac 9:27f ; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26; Eph 6:20.—2. have the courage, venture 1 Th 2:2.* [pg 152]

    dialegomai (διαλέγομαι): 1. discuss, conduct a discussion Mk 9:34; Ac 19:8f; 20:7; 24:12.—2. speak, preach 18:4; Hb 12:5. [pg 46]

    logos (λόγος; a noun): JoJ: only in Col. 1:18; normally "word" or "message"

    akoe (ἀκοή; a noun, only in Heb. 4:2): the faculty of hearing 1 Cor 12:17. The act of hearing, listening 2 Pt 2:8; avkoh|/ avkou,sete you will indeed hear Mt 13:14. The organ of hearing, the ear Mk 7:35 ; Ac 17:20.—2. that which is heard: fame, report, rumor Mt 4:24; 14:1; 24:6. Account, report, preaching J 12:38; Gal 3:2, 5; Hb 4:2; 1 Th 2:13. [pg 7]
     
  19. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    You might think that the Greek word for "lord," kurios (κὐριος), would always be easy to translate, but it's not. One difficulty arises when the word is not used by a disciple referring to the Lord Jesus or to God Himself. In those cases it is simply a polite term for someone who is respected. In other words, it is what linguists call an honorific in those cases.

    I recently was looking through some proofreading notes on our Japanese translation of Revelation, where when John spoke to an angel we had him say danna (旦那), which is kind of like "Mister." (Japanese uses san for Mr., Mrs., and Miss, but it cannot stand alone like the English "Mister" can.) The proofreader felt this was too familiar, or low class, or something, to use for an angel. But our reasoning is that John was hesitant, and didn't quite know what to call the angel.

    Consider these verses, all with kurios. Would you translate any of them as "Lord"?

    Mt 13:27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
    Mt 21:30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I [go], sir: and went not.
    Mt 27:63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
    Joh 4:11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
    Joh 4:15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
    Joh 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
    Joh 4:49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
    Joh 5:7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
    Joh 12:21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.
    Joh 20:15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
    Re 7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
     
  20. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    There are two Greek words translated "friend" in the KJV, philos (φιλός) and hetairos (ἑταῖρος). We have already discussed the first. The second only occurs in the following verses in the NT:

    Mt 11:16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
    Mt 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
    Mt 22:12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
    Mt 26:50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

    The difficulty is that hetairos is a more casual word than philos. In English, the word "friend" can be used as casual greeting or in other casual ways. But that is not true in many languages. The translator must evaluate what level of closeness the word in the target language is. Japanese has several words for friend: literary (tomo, 友), colloquial, "friend" (yuujin, 友人), colloquial, "friend" (tomodachi, 友達), close friend (shinyuu, 親友). person in the same group (nakama, 仲間). Most translations go with the literary word for this Greek word.
     
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