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Translation Topics Manual

Introduction to Translation Topics

Translation Topics provides simple explanations, sample uses, and suggestions for dealing with the following areas in translation: figures of speech, grammar, pronoun usage, sentence structure, quotes, writing style, potential translation issues, unfamiliar concepts, and biblical imagery.


Figures of Speech

Introduction to Figures of Speech

This page answers the question: *What are some figures of speech?

*

Description

Figures of speech are ways of saying things that use words in non-literal ways. That is, the meaning of a figure of speech is not the same as the more direct meaning of its words. In order to translate the meaning, you need to be able to recognize figures of speech and know what the figure of speech means in the source language. Then you can choose either a figure of speech or a direct way to communicate that same meaning in the target language.

Translation principles

  • Make the meaning of the figure of speech as clear to the target audience as it was to the original audience.
  • Do not make the meaning more clear to the target audience than it was to the original audience.
  • When someone uses an extended metaphor, the images are an important part of what he is trying to say.
  • If the target audience is not familiar with some of the images, you will need to find some way of helping them understand the images so they can understand the whole extended metaphor.

Types

Listed below are different types of Figures of Speech. If you would like additional information simply click the colored word to be directed to a page containing definitions, examples, and translation strategies for each figure of speech.

  • Apostrophe - An apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses someone who is not there, or addresses a thing that is not a person.

  • Doublet - A doublet is a pair of words or very short phrases that mean the same thing and that are used in the same phrase. In the Bible, doublets are often used in poetry, prophecy, and sermons to emphasize an idea.

  • Euphemism - A euphemism is a mild or polite way of referring to something that is unpleasant or embarrassing. Its purpose is to avoid offending the people who hear or read it.

  • Hendiadys - In hendiadys a single idea is expressed with two words connected with "and," when one word could be used to modify the other.

  • Hyperbole - A hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration used to indicate the speaker's feeling or opinion about something.

  • Idiom - An idiom is a group of words that has a meaning that is different from what one would understand from the meanings of the individual words.

  • Irony - Irony is a figure of speech in which the sense that the speaker intends to communicate is actually the opposite of the literal meaning of the words.

  • Litotes - Litotes is an emphatic statement about something made by negating an opposite expression.

  • Merism - Merism is a figure of speech in which a person refers to something by listing some of its parts or by speaking of two extreme parts of it.

  • Metaphor - A metaphor is a figure in which one concept is used in place of another, unrelated concept. This invites the hearer to think of what the unrelated concepts have in common. That is, metaphor is an implied comparison between two unrelated things.

  • Metonymy - Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or idea is called not by its own name, but by the name of something closely associated with it. A metonym is a word or phrase used as a substitute for something it is associated with.

  • Parallelism - In parallelism two phrases or clauses that are similar in structure or idea are used together. It is found throughout the whole of the Hebrew Bible, most commonly in the poetry of the books of Psalms and Proverbs.

  • Personification - Personification is a figure in which an idea or something that is not human is referred to as if it were a person and could do the things that people do or have the qualities that people have.

  • Predictive Past - The predictive past is a form that some languages use to refer to things that will happen in the future. This is sometimes done in prophecy to show that the event will certainly happen.

  • Rhetorical Question - A rhetorical question is a question that is used for something other than getting information. Often it indicates the speaker's attitude toward the topic or the listener. Often it is used for rebuking or scolding, but some languages have other purposes as well.

  • Simile - A simile is a comparison of two things that are not normally thought to be similar. It focuses on a particular trait that the two items have in common, and it includes words such as "like," "as," or "than" to make the comparison explicit.

  • Synecdoche - Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which 1) the name of a part of something is used to refer to the whole thing, or 2) the name of a whole thing is used to refer to just one part of it.


Apostrophe

This page answers the question: *What is the figure of speech called apostrophe?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

An apostrophe is a figure of speech in which a speaker turns his attention away from his listeners and speaks to someone or something that he knows cannot hear him. He does this to tell his listeners his message or feelings about that person or thing in a very strong way.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Many languages do not use apostrophe, and readers could be confused by it. They may wonder who the speaker is talking to, or think that the speaker is crazy to talk to things or people who cannot hear.

Examples from the Bible

When King Saul was killed on Mount Gilboa, David sang a sad song about it.

Mountains of Gilboa, let there not be dew or rain on you. (2 Samuel 1:21 ULB)

  • David showed how sad he was by telling the mountains that he wanted them to have no dew or rain. The mountains could not hear what he said, but the people who heard David's song did.

When a king broke God's law by building a new altar and offering sacrifices on it, a man of God went to the king to rebuke him.

He cried against the altar by the word of Yahweh: "Altar, altar! This is what Yahweh says, 'See, ... on you they will burn human bones.' " (1 Kings 13:2 ULB)

  • The man told how God would punish the king by speaking to the altar as if the altar could hear him, but he really wanted the king to hear him.

When some Pharisees told Jesus not to go to Jerusalem, he told them that he had to go there, and he hinted at what would happen to him and to Jerusalem.

... it is necessary for me to continue on today, tomorrow, and the following day, since it is not acceptable for a prophet to be destroyed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to you. How often I desired to gather your children the way a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you did not desire this. See, your house is abandoned. I say to you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"(Luke 13:34 ULB)

  • Jesus showed his sadness by speaking directly to city of Jerusalem as though it could hear him. But he really wanted the the Pharisees and his disciples to hear him.

Translation Strategies

If apostrophe would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here is another option.

  1. If this way of speaking would be confusing to your people, let the speaker continue speaking to the people that are listening to him as he tells them his message or feelings about the people or thing that cannot hear him.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If this way of speaking would be confusing to your people, let the speaker continue speaking to the people that are listening to him as he tells them his message or feelings about the people or thing that cannot hear him.
    • He cried against the altar by the word of Yahweh: "Altar, altar! This is what Yahweh says, 'See, ... on you they will burn human bones.' " (1 Kings 13:2 ULB)
      • By the word of the Lord, he said this about the altar: "This is what Yahweh says about this altar. 'See, ... they will burn people's bones on it.' "
    • Mountains of Gilboa, let there not be dew or rain on you. (2 Samuel 1:21 ULB)
      • As for these mountains of Gilboa, let there not be dew or rain on them.

Doublet

This page answers the question: *What are doublets and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

We are using the word "doublet" to refer to two words or very short phrases that mean the same thing or very close to the same thing and that are used together. Often they are joined with the word "and." Often they are used to emphasize or intensify the idea expressed by the two words.

Reasons this is a translation issue

In some languages people do not use doublets. Or they may use doublets, but only in certain situations, so a doublet might not make sense in their language in some verses. In either case, translators may need to find some other way to express the meaning expressed by the doublet.

Examples from the Bible

... King David was old and advanced in years.... (1 Kings 1:1 ULB)

  • The phrases "old" and "advanced in years" mean the same thing. Together they mean that David was very old.

... he attacked two men more righteous and better than himself ... (1 Kings 2:32 ULB)

  • The phrases "more righteous" and "better" mean the same thing. Together they mean that the two men were much more righteous than the one who attacked them.

... who was like a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter 1:19 ULB)

  • The phrases "without blemish" and "without spot" mean the same thing. Together they mean that Jesus was like a lamb that did not have any blemish—not even one.

Translation Strategies

If a doublet would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using one. If not, consider these strategies.

  1. Translate only one of the phrases.
  2. If the doublet is used to intensify the meaning, translate one of the words and add a word that intensifies it such as "very" or "great" or "many."
  3. If the doublet is used to intensify or emphasize the meaning, use one of your language's ways of doing that.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Translate only one of the phrase.

    • ... he attacked two men more righteous and better than himself ... (1 Kings 2:32 ULB) (Daniel 2:9 ULB)
      • ... he attacked two men who were more righteous than himself ...
  2. If the doublet is used to intensify the meaning, translate one of the words and add a word that intensifies it such as "very" or "great" or "many."

    • ... King David was old and advanced in years ... (1 Kings 1:1 ULB)
      • ... King David was very old ...
  3. If the doublet is used to intensify or emphasize the meaning, use one of your language's ways of doing that.

    • ... a lamb without blemish and without spot... (1 Peter 1:19 ULB)
      • ... a lamb without any blemish at all ...

Dead Metaphors

This page answers the question: *What is a dead metaphor, and how can I translate a sentence that has one?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)*

Description

A dead metaphor is a metaphor that has been used so much in the language that its speakers no longer regard it as one concept standing for another. Dead metaphors are extremely common. Examples in English are "table leg," "family tree," "leaf" meaning a page in a book, and "crane" meaning a large machine for lifting heavy loads. English speakers simply think of these words as having more than one meaning. Examples in Biblical Hebrew are "hand" to mean "power," "face" to mean "presence," and speaking of emotions or moral qualities as if they were "clothing."

Patterned Pairs of Concepts acting as Metaphors

Many ways of metaphorical speaking depend on pairs of concepts, where one underlying concept frequently stands for a different underlying concept. For example, in English, the direction UP often stands for the concept of MORE or BETTER. Because of this pair of underlying concepts, we can make sentences such as "The price of gasoline is going up," "A highly intelligent man," and also the opposite kind of idea: "The temperature is going down," and "I am feeling very low."

Patterned pairs of concepts are constantly used for metaphorical purposes in the world's languages, because they serve as convenient ways to organize thought. In general, people like to speak of abstract qualities, such as power, presence, emotions, and moral qualities, as if they were objects that could be seen or held, as if they were body parts, or as if they were events that could be watched as they happened.

When these metaphors are used in normal ways, it is rare that the speaker and audience regard them as figurative speech. Examples of metaphors in English that go unrecognized are:

  • "Turn the heat up." HOTTER is spoken of as UP.
  • "Turn the radio up. LOUDER is spoken of as UP.
  • "Let us go ahead with our debate." DOING WHAT WAS PLANNED is spoken of as WALKING or MOVING FORWARD.
  • "A flow of words" WORDS are spoken of as LIQUIDS.

English speakers do not view these as unusual or metaphorical expressions, so it would be wrong to translate them into other languages in a way that would lead people to pay special attention to them as figurative speech.

For a description of important patterns of this kind of metaphor in biblical languages, please see Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns and the pages it will direct you to.

When translating something that is a dead metaphor into another language, do not treat it as a metaphor. Instead, just use the best expression for that thing or concept in the target language.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • People may not recognize that something is a metaphor. In other words, they may mistake a metaphor for a literal statement, and thus misunderstand it.

Examples from the Bible

In the Bible, behaving in certain ways is often spoken of as walking in certain ways.

In the past ages, he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14:16 ULB)

... so also we might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 ULB)

In the Bible, teaching or influencing is often spoken of as leading, and believing or doing the wrong thing is often spoken of as going astray.

Many false prophets will rise up and lead many astray. (Matthew 24:11 ULB)

Do you not know that his kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 ULB)

In the Bible, attitudes and emotions are often spoken of as if they were clothing that could be put on or taken off. Putting on an attitude represents starting to have that attitude, and taking off an attitude represents stopping having that attitude.

Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12 ULB)

Therefore take off all sinful filth and abundant amounts of evil. (James 1:21 ULB)

Translation Strategies

If people would understand the metaphor in the same way that the original readers would have understood it, go ahead and use it. Be sure to test the translation to make sure that people do understand it in the right way.

If people do not or would not understand it, here is a strategy to help.

  1. If the metaphor is a common expression in the source language or expresses a patterned pair of concepts in a biblical language (a "dead" metaphor), then express the main idea in the simplest way preferred by your language.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the metaphor is a common expression in the source language or expresses a patterned pair of concepts in a biblical language (a "dead" metaphor), then express the main idea in the simplest way preferred by your language.

    • ... so also we might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 ULB)
      • ... so also we might behave according to new way of living.
    • Do you not know that his kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 ULB)
      • Do you not know that his kindness is meant to teach you to repent?
    • Many false prophets will rise up and lead many astray (Matthew 24:11 ULB)
      • Many false prophets will rise up and teach many people to believe lies.
    • ... put on a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12 ULB)
      • be merciful, kind, humble, gentle and patient.

Euphemism

This page answers the question: *What is a Euphemism?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

A euphemism is a mild or polite way of referring to something that is unpleasant, embarrassing, or socially unacceptable, such as death or activities usually done in private.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Different languages use different euphemisms. If the target language does not use the same euphemism as in the source language, readers may not understand what it means, and they may think that the writer means only what the words literally say.

Examples from the Bible

... where there was a cave. Saul went inside to cover his feet. (1 Samuel 24:3 ULB)

  • The phrase "to cover his feet" is a polite way of speaking about what one does when he uses the toilet.

... they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. (1 Chronicles 10:8 ULB)

  • The phrase "fallen" is a polite way of referring to dying in battle.

Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen, since I have not known any man?" (Luke 1:34 ULB)

  • The phrase "know a man" is a polite way of referring to having sexual relations with a man.

Translation Strategies

If the euphemism would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here are other options:

  1. Use a euphemism from your own culture.
  2. State the information plainly without a euphemism if it would not be offensive.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use a euphemism from your own culture.

    • ... where there was a cave. Saul went inside to cover his feet. (1 Samuel 24:3 ULB) - Some languages might use euphemisms like these:
      • ... where there was a cave. Saul went into the cave to releave himself.
      • ... where there was a cave. Saul went into the cave to dig a hole.
      • ... where there was a cave. Saul went into the cave to have some time alone.
    • Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen, since I have not known any man?" (Luke 1:34 ULB)
      • Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen, since I have not slept with any man?"
      • Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen, since I have not lain with any man?"
      • Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen, since I have not been intimate with any man?"
      • Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen, since I have not been with any man?"
  2. State the information plainly without a euphemism if it would not be offensive.

    • ... they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. (1 Chronicles 10:8 ULB)
      • ... they found Saul and his sons dead on Mount Gilboa.

Extended Metaphor

This page answers the question: *What is an extended metaphor?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Simile

](#figs-simile)*

Description

An extended metaphor occurs when someone speaks of a situation as if it were a different situation. He does this in order to effectively describe the first situation by implying that in some important way it is similar to the other. The second situation has multiple images of people, things, and actions that represent those in the first situation.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • People may not realize that the images represent other things.
  • People may not be familiar with the things that are used as images.
  • Extended metaphors are often so profound that it would be impossible for a translator to show all of the meaning generated by the metaphor.

Translation Principles

  • Make the meaning of the extended metaphor as clear to the target audience as it was to the original audience.
  • Do not make the meaning more clear to the target audience than it was to the original audience.
  • When someone uses an extended metaphor, the images are an important part of what he is trying to say.
  • If the target audience is not familiar with some of the images, you will need to find some way of helping them understand the images so they can understand the whole extended metaphor.

Examples from the Bible

In Psalm 23:1-4, the writer says that God's concern and care for his people can be pictured as the care that a shepherd has for his flock of sheep. Shepherds give sheep what they need, take them to safe places, rescue them, guide them, and protect them. What God does for his people is like these actions.

1Yahweh is my shepherd; I will lack nothing. 2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside tranquil water. 3He brings back my life; he guides me along right paths for his name's sake. 4Even though I walk through a valley of darkest shadow, I will not fear harm since you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (ULB)

In Isaiah 5:1-7, Isaiah presents God's disappointment with his people as the disappointment that a farmer would feel if his vineyard only produced bad fruit. Farmers care for their gardens, but if they only produce bad fruit, farmers eventually stop caring for them. Verses 1 through 6 appear to be simply about a farmer and his vineyard, but verse 7 makes it clear that it is about God and his people.

1... My well beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He spaded it, removed the stones, and planted it with an excellent kind of vine. He built a tower in the middle of it, and also built a winepress. He waited for it to produce grapes, but it only produced wild grapes. 3So now, inhabitant of Jerusalem and men of Judah; judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more could have been done for my vineyard, that I have not done for it? When I looked for it to produce grapes, why did it produce wild grapes? 5Now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard; I will remove the hedge, I will turn it into a pasture, I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled on. 6I will lay it waste, and it will not be pruned nor hoed. Instead, briers and thorns will spring up. I will also command the clouds not to rain on it.

7For the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts is the house of Israel, and the man of Judah his pleasant planting; he waited for justice, but instead, there was killing; for righteousness, but, instead, a shout for help. (ULB)

Translation Strategies

Consider using the same extended metaphor if your readers will understand it in the same way the original readers would have understood it. If not, here are some other strategies:

  1. If the target audience would think that the images should be understood literally, translate it as a simile by using "like" or "as." It may be enough to to do this in just the first sentence or two.
  2. If the target audience would not know the image, find a way of translating it so they can understand what the image is.
  3. If the target audience still would not understand, then state it clearly.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the target audience would think that the images should be understood literally, translate it as a simile by using "like" or "as." It may be enough to to do this in just the first sentence or two.

    • Yahweh is my shepherd; I will lack nothing. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside tranquil water. (Psalm 23:1-2 ULB)
      • Yahweh is like a shepherd to me, so I will lack nothing. Like a shepherd who makes his sheep lie down in green pastures and leads them by peaceful waters, Yahweh helps me to rest peacefully.
  2. If the target audience would not know the image, find a way of translating it so they can understand what the image is.

    • My well beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He spaded it, removed the stones, and planted it with an excellent kind of vine. He built a tower in the middle of it, and also built a winepress. He waited for it to produce grapes, but it only produced wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:1-2 ULB)
      • My well beloved had a grapevine garden on a very fertile hill. He dug up the ground and removed the stones, and planted it with the best grapevines. He built a watchtower in the middle of it, and also built a tank where he could crush the juice out of the grapes. He waited for it to produce grapes, but it produced wild grapes that were not good for making wine."
  3. If the target audience still would not understand, then state it clearly.

    • Yahweh is my shepherd; I will lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1 ULB)
      • Yahweh cares for me like a shepherd who cares for his sheep, so I will lack nothing.
    • For the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts is the house of Israel, and the man of Judah his pleasant planting; he waited for justice, but instead, there was killing; for righteousness, but, instead, a shout for help. (Isaiah 5:7 ULB)
      • For the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts represents the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are like his pleasant planting; he waited for justice, but instead, there was killing; for righteousness, but, instead, there was a cry for help. So as a farmer stops caring for a vineyard that produces bad fruit, Yahweh will stop protecting Israel and Judah.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)*


Hendiadys

This page answers the question: *What is hendiadys and how can I translate phrases that have it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

When a speaker expresses a single idea by using two words that are connected with "and," it is called "hendiadys." In hendiadys, the two words work together. Usually one of the words is the primary idea and the other word further describes the primary one.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Often hendiadys contains an abstract noun. Some languages may not have a noun with the same meaning.
  • Many languages do not use hendiadys, so people may not understand how the two words work together; one word describing the other.

Examples from the Bible

In the two examples below, the second noun describes the first noun.

... who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ULB)

  • The noun "glory" describes "kingdom." It is his glorious kingdom.

... for I will give you words and wisdom ... (Luke 21:15 ULB)

  • The noun "wisdom" describes "words." They are wise words.

In the example below, the first adjective describes the second adjective.

If you are willing and obedient ... (Isaiah 1:19 ULB)

  • The adjective "willing" describes how people should be obedient. They should be willingly obedient. (They should obey willingly.)

Translation Strategies

If the hendiadys would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here are other options:

  1. Substitute the describing noun with an adjective that means the same thing.
  2. Substitute the describing noun with a phrase that means the same thing.
  3. Substitute the describing adjective with an adverb that means the same thing.
  4. Substitute other parts of speech that mean the same thing and show that one word describes the other.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Substitute the describing noun with an adjective that means the same thing.

    • ... for I will give you words and wisdom ... (Luke 21:15 ULB)
      • ... for I will give you wise words ...
    • ... who calls you to his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ULB)
      • ... who calls you to his own glorious kingdom.
  2. Substitute the describing noun with a phrase that means the same thing.

    • ... for I will give you words and wisdom ... (Luke 21:15 ULB)
      • ... for I will give you words of wisdom ...
    • ... who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ULB)
      • ... who calls you to his own kingdom of glory.
  3. Substitute the describing adjective with an adverb that means the same thing.

    • If you are willing and obedient ... (Isaiah 1:19 ULB)
      • If you are willingly obedient ...
  4. Substitute other parts of speech that mean the same thing and show that one word describes the other.

    • If you are, willing and obedient (Isaiah 1:19 ULB) - The adjective "obedient" can be substituted with the verb "obey."
      • If you obey willingly

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Doublet

](#figs-doublet)*


Hyperbole and Generalization

This page answers the question: *What are hyperboles? What are generalizations?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

A speaker or writer can use exactly the same words to say something he means as completely true, as generally true, or as a hyperbole. This is why it can be hard to decide how to understand a statement.

  • It rains here every night.
  1. The speaker means this as literally true if he means that it really does rain here every night.
  2. The speaker means this as a generalization if he means that it rains here most nights.
  3. The speaker means this as a hyperbole if he wants to say it rains more than it actually does, usually in order to express a strong attitude toward the amount of rain, such as being annoyed or being happy.

Hyperbole: This is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration. A speaker deliberately describes something by an extreme or even unreal statement, usually to show his strong feeling or opinion about it. He expects people to understand that he is exaggerating.

Generalization: This is a statement that is true most of the time or in most situations that it could apply to. Sometimes when people use strong-sounding words like "all," "always," "none," or "never," they mean exactly "all," "always," "none," or "never." But when people use these words in a generalization, they simply mean "most, "most of the time," "hardly any" or "rarely."

Reasons this is a translation issue

  1. Readers need to be able to understand whether or not a statement is completely true.
  2. If readers realize that a statement is not completely true, they need to be able to understand whether it is a hyperbole, a generalization, or a lie. (Though the Bible is completely true, it tells about people who did not always tell the truth.)

Examples from the Bible

Examples of Exaggeration

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed ... (Mark 9:43 ULB)

  • Jesus used hyperbole to show how extremely important it is to stop sinning. He did not mean that people should actually cut off their hand, but that we should do whatever we need to do in order not to sin.

The Philistines gathered together to fight against Israel, with thirty thousand chariots, six thousand men to drive the chariots, and troops as numerous as the sand on the seashore. (1 Samuel 13:5 ULB)

  • The author of 1 Samuel used hyperbole to show that there were many, many soldiers in the Philistine army. It showed the great danger that the Israelites were in.

They will not leave one stone upon another ... (Luke 19:44 ULB)

  • When Jesus spoke about how Israel's enemies would destroy Jerusalem, he used hyperbole to show that Jerusalem would be terribly destroyed.

Examples of Generalization

Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians ... (Acts 7:22 ULB)

  • Stephen used the word "all" in a generalization about Moses' education. It means that Moses learned much of what the Egyptians knew and taught, not every single thing.

They found him, and they said to him, "Everyone is looking for you." (Mark 1:37 ULB)

  • Jesus' disciples used the word "everyone" in a generalization about who was looking for him. They did not mean that every person in the city was looking for him, but that many people were looking for him, or that all of Jesus' closest friends there were looking for him.

But as his anointing teaches you everything and is true and is not a lie ... (1 John 2:27 ULB)

  • John used the word "everything" in a generalization about what God teaches his people. God teaches us about all things that we need to know, not about absolutely everything.

Do not assume that something is an exaggeration just because it seems to be impossible.

... they saw Jesus walking on the sea ... (John 6:19 ULB)

  • God does miraculous things. Jesus really did walk on the sea.

Do not assume that the word "all" is always a generalization that means "most."

Yahweh is righteous in all his ways ... (Psalm 145:17 ULB)

  • Yahweh is always righteous in everything he does.

Translation Strategies

If the exaggeration or generalization would be natural and people would understand it and not think that it is a lie, consider using it. If not, here are other options.

  1. Express the meaning without the exaggeration.
  2. For a generalization, show that it is a generalization by using a phrase like "in general" or "in most cases."
  3. For a generalization, add a word like "most" or "almost" to show that the generalization is not exact.
  4. For a generalization that has a word like "all," always," "none," or "never," consider deleting that word.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Express the meaning without the exaggeration.

    • ... thirty thousand chariots, six thousand men to drive the chariots, and troops as numerous as the sand on the seashore. (1 Samuel 13:5 ULB)
      • ... thirty thousand chariots, six thousand men to drive the chariots, and a great number of troops.
  2. For a generalization, show that it is a generalization by using a phrase like "in general" or "in most cases."

    • The one who ignores instruction will have poverty and shame ... (Proverbs 13:18 ULB)
      • In general, the one who ignores instruction will have poverty and shame ...
    • When you pray, do not make useless repetitions as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
      • When you pray, do not make useless repetitions as the Gentiles generally do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.
  3. For a generalization, add a word like "most" or "almost" to show that the generalization is not exact. 

    • The whole country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. (Mark 1:5 ULB)
      • Almost all the country of Judea and almost all the people of Jerusalem went out to him."
      • Most of the country of Judea and most of the people of Jerusalem went out to him."
  4. For a generalization that has a word like "all," always," "none," or "never," consider deleting that word.

    • The whole country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. (Mark 1:5 ULB)
      • The country of Judea and the people of Jerusalem went out to him.

Idiom

This page answers the question: *What are idioms and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

An idiom is a figure of speech made up of a group of words that, as a whole, has a meaning that is different from what one would understand from the meanings of the individual words. It has a special meaning to the people of the language or culture who use it; someone from outside of the culture usually cannot understand an idiom without someone inside the culture explaining its true meaning. Every language uses idioms.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • People can easily misunderstand idioms in the original languages of the Bible if they do not know the cultures that produced the Bible.
  • People can easily misunderstand idioms that are in the source language Bibles if they do not know the cultures that made those translations.
  • It is useless to translate idioms literally (according to the meaning of each word) when the target language audience will not understand what they mean.
  • Sometimes people may be able to understand an idiom from another culture, but it might sound like a strange way to express the meaning.

Examples from the Bible

But when the young son came to himself ... (Luke 15:17)

  • The idiom "came to himself" means that he began to think sensibly. He understood his situation.

... he ... threw himself into the sea. (John 21:7)

  • The idiom "threw himself" means that he quickly dived or jumped down into the water.

robbers, who ... beat him, and left him half dead. (Luke 10:30)

  • The idiom "half dead" means that he was injured so badly that it appeared that he might die soon.

Let these words go deeply into your ears ... (Luke 9:44 ULB)

  • This idiom means "Listen carefully and remember what I say."

My eyes grow dim from grief ... (Psalm 6:7 ULB)

  • This idiom means that he cried bitterly for a long time.

Translation Strategies

If the idiom would be clearly understood in your language, consider using it. If not, here are some other options.

  1. Translate the meaning plainly without using an idiom.
  2. Use a different idiom that people use in your own language that has the same meaning.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Translate the meaning plainly without using an idiom.

    • But when the young son came to himself ... (Luke 15:17 ULB)
      • But when the young man began to think clearly
    • ... he ... threw himself into the sea. (John 21:7 ULB)
      • ... he dived into the sea.
  2. Use an idiom that people use in your own language that has the same meaning.

    • Let these words go deeply into your ears ... (Luke 9:44 ULB)
      • Be all ears when I say these words to you ...
    • My eyes grow dim from grief ... (Psalm 6:7 ULB)
      • I cry my eyes out ...

Irony

This page answers the question: *What is irony and how can I translate it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

Irony is a figure of speech in which the sense that the speaker intends to communicate is actually the opposite of the literal meaning of the words. Sometimes a person does this by using someone else's words, but in a way that communicates that he does not agree with them. People do this to emphasize how different something is from what it should be, or how someone else's belief about something is wrong or foolish. It often expresses anger.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • If someone does not realize that a speaker is using irony, he will think that the speaker actually believes what he is saying. He will understand the passage to mean the opposite of what it was intended to mean.

Examples from the Bible

How well you reject the commandment of God so you may keep your tradition! (Mark 7:9 ULB)

  • Here Jesus appears to praise the Pharisees for doing something that is obviously wrong. Through irony, he communicates the opposite of praise: He communicates that the Pharisees, who take great pride in keeping the commandments, are so far from God that they do not even recognize that their traditions are breaking God's commandments. The use of irony makes the Pharisee's sin more obvious and startling.

Jesus answered them, "People who are well do not need a physician; only people who are sick need one. I did not come to call righteous people, but to call sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:31-32)

  • When Jesus spoke of "righteous people," he was not referring to people who were truly righteous, but to people who wrongly believed that they were righteous. By using irony, Jesus communicated that they were wrong to think that they were better than others and did not need to repent.

"Present your case," says Yahweh; "present your best arguments for your idols," says the King of Jacob. "Let them bring us their own arguments; have them come forward and declare to us what will happen, so we may know these things well. Have them tell us of earlier predictive declarations, so we can reflect on them and know how they were fulfilled." (Isaiah 41:21-22 ULB)

  • People worshiped idols as if their idols had knowledge or power, and Yahweh was angry at them for doing that. So he used irony and challenged their idols to tell what would happen in the future. He knew that the idols could not do this, but by speaking as if they could, he mocked the idols, making their inability more obvious, and rebuked the people for worshiping them.

How honored the king of Israel was today, who undressed himself today before the eyes of the slave girls among his servants, like one of the crude fellows who shamelessly undresses himself!" (2 Samuel 6:20)

  • King David's wife said this when she was angry with him for wearing so little clothing when he danced before Yahweh out in the street. When she said "How honored the king of Israel was today," she really meant that he was dishonored and that she was angry about it.

Translation Strategies

If the irony would be understood correctly in your language, translate it as it is stated. If not, here are some other strategies.

  1. Translate it in a way that shows that the speaker is saying what someone else believes.
  2. Translate the actual, intended meaning of the statement of irony. The actual meaning of the irony is not found in the literal words of the speaker, but instead the true meaning is found in the opposite of the literal meaning of the speaker's words.
  3. Translate it in a way that shows the speaker's anger about the situation.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Translate it in a way that shows that the speaker is saying what someone else believes.

    • How well you reject the commandment of God so you may keep your tradition! (Mark 7:9 ULB)
      • You think that you are doing so well, but you reject God's commandment in order to keep your tradition!
      • You act like it is good to reject God's commandment so you may keep your tradition!
    • I did not come to call righteous people, but to call sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)
      • I did not come to call people who think that they are righteous, but to call sinners to repentance.
  2. Translate the actual, intended meaning of the statement of irony.

    • How well you reject the commandment of God so you may keep your tradition! (Mark 7:9 ULB)
      • You are doing a terrible thing when you reject the commandment of God so you may keep your tradition!
    • "Present your case," says Yahweh; "present your best arguments for your idols," says the King of Jacob. "Let them bring us their own arguments; have them come forward and declare to us what will happen, so we may know these things well. Have them tell us of earlier predictive declarations, so we can reflect on them and know how they were fulfilled." (Isaiah 41:21-22 ULB)
      • "Present your case," says Yahweh; "present your best arguments for your idols," says the King of Jacob. "Your idols cannot bring us their own arguments or come forward to declare to us what will happen so we may know these things well. We cannot hear them because they cannot speak to tell us their earlier predictive declarations, so we cannot reflect on them and know how they were fulfilled."
  3. Translate it in a way that shows the speaker's feelings about the situation.

    • How well you reject the commandment of God so you may keep your tradition! (Mark 7:9 ULB)
      • How dare you reject the commandment of God so you may keep your tradition!

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Litotes

](#figs-litotes)*


Litotes

This page answers the question: *What is litotes?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

Litotes is a figure of speech in which the speaker expresses a strong positive meaning by using two negative words or a negative word with a word that means the opposite of the meaning he intends. A few examples of negative words are "no," "not," "none," and "never." The opposite of "good" is "bad." Someone could say that something is "not bad" to mean that it is extremely good.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Some languages do not use litotes. People who speak those languages might not understand that a statement using litotes actually strengthens the positive meaning. Instead, they might think that it weakens or even cancels the positive meaning.

Examples from the Bible

Be sure of this—the wicked person will not go unpunished ... (Proverbs 11:21 ULB)

  • By using litotes, the writer emphasized that wicked people will be punished.

Not one word has failed out of all Yahweh's good promises that he made with Moses his servant. (1 Kings 8:56)

  • By using litotes, the writer emphasized that Yahweh did everything that he had promised Moses.

Luke wrote about the night when Peter was in prison and an angel came and helped him escape, even though there were soldiers guarding him.

Now when it became day, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers, over what had happened to Peter. (Acts 12:18 ULB)

  • By using litotes, Luke emphasized that there was a great disturbance amon the soldiers. They were very anxious and agitated because Peter had escaped.

Translation Strategies

If the litotes would be understood correctly in your language, consider using it. If not, consider this strategy.

  1. If the meaning with the negative would not be clear, give the positive meaning in a strong way.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the meaning with the negative would not be clear, give the positive meaning in a strong way.
    • Now when it became day, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers over what had happened to Peter. (Acts 12:18 ULB)
      • Now when it became day, there was a great disturbance among the soldiers over what had happened to Peter.
    • Be sure of this—wicked people will not go unpunished ... (Proverbs 11:21 ULB)
      • Be sure of this—wicked people will certainly be punished ...
    • Not one word has failed out of all Yahweh's good promises that he made with Moses his servant. (2 Kings 8:56)
      • Every word of all Yahweh's good promises that he made with Moses his servant has been fulfilled.

Merism

This page answers the question: *What does the word merism mean and how can I translate phrases that have it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

Merism is a figure of speech in which a person refers to something by speaking of two extreme parts of it. By referring to the extreme parts, the speaker intends to include those two parts and everything in between them.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Some languages do not use merism. The readers of those languages may think that the phrase only applies to the items mentioned. They may not realize that it refers to those two things and everything in between.

Examples from the Bible

He will bless those who honor him, both young and old. (Psalm 115:13)

  • The underlined phrase above is merism because it speaks of old people and young people and everyone in between. It means "everyone."

From the rising of the sun to its setting, Yahweh's name should be praised. (Psalm 113:3 ULB)

  • This underlined phrase is a merism because it speaks of the east and the west and everywhere in between. It means "everywhere."

Translation Strategies

If the merism would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here are other options:

  1. Identify what the merism refers to and include the parts.
  2. Identify what the merism refers to without mentioning the parts.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Identify what the merism refers to and include the parts.

    • He will bless those who honor him, both young and old. (Psalm 115:13 ULB)
      • He will bless all those who honor him, regardless of whether they are young or old.
  2. Identify what the merism refers to without mentioning the parts.

    • From the rising of the sun to its setting, Yahweh's name should be praised. (Psalm 113:3 ULB)
      • In all places, people should praise Yahweh's name.

Metaphor

This page answers the question: *What is a metaphor and how can I translate a sentence that has one?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Simile

](#figs-simile)*

Description

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one concept (an "image") stands for another (the "topic"), and in which there is at least one point of comparison between the two. In other words, in metaphor, someone speaks of one thing as if it were a different thing because there is an important way that those two things are alike.

Kinds of Metaphors

There are two basic kinds of metaphors: "dead" metaphors and "live" metaphors. They each present a different kind of translation problem.

Dead Metaphors

A dead metaphor is a metaphor that has been used so much in the language that its speakers no longer regard it as one concept standing for another. Dead metaphors are extremely common. Examples in English are "table leg," "family tree," "leaf" meaning a page in a book, and "crane" meaning a large machine for lifting heavy loads. English speakers simply think of these words as having more than one meaning. Examples in Biblical Hebrew are "hand" to mean "power," "face" to mean "presence," and speaking of emotions or moral qualities as if they were "clothing."

To learn how to deal with dead metaphors, see [[https://git.door43.org/Door43/en_ta/src/master/jit/figs-meta.mdphordead]].

Live Metaphors

These are metaphors that people recognize as one concept standing for another concept, or one thing for another thing. They make people think about how the one thing is like the other thing, because in most ways the two things are very different. People also easily recognize these metaphors as giving strength and unusual qualities to the message. For this reason, people pay attention to these metaphors.

Live metaphors are the metaphors that need special care to translate correctly. To do so, we need to understand the parts of a metaphor and how they work together to produce meaning. See [[https://git.door43.org/Door43/en_ta/src/master/jit/figs-meta.mdphorparts]].

The rest of this topic deals with live metaphors.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • People may not recognize that something is a metaphor. In other words, they may mistake a metaphor for a literal statement, and thus misunderstand it.
  • People may not be familiar with the thing that is used as an image, and so not be able to understand the metaphor.
  • If the topic is not stated, people may not know what the topic is.
  • People may not know the points of comparison that the speaker wants them to understand. If they fail to think of these points of comparison, they will not understand the metaphor.
  • People may think that they understand the metaphor, but they do not. This can happen when they apply points of comparison from their own culture, rather than from the biblical culture.

Translation principles

  • Make the meaning of a metaphor as clear to the target audience as it was to the original audience.
  • Do not make the meaning of a metaphor more clear to the target audience than you think it was to the original audience.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes the speaker makes the topic clear by using a sentence with the verb "be." Isaiah spoke of God's people being clay and God being their potter, someone who makes pots out of clay.

Yet, Yahweh, you are our father; we are the clay. You are our potter; and we all are the work of your hand. Be not too angry, Yahweh, nor always call to mind against us our sins. Please look at us all, your people. (Isaiah 64:8, 9 ULB)

  • The topics are "we" and "you," and the images are "clay" and "potter." The intended point of comparison is that a potter values what he has made out of clay, and God loves the people whom he has made to be his own. Isaiah reminds God of this as a basis for asking God not to be too angry with them.

Sometimes the speaker does not make the topic clear. The audience has to understand it from other things the speaker says. When Jesus referred to Saul kicking a goad, he was showing that Saul's persecuting Jesus was a like an animal kicking against a goad.

Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick a goad. (Acts 26:14 ULB)

  • A goad is a pointed stick that a person pokes his cattle with to make them move in a certain direction. Sometimes cattle resist their master and kick the sharp stick and hurt themselves. Instead of following Jesus, Saul was persecuting people who followed Jesus. He was resisting Jesus.

Sometimes the original audience did not understand the metaphor. Jesus used a metaphor with the word "yeast", but his disciples did not realize it. They thought he was talking about bread.

Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." The disciples reasoned among themselves and said, "It is because we took no bread." (Matthew 16:6-7 ULB)

  • However, "yeast" was the image in Jesus' metaphor, and the topic was the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus wanted his disciples to beware of the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Since the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant, it would not be good to state clearly here what Jesus meant.

Translation Strategies

If people would understand the metaphor in the same way that the original readers would have understood it, go ahead and use it. Be sure to test the translation to make sure that people do understand it in the right way.

If people do not or would not understand it, here are some other strategies.

  1. If the target audience does not realize that it is a metaphor, then change the metaphor to a simile. Some languages do this by adding "like" or "as." See Simile.
  2. If the target audience would not know the image, see Translate Unknowns for ideas on how to translate that image.
  3. If the target audience would not use that image for that meaning, use an image from your own culture instead. Be sure that it is an image that could have been possible in Bible times.
  4. If the target audience would not know what the topic is, then state the topic clearly. (However, do not do this if the original audience did not know what the topic was.)
  5. If the target audience would not know the intended point of comparison between the topic and the image, then state it clearly.
  6. If none of these strategies is satisfactory, then simply state the idea plainly without using a metaphor.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the target audience does not realize that it is a metaphor, then change the metaphor to a simile. Some languages do this by adding "like" or "as."

    • Yet, Yahweh, you are our father; we are the clay. You are our potter; and we all are the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 ULB)
      • Yet, Yahweh, you are our father; we are like clay. You are like a potter; and we all are the work of your hand.
  2. If the target audience would not know the image, see Translate Unknowns for ideas on how to translate that image.

    • ... Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick a goad. (Acts 26:14 ULB)
      • ... Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against a pointed prodding stick.
  3. If the target audience would not use that image for that meaning, use an image from your own culture instead. Be sure that it is an image that could have been possible in Bible times.

    • Yet, Yahweh, you are our father; we are the clay. You are our potter; and we all are the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8 ULB)
      • Yet, Yahweh, you are our father; we are the wood. You are our carver; and we all are the work of your hand.
      • Yet, Yahweh, you are our father; we are the string. You are the weaver; and we all are the work of your hand.
  4. If the target audience would not know what the topic is, then state the topic clearly. (However, do not do this if the original audience did not know what the topic was.)

    • Yahweh lives; may my rock be praised. May the God of my salvation be exalted. (Psalm 18:46 ULB)
      • Yahweh lives; He is my rock. May he be praised. May the God of my salvation be exalted.
  5. If the target audience would not know the intended point of comparison between the topic and the image, then state it clearly.

    • Yahweh lives; may my rock be praised. May the God of my salvation be exalted. (Psalm 18:46 ULB)
      • Yahweh lives; may he be praised because he protects me like the rock under which I can hide from my enemies. May the God of my salvation be exalted.
    • ... Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick a goad. (Acts 26:14 ULB)
      • ... Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? You fight against me and hurt yourself like an ox that kicks against its owner's goad.
  6. If none of these strategies are satisfactory, then simply state the idea plainly without using a metaphor.

    • ... I will make you fishers of men. (Mark 1:17 ULB)
      • ... I will make you people who gather men.
      • ... Now you gather fish. I will make you gather people.

To learn more about specific metaphors, see Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns.


Metonymy

This page answers the question: *What is a metonymy?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or idea is called not by its own name, but by the name of something closely associated with it. A metonym is a word or phrase used as a substitute for something it is associated with.

Metonymy can be used

  • to shorten the way of referring to something
  • to make an abstract idea more meaningful by referring to it with the name of a physical object associated with it

Reasons this is a translation issue

The Bible uses metonymy very often. Speakers of some languages are not used to metonymy and they may not recognize it when they read it in the Bible. If they do not recognize the metonymy, they will not understand the passage or, worse yet, they will get a wrong understanding of the passage. Whenever a metonym is used, people need to be able to understand what it represents.

Examples from the Bible

... and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ULB)

  • In the verse above, the blood represents Jesus's death. Because of his death, people who believe in him are cleansed from all sin.

He took the cup in the same way after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20 ULB)

  • The cup represents the wine that was in the cup. The wine was a symbol of Christ's blood, by which he confirmed the new covenant.

The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. (Luke 1:32 ULB)

  • A throne represents the authority of a king. "Throne" is a metonym for "kingly authority," "kingship" or "reign." This means that God would make him become the king that would follow King David.

Immediately his mouth was opened ... (Luke 1:64 ULB)

  • The mouth here represents the ability to speak. The phrase "his mouth opened" means that he was able to talk again.

Who warned you to flee from the wrath that is coming? (Luke 3:7 ULB)

  • The word "wrath" or "anger" is a metonym for "punishment." God was extremely angry with the people, and as a result, he would punish them.

Translation Strategies

If people would easily understand the metonym, consider using it. Otherwise, here are some options.

  1. Use the metonym along with the name of the thing it represents.
  2. Use only the name of the thing the metonym represents.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the metonym along with the name of the thing it represents.

    • He took the cup in the same way after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20 ULB)
      • He took the cup in the same way after supper, saying, "The wine in this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
  2. Use the name of the thing the metonym represents.

    • The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David. (Luke 1:32 ULB)
      • The Lord God will give him the kingly authority of his father, David.
      • The Lord God will make him king like his ancestor, King David.
    • Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Luke 3:7 ULB)
      • Who warned you to flee from God's coming punishment?

To learn about some common metonymies, see Biblical Imagery - Common Metonymies.


Parallelism

This page answers the question: *What is parallelism?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

In parallelism two phrases or clauses that are similar in structure or idea are used together. There are different kinds of parallelism. Some of them are the following:

  1. The second clause or phrase means the same as the first. This is also called synonymous parallelism.
  2. The second clarifies or strengthens the meaning of the first.
  3. The second completes what is said in the first.
  4. The second says something that contrasts with the first, but adds to the same idea.

Parallelism is most commonly found in Old Testament poetry, such as in the books of Psalms and Proverbs. It also occurs in Greek in the New Testament, both in the four gospels and in the apostles' letters.

Synonymous parallelism (the kind in which the two phrases mean the same thing) in the poetry of the original languages has several effects:

  • It shows that something is very important by saying it more than once and in more than one way.
  • It helps the hearer to think more deeply about the idea by saying it in different ways.
  • It makes the expression of ideas more beautiful and above the ordinary way of speaking.

Note: We use the term "synonymous parallelism" for long phrases or clauses that have the same meaning. We use the term Doublet for words or very short phrases that mean basically the same thing and are used together.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Speakers of some languages do not use synonymous parallelism. If there are two phrases or sentences, they expect them to have different meanings. Consequently they do not understand that the repetition of ideas serves to emphasize the idea.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes the second phrase or clause means the same as the first.

Yahweh sees everything a person does and watches all the paths he takes.(Proverbs 5:21 ULB)

  • The phrase "all the paths he takes" is a metaphor for "all he does," so both clauses say that God see everything a person does.

For Yahweh has a lawsuit with his people, and he will fight in court against Israel. (Micah 6:2 ULB)

  • This parallelism describes a serious disagreement that Yahweh had with his people, Israel.

Sometimes the second phrase or clause clarifies or strengthens the meaning of the first.

The eyes of Yahweh are everywhere, keeping watch over the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3 ULB)

  • The second line tells more specifically what Yahweh watches.

Sometimes the second phrase or clause completes what is said in the first.

I lift up my voice to Yahweh, and he answers me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:4 ULB)

  • The second line tells what Yahweh does in response to what the person does in the first clause.

Sometimes the second phrase or clause says something that contrasts with the first, but adds to the same idea.

For Yahweh approves of the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6 ULB)

  • This contrasts what happens to righteous people with what happens to wicked people.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 ULB)

  • This contrasts what happens when someone gives a gentle answer with what happens when someone says something harsh.

Translation Strategies

For most kinds of parallelism, it is good to translate both of the clauses or phrases. For synonymous parallelism, it is good to translate both clauses if people in your language understand that the purpose of saying something twice is to strengthen a single idea. But if your language does not use parallelism in this way, then consider using one of the following translation strategies.

  1. Combine the ideas of both clauses into one.
  2. If it appears that the clauses are used together to show that what they say is really true, you could include words that emphasize the truth such as "truly" or "certainly."
  3. If it appears that the clauses are used together to intensify an idea in them, you could use words like "very," "completely" or "all."

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Combine the ideas of both clauses into one.

    • Yahweh sees everything a person does and watches all the paths he takes. (Proverbs 5:21 ULB)
      • Yahweh pays attention to everything a person does.
    • For Yahweh has a lawsuit with his people, and he will fight in court against Israel. (Micah 6:2 ULB)
      • For Yahweh has a lawsuit with his people, Israel.
  2. If it appears that the clauses are used together to show that what they say is really true, you could include words that emphasize the truth such as "truly" or "certainly."

    • Yahweh sees everything a person does and watches all the paths he takes. (Proverbs 5:21 ULB)
      • Yahweh truly sees everything a person does.
  3. If it appears that the clauses are used together to intensify an idea in them, you could use words like "very," "completely" or "all."

    • you have deceived me and told me lies. (Judges 16:13 ULB)
      • All you have done is lie to me.
    • Yahweh sees everything a person does and watches all the paths he takes. (Proverbs 5:21 ULB)
      • Yahweh sees absolutely everything that a person does.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Personification

](#figs-personification)*


Parts of a Metaphor

This page answers the question: *What are the parts and purposes of a metaphor?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)*

Description

A metaphor has three parts.

  1. Topic - The thing someone speaks of is called the topic.
  2. Image - The thing he calls it is the image.
  3. Point of Comparison - The way or ways in which the author claims that the topic and image are similar are their points of comparison.

In the metaphor below, the speaker describes the woman he loves as a red rose. The woman (his "love") is the topic, and "red rose" is the image. Beauty and delicacy are the points of comparison that the speaker sees as similarities between both the topic and the image.

  • My love is a red, red rose.

Often, as in the metaphor above, the speaker explicitly states the topic and the image, but he does not state the points of comparison. The speaker leaves it to the hearer to think of those points of comparison. Because the hearers must think of these ideas themselves, the speaker's message has a more powerful effect on the hearers.

Also in the Bible, normally the topic and the image are stated clearly, but not the points of comparison. The writer leaves it to the audience to think of and understand the points of comparison that are implied.

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35 ULB)

In this metaphor, Jesus called himself the bread of life. The topic is "I," and the image is "bread." Bread is a food that people ate all the time. The point of comparison between bread and Jesus is that people need both to live. Just as people need to eat food in order to have physical life, people need to trust in Jesus in order to have spiritual life.

Purposes of Metaphor

  • One purpose of metaphor is to teach people about something that they do not know (the topic) by showing that it is like something that they already do know (the image).
  • Another purpose is to emphasize that something has a particular quality or to show that it has that quality in an extreme way.
  • Another purpose is to lead people to feel the same way about the topic as they would feel about the image.

Personification

This page answers the question: *What is personification?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

Personification is a figure of speech in which someone speaks of something as if it could do things that animals or people can do. People often do this because it makes it easier to talk about things that we cannot see, such as wisdom or sin. People also do this because it is sometimes easier to talk about people's relationships with non-human things, such as wealth, as if they were like relationships between people. (See examples from the Bible below.)

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Some languages do not use personification.
  • Some languages use personification only in certain situations.

Examples from the Bible

Does not Wisdom call out? Does not Understanding raise her voice? (Proverbs 8:1 ULB)

  • The author of Proverbs wrote of wisdom and understanding as if they are a woman who calls out to teach people. This means that they are not something hidden, but something obvious that people should pay attention to.

...if you do not do what is right, sin crouches at the door and desires to control you ... (Genesis 4:7 ULB)

  • God spoke of sin as a wild animal waiting for the chance to attack. This shows how dangerous sin is.

You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24 ULB)

  • Jesus spoke of wealth as if it were a master whom people might serve. Loving money and basing one's decisions on it is like serving it as a slave would serve his master.

Translation Strategies

If the personification would be understood clearly, consider using it. If it would not be understood, here are some other ways for translating it.

  1. Use words such as "like" or "as" to show that the sentences is not to be understood literally.
  2. Add words or phrases to make it clear.
  3. Find a way to translate it without the personification.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use words such as "like" or "as" to show that the sentence is not to be understood literally.

    • ... sin crouches at the door and desires to control you. (Genesis 4:7 ULB)
      • ... it is as if sin crouches at the door and desires to control you.
  2. Add words or phrases that make the image more clear.

    • ... sin crouches at the door and desires to control you. (Genesis 4:7 ULB)
      • ... sin is like a wild animal crouching at the door, desiring to control you.
      • ... sin is crouching at the door in order to attack you, and it desires to control you.
  3. Add words or phrases to to show how something is like a person or animal.

    • ... sin crouches at the door and desires to control you. (Genesis 4:7 ULB)
      • ... sin is dangerous, like an animal crouching at the door and desiring to control you.
  4. Find a way to translate it without the personification. (Genesis 4:7 ULB)

    • ... sin crouches at the door and desires to control you.
      • You are in danger of sinning and not being able to stop sinning.
    • You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24 ULB)
      • You cannot be devoted to both God and wealth.
      • You cannot serve God if you want most to have wealth.

Note: We have broadened our definition of "personification" to include "zoomorphism" (speaking of other things as if they had animal characteristics) and "anthropomorphism" (speaking of non-human things as if they had human characteristics.)

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Apostrophe

](#figs-apostrophe)* * *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)*


Predictive Past

This page answers the question: *What is the predictive past?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Verbs

](#figs-verbs)*

Description

The predictive past is a figure of speech that uses the past tense to refer to things that will happen in the future. This is sometimes done in prophecy to show that the event will certainly happen. It is also called the prophetic perfect.

Reasons this is a translation issue:

Readers who are not aware of the past tense being used in prophecy to refer to future events may find it confusing.

Examples from the Bible

When God firmly decided that he would do something or that something would happen, he sometimes spoke of it as if it had already happened. The past tense verbs are underlined in the examples below.

Therefore my people have gone into captivity for lack of understanding; their leaders go hungry, and their masses have nothing to drink. (Isaiah 5:13 ULB)

When prophets wrote about things that God said would happen, they sometimes wrote about them as if they had already happened.

For to us a child has been born, to us a son has been given; and the rule will be on his shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6 ULB)

And about these people also Enoch, the seventh in line from Adam, foretold, saying, "Look, the Lord came with tens of thousands of his holy ones, (Jude 1:14 ULB)

Translation Strategies

If the past tense would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here are some other options.

  1. Use the future tense to refer to future events.
  2. If it refers to something in the immediate future, use a form that would show that.
  3. Some languages may use the present tense to show that something will happen very soon.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the future tense to refer to future events.

    • For to us a child has been born, to us a son has been given ... (Isaiah 9:6a ULB)
      • For to us a child will be born, to us a son will be given ...
  2. If it refers to something that would happen very soon, use a form that shows that.

    • Yahweh said to Joshua, "See, I have handed over to you Jericho, its king, and its trained soldiers." (Joshua 6:2 ULB)
      • Yahweh said to Joshua, "See, I am about to hand over to you Jericho, its king, and its trained soldiers."
  3. Some languages may use the present tense to show that something will happen very soon.

    • Yahweh said to Joshua, "See, I have handed over to you Jericho, its king, and its trained soldiers." (Joshua 6:2 ULB)
      • Yahweh said to Joshua, "See, I am handing over to you Jericho, its king, and its trained soldiers."

Rhetorical Question

This page answers the question: *What are rhetorical questions and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Sentence Types

](#figs-sentencetypes)*

Description

A rhetorical question is a question that a speaker uses for some purpose other than getting information. Some uses of rhetorical questions are to express strong emotions, to rebuke or scold someone, to introduce a topic to talk about it, or to teach something by reminding people of something they know and encouraging them to apply it to something new.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Some languages do not use rhetorical questions; for them a question is always a request for information.
  • Some languages use rhetorical questions, but for purposes that are more limited or different than in the Bible.
  • Because of these differences between languages, some readers might misunderstand the purpose of a rhetorical question in the Bible.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes rhetorical questions are used to express strong emotions.

Why did I not die when I came out from the womb? (Job 3:11 ULB)

  • Job used the question above to show how sad he was that he had not died as soon as he was born. He wished that he had not lived.

And why has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43 ULB)

  • Elizabeth used the question above to show how surprised and happy she was that the mother of her Lord came to her.

Sometimes rhetorical questions are used to rebuke or scold someone.

Those who stood by said, "Is this how you insult God's high priest?" (Acts 23:4 ULB)

  • The people who asked Paul this question were accusing him of insulting the high priest. They were not asking him how he insulted God’s high priest.

Do you not still rule the kingdom of Israel? (1 Kings 21:7 ULB)

  • Jezebel used the question above to remind King Ahab that he still ruled the kingdom of Israel. The rhetorical question made her point more strongly than if she had merely stated it, because it forced Ahab to admit the point himself. She did this in order to rebuke him for being unwilling to take over a poor man's property. She was implying that since he was the king of Israel, he had the power to take the man's property.

Sometimes rhetorical questions are used to introduce a topic.

What is the kingdom of God like, and what can I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and threw into his garden ... (Luke 13:18-19 ULB)

  • Jesus used the question above to introduce what he was going to talk about. He was going to compare the kingdom of God to something.

Sometimes rhetorical questions are used to teach something.

Will a virgin forget her jewelry, a bride her sash? Yet my people have forgotten me for days without number! (Jeremiah 2:32 ULB)

  • God used the question above to remind his people of something they already knew: a young woman would never forget her jewelry and a bride would never forget her sash. He then rebuked his people for forgetting him, who is so much greater than those things.

Or which one of you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9 ULB)

  • Jesus used the question above to remind the people of something they already knew: a good father would never give his son something bad to eat. By introducing this point, Jesus could go on to teach them about God with his next rhetorical question:

Therefore, if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him? (Matthew 7:11 ULB)

  • Jesus used this question to teach the people in an emphatic way that God gives good things to those who ask him.

Translation Strategies

In order to translate a rhetorical question accurately, first be sure that the question you are translating truly is a rhetorical question and is not an information question. Ask yourself, "Does the person asking the question already know the answer to the question?" If so, it is a rhetorical question. Or, if no one answers the question, is the one who asked it bothered that he did not get an answer? If not, it is a rhetorical question.

When you are sure that the question is rhetorical, then be sure that you know what the purpose of the rhetorical question is. Is it to encourage or rebuke or shame the hearer? Is it to bring up a new topic? Is it to do something else?

When you know the purpose of the rhetorical question, then think of the most natural way to express that purpose in the target language. It might be as a question, or a statement, or an exclamation.

If using the rhetorical question would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider doing so. If not, here are other options:

  1. Add the answer after the question.
  2. Change the rhetorical question to a statement or exclamation.
  3. Change the rhetorical question to a statement, and then follow it with a short question.
  4. Change the form of the question so that it communicates in your language what the orignal speaker communicated in his.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Add the answer after the question.

    • Will a virgin forget her jewelry, a bride her sash? Yet my people have forgotten me for days without number! (Jeremiah 2:32 ULB)
      • Will a virgin forget her jewelry, or a bride her sash? Of course not! Yet my people have forgotten me for days without number!
    • Or what man among you is there who, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9 ULB)
      • Or what man among you is there who, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? None of you would do that!
  2. Change the rhetorical question to a statement or exclamation.

    • What is the kingdom of God like, and what can I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed... (Luke 13:18-19 ULB)
      • This is what the kingdom of God is like. It is like a mustard seed..."
    • Is this how you insult God's high priest? (Acts 23:4 ULB)
      • You have insulted God's high priest!
    • And why has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43 ULB)
      • How wonderful it is that the mother of my Lord has come to me!
  3. Change the rhetorical question to a statement, and then follow it with a short question.

    • Do you not still rule the kingdom of Israel? (1 Kings 21:7 ULB)
      • You still rule the kingdom of Israel, do you not?
  4. Change the form of the question so that it communicates in your language what the orignal speaker communicated in his.

    • Or what man among you is there who, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9 ULB)
      • If your son asks you for a loaf of bread, would you give him a stone?
    • Will a virgin forget her jewelry, a bride her sash? Yet my people have forgotten me for days without number! (Jeremiah 2:32 ULB)
      • What virgin would forget her jewelry, and what bride would forget her sash? Yet my people have forgotten me for days without number!

Simile

This page answers the question: *What is a simile?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

A simile is a comparison of two things that are not normally thought to be similar. It focuses on a particular trait the two items have in common, and it includes the words "like," "as," "than," "as if," or "as though."

Purposes of Simile

  • A simile can teach about something that is unknown by showing how it is similar to something that is known.
  • A simile can emphasize a particular trait, sometimes in a way that gets people's attention.
  • Similes help form a picture in the mind or help the reader experience what he is reading about more fully.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • People may not know how the two items are similar.
  • People may not be familiar with the item that something is compared to.

Examples from the Bible

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were troubled and discouraged. They were like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

  • Jesus compared the crowds of people to sheep without a shepherd. Sheep grow frightened when they do not have a good shepherd to lead them in safe places. The crowds were like that because they did not have good religious leaders.

See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16 ULB)

  • When Jesus was sending his disciples out to teach people about God, he compared his disciples to sheep and their enemies to wolves. Wolves attack sheep. People who did not want to hear the truth about God would want to harm the disciples.
  • The disciples would need to be careful, aware of danger, but also not harming anyone. Jesus compared how they should live with how serpents and doves live.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12 ULB)

  • The author of Hebrews compared God's word to a two-edged sword. A two-edged sword is a weapon that can easily cut through a person's flesh. God's word is very effective in showing what is in a person's heart and thoughts.

They are your people whom you have chosen, whom you rescued out of Egypt as if from the middle of a furnace where iron is forged. (1 Kings 8:51 ULB)

  • In his prayer, King Solomon compared Egypt to an extremely hot furnace because the people of Egypt had treated God's people there so brutally.

Translation Strategies

If people would understand the correct meaning of a simile, consider using it. If they would not, here are some strategies you can use:

  1. If people do not know how the two items are alike, tell how they are alike. However, do not do this if the meaning was not clear to the original audience.
  2. If people are not familiar with the item that something is compared to, use an item from your own culture. Be sure that it is one that could have been used in the cultures of the Bible.
  3. Simply describe the item without comparing it to another.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If people do not know how the two items are alike, tell how they are alike. However, do not do this if the meaning was not clear to the original audience.

    • The example below compares the danger that Jesus's disciples would be in with the danger that sheep are in when they are surrounded by wolves.
    • See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16 ULB) -
      • See, I send you out among wicked people and you will be in danger from them as sheep are in danger when they are among wolves.
    • For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12 ULB)
      • For the word of God is living and active and more powerful than a very sharp two-edged sword
  2. If people are not familiar with the item that something is compared to, use an item from your own culture. Be sure that it is one that could have been used in the cultures of the Bible.

    • In the example below Jesus compares people to sheep and wolves. If people do not know what sheep and wolves are, or that wolves kill and eat sheep, you could use some other animal that kills another.
    • See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, (Matthew 10:16 ULB)
      • See, I send you out as chickens in the midst of wild dogs,
    • How often did I long to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 ULB)
      • How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a mother closely watches over her infants, but you refused!
    • If you have faith even as small as a grain of mustard seed ... (Matthew 17:20)
      • If you have faith even as small as a tiny seed ...
  3. Simply describe the item without comparing it to another.

    • See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, (Matthew 10:16 ULB)
      • See, I send you out and people will want to harm you.
    • How often did I long to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 ULB)
      • How often I wanted to protect you, but you refused!

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)*


Synecdoche

This page answers the question: *What does the word synecdoche mean?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a speaker uses a part of something to refer to the whole or uses the whole to refer to a part.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Some readers may understand the words literally.
  • Some readers may realize that they are not to understand the words literally, but they may not know what the meaning is.

Examples from the Bible

My soul praises the Lord. (Luke 1:46 ULB)

  • Mary was was very happy about what the Lord was doing, so she said "my soul," which means the inner, emotional part of herself, to refer to her whole self.

I looked on all the deeds that my hands had accomplished (Ecclesiastes 2:11 ULB)

  • "My hands" is a synecdoche for the whole person, because clearly the arms and the rest of the body and the mind were also involved in the person's accomplishments.

The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing something that is not lawful on the Sabbath day?" (Mark 2:24 ULB)

  • The Pharisees who were standing there did not all say the same words at the same time. Instead, it is more likely that one man representing the group said those words.

Translation Strategies

If the synecdoche would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here is another option:

  1. State specifically what the synecdoche refers to.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. State specifically what the synecdoche refers to.
    • My soul praises the Lord. (Luke 1:46 ULB)
      • I praise the Lord.
    • ... the Pharisees said to him (Mark 2:24 ULB)
      • ... a representative of the Pharisees said to him ...
    • ... I looked on all the deeds that my hands had accomplished ... (Ecclesiastes 2:11 ULB)
      • I looked on all the deeds that I had accomplished

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)* * *[Biblical Imagery - Common Metonymies

](#bita-part2)*


Grammar

Grammar Topics

This page answers the question: *What is some basic information about English Grammar?

*

Grammar has two main parts: words and structure. Structure involves how we put words together to form phrase, clauses, and sentences.

Parts of Speech - All words in a language belong to a category called a part of speech. (see Parts of Speech)

Sentences - When we speak, we organize our thoughts in sentences. A sentence usually has a complete thought about an event or a situation or state of being. (see Sentence Structure)

Possession - This shows that there is a relationship between two nouns. In English it is marked with "of" as in "the love of God," or with "'s" as in "God's love," or with a possessive pronoun as in "his love." (see Possession)

Quotations - A quotation is a report of what someone else has said.


Abstract Nouns

This page answers the question: *What are abstract nouns and how do I deal with them in my translation?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

Abstract nouns are nouns that refer to attitudes, qualities, events, situations, or even to relationships among these ideas. These are things that cannot be seen or touched in a physical sense, such as joy, peace, goodness, health, weight, creation, injury, unity, friendship, health, and reason.

Using abstract nouns allows people to express thoughts about ideas in fewer words than if they did not have those nouns. It is a way of giving names to actions or qualities so that people can talk about them as though they were things. It is like a short-cut in language. For example, in languages that use abstract nouns, people can say, "I believe in the forgiveness of sin." But if the language did not have the two abstract nouns "forgiveness" and "sin," then they would have to make a longer sentence to express the same meaning. They would have to say, for example, "I believe that God is willing to forgive people after they have sinned," using verb phrases instead of nouns for those ideas.

Reasons this is a translation issue

The Bible that you translate from may use abstract nouns to express certain ideas. Your language might not use abstract nouns for some of those ideas; instead, it might use phrases to express those ideas. Those phrases will use other kinds of words such as adjectives, verbs, or adverbs to express the meaning of the abstract noun.

Examples from the Bible

From childhood you have known the sacred writings. (2 Timothy 3:15 ULB)

  • The abstract noun "childhood" refers to when someone is a child.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 ULB)

  • The abstract nouns "godliness" and "contentment" refer to being godly and content. The abstract noun "gain" refers to something that benefits or helps someone.

Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:9 ULB)

  • The abstract noun "salvation" here refers to being saved.

The Lord does not move slowly concerning his promises, as some consider slowness to be. (2 Peter 3:9 ULB)

  • The abstract noun "slowness" refers how slowly something is done.

He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the purposes of the heart. (1 Corinthians 4:5 ULB)

  • The abstract noun "purposes" refers to the things that people want to do and the reasons they want to do them.

Translation Strategies

If an abstract noun would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here is another option:

  1. Reword the sentence with a phrase that expresses the meaning of the abstract noun. Instead of a noun, the new phrase will use a verb, an adverb, or an adjective to express the idea of the abstract noun..

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Reword the sentence with a phrase that expresses the meaning of the abstract noun. Instead of a noun, the new phrase will use a verb, an adverb, or an adjective to express the idea of the abstract noun.
    • From childhood you have known the sacred writings. (2 Timothy 3:15 ULB)
      • Ever since you were a child you have known the sacred writings.
    • Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 ULB)
      • Now being godly and content is very beneficial.
      • Now we benefit greatly when we are godly and content.
      • Now we benefit greatly when we honor and obey God and when we are happy with what we have.
    • Today salvation has come to this house .... (Luke 19:9 ULB)
      • Today the people in this house have been saved ...
      • Today God has saved the people in this house ...
    • The Lord does not move slowly concerning his promises, as some consider slowness to be. (2 Peter 3:9 ULB)
      • The Lord does not move slowly concerning his promises, as some consider moving slowly to be.
    • He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the purposes of the heart. (1 Corinthians 4:5 ULB)
      • He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the things that people want to do and the reasons they want to do them.

Active or Passive

This page answers the question: *What do active and passive mean, and how do I translate passive sentences?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)* * *[Verbs

](#figs-verbs)*

Description

Some languages have both active and passive forms sentences. In active sentences, the subject does the action. In passive sentences, the action is done to the subject. Passive sentences do not always tell who did the action. Here are some examples with their subjects underlined:

  • ACTIVE: My father built the house in 2010.
  • PASSIVE: The house was built by my father in 2010.
  • PASSIVE: The house was built in 2010. (This does not tell who did the action.)

Reasons this is a translation issue

All languages have active forms. Some languages have passive forms, and some do not.  The passive form is not used for the same purposes in all of the languages that have it.

Purposes for the passive

  • The speaker is talking about the person or thing the action was done to, not about the person who did the action.
  • The speaker does not want to tell who did the action. 
  • The speaker does not know who did the action.

Translation principles Regarding the Passive

  • Translators whose language does not use passive forms will need to find another way to express the idea. 
  • Translators whose language has passive forms will need to understand why the passive is used in a particular sentence in the Bible and decide whether or not to use a passive form for that purpose in his translation of the sentence.

Examples from the Bible

In the examples below, the passive verb forms are underlined.

Then their shooters shot at your soldiers from off the wall, and some of the king's servants were killed, and your servant Uriah the Hittite was killed too. (2 Samuel 11:24 ULB)

  • This means that the enemy's shooters shot and killed some of the king's servants, including Uriah. The point is what happened to the king's servants and Uriah, not who shot them. The purpose of the passive form here is to keep the focus on the king's servants and Uriah.

In the morning when the men of the town got up, the altar of Baal was broken down.(Judges 6:28 ULB)

  • The men of the town saw what had happened to the altar of Baal, but they did not know who broke it down. The purpose of the passive form here is to communicate this event from the perspective of the men of the town.

It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Luke 17:2 ULB)

  • This describes a situation in which a person ends up in the sea with a millstone around his neck. The purpose of the passive form here is to keep the focus on what happens to this person. Who does these things to the person is not important.

Translation Strategies

If you decide that it is better to translate without a passive form, here are some strategies you might consider.

  1. Use the same verb in an active sentence and tell who or what did the action. If you do this, try to keep the focus on the person receiving the action.
  2. Use the same verb in an active sentence, and do not tell  who or what did the action. Instead, use a generic expression like "they" or  "people" or  "someone." 
  3. Use a different verb.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the same verb in an active sentence and tell who did the action. If you do this, try to keep the focus on the person receiving the action.

    • A loaf of bread was given him every day from the street of the bakers. (Jeremiah 37:21 ULB)
      • The king's servants gave Jeremiah a loaf of bread every day from the street of the bakers.
  2. Use the same verb in an active sentence, and do not tell  who did the action. Instead, use a generic expression like "they" or  "people" or  "someone." 

    • It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Luke 17:2 ULB)
      • It would be better for him if they were to put a millstone around his neck and throw him into the sea.
      • It would be better for him if someone were to put a heavy stone around his neck and throw him into the sea.
  3. Use a different verb in an active sentence. 

    • A loaf of bread was given him every day from the street of the bakers. (Jeremiah 37:21 ULB)
      • He received a loaf of bread every day from the street of the bakers.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Abstract Nouns

](#figs-abstractnouns)* * *[Word Order

](#figs-order)*


Distinguishing versus Informing or Reminding

This page answers the question: *When a phrase is used with a noun, what is the difference between phrases that distinguish the noun from others and phrases that simply inform or remind?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

In some languages, phrases that modify a noun can be used with the noun for two different purposes. They can either distinguish the noun from other similar items, or they can give more information about the noun. That information could be new to the reader, or a reminder about something the reader might already know. Other languages use modifying phrases with a noun only for distinguishing the noun from other similar things. When people who speak these languages hear a modifying phrase with a noun, they assume that its function is to distinguish one item from another similar item.

Some languages use a comma to mark the difference between making a distinction between similar items and gving more information about an item. Without the comma, the sentence below communicates that it is making a distinction:

  • Mary gave some of the food to her sister who was very thankful.
    • If her sister was usually thankful, the phrase "who was thankful" could distinguish this sister of Mary's from another sister who was not usually thankful.

With the comma, the sentence is giving more information:

  • Mary gave some of the food to her sister, who was very thankful.
    • This same phrase can be used give us more information about Mary's sister. It tells us about how Mary's sister responded when Mary gave her the food. In this case it does not distinguish one sister from another sister.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Many source languages of the Bible use phrases that modify a noun both for distinguishing the noun from another similar item and also for giving more information about the noun. The translator must be careful to understand which meaning the author intended in each case.
  • Some languages use phrases that modify a noun only for distinguishing the noun from another similar item. When translating a phrase that is used for giving more information, people who speak these languages will need to separate the phrase from the noun. Otherwise, people who read it or hear it will think that the phrase is meant to distinguish the noun from other similar items.

Examples from the Bible

Words and phrases that are used to distinguish one item from other possible items usually do not cause a problem in translation.

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to the woman who bore him. (Proverbs 17:25 ULB)

  • The phrase "who bore him" distinguishes which woman the son is bitterness to. He is not bitterness to all women, but to his mother.

The curtain is to separate the holy place from the most holy place. (Exodus 26:33 ULB)

  • The words "holy" and "most holy" distinguish two different places from each other and from any other place.

Words and phrases that are used to give added information or a reminder about an item are a translation issue for languages that do not use these.

How can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a son? (Genesis 17:17 ULB)

  • The phrase "who is ninety years old" is the reason that Abraham did not think that Sarah could bear a son. He was not distinguishing one woman named Sarah from another woman named Sarah who was a different age, and he was not telling anyone something new about her age. He simply did not think that a woman who was that old could bear a child.

I will call on Yahweh, who is worthy to be praised. (2 Samuel 22:4 ULB)

  • The phrase "who is worthy to be praised" is the speaker's reason for calling on Yahweh.

I hate those who serve worthless idols (Psalm 31:6 ULB)

  • By saying "worthless idols," David was commenting about all idols and giving his reason for hating those who serve them. He was not distinguishing worthless idols from valuable idols.

Your righteous judgments are good. (Psalm 119:39 ULB)

  • The word "righteous" simply reminds us that God's judgments are righteous. It does not distinguish his righteous judgements from his unrighteous judgements, because all of his judgments are righteous.

Translation Strategies

If people would understand the purpose of a phrase with a noun, then consider keeping the phrase and the noun together. For languages that use words or phrases with a noun only to distinguish one item from another, here are some strategies for translating phrases that are used to inform or remind.

  1. Put the information in another part of the sentence and add words that show its purpose.
  2. Use one of your language's ways for expressing that this is additional information. It may be by adding a small word, or by changing the way the voice sounds. Sometimes changes in the voice can be shown with punctuation marks, such as parentheses or commas.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Put the information in another part of the sentence and add words that show its purpose.

    • How can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a son? (Genesis 17:17-18 ULB)
      • Can Sarah bear a son even when she is ninety years old?
    • I will call on Yahweh, who is worthy to be praised. (2 Samuel 22:4 ULB)
      • I will call on Yahweh, because he is worthy to be praised.
    • I hate those who serve worthless idols (Psalm 31:6 ULB)
      • Because idols are worthless, I hate those who serve them.
    • Your righteous judgments are good. (Psalm 119:39 ULB)
      • Your judgments are good because they are righteous.
  2. Use one of your language's ways for expressing that this is additional information.

    • You are my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with you. (Luke 3:22 ULB)
      • You are my Son. I love you and I am pleased with you.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Double Negatives

](#figs-doublenegatives)*


Double Negatives

This page answers the question: *What are double negatives?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

Negative words are words that have in them the meaning "not." Examples are "no," "not," "none," "no one," "nothing," "nowhere," "never," "nor," "neither," "unless," "except," and "without." Also, some words have prefixes or suffixes that mean "not" such as the underlined parts of these words: "unhappy," "impossible," and "useless."

A double negative occurs when a clause has two words that each express the meaning of "not."

Reasons this is a translation issue

Double negatives mean very different things in different languages.

  • In some languages, such as Spanish, a double negative is used to create a negative sentence. The following Spanish sentence No ví a nadie is literally, "I did not see no one." It has both the word 'no' next to the verb and 'nadie,' which means "no one." The two negatives are seen as in agreement with each other, and the sentence means, "I did not see anyone."
  • In some languages, a double negative can be used simply to correct a misunderstanding that the listener might have about something that already includes a negative. So "He is not unintelligent" means simply that if the listener thinks that the man is unintelligent, then the listener is wrong. It does not indicate how intelligent the man is.
  • In some languages a double negative can be used to create a weak positive sentence. So, "He is not unintelligent" would mean, "He is somewhat intelligent."
  • In some languages, a double negative can be used to create a strong positive sentence. So, "He is not unintelligent" would mean, "He is very intelligent."

To translate sentences with double negatives accurately and clearly in your language, you need to know both what a double negative means in a particular sentence and how to express the same idea in your language.

Examples from the Bible

For we do not have a high priest who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15 ULB)

  • By using the double negative here, the writer showed that our high priest can feel sympathy for our weaknesses.

... I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Corinthians 12:1 ULB)

  • By using the double negative, Paul showed that he wanted the people to be informed.

All things were made through him, and without him there was not one thing made that has been made. (John 1:3 ULB)

  • By using a double negative, John emphasized that the Son of God created everything.

We did this not because we have no authority, but we did this in order to be an example to you. (2 Thessalonians 3:9 ULB)

  • People could think that the reason that Paul and those with him worked hard was that they did not have authority to expect the people to meet their needs. Paul denied that. They had authority, but they had other reasons for working so hard.

Translation Strategies

If double negatives are natural and are used to create a positive sentence in your language, consider using them. If not, here is another option. 1. Express the idea without either of the negatives.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Express the idea without either of the negatives.
    • For we do not have a high priest who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15 ULB)
      • For we have a high priest who can feel sympathy for our weaknesses.
    • ... I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Corinthians 12:1 ULB)
      • ... I want you to be informed.
    • All things were made through him, and without him there was not one thing made that has been made. (John 1:3 ULB)
      • All things were made through him. He made absolutely everything that has been made.
    • We did this not because we have no authority, but we did this in order to be an example to you. (2 Thessalonians 3:9 ULB)
      • Though we have authority, we did this in orer to be an example to you.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Verbs

](#figs-verbs)*


Ellipsis

This page answers the question: *What is ellipsis?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

Ellipsis is the omission of words that would normally be needed to make a sentence complete, but they are understood either by convention or because they were already used in a previous phrase.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Readers who see incomplete sentences or phrases may not know what the missing information is if they do not use ellipsis in their language.

Examples from the Bible

In all of these examples, the missing words are understood because they were in the first phrase.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:13 ULB)

  • The underlined phrase above means, "then Eve was formed."

... his works were evil and his brother's righteous. (1 John 3:12 ULB)

  • The underlined phrase above means, "his brother's works were righteous."

So the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (Psalm 1:5)

  • The underlind phrase above means "sinners will not stand in the assembly of the righteous."

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young ox. (Psalm 29:6 ULB)

  • The underlined phrase above means, "he makes Sirion skip like a young ox."

Then Saul said to his armor bearer, "Draw your sword and thrust me through with it. ..." But his armor bearer would not, for he was very afraid. (1 Samuel 31:4 ULB)

  • The underlined phrase above means, "But his armor bearer would not draw his sword and thrust Saul through with it."

Translation Strategies

If ellipsis would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here is another option:

  1. Add the missing words to the incomplete phrase or sentence.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Add the missing words to the incomplete phrase or sentence.
    • ... the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (Psalm 1:5)
      • ... the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor will sinners stand in the assembly of the righteous.
      • ... the wicked will not stand in the judgment, and sinners will not stand in the assembly of the righteous.
    • He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young ox. (Psalm 29:6)
      • He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and he makes Sirion skip like a young ox.

Generic Noun Phrases

This page answers the question: *What are generic noun phrases and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

Generic noun phrases refer to people or things in general rather than to specific individuals or things. This happens frequently in proverbs, because proverbs tell about things that are true about people in general.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Different languages have different ways of showing that noun phrases refer to something in general. Translators should refer to these general ideas in ways that are natural in their language.

Examples from the Bible

The righteous person is kept away from trouble and it comes upon the wicked instead. (Proverbs 11:8 ULB)

  • The underlined phrases above do not refer to any specific people but to anyone who does what is right or anyone who is wicked.

People curse the man who refuses to sell them grain.... (Proverbs 11:26 ULB)

  • This does not refer to a particular man, but to any person who refuses to sell grain.

Yahweh gives favor to a good man, but he condemns a man who makes evil plans. (Proverbs 12:2 ULB)

  • The phrase "a good man" does not refer to a particular man, but to any person who is good. The phrase "a man who makes evil plans" does not refer to a particular man, but to any person who makes evil plans.

Translation Strategies

If your language can use the same wording as in the ULB to refer to people or things in general rather than to specific individuals or things, consider using the same wording. Here are some strategies you might use.

  1. Use the word "the" in the noun phrase.
  2. Use the word "a" in the noun phrase.
  3. Use the word "any", as in "any person" or "anyone."
  4. Use the plural form, as in "people."
  5. Use any other way that is natural in your language.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the word "the" in the noun phrase.

    • Yahweh gives favor to a good man, but he condemns a man who makes evil plans. (Proverbs 12:2 ULB)
      • Yahweh gives favor to the good man, but he condemns the man who makes evil plans. (Proverbs 12:2)
  2. Use the word "a" in the noun phrase.

    • People curse the man who refuses to sell them grain ... (Proverbs 11:26 ULB)
      • People curse a man who refuses to sell them grain ...
  3. Use the word "any, as in "any person" or "anyone."

    • People curse the man who refuses to sell them grain ... (Proverbs 11:26 ULB)
      • People curse any man who refuses to sell them grain ...
  4. Use the plural form, as in "people" (or in this sentence, "men").

    • People curse the man who refuses to sell them grain ... (Proverbs 11:26 ULB)
      • People curse men who refuse to sell them grain ...
  5. Use any other way that is natural in your language.

    • People curse the man who refuses to sell them grain ... (Proverbs 11:26 ULB)
      • People curse whoever refuses to sell them grain ...
      • People curse those who refuse to sell them grain ...

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[When Masculine Words Include Women

](#figs-gendernotations)*


Go and Come

This page answers the question: *What do I do if the word "go" or "come" is confusing in a certain sentence?

*

Description

Different languages have different ways of talking about motion. The biblical languages or your source language may use the words "go" and "come" or "take" and "bring" differently than your language uses them. For example, when saying that they are approaching a person who has called them, English speakers say "I'm coming," while Spanish speakers say "I'm going." You will need to translate these words in a way that your readers will understand which direction people are moving in.

Reasons this is a translation issue

If these words are not translated in a way that is natural in your language, your readers may be confused about which direction people are moving in.

Examples from the Bible

Yahweh said to Noah, "Come, you and all your household, into the ark ... (Genesis 7:1 ULB)

  • In some languages, this would lead people to think that Yahweh was in the ark.

But you will be free from my oath if you come to my relatives and they will not give her to you. (Genesis 24:41 ULB)

  • Abraham was speaking to his servant. Abraham's relatives lived far away from where he and his servant were standing, and he wanted his servant to move toward them, not toward Abraham.

When you have come to the land that Yahweh your God gives you, and when you take possession of it and begin to live in it ... (Deuteronomy 17:14 ULB)

  • Moses was speaking to the people in the wilderness. Moses and the people had not yet arrived at the land that God was giving them. In some languages, it would make more sense to say, "When you have gone into the land..."

... they brought him up to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (Luke 1:22 ULB)

  • In some languages, it might make more sense to say that Joseph and Mary took or carried Jesus up to the temple.

Behold, a man named Jairus ... came and fell down at Jesus's feet, and he begged him to come to his house ... (Luke 8:41 ULB)

  • The man was not at his house when he spoke to Jesus. He wanted Jesus to go with him to his house.

Some time after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, but she did not go out in public for five months. (Luke 1:24 UDB)

  • In some languages, it might make more sense to say that Elizabeth did not come out in public.

Translation Strategies

If the word used in the ULB would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here are other strategies.

  1. Use the word "go," "come," "take," or "bring" that would be natural in your language.
  2. Use another word that expresses the right meaning.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the word "go," "come," "take," or "bring" that would be natural in your language.

    • But you will be free from my oath if you come to my relatives and they will not give her to you. (Genesis 24:41 ULB)
      • But you will be free from my oath if you go to my relatives and they will not give her to you.
  2. Use another word that expresses the right meaning.

    • When you have come to the land that Yahweh your God gives you ... (Deuteronomy 17:14 ULB)
      • When you have arrived at the land that Yahweh your God gives you ...
    • Yahweh said to Noah, "Come, you and all your household, into the ark ... (Genesis 7:1 ULB)
      • Yahweh said to Noah, "Enter, you and all your household, into the ark ...

Nominal Adjectives

This page answers the question: *How do I translate adjectives that act like nouns?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

In some languages an adjective can be used to refer to a class of things that the adjective describes. When it does, it acts like a noun. For example, the word "strong" is an adjective. Here are two sentences that show that "strong" is an adjective.

In the sentence below, the adjective "strong" comes before the word "man" and describes the man.

  • The strong man carried the heavy load.

In the sentence below, the adjective "strong" comes after the verb "be" and describes "he."

  • He exercises a lot because he wants to be strong.

Here is a sentence that shows that "strong" can also function as a noun. It refers to strong people in general.

  • The strong can often help those who are weak.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Many times in the Bible adjectives are used as nouns to describe a group of people.
  • Some languages do not use adjectives in this way.
  • Readers of these languages may think that the text is talking about one particular person when it is really talking about the group of people whom the adjective describes.

Examples from the Bible

The scepter of wickedness must not rule in the land of the righteous. (Psalm 125:3 ULB)

  • "The righteous" refers to people who are righteous, not one particular righteous person.

Blessed are the meek (Matthew 5:5 ULB)

  • "The meek" refers to people who are meek, not one particular meek person.

... the rich must not give more than the half shekel, and the poor must not give less. (Exodus 30:15 ULB)

  • "The rich" refers to people who are meek, and "the poor" refers to people who are poor.

Translation Strategies

If your language uses adjectives as nouns to refer to a class of people, consider using the adjectives in this way. If it would sound strange, or if the meaning would be unclear or wrong, here is another option:

  1. Use the adjective with a plural form of the noun that the adjective describes.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the adjective with a plural form of the noun that the adjective describes.
    • The scepter of wickedness must not rule in the land of the righteous. (Psalm 125:3 ULB)
      • The scepter of wickedness must not rule in the land of righteous people.
    • Blessed are the meek ... (Matthew 5:5 ULB)
      • Blessed are people who are meek ...

Order of Events

This page answers the question: *Why are the events not listed in the order they happened, and how do I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)* * *[Verbs

](#figs-verbs)*

Description

In the Bible, events are not always told in the order in which they occurred. Sometimes the author wanted to discuss something that happened at an earlier time than the event that he just talked about. This can be confusing to the reader.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Readers might think that the events happened in the order that they are told. It is important to help them understand the correct order of events.

Examples from the Bible

... Herod ... locked John up in prison. Now it came about, when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized.... (Luke 3:19-21 ULB)

  • Jesus was baptized by John. The verses above could sound like John baptized Jesus after Herod locked John up, but John baptized Jesus before Herod locked him up.

Just as Joshua had said to the people, the seven priests carried the seven trumpets of rams' horns before Yahweh. As they advanced, they gave a blast on the trumpets. ... But Joshua commanded the people, saying, "Do not shout. No sound must leave your mouths until the day I tell you to shout. Only then you must shout." (Joshua 6:8-10 ULB)

  • This could sound like Joshua gave the order not to shout after the army had already started their march, but he had given that order before they started marching.

Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? (Revelation 5:2 ULB)

  • This could sound like a person must first open the scroll and then break its seals, but the seals that lock the scroll must be broken before the scroll can be unrolled.

Translation Strategies

  1. If your language uses phrases or time words to show that an event happened before one that was already mentioned, consider using one of them.
  2. If your language uses verb tense or aspect to show that an event happened before one that was already mentioned, consider using that. (See: the section on Aspect on Verbs)
  3. If your language prefers to tell events in the order that they occurred, consider reordering the events so they they are in that order. This may require putting two or more verses together (like 5-6). (See: Verse Bridges)

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If your language uses phrases or time words to show that an event happened before the one just mentioned, consider using one of them.

    • ... Herod ... locked John up in prison. Now it came about, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized.... (Luke 3:29-21 ULB)
      • ... Herod ... locked John up in prison. Now before John was put in prison, when all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized....
    • Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? (Revelation 5:2 ULB)
      • Who is worthy to open the scroll after breaking its seals?
  2. If your language uses verb tense or aspect to show that an event happened before one that was already mentioned, consider using that.

    • 8Just as Joshua had said to the people, the seven priests carried the seven trumpets of rams' horns before Yahweh. As they advanced, they gave a blast on the trumpets ... 10But Joshua commanded the people, saying, "Do not shout. No sound must leave your mouths until the day I tell you to shout. Only then you must shout." (Joshua 6:8-10 ULB)
      • 8Just as Joshua had said to the people, the seven priests carried the seven trumpets of rams horns before Yahweh. As they advanced, they gave a blast on the trumpets...10But Joshua had commanded the people, saying, "Do not shout. No sound must leave your mouths until the day I tell you to shout. Only then you must shout.
  3. If your language prefers to tell events in the order that they occur, consider reordering the events. This may require putting two or more verses together (like 5-6).

    • 8Just as Joshua had said to the people, the seven priests carried the seven trumpets of rams' horns before Yahweh. As they advanced, they gave a blast on the trumpets ... 10But Joshua commanded the people, saying, "Do not shout. No sound must leave your mouths until the day I tell you to shout. Only then you must shout." (Joshua 6:8-10 ULB)
      • 8-10Joshua commanded the people, saying, "Do not shout. No sound must leave your mouths until the day I tell you to shout. Only then must you shout." Then just as Joshua had said to the people, the seven priests carried the seven trumpets of rams horns before Yahweh. As they advanced, they gave a blast on the trumpets....
    • Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? (Revelation 5:2 ULB)
      • Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Background Information

](#writing-background)* * *[Connecting Words

](#writing-connectingwords)* * *[Introduction of a New Event

](#writing-newevent)* * *[Verse Bridges

](#translate-versebridge)*


Parts of Speech

This page answers the question: *What are some of the parts of speech in English?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Grammar Topics

](#figs-grammar)*

Description

Parts of speech are categories of words. The different categories of words have different functions in a sentence. All languages have parts of speech, and all words in a language belong to a part of speech. Most languages have these basic parts of speech, with some variations, and some languages have more categories than this. This is not an exhaustive list of parts of speech, but it covers the basic categories.

VERBS are words that express either an action (such as come, go, eat) or a state-of-being (such as is, are, was). More detailed information can be found on Verbs.

NOUNS are words that represent a person, place, thing, or idea. Common nouns are generic, that is, they do not refer to any specific entity (man, city, country). Names, or proper nouns, refer to a specific entity (Peter, Jerusalem, Egypt). (For more information see) How to Translate Names.

PRONOUNS take the place of nouns and include such words as he, she, it, you, they, and we. More detailed pages on pronouns can be found on Pronouns.

CONJUNCTIONS are words that join phrases or sentences. Examples include and, or, but, for, yet, nor. Some conjunctions are used in pairs: both/and; either/or; neither/nor; not only/but also. More information about these can be found on Connecting Words

PREPOSITIONS are words that begin phrases which connect a noun or verb with more detail about that noun or verb. For example, "The girl ran to her father." Here the phrase with the preposition "to" tells the direction of the girl's running (the action) in relation to her father. Another example is, "The crowd around Jesus grew in numbers." The phrase with the preposition around tells the location of the crowd in relation to Jesus. Some examples of prepositions are to, from, in, out, on, off, with, without, above, below, before, after, behind, in front of, among, through, beyond, among.

ARTICLES are words that are used with nouns to show whether or not the speaker is referring to something that his listener should be able to identify. In English these words are: "a", an, the. The words a and an mean the same thing. If a speaker says "a dog, he does not expect his listener to know which dog he is talking about; this might be the first time he says anything about a dog. If a speaker says the dog, he is usually referring to a specific dog, and he expects his listener to know which dog he is talking about. English speakers also use the to show that they are talking about something in general. For example, they can say "The elephant is a large animal" and refer to elephants in general, not a specific elephant. More information about this can be found on Generic Noun Phrases.

ADJECTIVES are words that describe nouns and express such things as quantity, size, color, and age. Some examples are: many, big, blue, old, smart, tired. Sometimes people use adjectives to give some information about something, and sometimes people use them to distinguish one item from another. For example, in my elderly father the adjective elderly simply tells something about my father. But in my eldest sister the word eldest distinguishes that sister from any other older sisters I might have. More information about this can be found on Distinguishing versus Informing or Reminding.

ADVERBS are words that describe verbs or adjectives and give details such as how, when, where, why, and to what extent. Many English adverbs end in ly. Some examples of adverbs: slowly, later, far, intentionally, very.


Possession

This page answers the question: *What is possession and how can I translate phrases that have it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

In common English, "possession" refers to having something, or to something that a person has. In English that grammatical relationship is shown with of, or an apostrophe and the letter s, or a possessive pronoun.

  • the house of my grandfather
  • my grandfather's house
  • his house

Possession is used in Hebrew, Greek, and English for a variety of situations. Here are a few common situations that it is used for.

  • Ownership - Someone owns something.
    • My clothes - The clothes that I own
  • Social relationship - Someone has some kind of social relationship with another.
    • my mother - the woman who gave birth to me, or the woman who cared for me
    • my teacher - the person who teaches me
  • Contents - Something has something in it.
    • a bag of potatoes - a bag that has potatoes in it, or a bag that is full of potatoes
  • Part and whole: One thing is part of another.
    • my head - the head that is part of my body
    • the roof of a house - the roof that is part of a house

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Translators need to understand the relationship between two ideas represented by the two nouns when one possesses the other.
  • Some languages do not use possession for all of the situations that your source text Bible might use it for.

Examples from the Bible

Possession with objects or people

Ownership

... the younger son ... wasted his money with wildly extravagant living. (Luke 15:13)

  • The phrase "his money" means that the son owned the money.

Social relationship

Then the disciples of John came to him. (Matthew 9:14 ULB)

  • The "the disciples of John" were people who learned from John.

Material

On their heads were something like crowns of gold (Revelation 9:7)

  • "Crowns of gold" are crowns that are made of gold.

Contents

Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink ... will not lose his reward. (Mark 9:41 ULB)

  • A cup of water has water in it.

Part of a whole

But Uriah slept at the door of the king's palace (2 Samuel 11:9 ULB)

  • The door of a palace is a part of the palace.

Part of a group

To each one of us has been given a gift (Ephesians 4:7 ULB)

  • In the example above, "us" refers a group, and "each one" refers to the individual members of the group.

Possession with Events

Sometimes one or both of the nouns is an abstract noun that refers to an event or action. In the examples below, the abstract nouns are in bold print. These are just some of the relationships that are possible between two nouns when one of them refers to an event.

Subject - Sometimes the word after "of" tells who does the action named by the first noun.

The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from men? Answer me." (Mark 11:30)

  • The underlined phrase is about John baptizing people.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 3:35)

  • The underlined phrase is about Christ loving us.

Object - Sometimes the word after "of" tells who or what something happens to.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:10 ULB)

  • The underlined phrase is about people loving money.

Instrument - Sometimes the word after "of" tells the instrument that is used to do something.

then be afraid of the sword, because wrath brings the punishment of the sword (Job 19:29 ULB)

  • The underlined phrase is about God punishing people by sending enemies to attack them with swords.

Representation - Sometimes the word after "of" tells what the idea before "of" represents.

As John came, he was baptizing in the wilderness and was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4 ULB)

  • This is about baptism representing repentance. John was teaching people that they should be baptised to show that they were repenting of their sins.

Strategies for learning what the relationship is between the two nouns

  1. Read the surrounding verses to see if they help you to understand the relationship between the two nouns.
  2. Read the verse in the UDB. Sometimes it shows the relationship clearly.
  3. See what the notes say about it.

Translation Strategies

If possession would be a natural way to show a particular relationship between two nouns, consider using it. If it would be strange or hard to understand, consider these.

  1. Use an adjective to show that one describes the other.
  2. Use a verb to show how the two are related.
  3. If one of the nouns refers to an event, translate it as a verb.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use an adjective to show that one describes the other.

    • On their heads were something like crowns of gold (Revelation 9:7)
      • On their heads were gold crowns
  2. Use a verb to show how the two are related.

    • ... Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink ... will not lose his reward. (Mark 9:41 ULB)
      • ... Whoever gives you a cup that has water in it to drink ... will not lose his reward.
    • Wealth is worthless on the day of wrath (Proverbs 11:4 ULB)
      • Wealth is worthless on the day when God shows his wrath.
      • Wealth is worthless on the day when God punishes people because of his wrath.
  3. If one of the nouns refers to an event, translate it as a verb.

    • Notice that I am not speaking to your children, who have not known or seen the punishment of Yahweh your God, (Deuteronomy 11:2 ULB)
      • Notice that I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen how Yahweh your God punished the people of Egypt.
    • You will only observe and see the punishment of the wicked. (Psalm 91:8 ULB)
      • You will only observe and see how Yahweh punishes the wicked.
    • ... you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38 ULB)
      • ... you will receive the Holy Spirit, whom God will give to you.

Verbs

This page answers the question: *What are verbs and what kinds of things are associated with them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

Verbs are words that refer to an action or event or that is used in describing or identifying things.

Examples The verbs in the examples below are underlined.

  • John ran. ("Run" is an action.)
  • John ate a banana. ("Eat" is an action.)
  • John saw Mark. ("See" is an event.)
  • John died. ("Die" is an event.)
  • John is tall. (The phrase "is tall" describes John. The word "is" is a verb that links "John" with "tall.")
  • John looks handsome. (The phrase "is handsome" describes John. The word "looks" here is a verb that links "John" with "handsome.")
  • John is my brother. (The phrase "is my brother" identifies John.)

People or Things Associated with a Verb

A verb usually says something about someone or something. All of the example sentences above say something about John. "John" is the subject of those sentences. In English the subject usually comes before the verb.

Sometimes there is another person or thing associated with the verb. In the examples below, the underlined word is the verb, and the phrase in bold print is the object. In English the object usually comes after the verb.

  • He ate lunch.
  • He sang a song.
  • He read a book.
  • He saw the book.

Some verbs never have an object.

  • The sun rose at six o'clock.
  • John slept well.
  • John fell yesterday.

For many verbs in English, it is alright to leave out the object when the object is not important in the sentence.

  • He never eats at night.
  • He sings all the time.
  • He reads well.
  • He cannot see.

In some languages, a verb that needs an object must always take one, even if the object is not very important. People who speak those languages might say the sentences above like this.

  • He never eats food at night.
  • He sings songs all the time.
  • He reads words well.
  • He cannot see anything.

Subject and Object Marking on Verbs

In some languages, the verb may be a little bit different depending on the persons or things associated with it. For example, English speakers sometimes put "s" at the end of the verb when the subject is just one person. In other languages marking on the verb may show whether the subject is "I," "you," or "he"; singular, dual, or plural; male or female, or human or non-human.

  • They eat bananas every day. (The subject "they" is more than one person.)
  • John eats bananas every day. (The subject "John" is one person.)

Time and Tense

When we tell about an event, we usually tell whether it is in the past, the present, or the future. Sometimes we do this with words like "yesterday," "now," or "tomorrow."

In some languages the verb may be a little bit different depending on the time associated with it. This kind of marking on a verb is called tense. English speakers sometimes put "ed" at the end of the verb when the event happened in the past.

  • Sometimes Mary cooks meat.
  • Yesterday Mary cooked meat. (She did this in the past.)

In some languages speakers might add a word to tell something about the time. English speakers use the word "will" when the verb refers to something in the future.

  • Tomorrow Mary will cook meat.

Aspect

When we tell about an event, sometimes we want to show how the event progressed over a period of time, or how the event relates to another event. This is aspect. English speakers sometimes use the verbs "is" or "has" and add "s," "ing," or "ed" to the end of the verb in order to show how the event relates to another event or to the present time.

  • Mary cooks meat every day. (This tell about something Mary often does.)
  • Mary is cooking the meat. (This tells about something Mary is in the process of doing right now.)
  • Mary cooked the meat, and John came home. (This simply tells about things that Mary and John did.)
  • While Mary was cooking the meat, John came home. (This tells about something Mary was in the process of doing when John came home)
  • Mary has cooked the meat, and she wants us to come eat it. (This tells about something Mary did that is still relevant now.)
  • Mary had cooked the meat by the time Mark came home. (This tells about something that Mary completed in the past before something else happened.)

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)* * *[Active or Passive

](#figs-activepassive)* * *[Predictive Past

](#figs-pastforfuture)*


When Masculine Words Include Women

This page answers the question: *How do I translate "brother" or "he" when it could refer to anyone, male or female?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)* * *[Generic Noun Phrases

](#figs-genericnoun)*

Description

In some languages a word that normally refers to men can also be used in a more general way to refer to both men and women. Also in some languages, the masculine pronouns "he" and "him" and "his" can be used in a more general way for any person if it is not important whether the person is a man or a woman.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • When reading a sentence in the Bible, the translator needs to be able to determine whether the use of a word that normally refers to men refers only to men or to both men and women.
  • In some cultures words like "man," "brother," and "son" can only be used to refer to men. If those words are used in a translation in a more general way, people will think that what is being said does not apply to women.
  • In some cultures, the masculine pronouns "he" and "him" can only refer to men. If a masculine pronoun is used, people will think that what is said does not apply to women.

Translation Principles

When a statement applies to both men and women, translate it in such a way that people will be able to understand that it applies to both.

Examples from the Bible

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given to the churches of Macedonia. (2 Corinthians 8:1 ULB)

  • This verse is addressing the believers in Corinth, not only men, but men and women.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Proverbs 10:1 ULB)

  • When Paul wrote "sons of God," he was not speaking only of men, but of men and women.

Then said Jesus to his disciples, "If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24-26 ULB)

  • Jesus was not speaking only of men, but of men and women.

Caution: Sometimes masculine words are used specifically to refer to men. Do not use words that would lead people to think that they include women. The underlined words below are specifically about men.

Moses said, 'If a man dies, having no children, his brother must marry his wife and have a child for his brother.' (Mark 22:24 ULB)

Translation Strategies

If people would understand that that masculine words like "man," "brother," and "he" can include women, then consider using them. Otherwise, here are some ways for translating those words when they include women.

  1. Use a noun that can be used for both men and women.
  2. Use a word that refers to men and a word that refers to women.
  3. Use pronouns that can be used for both men and women.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use nouns that can be used for both men and women.

    • The wise man dies just like the fool dies. (Ecclesiastes 2:16 ULB)
      • The wise person dies just like the fool dies.
      • Wise people die just like fools die.
    • For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Proverbs 10:1 ULB)
      • For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.
  2. Use a word that refers to men and a word that refers to women.

    • For we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the troubles we had in Asia. (2 Corinthians 1:8)
      • For we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we had in Asia. (2 Corinthians 1:8)
  3. Use pronouns that can be used for both men and women.

    • If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24 ULB)
      • If people want to follow me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.

Word Order

This page answers the question: *What does "word order" mean?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Grammar Topics

](#figs-grammar)* * *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

Most languages have a normal way of ordering the parts of a sentence. It is not the same in all languages. Translators need to know what the normal word order is in their language.

The Main Parts of a Sentence

Most sentences have three basic important parts: subject, object, and verb. Subjects and objects are usually nouns (i.e., a person, place, thing, or idea) or pronouns. Verbs show action or a state of being.

Subject

The subject is usually what the sentence is about. It usually performs some action or is being described. A subject may be active; it does something, such as sing, or work, or teach.

  • Peter sings the song well.

A subject may have something done to it.

  • Peter was fed good food.

A subject can be described or it can be in a state, such as being happy, sad, or angry.

  • He is tall.
  • The boy is happy.

Object

The object is often the thing that the subject does something to.

  • Peter hit the ball.
  • Peter read a book.
  • Peter sang the song well.
  • Peter ate good food.

Verb

The verb shows an action or a state of being.

  • Peter sings the song well.
  • Peter is singing.
  • Peter is tall.

Preferred Word Order

All languages have a preferred word order. The examples below show the order of the subject, object, and verb in "Peter hit the ball" for some languages. In some languages, such as English, the order is Subject-Verb-Object.

  • Peter hit the ball.

In some languages the order is Subject-Object-Verb.

  • Peter the ball hit.

In some languages the order is Verb-Subject-Object.

  • Hit Peter the ball.

Changes in Word Order

Word order can change if

  • the sentence is a question or command
  • the sentence describes a state of being (He is happy. He is tall.)
  • the sentence expresses a condition, such as with the the word "if"
  • the sentence has a location
  • the sentence has a time element
  • the sentence is in a poem

Word order can also change if

  • there is some kind of emphasis on a certain part of the sentence
  • the sentence is really about something other than the subject

Translation principles

  • Know which word order is preferred in your language.
  • Use your language's preferred word order unless there is some reason in your language to change it.
  • Translate the sentence so that the meaning is accurate and clear and so that it sounds natural.

Pronouns

Pronouns

This page answers the question: *What are pronouns and what kinds of pronouns are in some languages?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

Pronouns are words that people use in place of a noun to refer to someone or something. Some examples are I, you, he, it, this, that, himself, someone. The most common type of pronoun is personal.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns refer to people or things and show if the speaker is referring to himself, the person he is speaking to, or someone or something else. The following are kinds of information that personal pronouns may give. Other types of pronouns may give some of this information, as well.

Person

  • First Person - The speaker and possibly others (I, we)
  • Second Person - The person or people that the speaker is talking to and possibly others (you)
  • Third Person - Someone or something other than the speaker and those he is talking to (he, she, it, they)

Number

  • Singular - one (I, you, he, she, it)
  • Plural - more than one (we, you, they)
  • Dual - two (Some languages have pronouns for specifically two people or two things.)

Gender

  • Masculine - he
  • Feminine - she
  • Neuter - it

Relationship to other words in the sentence

  • Subject of the verb: I, you, he, she, it, we, they
  • Object of the verb or preposition: me, you, him, her, it, us, them
  • Possessor with a noun: my, your, his, her, its, our, their
  • Possessor without a noun: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs

Other Types of pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns refer to another noun or pronoun in the same sentence: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.

  • John saw himself in the mirror. - The word "himself" refers to John.

Interrogative Pronouns are used to make a question that needs more than just a yes or no for an answer: who, whom, whose, what, where, when, why, how

  • Who built the house?

Relative Pronouns mark a relative clause. They tell more about a noun in the main part of the sentence: that, which, who, whom, where, when

  • I saw the house that John built. The clause "that John built" tells which house I saw.
  • I saw the man who built the house. The clause "who built the house" tells which man I saw.

Demonstrative Pronouns are used to draw attention to someone or something and to show distance from the speaker or something else: this, these, that, those.

  • Have you seen this here?
  • Who is that over there?

Indefinite pronouns are used when no particular noun is being referred to: any, anyone, someone, anything, something, some. Sometimes a personal pronoun is used in a generic way to do this: you, they, he or it.

  • He does not want to talk to anyone.
  • Someone fixed it, but I do not know who.
  • They say that you should not wake a sleeping dog.

In the last example, "they" and "you" just refer to people in general.


First, Second, or Third Person

This page answers the question: *What are first, second, and third person, and how do I translate when a third person form does not refer to the third person?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[When to Make Explicit Information Implicit

](#figs-explicitinfo)* * *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)*

Description

Normally a speaker refers to himself as "I" and the person he is speaking to as "you." Sometimes in the Bible a speaker referred to himself or to the person he was speaking to with a phrase other than "I" or "you." We use the categories "first person," "second person," and "third person" when discussing the pronouns and other forms that speakers normally use when they refer to themselves, to those they are speaking to, and to others.

  • First person - This is how a speaker normally refers to himself. English uses the pronouns "I" and "we." (Also: me, my, mine; us, our, ours)
  • Second person - This is how a speaker normally refers to the person or people he is speaking to. English uses the pronoun "you." (Also: your, yours)
  • Third person - This is how a speaker refers to someone else. English uses the pronouns "he," "she," "it" and "they." (Also: him, his, her, hers, its; them, their, theirs) Noun phrases like "the man" or "the woman" are also third person.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Sometimes in the Bible a speaker used the third person to refer to himself or to the people he was speaking to. Readers might think that the speaker was referring to someone else. They might not understand that he meant "I" or "you."

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes people used the third person instead of "I" or "me" to refer to themselves.

But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep." (1 Samuel 17:34 ULB)

  • David referred to himself in the third person as "your servant" and "his." He was calling himself Saul's servant in order to show his humility before Saul.

Then Yahweh answered Job out of a fierce storm and said, "... Do you have an arm like God's? Can you thunder with a voice like him?"" (Job 40:6, 9 ULB)

  • God referred to himself in the third person with the words "God's" and "him." He did this to emphasize that he is God, and he is powerful.

Sometimes people used the third person instead of "you" or "your" to refer to the person or people they were speaking to.

Abraham answered and said, "Look, I have undertaken to speak to my Lord, even though I am only dust and ashes! (Genesis 18:27 ULB)

  • Abraham was speaking to the Lord, and referred to the Lord as "My Lord" rather than as "you." He did this to show his humility before God.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4 ULB)

  • After writing "each of you," Paul used the third person "his" instead of "your" to refer to the same people.

Translation Strategies

If using the third person to mean "I" or "you" would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, consider these strategies.

  1. Use the third person phrase along with the pronoun "I" or "you."
  2. Simply use the first person ("I") or second person ("you") instead of the third person.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use the third person phrase along with the pronoun "I" or "you."

    • But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep his father's sheep." (1 Samuel 17:34)
      • But David said to Saul, "I, your servant, used to keep my father's sheep."
  2. Simply use the first person ("I") or second person ("you") instead of the third person.

    • Then Yahweh answered Job out of a fierce storm and said, "... Do you have an arm like God's? Can you thunder with a voice like him? (Job 40:6, 9 ULB)
      • Then Yahweh answered Job out of a fierce storm and said, "... Do you have an arm like mine? Can you thunder with a voice like me?"
    • Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4 ULB)
      • Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Forms of 'You'

](#figs-you)*


Exclusive and Inclusive "We"

This page answers the question: *What are exclusive "we" and inclusive "we"?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)*

Description

Some languages have more than one form of "we:" an inclusive form that means "I and you" and an exclusive form that means "I and someone else but not you." The exclusive form excludes the person being spoken to. The inclusive form includes the person being spoken to and possibly others. This is also true for "us," "our," "ours," and "ourselves." Some languages have inclusive forms and exclusive forms for each of these.

See the pictures. The people on the right are the people that the speaker is talking to. The yellow highlight shows who the inclusive "we" and the exclusive "we" refer to.

Reasons this is a translation issue

The Bible was first written in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. Like English, these languages do not have separate exclusive and inclusive forms for "we." Translators whose language has separate exclusive and inclusive forms of these words will need to understand what the speaker meant so that they can decide which form to use.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes the word "we" or "us" includes the people being spoken to.

... the shepherds said one to each other, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." (Luke 2:15 ULB)

  • The shepherds were speaking to one another. When they said "us," they were including the people they were speaking to - one another. So languages that have inclusive forms of "we" and "us" would use them in this verse.

Now one day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." They set sail. (Luke 8:22 ULB)

  • When Jesus said "us," he was referring to himself and the disciples he was speaking to.

Sometimes the word "we" or "us" excludes the people being spoken to.

... we have seen it, and we bear witness to it. We are announcing to you the eternal life.... (1 John 1:2 ULB)

  • John was telling people who had not seen Jesus what he and the other apostles had seen. So languages that have an exclusive form of "we" would use it in this verse.

Sometimes it is not obvious whether or not the word "we" or "us" includes the people being spoken too.

But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people." (Luke 9:12-13 ULB)

  • Jesus told his disciples to give the crowd something to eat. When the disciples replied to Jesus, it is not clear whether or not they were including Jesus in the word "we." However, since Jesus told them to give food to the people, it is reasonable to infer that when the disciples said "we," they were referring only to themselves and not to Jesus.

Translation Strategies

There are no translation strategies for this topic.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[When Masculine Words Include Women

](#figs-gendernotations)*


Forms of 'You'

This page answers the question: *What are the different forms of "you"?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Forms of 'You' - Singular

](#figs-yousingular)* * *[Forms of 'You' - Dual/Plural

](#figs-youdual)*

Singular, Dual, and Plural

Some languages have more than one word for "you" based on how many people the word "you" refers to. The singular form refers to one person, and the plural form refers to more than one person. Some languages also have a dual form which refers to two people, and some have other forms that refer to three or four people.

Sometimes in the Bible a speaker uses a singular form of "you" even though he is speaking to a crowd.

Formal and Informal

Some languages have more than one form of "you" based on the relationship between the speaker and the person he is talking to. People use the formal form of "you" when speaking to someone who is older, or has higher authority, or is someone they do not know very well. People use the informal form when speaking to someone who is not older, or does not have higher authority, or is a family member or close friend.

For help with translating these, we suggest you read:


Forms of 'You' - Dual/Plural

This page answers the question: *How do I know if the word 'you' is dual or plural?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Forms of 'You'

](#figs-you)* * *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)* * *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

Some languages have a singular form of "you" for when the word "you" refers to just one person, and a plural form for when the word "you" refers to more than one person. Some languages also have a dual form of "you" for when the word "you" refers to only two people. Translators who speak one of these languages will always need to know what the speaker meant so they can choose the right word for "you" in their language. Other languages, such as English, have only one form, which people use regardless of how many people it refers to.

The Bible was first written in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. These languages all have a singular form of "you" and a plural form of "you." When we read the Bible in those languages, the pronouns and verb forms show us whether the word "you" refers to one person or more than one person. However, they do not show us whether it refers to only two people or more than two people. When the pronouns do not show us how many people the word "you" refers to, we need to look at the context to see how many people the speaker was speaking to.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Translators who speak a language that has distinct singular, dual, and plural forms of "you" will always need to know what the speaker meant so they can choose the right word for "you" in their language.
  • Many languages also have different forms of the verb depending on whether the subject is singular or plural. So even if there is no pronoun meaning "you," translators of these languages will need to know if the speaker was referring to one person or more than one.

Often the context will make it clear whether the word "you" refers to one person or more than one. If you look at the other pronouns in the sentence, they will help you know how many people the speaker was addressing.

Examples from the Bible

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask you." He said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:35-36 ULB)

  • Jesus is asking the two, James and John, what they want him to do for them. If the target language has a dual form of "you," use that. If the target language does not have a dual form, then the plural form would be appropriate.

... Jesus sent out two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village opposite us. As soon as you enter it, you will find a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it to me. (Mark 11:1-2 ULB)

  • The context makes it clear that Jesus is addressing two people. If the target language has a dual form of "you," use that, and if it has a dual form of verbs, use that as well. If the target language does not have a dual form, then the plural form would be appropriate.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion, greetings. Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you experience various troubles, knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance. (James 1:1-3 ULB)

  • James wrote this letter to many people, so the word "you" refers to many people. If the target language has a plural form of "you," it would be best to use it here.

Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak what we know, and we testify about what we have seen. Yet you do not accept our testimony. (John 3:10, 11 ULB)

  • Jesus was speaking to one man, so the reader would expect that all the instances of "you" would be singular. However, in the last sentence, Jesus is referring to all of the Pharisees, so the word "you" in that sentence is plural.

Strategies for finding out how many people "you" refers to

  1. Look at the notes to see if they tell whether "you" refers to one person or more than one person.
  2. Look at the UDB to see if it says anything that would show you whether the word "you" refers to one person or more than one person.
  3. If you have a Bible that is written in a language that distinguishes "you" singular from "you" plural, see which form of "you" that Bible has in that sentence.
  4. Look at the context to see who the speaker was talking to and who responded.

Translation Strategies

  1. If a speaker or writer uses a word for "you" to refer to two people, and if your language has a form of "you" that is specifically for two people, then use that form.
  2. If a speaker uses a word for "you" to refer to two people, and if your language does not have a form that is specifically for two people, then use whatever form is appropriate when referring to two people. That may be a plural form or a form that does not indicate the number of people at all.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

Because English does not have dual or plural forms of "you," there are no examples of translation strategies applied.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Forms of 'You' - Singular

](#figs-yousingular)*


Forms of 'You' - Singular

This page answers the question: *How do I know if the word 'you' is singular?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Forms of 'You'

](#figs-you)* * *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)*

Description

Some languages have a singular form of "you" for when the word "you" refers to just one person, and a plural form for when the word "you" refers to more than one person. Translators who speak one of these languages will always need to know what the speaker meant so they can choose the right word for "you" in their language. Other languages, such as English, have only one form, which people use regardless of how many people it refers to.

The Bible was first written in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. These languages all have both a singular form of "you" and a plural form of "you." When we read the Bible in those languages, the pronouns and verb forms show us whether the word "you" refers to one person or more than one. When we read the Bible in a language that does not have different forms of "you", we need to look at the context to see how many people the speaker was speaking to.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Translators who speak a language that has distinct singular and plural forms of "you" will always need to know what the speaker meant so they can choose the right word for "you" in their language.
  • Many languages also have different forms of the verb depending on whether the subject is singular or plural. So even if there is no pronoun meaning "you", translators of these languages will need to know if the speaker was referring to one person or more than one.

Often the context will make it clear whether the word "you" refers to one person or more than one. If you look at the other pronouns in the sentence, they will help you know the number of people the speaker was speaking to. Sometimes Greek and Hebrew speakers used "you" singular even though they were speaking to a group of people. See Singular Pronouns that Refer to Groups

Examples from the Bible

Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak what we know, and we testify about what we have seen. Yet you do not accept our testimony. (John 3:10, 11 ULB)

Jesus was speaking to one man, so the reader would expect that all the instances of "you" would be singular. However, in the last sentence, Jesus is referring to all of the Pharisees, so the word "you" in that sentence is plural.

The angel said to him, "Dress yourself and put on your sandals." Peter did so. The angel said to him, "Put on your outer garment and follow me." (Acts 12:8 ULB)

The context makes it clear that the angel was speaking to one person and that only one person did what the the angel commanded. So languages that have singular and plural forms of "you" would have the singular form here for "yourself" and "your." Also, if verbs have different forms for singular and plural subjects, the verbs "dress" and "put on" will need the form for "you" singular.

To Titus, a true son in our common faith. ... For this purpose I left you in Crete, that you might set in order things not yet complete and ordain elders in every city as I directed you. ... But you, speak what fits with faithful instruction. (Titus 1:4,5; 2:1 ULB)

Paul wrote this letter to one person, Titus. Most of the time the word "you" in this letter refers only to Titus.

Strategies for finding out how many people "you" refers to

  1. Look at the notes to see if they tell whether "you" refers to one person or more than one person.
  2. Look at the UDB to see if it says anything that would show you whether the word "you" refers to one person or more than one person.
  3. If you have a Bible that is written in a language that distinguishes "you" singular from "you" plural, see which form of "you" that Bible has in that sentence.
  4. Look at the context to see how many people the speaker was talking to and who responded.

Translation Strategies

  1. If your language has singular and plural forms of "you", use the form that is appropriate for the number of people that the speaker or writer was addressing.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

Because English does not have singular and plural forms of "you," there are no examples of translation strategies applied.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Forms of 'You' - Dual/Plural

](#figs-youdual)*


Forms of "You" - Formal or Informal

This page answers the question: *What are formal and informal "you"?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Forms of 'You'

](#figs-you)* * *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)*

Description

Some languages make a distinction between the formal form of "you" and the informal form of "you." This page is primarily for people whose language makes this distinction.

In some cultures people use the formal "you" when speaking to someone who is older or in authority, and they use the informal "you" when speaking to someone who is their own age or younger or who has less authority. In other cultures, people use the formal "you" when speaking to strangers or people they do not know well, and the informal "you" when speaking with family members and close friends.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. These languages do not have formal and informal forms of "you."
  • English and many other source languages do not have formal and informal forms of "you."
  • Translators who use a source text in a language that does have formal and informal forms of "you" will need to understand how those forms are used in that language. The rules in that language may not be exactly the same as the rules in the translator's language.
  • Translators will need to understand the relationship between two speakers in order to choose the appropriate form in their language.

Translation principles

  • Understand the relationship between the speaker and the person or people he is speaking to.
    • Is one person in authority over the other?
    • Is one person older than the other?
    • Are the people family members, relatives, friends, strangers, or enemies?
  • Understand the speaker's attitude toward the person he is speaking to.
  • Choose the form in your language that is appropriate for that relationship and attitude.

Examples from the Bible

Yahweh God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9 ULB)

God is in authority over the man, so languages that have formal and informal forms of "you" would probably use the informal form here.

So it seemed good to me also, because I have accurately investigated everything from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3-4 ULB)

Luke called Theophilus "most excellent." This shows us that Theophilus was probably a high official to whom Luke was showing great respect. Speakers of languages that have a formal form of "you" would probably use that form here.

Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored as holy. (Matthew 6:9 ULB)

This is part of a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. Some cultures would use the formal "you" because God is in authority. Other cultures would use the informal "you" because God is our Father.

Translation Strategies

  1. Choose the form of "you" in your language that is appropriate for the speaker's relationship with the person he is speaking to and for the speaker's attitude toward that person.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

Because English does not have formal and informal forms of "you," there are no examples of translation strategies applied.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Forms of 'You' - Dual/Plural

](#figs-youdual)* * *[Forms of 'You' - Singular

](#figs-yousingular)*


Singular Pronouns that Refer to Groups

This page answers the question: *How do I translate singular pronouns that refer to groups of people?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Forms of 'You'

](#figs-you)* * *[Forms of 'You' - Singular

](#figs-yousingular)* * *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)*

Description

The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. These languages have a singular form of "you" for when the word "you" refers to just one person, and a plural form for when the word "you" refers to more than one person. However sometimes speakers in the Bible used the singular form of "you" even though they were speaking to a group of people. This is not obvious when you read the Bible in English, because English does not have distinct forms for "you" singular and "you" plural. But you may see this if you read a Bible in a language that does have distinct forms.

Also, speakers and writers of the Old Testament often referred to groups of people with the singular pronoun "he," rather than with the plural pronoun "they."

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • People who translate into a language that has singular and plural forms of "you" will need to know whether the speaker was speaking to one person or to more than one.
  • In some languages it might be confusing if a speaker uses a singular pronoun when speaking to or about more than one person.

Examples from the Bible

1Take heed that you do not do your acts of righteousness before people to be seen by them, or else you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2So when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before yourself as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have the praise of people. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:1, 2 ULB)

  • Jesus said this to a crowd. He used "you" plural in verse 1, and "you" singular in the first sentence of verse 2. Then in the last sentence he used the plural again.

I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:1-3 ULB)

  • God said this to all the people of Israel. He had taken them all out of Egypt and he wanted them all to obey him, but he used the singular form of you here when speaking to them.

This is what Yahweh says, "For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn away punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity. His anger raged continually, and his wrath lasted forever." (Amos 1:11 ULB)

  • Yahweh said these things about the people of Edom, not about only one person.

Translation Strategies

If the singular form of the pronoun would be natural when referring to a group of people, consider using it.

  1. If the singular form of the pronoun would not be natural when referring to a group of people, or if the readers would be confused by it, use the plural form of the pronoun.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the singular form of the pronoun would not be natural when referring to a group of people, or if the readers would be confused by it, use the plural form of the pronoun.
    • This is what Yahweh says, "For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn away punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity. His anger raged continually, and his wrath lasted forever." (Amos 1:11 ULB)
      • This is what Yahweh says, "For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn away punishment, because they pursued their brothers with the sword and cast off all pity. Their anger raged continually, and their wrath lasted forever."

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Forms of 'You' - Dual/Plural

](#figs-youdual)*


Reflexive Pronouns

This page answers the question: *What are reflexive pronouns?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

All languages have ways of showing that the same person fills two different roles in a sentence. English does this by using Reflexive pronouns. These are pronouns that refer to someone or something that has already been mentioned in a sentence. In English the reflexive pronouns are: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. Other languages may have other ways to show this.

Uses of Reflexive Pronouns
* To show that the same person or things fills two different roles in a sentence * To emphasize a person or thing in a sentence * To show that a person or thing was alone or did something alone

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Languages have different ways of showing the things that reflexive pronouns in the ULB show.
  • When translators read a reflexive pronoun in the ULB, they need to understand what that reflexive pronoun is used for.
  • Translators need to know how to show those meanings in their own language.

Examples from the Bible

The reflexive pronoun sometimes shows that the same person or thing fills two different roles in a sentence. Often the reflexive pronoun is the object of the sentence, and it refers to the same person that the subject refers to. (See Sentence Structure)

Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:59 ULB)

  • "Jesus" is the subject of the verb "hid," and "himself" is the object of "hid." The word "himself" refers to Jesus.

If I should testify about myself, my testimony would not be true. (John 5:31 ULB)

  • The word "I" is the subject of "testify," and "myself" is the object of "testify." The words "I" and "myself" both refer to Jesus.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country before the Passover in order to purify themselves. (John 11:55 ULB)

  • "Many" is the subject of "purify," and "themselves" is the object of "purify." The word "themselves" refers to the many people.

The reflexive pronoun sometimes emphasizes a person or thing in the sentence.

... Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were ... (John 4:2 ULB)

So they left the crowd, taking Jesus with them, since he was already in the boat. ... And a violent windstorm arose and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the boat was already full. But Jesus himself was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. (Mark 4:36-38 ULB)

The reflexive pronoun sometimes shows that a person or thing was alone or did something alone.

... while the kings who had come were by themselves in the field. (1 Chronicles 19:9 ULB)

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and seize him by force to make him king, he withdrew again up the mountain by himself. (John 6:15 ULB)

Translation Strategies

If a reflexive pronoun would have the same function in your language, consider using it. If not, here are some other strategies that some languages use.

  1. Show that the object of the verb is the same as the subject by putting something on the verb.
  2. Emphasize a certain person or thing by referring to it in a special place in the sentence.
  3. Emphasize a certain person or thing by adding something to that word or putting another word with it.
  4. Show that a person or thing was alone or did something alone by using a word like "alone."

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Show that the object of the verb is the same as the subject by putting something on the verb.

    • If I should testify about myself, my testimony would not be true. (John 5:31 ULB)
      • If I should self-testify, my testimony would not be true.
    • Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover in order to purify themselves. (John 11:55 ULB)
      • Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover in order to self-purify.
  2. Emphasize a certain person or thing by referring to it in a special place in the sentence.

    • He himself took our sickness and bore our diseases. (Matthew 8:17 ULB)
      • It was he who took our sickness and bore our diseases.
    • Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were. (John 4:2 ULB)
      • It was not Jesus who was baptizing, but his disciples were.
  3. Emphasize a certain person or thing by adding something to that word or putting another word with it.

    • But Jesus said this to test Philip, for he himself knew what he was going to do. (John 6:6 ULB)
      • But Jesus said this to test Philip, for he personally knew what he was going to do.
  4. Show that a person or thing was alone or did something alone by using a word like "alone."

    • When Jesus realized that they were about to come and seize him by force to make him king, he withdrew again up the mountain by himself. (John 6:15)
      • When Jesus realized that they were about to come and seize him by force to make him king, he withdrew again alone up the mountain.

Pronouns - When to Use Them

This page answers the question: *How do I decide whether or not to use a pronoun?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

When we talk or write, we use pronouns to refer to people or things without always having to repeat the noun or name. Usually the first time we refer to someone in a story, we use a descriptive phrase or a name. The next time we might refer to that person with a simple noun or by name. After that we might refer to him simply with a pronoun, as long as we think that our listeners will be able to understand easily to whom the pronoun refers.

Each language has its rules and exceptions to this usual way of referring to people and things.

  • In some languages the first time something is referred to in a paragraph or chapter, it is referred to with a noun rather than a pronoun.
  • The main character is the person whom a story is about. In some languages, after a main character is introduced in a story, he is usually referred to with a pronoun. Some languages have special pronouns that refer only to the main character.
  • In some languages, marking on the verb helps people know who the subject is. (see Verbs) In some of these languages, listeners rely on this marking to help them understand who the subject is, and speakers use a pronoun, noun phrase, or name only when they want to emphasize or clarify who the subject is.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • If translators use a pronoun at the wrong time for their language, readers might not know who the writer is talking about.
  • If translators too frequently refer to a main character by name, listeners of some languages might not realize that the person is a main character, or they might think that there is a new character with the same name.
  • If translators use pronouns, nouns, or names at the wrong time, people might think that there is some special emphasis on the person or thing it refers to.

Examples from the Bible

Now there was a Pharisee whose name was Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Council. This man came to Jesus ... Jesus replied to him (John 3:1-3 ULB)

In John 3, Nicodemus is first referred to with noun phrases and his name. Then he is referred to with the noun phrase "this man." Then he is referred to with the pronoun "him."

Then he spoke a parable to them about how they should always pray and not become discouraged. (Luke 18:1 ULB)

The example above occurs at the beginning of a chapter. In some languages it might not be clear whom the pronouns refer to.

The prison warden gave into Joseph's hand all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever they did there, Joseph was in charge of it. The prison warden did not worry about anything that was in his hand, because Yahweh was with him. Whatever he did, Yahweh prospered. (Genesis 39:22-23 ULB)

In the example above, two men are named in the first two sentences and the beginning of the third. It might not be clear whom "him," "his," and "he" in the third sentence refer to.

At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the grainfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and eat them. But when the Pharisees saw that, they said to Jesus, "See, your disciples do what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath." But Jesus said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was hungry, and the men who were with him? ..." Then Jesus left from there and went into their synagogue. (Matthew 12:1-9 ULB)

Jesus is the main character of the book of Matthew, but in the verses above he is referred to four times by name. This may lead speakers of some languages to think that Jesus is not the main character. Or it might lead them to think that there is more than one person named Jesus in this story. Or it might lead them to think that there is some kind of emphasis on him, even though there is no emphasis.

Translation Strategies

  1. If it would not be clear to your readers whom or what a pronoun refers to, use a noun or name.
  2. If repeating a noun or name would lead people to think that a main character is not a main character, or that the writer is talking about more than one person with that name, or that there is some kind of emphasis on someone when there is no emphasis, use a pronoun instead.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If it would not be clear to your readers whom or what a pronoun refers to, use a noun or name.

    • Then he spoke a parable to them about how they should always pray and not become discouraged. (Luke 18:1 ULB)
      • Then Jesus spoke a parable to his disciples about how they should always pray and not become discouraged.
  2. If repeating a noun or name would lead people to think that a main character is not a main character, or that the writer is talking about more than one person with that name, or that there is some kind of emphasis on someone when there is no emphasis, use a pronoun instead.

    • At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the grain fields. His disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and eat them. But when the Pharisees saw that, they said to Jesus, "See, your disciples do what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath." But Jesus said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was hungry, and the men who were with him? ... Then Jesus left from there and went into their synagogue. (Matthew 12:1-9 ULB)
      • At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the grain fields. His disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and eat them. But when the Pharisees saw that, they said to him, "See, your disciples do what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath. But he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was hungry, and the men who were with him? ... Then he left from there and went into their synagogue.

Sentences

Sentence Structure

This page answers the question: *What are the parts of a sentence?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)*

Description

The simplest sentence structure in English includes a subject and an action word:

  • The boy ran.

Subject

The subject is who or what the sentence is about. In these examples, the subject is underlined:

  • The boy is running.
  • He is running.

Subjects are typically noun phrases or pronouns. (see Parts of Speach) In the examples above, "the boy" is a noun phrase that has the noun "boy," and "he" is a pronoun.

When the sentence is a command, in many languages it does not have a subject pronoun. People understand that the subject is "you."

  • Close the door.

Predicate

The predicate is the part of a sentence that tells something about the subject. It usually has a verb. (See: Verbs) In the sentences below, the subjects are "the man" and "he." The predicates are underlined and the verbs are in bold.

  • The man is strong.
  • He worked hard.
  • He made a garden.

Compound Sentences

A sentence can be made up of more than one sentence. Each of the two lines below has a subject and a predicate and is a full sentence.

  • He planted the yams.
  • His wife planted the corn.

The compound sentence below contains the two sentences above. In English, compound sentences are joined with a conjunction such as "and," "but," or "or."

  • He planted the yams and his wife planted the corn.

Clauses

Sentences can also have clauses and other phrases. Clauses are like sentences because they have a subject and a predicate, but they do not normally occur by themselves. Here are some examples of clauses. The subjects are in bold, and the predicates are underlined.

  • when the corn was ready
  • after she picked it
  • because it tasted so good

Sentences can have many clauses, and so they can become long and complex. But each sentence has to have at least one independent clause, that is, a clause that can be a sentence all by itself. The other clauses that cannot be sentences by themselves are called the dependent clauses. Dependent clauses depend on the independent clause to complete their meaning. The dependent clauses are underlined in the sentences below.

  • When the corn was ready, she picked it.
  • After she picked it, she carried it home and cooked it.
  • Then she and her husband ate it all, because it tasted so good.

The following phrases can each be a whole sentence. They are the independent clauses from the sentences above.

  • She picked it.
  • She carried it home and cooked it.
  • Then she and her husband ate it all.

Relative Clauses

In some languages, clauses can be used with a noun that is part of a sentence. These are called relative clauses.

In the sentence below, "the corn that was ready" is part of the predicate of the whole sentence. The relative clause "that was ready" is used with the noun "corn" to tell which corn she picked.

  • His wife picked the corn that was ready.

In the sentence below "her mother, who was very annoyed" is part of the predicate of the whole sentence. The relative clause "who was very annoyed" is used with the noun "mother" to tell how her mother felt when she did not get any corn.

  • She did not give any corn to her mother, who was very annoyed.

Translation Issues

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Word Order

](#figs-order)* * *[Distinguishing versus Informing or Reminding

](#figs-distinguish)*


Sentence Types

This page answers the question: *What are the different types of sentences and what are they used for?

*

Description

A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. The basic types of sentences are listed below with the functions they are mainly used for.

  • Statements - These are mainly used to give information. 'This is a fact.'
  • Questions - These are mainly used to ask for information. 'Do you know him?'
  • Imperative Sentences - These are mainly used to express a desire or requirement that someone do something. 'Pick that up.'
  • Exclamations - These are mainly used to express a strong feeling. 'Ouch, that hurt!'

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Languages have different ways of using sentence types to express particular functions.
  • Most languages use these sentence types for more than one function.
  • Each sentence in the Bible belongs to a certain sentence type and has a certain function, but some languages would not use that type of sentence for that function.

Examples from the Bible

The examples below show each of these types used for their main functions.

Statements

People usually use statements to give information.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ULB)

Statements can also have other functions. (see Statements - Other Uses)

Questions

People usually use questions to get information, and they expect to receive an answer.

Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." (Matthew 9:28 ULB)

The jailer...said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your house." (Acts 16:29-31 ULB)

Questions can also have other functions. (see Rhetorical Question)

Imperative Sentences

There are different kinds of imperative sentences: commands, instructions, suggestions, invitations, requests, and wishes.

With a command, the speaker uses his authority and tells someone to do something.

Rise up, Balak, and hear. Listen to me, you son of Zippor. (Numbers 23:18 ULB)

With an instruction, the speaker tells someone how to do something.

...but if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. ... If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. (Matthew 19:17, 21 ULB)

With a suggestion, the speaker tells someone to do something that he thinks might help that person.

Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and put him over the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:33)

  • Joseph was speaking to Pharaoh and gave him a very polite suggestion about what to do so that Pharaoh's people would live.

Speakers may intend to be part of the group that does what is suggested.

Then they said to each other, "Let us make bricks and bake them to make them hard ... (Genesis 11:3 ULB)

  • In Genesis 11, the people were saying that it would be good for them all to make bricks together.

With an invitation, the speaker uses politeness or friendliness to suggest that someone do something if he wants. This is usually something that the speaker thinks the listener will enjoy.

Come with us and we will do you good. (Numbers 10:29)

With a request, the speaker uses politeness to say that he wants someone to do something. This may include the word 'please' to make it clear that it is a request and not a command. This is usually something that would benefit the speaker.

Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11 ULB)

Please excuse me. (Luke 14:18 ULB)

With a wish, a person expresses what they want to happen. In English, wishes often start with the word "may" or "let."

May God Almighty bless you, make you fruitful and multiply you ... (Genesis 28:3 ULB)

  • In Genesis 28, Isaac told Jacob what he wanted God to do for him.

Cursed be Canaan. May he be a servant to his brothers' servants. (Genesis 9:25 ULB)

  • In Genesis 9, Noah said what he wanted to happen to Canaan.

Imperative sentences also have other functions. (see Imperatives - Other Uses)

Exclamations

Exclamations express strong feeling. In the ULB and UDB, they usually have an exclamation mark (!) at the end.

Save us, Lord; we are about to die! (Matthew 8:25 ULB)

  • In the example above, Jesus's disciples showed their fear and how urgently they needed help.

(See Exclamations for other ways that exclamations are shown and ways to translate them.)

Translation Strategies

  1. Use your language's ways of showing that a sentence has a particular function.
  2. When a sentence in the Bible has a sentence type that your language would not use for the sentence's function, see the pages below for translation strategies.

Statements - Other Uses

This page answers the question: *What other uses are there for statements?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Sentence Types

](#figs-sentencetypes)*

Description

Normally statements are used to give information. But sometimes they are used in the Bible for other functions.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Some languages would not use a statement for some of the functions that statements are used for in the Bible.

Examples from the Bible

Statements are normally used to give information.

There was a man who was sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, that all might believe through him. John was not the light, but came that he might testify about the light. (John 1:6-8 ULB)

  • All of the sentences in John 1:6-8 above are statements, and their function is to give information.

Statements can also be used as commands to tell people what to do.

He commanded them, saying, "This is what you must do. A third of you who come on the Sabbath will keep watch over the king's house, and a third will be at the Sur Gate, and a third at the gate behind the guardhouse." (2 Kings 11:5-6 ULB)

  • The high priest used a statement with the verb "must" and then statements with the verb "will" to tell people what to do.

Statements can also be used to give instructions.

She will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 ULB)

  • The angel was not simply telling Joseph about something Joseph would do in the future; he was telling Joseph what he needed to do.

Statement can also be used to make requests.

Behold, a leper came to him and bowed before him, saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." (Matthew 8:2 ULB)

  • The man with leprosy was not just saying what Jesus was able to do. He was also asking Jesus to heal him.

Statements can also be used to perform something.

Cursed is the ground because of you. (Genesis 3:17 ULB)

  • By telling Adam that the ground was cursed because of him, God actually cursed it.

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5 ULB)

  • By telling a man that his sins were forgiven, Jesus forgave the man's sins.

Translation Strategies

  1. If the function of a statement would not be understood correctly in your language, change it to a sentence type that would express that function.
  2. If the function of a statement would not be understood correctly in your language, add a sentence type that would express that function.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the function of a statement would not be understood correctly in your language, change it to a sentence type that would express that function.

    • She will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21 ULB)
      • She will give birth to a son. Name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
  2. If the function of a statement would not be understood correctly in your language, add a sentence type that would express that function.

    • Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. (Matthew 8:2 ULB)
      • Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Please do so.
      • Lord, if you are willing, please make me clean. I know you can do so.

Imperatives - Other Uses

This page answers the question: *What other uses are there for imperative sentences in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Sentence Types

](#figs-sentencetypes)*

Description

Imperative sentences are mainly used to express a desire or requirement that someone do something. Sometimes imperative sentences in the Bible have other uses.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Some languages would not use an imperative sentence for some of the functions that they are used for in the Bible.

Examples from the Bible

Imperatives are normally used to tell someone to do something.

Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land that I tell you to live in. (Genesis 26:2 ULB)

  • God told Isaac not to go to Egypt but to live where God would tell him to live.

Imperatives can be used to make things happen.

God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3 ULB)

  • God commanded that there should be light, and by commanding it, he caused light to exist.

Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing. Be clean." Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matthew 8:3 ULB)

  • Jesus healed a man by commanding that the man be healed. The man could not do anything to obey the command, but Jesus caused him to be healed by commanding it. ("Be clean" means "Be healed.")

Imperatives can be used as blessings.

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful, and multiply. Fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Genesis 1:28 ULB)

In the Bible, God blesses people by using imperatives. This indicates what his will is for them, and he causes his will to happen, often sometime later in the future.

Imperatives can be used as conditions under which something will happen if the condition is met. These are often used in proverbs, which teach about life and things that often happen.

... do not abandon wisdom and she will watch over you; love her and she will keep you safe. (Proverbs 4:6 ULB)

  • The purpose of Proverbs 4:6 is to teach what people can expect to happen if they love wisdom; it is not primarily to give a command.

Teach a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from that instruction. (Proverbs 22:6 ULB)

  • The purpose of Proverbs 22:6 is teach what people can expect to happen if they teach their children the way they should go.

Translation Strategies

  1. If people would not use an imperative sentence for one of the functions in the Bible, try using a statement instead.
  2. If people would not understand that a sentence is used to cause something to happen, add a connecting word like "so" to show that what happened was a result of what was said.
  3. If a command in the ULB functions as a condition, and people would not use a command that way, translate it as a condition with the words "if" and "then."

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If people would not use an imperative sentence for one of the functions in the Bible, try using a statement instead.

    • Be clean. (Matthew 8:3 ULB)
      • You are now clean.
      • I now cleanse you.
    • God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3 ULB)
      • God said, "There is now light" and there was light.
    • God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful, and multiply. Fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Genesis 1:3 ULB)
      • God blessed them and said to them, "My will for you is that you be fruitful, and multiply. Fill the earth, and subdue it. I want you to have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
  2. If people would not understand that a sentence is used to cause something to happen, add a connecting word like "so" to show that what happened was a result of what was said.

    • God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:28 ULB)
      • God said, 'Let there be light,' so there was light.
      • God said, "Light must be;" as a result, there was light.
  3. If a command in the ULB functions as a condition, and people would not use a command that way, translate it as a condition with the words "if" and "then."

    • Teach a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from that instruction. (Proverbs 22:6 ULB)
      • If you teach a child the way he should go, then when he is old he will not turn away from that instruction.

Exclamations

This page answers the question: *What are ways of translating exclamations?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Sentence Types

](#figs-sentencetypes)*

Description

Exclamations are words or sentences that show strong feeling such as surprise, joy, fear, or anger. In the ULB and UDB, they usually have an exclamation mark (!) at the end. The mark shows that it is an exclamation. The situation and the meaning of what the people say helps us understand what feelings they were expressing.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Languages have different ways of showing that a sentence communicates strong emotion.

Examples from the Bible

Some exclamations have no special words that show the feeling.

As he began to sink, he cried out and said, "Lord, save me!" (Matthew 8:25 ULB)

  • Peter was afraid when he cried out to the Lord to save him.

When the demon had been driven out, the mute man spoke. The crowds were astonished and said, "This has never been seen before in Israel!" (Matthew 9:33 ULB)

  • The crowds were amazed, because something happened that they had never seen before. Their voices probably showed how they felt.

Some exclamations have a word that shows feeling.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33 ULB)

  • The word "oh" in the exclamation shows that the writer was amazed.

Gideon understood that this was the angel of Yahweh. Gideon said, "Ah, Lord Yahweh! For I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!" (Judges 6:22 ULB)

  • The word "Ah" shows that Gideon was very frightened.

Some exclamations begin with a question word, even though they are not questions.

How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways beyond discovering! (Romans 11:33 ULB)

  • The word "How" in the exclamation shows that the writer was amazed.

Some exclamations do not have a main verb.

You worthless person! (Matthew 5:22 ULB)

  • The exclamation above does not have a verb. The speaker's words show that he is disgusted with the person he is speaking to.

Translation Strategies

  1. If an exclamation in your language needs a verb, add one. Often a good verb is "is" or "are."
  2. Use an exclamation word from your language that shows the strong feeling.
  3. Translate the exclamation word with a sentence that shows the feeling.
  4. Use a word that emphasizes the part of the sentence that brings about the strong feeling.
  5. If the strong feeling is not clear in the target language, then tell how the person felt.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If an exclamation in your language needs a verb, add one. Often a good verb is "is" or "are."

    • You worthless person! (Matthew 5:22 ULB)
      • You are such a worthless person!
    • Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33 ULB)
      • Oh, the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God are so deep!
  2. Use an exclamation word from your language that shows the strong feeling.

    • They were extremely astonished, saying, "He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." (Mark 7:37 ULB)
      • They were extremely astonished, saying, "Wow! He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
    • Ah, Lord Yahweh! For I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face! (Judges 6:22 ULB)
      • Oh no, Lord Yahweh! I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!
  3. Translate the exclamation word with a sentence that shows the feeling.

    • Ah, Lord Yahweh! For I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face! (Judges 6:22 ULB)
      • Lord Yahweh, what will happen to me? For I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!"
      • Help, Lord Yahweh! For I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!
  4. Use a word that emphasizes the part of the sentence that brings about the strong feeling.

    • How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways beyond discovering! (Romans 11:33 ULB)
      • His judgements are so unsearchable and his ways are far beyond discovering!
  5. If the strong feeling is not clear in the target language, then tell how the person felt.

    • Gideon understood that this was the angel of Yahweh. Gideon said, "Ah, Lord Yahweh! For I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face!" (Judges 6:22 ULB)
      • Gideon understood that this was the angel of Yahweh. Gideon was terrified and said, "Ah, Lord Yahweh! I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face! (Judges 6:22 ULB)

Quotes

Quotations and Quote Margins

This page answers the question: *What are quote margins and where should I put them?

*

Description

When saying that someone said something, we often tell who spoke, whom they spoke to, and what they said. The information about who spoke and whom they spoke to is called the quote margin. What the person said is the quotation. (This is also called a quote.) In some languages the quote margin may come first, last, or even in between two parts of the quotation.

The quote margins are underlined below.

  • She said, "The food is ready. Come and eat."
  • "The food is ready. Come and eat," she said.
  • "The food is ready," she said. "Come and eat."

Also in some languages, the quote margin may have more than one verb meaning "speak."

  • She called out and said, "The food is ready. Come and eat."

When writing that someone said something, some languages put the quote (what was said) in quotation marks. Some languages use inverted commas (" " or ' '), some use angle quote marks (« » or ‹ ›), and some use brackets (⎡ ⎦). Some languages put quotes after a dash (—).

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Translators need to put the quote margin where it is most clear and natural in their language.
  • Translators need to decide whether they want the quote margin to have one or two verbs meaning "speak."
  • Translators need to decide which marks to use for the quotations.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes the quote margin is before the quote.

Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is very old." (Luke 1:18 ULB)

Sometimes the quote margin is after the quote.

Yahweh relented concerning this. "It will not happen," he said. (Amos 7:3 ULB)

Sometimes the quote margin is between two parts of the quote.

"I will hide my face from them," he said, "and I will see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful." (Deuteronomy 32:20 ULB)

"Therefore, those who can," he said, "should go there with us. If there is something wrong with the man, you should accuse him." (Acts 25:5 ULB)

Sometimes the quote margin has two verbs meaning "speak."

But his mother answered and said, "No. He will be called John." (Luke 1:60 ULB)

Translation Strategies

  1. Decide where to put the quote margin.
  2. Decide whether to use one or two words meaning "speak."

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Decide where to put the quote margin.

    • "Therefore, those who can," he said, "should go there with us. If there is something wrong with the man, you should accuse him." (Acts 25:5 ULB)
      • He said, "Therefore, those who can should go there with us. If there is something wrong with the man, you should accuse him."
      • "Therefore, those who can should go there with us. If there is something wrong with the man, you should accuse him," he said.
      • "Therefore, those who can should go there with us," he said. "If there is something wrong with the man, you should accuse him."
  2. Decide whether to use one or two words meaning "speak."

    • But his mother answered and said, "No. He will be called John." (Luke 1:60 ULB)
      • But his mother replied, "No, instead he will be called John."
      • But his mother said, "No, instead he will be called John."
      • But his mother answered like this, "No, instead he will be called John," she said.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Direct and Indirect Quotations

](#figs-quotations)*


Direct and Indirect Quotations

This page answers the question: *What are direct and indirect quotations?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Pronouns

](#figs-pronouns)* * *[Verbs

](#figs-verbs)* * *[Quotations and Quote Margins

](#writing-quotations)*

Description

There are two kinds of quotations: direct quotation and indirect quotation.

A direct quotation occurs when someone reports what another person said from the viewpoint of that original speaker. People usually expect that this kind of quotation will represent the original speaker's exact words. In the example below, John would have said "I" when referring to himself, so the narrator, who is reporting John's words, uses the word "I" in the quotation to refer to John. To show that these are the words as John might have said them, many languages put the words between quotation marks:"".

  • John said, "I do not know at what time I will arrive."

An indirect quotation occurs when a speaker reports what someone else said, but in this case, the speaker is reporting it from his own point of view instead of from the original person's point of view. This kind of quotation usually features changes in pronouns, and it often features changes in time, in word choices, and in length. In the example below, the narrator refers to John as "he" in the quotation and uses the word "would," to replace the future tense indicated by "will."

  • John said that he did not know at what time he would arrive.

Reasons this is a translation issue

In some languages, reported speech can be expressed by either direct or indirect quotations. In other languages, it is more natural to use one rather than the other, or there is a certain meaning implied by using one rather than the other. So for each quotation, translators need to decide whether it is best to translate it as a direct quotation or an indirect quotation.

Examples from the Bible

The verses in the examples below contain both direct and indirect quotations. In the explanation below the verse, we have underlined the quotations.

He instructed him to tell no one, but told him, "Go on your way, and show yourself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for your cleansing, according to what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them." (Luke 5:14 ULB)

  • Indirect quote: He instructed him to tell no one,
  • Direct quote: but told him, "Go on your way, and show yourself to the priest."

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not something that can be observed. Neither will they say, 'Look here!' or, 'Look there!' because the kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21 ULB)

  • Indirect quote: Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come,
  • Direct quote: Jesus answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not something that can be observed. Neither will they say, 'Look here!' or, 'Look there!' because the kingdom of God is among you."
  • Direct quotes: Neither will they say, 'Look here!' or, 'Look there!'

Translation Strategies

If the kind of quote used in the source text would work well in your language, consider using it. If the kind of quote used in that context is not natural for your language, follow these strategies.

  1. If a direct quote would not work well in your language, change it to an indirect quote.
  2. If an indirect quote would not work well in your language, change it to a direct quote.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If a direct quote would not work well in your language, change it to an indirect quote.

    • He instructed him to tell no one, but told him, "Go on your way, and show yourself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for your cleansing, according to what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them." (Luke 5:14 ULB)
      • He instructed him to tell no one, but to go on his way, and to show himself to the priest and to offer a sacrifice for his cleansing, according to what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them."
  2. If an indirect quote would not work well in your language, change it to a direct quote.

    • He instructed him, to tell no one, but told him, "Go on your way, and show yourself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for your cleansing, according to what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them." (Luke 5:14 ULB)
      • He instructed him, "Tell no one. Just go on your way, and show yourself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for your cleansing, according to what Moses commanded, for a testimony to them."

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Quotes Within Quotes

](#figs-quotesinquotes)*


Quotes Within Quotes

This page answers the question: *What is a quote within a quote, and how can I help the readers understand who is saying what?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Direct and Indirect Quotations

](#figs-quotations)*

Description

A quotation may have a quote within it, and quotes that are inside of other quotes can also have quotes within them. When a quote has quotes within it, we can talk about it having layers of quotation, and each of the quotes is a layer. When there are many layers of quotes inside of quotes, it can be hard for listeners and readers to know who is saying what

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • When there is a quote within a quote, the listener needs to know who the speaker of each quote is and to whom he is speaking.
  • When there is a quote within a quote, the listener needs to know who the pronouns refer to. For example if a quote that is inside a quote has the word "I," the listener needs to know whether "I" refers to the speaker of the inner quote or the outer quote.

Examples from the Bible

Some quotations have only one layer.

But Paul said, "I was born a Roman citizen." (Acts 22:28 ULB)

Some quotations have two layers.

Then some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A short amount of time you will no longer see me and after another short amount of time you will see me,' and, 'Because I go to the Father'?" (John 16:17 ULB)

  • The outermost layer is what the disciples said to one another. The second layer is what Jesus had said. (We have underlined the second layer.)

Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king." (John 18:37 ULB)

  • The outermost layer is what Jesus said to Pilate. The second layer is what Pilate said about Jesus. (We have underlined the second layer.)

Some quotations have three layers.

Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but rather, 'This one said, "I am King of the Jews."'" (John 19:21 ULB)

  • The outermost layer is what the chief priests said to Pilate. The second layer is what the priests want Pilate to write. The third layer is what "This one" supposedly said. (We have underlined the third layer.)

Some quotations have four layers.

They said to him, "A man came to meet us who said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, "Yahweh says this: 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you sent men to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up; instead, you will certainly die.'"'" (2 Kings 1:6 ULB)

  • The outermost layer is what the messengers said to the king. The second layer is what the man who had met the messengers told them. The third is what that man wanted the messengers to say to the king. The fourth is what had Yahweh said. (We have underlined the fourth layer.)

Translation Strategies

  1. Alternate two kinds of quote marks to show layers of direct quotation. English alternates double quote marks and single quote marks. (For other kinds of quote marks, see Quotations and Quote Margins)
  2. Translate one or some of the quotes as indirect quotes. (see Direct and Indirect Quotations)
  3. If a quotation is very long and has many layers of quotation in it, indent the main overall quote, and use quote marks only for the direct quotes inside of it.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Alternate two kinds of quote marks to show layers of direct quotation as shown in the ULB text below.

    • They said to him, "A man came to meet us who said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, "Yahweh says this: 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you sent men to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up; instead, you will certainly die.'"'" (2 Kings 1:6 ULB)
  2. Translate one or some of the quotes as indirect quotes in order to use fewer quote marks.

    • They said to him, "A man came to meet us who said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, "Yahweh says this: 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you sent men to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up; instead, you will certainly die.'"'" (2 Kings 1:6 ULB)
      • They told him that a man came to meet them who said to them, "Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, 'Yahweh says this: "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you sent men to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up; instead, you will certainly die."'"
  3. If a quotation is very long and has many layers of quotation in it, indent the main overall quote, and use quote marks only for the direct quotes inside of it.

    • They said to him, "A man came to meet us who said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, "Yahweh says this: 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you sent men to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up; instead, you will certainly die.'"'" (2 Kings 1:6 ULB)
      • They said to him,
        A man came to meet us who said to us, "Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, 'Yahweh says this: "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you sent men to consult with Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not come down from the bed to which you have gone up; instead, you will certainly die."'"

Writing Styles (Discourse)

Types of Writing

This page answers the question: *What are the different types of writing and the issues involved?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

Description

There are different kinds or types of writing, and each type of writing has its own purpose. Because these purposes are different, the different kinds of writing are organized in different ways. They use different verbs, different kinds of sentences, and refer to the people and things that they write about in different ways. These differences help the reader to quickly know the purpose of the writing, and they work to communicate the author's meaning in the best way.

The following are four basic types of writing that exist in every language. Each type of writing has a different purpose.

  • Narrative or Parable - tells a story or event
  • Explanatory - explains facts or teaches principles
  • Procedural - tells how to do something
  • Argumentative - tries to persuade someone to do something

Reasons this is a translation issue

Every language has its own way of organizing these different types of writing. The translator must understand the type of writing that he is translating, understand how it is organized in the source language, and also know how his language organizes this kind of writing. He must put the writing into the form that his language uses for that type of writing so that people will understand it correctly. In every translation, the way that words, sentences, and paragraphs are arranged will affect how people will understand the message.

Writing Styles

The following are ways of writing that may combine with the four basic types above. These writing styles often present challenges in translation.

Discourse Features

The differences between the different types of writing in a language can be called their discourse features. The purpose of a particular text will influence what kinds of discourse features are used. For example, in a narrative, discourse features would include:

  • Telling about events that happen before and after other events
  • Introducing people in the story
  • Introducing new events in the story
  • Conversation and the use of quotes
  • Referring to people and things with nouns or pronouns

Languages have different ways of using these different discourse features. The translator will need to study the way his language does each of these things, so that his translation communicates the right message in a clear and natural way. Other types of writing have other discourse features.

Specific discourse issues

  1. Introduction of a New Event - Phrases like "One day" or "It came about that" or "This is how it happened" or "Sometime after that" signal to the reader that a new event is about to be told.
  2. Introduction of New and Old Participants - Languages have ways of introducing new people and of referring to those people again.
  3. Background Information - An author may use background information for several reasons: 1) to add interest to the story, 2) to provide information that is important for understanding the story or 3) to explain why something in the story is important.
  4. Pronouns - When to Use Them - Languages have patterns for how frequently to use pronouns. If that pattern is not followed, wrong meaning can result.
  5. End of Story - Stories can end with various kinds of information. Languages have different ways of showing how that information is related to the story.
  6. Quotations and Quote Margins - Languages have different ways of reporting what someone said.
  7. Connecting Words - Languages have patterns for how to use connecting words (such as "and," "but," or "then").

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Background Information

](#writing-background)* * *[Connecting Words

](#writing-connectingwords)* * *[Introduction of a New Event

](#writing-newevent)* * *[Introduction of New and Old Participants

](#writing-participants)* * *[Order of Events

](#figs-events)* * *[Poetry

](#writing-poetry)* * *[Proverbs

](#writing-proverbs)* * *[Quotations and Quote Margins

](#writing-quotations)* * *[Symbolic Language

](#writing-symlanguage)*


Background Information

This page answers the question: *What is background information, and how can I show that some information is background information?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Order of Events

](#figs-events)* * *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)*

Description

When people tell a story, they normally tell the events in the order that they happened. This sequence of events makes up the storyline. The storyline is full of action verbs that move the story along in time. But sometimes a writer may take a break from the storyline and give some information to help his listeners understand the story better. This type of information is called background information. The background information might be about things that happened before the events he has already told about, or it might explain something in the story, or it might be about something that would happen much later in the story.

Example - The underlined sentences in the story below are all background information.

Peter and John went on a hunting trip because their village was going to have a a feast the next day. Peter was the best hunter in the village. He once killed three wild pigs in one day! They walked for hours through low bushes until they heard a wild pig. The pig ran, but they managed to shoot the pig and kill it. Then they tied up its legs with some rope they had brought with them, and carried it home on a pole. When they brought it to the village, Peter's cousin saw the pig and realized that it was his own pig. Peter had mistakenly killed his cousin's pig.

Background information often tells about something that had happened earlier or something that would happen much later. Examples of these are "their village was going to have a feast the next day" and "He once killed three wild pigs in one day," "that they had brought with them," and "Peter had mistakenly killed his cousins's pig.

Often background information uses "be" verbs like "was" and "were", rather than action verbs. Examples of these are "Peter was the best hunter in the village" and "it was his own pig."

Background information can also be marked with words that tell the reader that this information is not part of the event line of the story. In this story, some of these words are "because," "once," and "had."

A writer may use background information

  • To help their listeners be interested in the story
  • To help their listeners understand something in the story
  • To help the listeners understand why something is important in the story
  • To tell the setting of a story
  • Setting includes:
    • where the story takes place
    • when the story takes place
    • who is present when the story begins
    • what is happening when the story begins

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Languages have different ways of marking background information and storyline information.
  • Translators need to know the order of the events in the Bible, which information is background information, and which is storyline information.
  • Translators need to translate the story in a way that their own readers will understand the order of events, which information is background information, and which is storyline information.

Examples from the Bible

Hagar gave birth to Abram's son, and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. (Genesis 16:16 ULB)

  • The first sentence tells about two events. Hagar gave birth, and Abraham named his son. The second sentence is background information about how old Abram was when those things happened.

Now Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age. He was the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli. (Luke 3:23 ULB)

  • The verses before Luke 3:23 tell about when Jesus was baptized. English uses the word "Now" to show that there is some kind of change in the kind of information being given. These sentences give background information about Jesus's age and ancestors. The story starts up again in chapter 4 where it tells about Jesus going to the wilderness.

Now it happened on a Sabbath that Jesus was going through the grain fields and his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them between their hands, and eating the grain. But some of the Pharisees said ... (Luke 6:1-2a ULB)

  • These verses give the setting of the story. The events took place in a grain field on the Sabbath day. Jesus, his disciples, and some Pharisees were there, and Jesus's disciples were picking heads of grain and eating them. The main action in the story starts with the sentence, "But some of the Pharisees said."

Now Deborah, a prophetess (the wife of Lappidoth), was a leading judge in Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came to her to settle their disputes. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali. (Judges 4:4-6 ULB)

  • In English, the parentheses and the verbs "was" and "used to" are clues that the first two sentences are background information.

With many other exhortations also, he preached good news to the people. John also rebuked Herod the tetrarch for marrying his brother's wife, Herodias, and for all the other evil things that Herod had done. But then Herod did another very evil thing. He had John locked up in prison. (Luke 3:18-20 ULB)

  • John rebuked Herod for things Herod had already done. Also the verb "had" in "had done" shows that Herod did those things before John rebuked him.

Translation Strategies

To keep translations clear and natural you will need to study how people tell stories in your language. Observe how your language distinguishes background information from storyline information. You may need to write down some stories in order to study this. Observe what kind of verbs, words, and other markers are used to show what distinguish these two kinds of information. Do these same things when you translate, so that your translation is clear and natural and people can understand it easily.

  1. Use your language's way of showing that certain information is background information or storyline information.
  2. Reorder the information so that earlier events are mentioned first. (This is not always possible when the background information is very long.)

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use your language's way of showing that certain information is either background information or storyline information.

    • For example when background information has action that was done habitually, it can be marked in English with the word "would." And to show that the events of a storyline are starting, a phrase expressing when those events occurred can be used. The example below uses "One day" for this.
      Now Deborah, a prophetess (the wife of Lappidoth), was a leading judge in Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came to her to settle their disputes. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali. (Judges 4:4-6 ULB)
      • Now Deborah, a prophetess (the wife of Lappidoth), was a leading judge in Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel would come to her to settle their disputes. One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali.
  2. Reorder the information so that earlier events are mentioned first. (This is not always possible when the background information is very long.)

    • Hagar gave birth to Abram's son, and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. (Genesis 16:16 ULB)
      • When Abram was eighty-six years old, Hagar gave birth to his son, and Abram named him Ishmael.
    • John also rebuked Herod the tetrarch for marrying his brother's wife, Herodias, and for all the other evil things that Herod had done. But then Herod did another very evil thing. He had John locked up in prison. (Luke 3:18-20)
      • Now Herod the tetrarch married his brother's wife, Herodias, and he did many other evil things, so John rebuked him. But then Herod did another very evil thing. He had John locked up in prison.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Connecting Words

](#writing-connectingwords)* * *[Introduction of a New Event

](#writing-newevent)*


Connecting Words

This page answers the question: *What are connecting words for, and how do I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

Connecting words show how thoughts are related to other thoughts. They are also called conjunctions. This page is about connecting words that connect statements and groups of statements to others. Some examples of connecting words are: and, but, for, so, therefore, now, if, if only, since, then, when, while, whenever, because, yet, unless.

  • It was raining, so I opened my umbrella.
  • It was raining, but I did not have an umbrella. So I got very wet.

Sometimes people might not use a connecting word because they expect the readers to understand the relationship between the thoughts because of the context.

  • It was raining. I did not have an umbrella. I got very wet.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Translators need to understand the meaning of a connecting word in the Bible and the relationship between the thoughts it is connecting.
  • Each language has its own ways of showing how thoughts are related.
  • Translators need to know how to help their readers understand the relationship between the thoughts in a way that is natural in their language.

Translation principles

  • Translators need to translate in a way that readers can understand the same relationship between thoughts that the original readers would have understood.
  • Whether or not a connecting word is used is not as important as readers being able to understand the relationship between the ideas.

Examples from the Bible

I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me, but instead I went to Arabia and then returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:16-18 ULB)

  • The word "but" introduces something that contrasts with what was said before. The contrast here is between what Paul did not do with what he did do. Here the word "then" introduces something Paul did after he returned to Damascus.

Therefore whoever breaks the least one of these commandments and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 ULB)

  • The word "Therefore" links this section with the section before it, signalling that the section that came before gave the reason for this section. "Therefore" usually links sections larger than one sentence. The word "and" links only two actions within the same sentence, that of breaking commandments and teaching others. In this verse the word "But" contrasts what one group of people will be called in God's kingdom with what another group of people will be called.

We do not place a stumbling block in front of anyone, for we do not wish our ministry to be brought into disrepute. Instead, we prove ourselves by all our actions, that we are God's servants. (2 Corinthians 6:3-4 ULB)

  • Here the word "for" connects what follows as the reason for what came before; the reason that Paul does not place stumbling blocks is that he does not want his ministry brought into disrepute. "Instead" contrasts what Paul does (proving by his actions that he is God's servant) with what he said he does not do (placing stumbling blocks).

Translation Strategies

If the way the relationship between thoughts is shown in the ULB would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, then consider using it. If not, here are some other options.

  1. Use a connecting word (even if the ULB does not use one).
  2. Do not use a connecting word if it would be odd to use one and people would understand the right relationship between the thoughts without it.
  3. Use a different connecting word that shows the same relationship between the thoughts.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use a connecting word (even if the ULB does not use one).

    • Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left the nets and went after him. (Mark 1:17-18 ULB)
      • Some translators may want to mark this with "so" to make it clear that they followed Jesus because he told them to follow him.
        Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you become fishers of men." So immediately they left the nets and went after him.
  2. Do not use a connecting word if it would be odd to use one and people would understand the right relationship between the thoughts without it.

    • Therefore whoever breaks the least one of these commandments and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 ULB)
      • Therefore whoever breaks the least one of these commandments, teaching others to do so as well, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever keeps them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    • I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me, but instead I went to Arabia and then returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:16-18 ULB)
      • I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me. Instead I went to Arabia and then returned to Damascus. After three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days.
  3. Use a different connecting word that shows the same relationship between the thoughts.

    • Therefore whoever breaks the least one of these commandments and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 ULB)
      • The word "but" is used above because of the contrast between the two groups of people. In some languages, the word "but" would imply that what comes after it is surprising. So "and" might be clearer for those languages.
        Because of that, whoever breaks the least one of these commandments and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever keeps them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    • Since the captain could not tell anything because of all the noise, he ordered that Paul be brought into the fortress. (Acts 21:34 ULB)
      • The captain could not tell anything because of all the noise, so he ordered that Paul be brought into the fortress.

End of Story

This page answers the question: *What kinds of information are given at the end of a story?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)* * *[Background Information

](#writing-background)*

Description

There are different types of information that may be given at the end of a story. Often this is background information. This background information is different from the actions that make up the main part of the story. A book of the Bible is often made up of many smaller stories that are part of the larger story of the book itself. For example, the story of Jesus's birth is a smaller story in the larger story of the book of Luke. Each of these stories, whether large or small, can have background information at the end of it.

Different purposes for end of story information

  • To summarize the story
  • To give a comment about what happened in the story
  • To connect a smaller story to the larger story it is a part of
  • To tell the reader what happens to a specific character after the main part of the story ends
  • To tell on-going action that continues after the main part of the story ends
  • To tell what happens after the story as a result of the events that happened in the story itself

Reasons this is a translation issue

Different languages have different ways of presenting these kinds of information. If translators do not use their language's ways of doing this, readers may not know these things:

  • That this information is ending the story
  • What the purpose of the information is
  • How the information is related to the story

Translation principles

  • Translate the particular kind of information at the end of a story in the way your language expresses that kind of information.
  • Translate it so that people will understand how it relates to the story it is part of.
  • If possible, translate the end of the story in a way that people will know where that story ends and the next begins.

Examples from the Bible

Some information at the end of a story summarizes the story.

Then the rest of the men should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. In this way it happened that all of us came safely to land. (Acts 27:44 ULB)

Many who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of everyone. When they counted the value of them, it was fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord spread very widely in powerful ways. (Acts 19:19-20 ULB)

Some information tells about how someone thought or felt about the things that happened.

All who heard it were amazed at what was spoken to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept thinking about all the things she had heard, treasuring them in her heart. (Luke 2:18-19 ULB)

Some information tells what happens after the story as a result of the events that happened in the story itself.

"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key of knowledge; you do not enter in yourselves, and you hinder those who are entering." After Jesus left there, the scribes and the Pharisees opposed him and argued with him about many things, trying to trap him in his own words. (Luke 11:52-54 ULB)

Some information tells the reader what happens to a specific character after the main part of the story ends.

Mary said,"My soul praises the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior...." Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her house. (Luke 1:46-47, 56 ULB)

Translation Strategies

There are no translation strategies for this topic.


Conditions That Are Contrary to Fact

This page answers the question: *What are conditions that are contrary to fact?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)*

Description

A condition that is contrary to fact is false. It is not met. People sometimes talk about conditions and what would happen as a result of those conditions being met, but they know that these conditions are not met, so the results also do not happen. (The conditions are the phrase that start with "if.")

In the sentences below, the first clause with "if" is a condition that is contrary to fact. The second clause tells what the result would be if the condition were met. But since the condition is not met, the expected result does not happen.

  • If he had known about the party, he would have come to it. (But he did not come.)
  • If he knew about the party, he would be here. (But he is not here.)
  • If he knew about the party, he would come to it. (But he probably will not come.)

Conditions that are contrary to fact can also be used to express regret about things that are not as desired.

  • If only he had come.
  • If only he were here.
  • If only he would come.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Translators need to recognize conditions that are contrary to fact in the Bible.
  • Translators need to know their own language's ways of expressing conditions that are contrary to fact.

Examples from the Bible

Conditions that are contrary to fact can be used to introduce expected results that do not happen.

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the mighty deeds had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." (Matthew 11:21 ULB)

  • The people of Tyre and Sidon had not actually seen Jesus's miracles and repented. Jesus said this to rebuke the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida because they had seen his miracles yet they did not repent.

Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21 ULB)

  • Jesus had not come sooner, and Martha's brother died. Martha said this to express her wish that Jesus had come sooner.

...if I did not honor the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you, or even look at you. (2 Kings 3:14 ULB)

  • It was only because Elisha honored the king of Judah that he would pay attention to the king of Israel. Elisha said this to tell the king of Israel that he did not respect him.

Unless those days are shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:22 ULB)

  • Jesus was talking about a future time when very bad things would happen. He told what would happen if those days of trouble were to last a long time. He did this to show how bad those days will be - so bad that if they lasted a long time, no one would be saved. But then he clarified that God will shorten those days of trouble, so that the elect (those he has chosen) will be saved.

Conditions that are contrary to fact can be used to express regret about things that are not as desired.

The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by Yahweh's hand in the land of Egypt when we were sitting by the pots of meat and were eating bread to the full. For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill our whole community with hunger." (Exodus 16:3 ULB)

  • The Israelites were afraid they would have to suffer and die of hunger in the wilderness. So they wished that they had stayed in Egypt and died there with full stomachs. They were complaining, expressing regret that this had not happened.

Oh, if only I had wings like a dove! Then would I fly away and be at rest. (Psalm 55:6 ULB)

  • David was afraid of his enemies and wished that had wings and could fly. But he could not.

Translation Principles

Know how people speaking your language show:

  • that something could have happened, but did not.
  • that something could be true now, but is not.
  • that something could happen in the future, but will not unless something changes.
  • that they wish for something that they know will not happen.
  • that they regret that something did not happen.

Use your language's ways of showing these kinds of things.

Translation Strategies

There are no translation strategies for this topic.


Introduction of a New Event

This page answers the question: *How do we introduce a new event in a story?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)* * *[Order of Events

](#figs-events)*

Description

When people tell a story, they tell about an event or a series of events. Often they put certain information at the beginning of the story, such as who the story is about, when it happened, and where it happened. This information that the writer gives before the events of the story begin is called the setting of the story. Some new events in a story also have a setting because they might involve new people, new times, and new places. In some languages people also tell if they saw the event or heard about it from someone else.

When your people tell about events, what information do they give at the beginning? Is there a certain order that they put it in? In your translation, you will need to follow the way your language introduces new information at the beginning of a story or a new event rather than the way the source language did that. In this way your translation will sound natural and communicate clearly in your language.

Examples from the Bible

In the days of Herod king of Judea there was a certain priest named Zechariah, from the division of Abijah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. (Luke 1:5 ULB)

The verse above introduces a story about Zechariah. The first underlined phrase tells when it happened. The next underlined phrase and the second sentence introduce the main people. Verses 6 and 7 go on to explain that Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and did not have any children. All of this is the setting.

Now it came about that Zechariah was in God's presence, carrying out the priestly duties in the order of his division. According to the customary way of choosing which priest would serve, he had been chosen by lot to enter into the temple of the Lord to burn incense. (Luke 1:8-9 ULB)

The underlined phrase above, "Now it came about that," in Luke 1:8 helps to introduce the first event in that story.

The birth of Jesus Christ happened in the following way. His mother, Mary, was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18 ULB)

The underlined sentence above makes it explicit that a story about Jesus is being introduced. The story will tell about how the birth of Jesus happened.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, learned men from the east arrived in Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:1 ULB)

The underlined phrase above shows that the events concerning the learned men happened after Jesus was born. The second part of the sentence introduces new participants and a new event.

Now there was a Pharisee whose name was Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. This man came to Jesus at night. (John 3:1-2 ULB)

The author first introduces a new person and then tells about what he did and when he did it. In some languages it might be more natural to tell about the time first.

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came upon the earth. 7 Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because of the waters of the flood. (Genesis 7:6-7 ULB)

The underlined phase in verse 6 is a summary of the events that happen in the rest of chapter 7. It is not one of the events of the story. Noah and his family went into the ship before the flood came. Some languages might need to make it clear that verse 6 simply introduces the event, or move the information about the flood coming until after the information about the people going into the ship.

Translation Strategies

If the information given at the beginning of a new event is clear and natural to your readers, consider translating it as it is in the ULB or UDB. If not, consider one of these strategies.

  1. Put the information that introduces the event in the order that your people put it.
  2. If readers would expect certain information but it is not stated explicitly in the Bible, consider using an indefinite word or phrase such as "another time" or making some implicit information explicit. (See: [[https://git.door43.org/Door43/en_ta/src/master/jit/figs-ex.mdplicit]])
  3. If the introduction is a summary of the whole event, use your language's way of showing that it is a summary.
  4. If it would be strange in the target language to give a summary of the event at the beginning, show that the event would actually happen later in the story.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Put the information that introduces the event in the order that your people put it.

    • Now there was a Pharisee whose name was Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. This man came to Jesus at night. (John 3:1,2)
      • There was a man whose name was Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee and a Jewish leader. One night he came to Jesus.
      • One night a man named Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a Jewish leader, came to Jesus.
    • As he passed by, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's tent.... (Mark 2:14 ULB)
      • As he passed by, Levi the son of Alpheus was sitting at the tax collecting tent. Jesus saw him ...
      • As he passed by, there was a man sitting at the tax collecting tent. His name was Levi, and he was the son of Alpheus. Jesus saw him ...
      • As he passed by, there was a tax collector sitting at the tax collecting place. His name was Levi, and he was the son of Alpheus. Jesus saw him ...
  2. If readers would expect certain information but it is not stated explicitly in the Bible, consider using an indefinite word or phrase such as "another time" or making some implicit information explicit. (See: [[https://git.door43.org/Door43/en_ta/src/master/jit/figs-ex.mdplicit]])

    • Again he began to teach beside the lake. (Mark 4:1 ULB)
      In chapter 3 Jesus was teaching at someone's house. Readers may need to be told that this new event happened at another time, or that Jesus actually went to the lake.
      • Another time Jesus began to teach people again beside the lake.
      • Jesus went to the lake and began to teach people again there.
  3. If the introduction is a summary of the whole event, use your language's way of showing that it is a summary.

    • 6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came upon the earth. 7 Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because of the waters of the flood. (Genesis 7:6 ULB)
      • 6 Now this is what happened when Noah was six hundred years old and the flood came upon the earth. 7 Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because of the waters of the flood.
      • 6 This part tells about what happened when Noah was six hundred years old and the flood came upon the earth. 7 Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because of the waters of the flood.
  4. If it would be strange in the target language to give a summary of the event at the beginning, show that the event would actually happen later in the story.

    • 6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came upon the earth. 7 Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because of the waters of the flood. (Genesis 7:6-7 ULB)
      • 6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood was about to come upon the earth. 7 Noah, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because of the waters of the flood that would come.
      • 6-7 Noah was six hundred years old when he, his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives went into the ark together because the waters of the flood were about to come.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Background Information

](#writing-background)* * *[Introduction of New and Old Participants

](#writing-participants)*


Introduction of New and Old Participants

This page answers the question: *Why cannot the readers of my translation understand who the author was writing about?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Parts of Speech

](#figs-partsofspeech)* * *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)*

Description

The first time that people or things are mentioned in a story, they are new participants. After that, whenever they are mentioned, they are old participants.

Now there was a Pharisee whose name was Nicodemus.... This man came to Jesus at night.... Jesus replied to him. (John 3:1-3)

The first underlined phrase introduces Nicodemus as a new participant. He is then referred to as "This man" and "him" when he is an old participant.

Reasons this is a translation issue

In order to make your translation clear and natural, it is necessary to refer to the participants in such a way that people will know if they are new participants or participants that they have already read about. Different languages have different ways of doing this. You should follow the way that your language does this, not the way that the source language does this.

Examples from the Bible

New Participants

Often the most important new participant is introduced with a phrase that says that he existed.

There was a man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. (Judges 13:2 ULB)

  • The phrase "There was" tells us that this man existed. The word "a" in "a man" tells us that the author is speaking about him for the first time. The rest of the sentence tells where this man was from, who his family was, and what his name was.

A new participant who is not the most important one is often introduced in relation to the more important person who was already introduced.

There was a man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was not able to become pregnant and so she had not given birth. (Judges 13:2 ULB)

  • In the example above, Manoah's wife is simply referred to as "his wife." This phrase shows her relationship to him.

Sometimes a new participant is introduced simply by name because the author assumes that the readers know who the person is.

When King David was old and advanced in years, they covered him with blankets, but he could not keep warm. (1 Kings 1:1 ULB)

  • In the first verse of 1 Kings, the author assumes that his readers know who King David is, so there is no need to explain who he is.

Old Participants

A person who has already been brought into the story can be referred to with a pronoun after that.

His wife was not able to become pregnant and so she had not given birth. (Judges 13:2 ULB)

  • In the example above, Manoah is referred to with the pronoun "his," and his wife is referred to with the pronoun "she".

Old participants can also be referred to in other ways, depending on what is happening in the story.

The angel of Yahweh appeared to the woman. (Judges 13:3 ULB)

  • When the angel of Yahweh is introduced in the story, Manoah's wife is referred to with the noun phrase "the woman."

If the old participant has not been mentioned for a while, or if there could be confusion between participants, the author may use the participant's name again.

Then Manoah prayed to Yahweh. (Judges 13:8 ULB)

  • In the example above, Manoah is referred to with his name, which the author has not used since verse 2.

Some languages have something on the verb that tells something about the subject. In some of those languages people do not always use noun phrases or pronouns for old participants when they are the subject of the sentence. The marker on the verb gives enough information for the listener to understand who the subject is. (see Verbs)

Translation Strategies

  1. If the participant is new, use one of your language's ways of introducing new participants.
  2. If it is not clear to whom a pronoun refers, use a noun phrase or name.
  3. If an old participant is referred to by name or a noun phrase, and people wonder if this is another new participant, try using a pronoun instead. If a pronoun is not needed because people would understand it clearly from the context, then leave out the pronoun.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the participant is new, use one of your language's ways of introducing new participants.

    • Joseph, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), a Levite, a man from Cyprus, sold a field. (Acts 4:36-37 ULB)
      • There was a Levite from Cyprus whose name was Joseph. The apostles called him Barnabas, which means Son of encouragement. Now Joseph sold a field.
  2. If it is not clear who a pronoun refers to, use a noun phrase or name.

    • Then he spoke a parable to them about how they should always pray and not become discouraged. (Luke 11:1 ULB)
    • When pronouns occur in the first sentence of a chapter, readers might wonder whom they refer to.
      • Then Jesus spoke a parable to his disciples about how they should always pray and not become discouraged.
  3. If an old participant is referred to by name or a noun phrase, and people wonder if this is another new participant, try using a pronoun instead. If a pronoun is not needed because people would understand it clearly from the context, then leave out the pronoun.

    • Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there. Soon, the near kinsman of whom Boaz had spoken came by. Boaz said to him.... (Ruth 4:1 ULB)
      • Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there. Soon, the near kinsman of whom he had spoken came by. He said to the kinsman....

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Pronouns - When to Use Them

](#writing-pronouns)*


Parables

This page answers the question: *What is a parable?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)*

Description

A parable is a short story that is told to teach a truth. Though the events in a parable could happen, they did not actually happen. They are told only to teach a truth. Parables rarely contain the names of specific people. (This may help you identify what is a parable and what is an account of a real event.) Parables often have figures of speech such as simile and metaphor.

Examples from the Bible

Then he also told them a parable. "Can a blind person guide another blind person? If he did, they would both fall into a pit, would they not?" (Luke 6:39 ULB)

  • This parable teaches that if a person does not understand spiritual things, he cannot help someone else to understand spiritual things.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but rather, on the lampstand, and it shines for everyone in the house. Let your light shine before people in such a way that they see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:15-16 ULB)

  • This parable teaches us not to hide the way we live for God from other people.

Then Jesus presented another parable to them. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. This seed is indeed the smallest of all seeds. But when it has grown, it is greater than the garden plants. It becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32 ULB)

  • This parable teaches that the kingdom of God may seem small at first, but it will grow and spread throughout the world.

Translation Strategies

  1. If a parable is hard to understand because it has unknown things in it, you can replace the unknown things with things that people in your culture know. However, be careful to keep the teaching the same. (See: Translate Unknowns)
  2. If the teaching of the parable is unclear, consider telling a little about what it teaches in the introduction, such as "Jesus told this story about being generous."

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If a parable is hard to understand because it has unknown things in it, you can replace the unknown things with things that people in your culture know. However, be careful to keep the teaching the same.

    • Jesus said to them, "Do you bring a lamp inside the house to put it under a basket, or under the bed? You bring it in and you put it on a lampstand." (Mark 4:21 ULB)
      • Jesus said to them, "Do you bring a lamp inside the house to put it under a basket, or under the bed? You bring it in and you put it on a high shelf.
    • Then Jesus presented another parable to them. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. This seed is indeed the smallest of all seeds. But when it has grown, it is greater than the garden plants. It becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32 ULB)
      • Then Jesus presented another parable to them. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his field. This seed is indeed the smallest of all other seeds. But when it has grown, it is greater than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."
  2. If the teaching of the parable is unclear, consider telling a little about what it teaches in the introduction, such as "Jesus told this story about being generous."

    • Then Jesus presented another parable to them. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. This seed is indeed the smallest of all other seeds. But when it has grown, it is greater than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32 ULB)
      • Then Jesus presented to them another parable, which is about how the Kingdom of God grows. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. This seed is indeed the smallest of all other seeds. But when it has grown, it is greater than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

Poetry

This page answers the question: *What is poetry and how do I translate it into my language?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)*

Description

Poetry is one of the ways that people use the words and sounds of their language to make their speech and writing more beautiful and to express strong emotion. Through poetry, people can communicate deeper emotion than they can through simple non-poetic forms. Poetry gives more weight and elegance to statements of truth, such as proverbs, and is also easier to remember than ordinary speech.

The Bible uses poetry for songs, teaching, and prophecy. Almost all of the books of the Old Testament have poetry in them and many of the books are completely poetry.

Some things commonly found in poetry

  • Many figures of speech (see Figures of Speech)
  • Parallel lines (see Parallelism)
  • Repetition of some or all of a line
  • Lines of similar length
  • Dramatic imagery
  • Different use of grammar, including
    • incomplete sentences
    • lack of connective words
  • Old words and expressions
  • The same sound used at the end or at the beginning of two or more lines
    • Twinkle, twinkle little star,
      How I wonder what you are.
      Up above the world so high,
      Like a diamond in the sky. (from an English rhyme)

Below there are examples from the Bible for all these except "Old words and expressions" and "The same sound used at the end or at the beginning of two or more lines." It would be difficult to show here how these features were used in the original languages of the Bible.

Some places to look for poetry in your language

  1. Songs, particularly old songs or songs used in children's games
  2. Religious ceremony or chants of priests or witch doctors
  3. Prayers, blessings, and curses
  4. Old legends

Elegant or fancy speech

Elegant or fancy speech is similar to poetry in that it uses beautiful language, but it does not use all of the language's features of poetry, and it does not use them as much as poetry does. Popular speakers in the language often use elegant speech, and this is probably the easiest source of text to study to find out what makes speech elegant in your language.

Reasons this is a translation issue:

  • Different languages use poetry for different things. If a certain poetic form would communicate a different meaning in your language, you may need to use a poetic from from you own language that would communicate the right meaning, or you may need to translate it without the poetry.
  • In some languages, using poetry for a particular part of the Bible would make it much more powerful.

Examples from the Bible

Poetry often has figures of speech.

Keep your servant also from arrogant sins;
let them not rule over me. (Psalm 19:13 ULB)

  • The example above has a figure of speech called personification. It speaks of sins as if they were a person who could rule over someone. (see Personification)

They have sharpened their tongues like swords;
they have aimed their arrows, bitter words,
so that they may shoot from secret places at someone who is innocent;
suddenly they shoot at him and fear nothing. (Psalms 64:3 ULB)

  • In the example above David uses metaphor to show how dangerous his enemies' words are; their tongues are like swords and their words are like arrows. (see Metaphor)

Hebrew poetry often has parallel lines.

... for you saw my affliction;
you knew the distress of my soul. (Psalm 31:7 ULB)

  • The example of parallelism above has two lines that mean the same thing. (see Parallelism)

Sometimes poetry has repeated phrases.

Oh, give thanks to Yahweh; for he is good, for his covenant faithfulness endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods, for his covenant faithfulness endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his covenant faithfulness endures forever. (Psalm 136:1-3 ULB)

  • The example above repeats the phrases "give thanks" and "his covenant faithfulness endures forever."

Sometimes poetry has lines of similar length.

Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude. (1 Corinthians 13:4 ULB)

Sometimes poetry uses grammar differently.

My soul also is very troubled.
But you, Yahweh—how long will this continue?
Return, Yahweh! rescue me.
Save me because of your covenant faithfulness! (Psalm 6:3-4 ULB)

  • In the example above, the author interrupts his request for Yahweh to return and rescue him by asking how long his trouble will continue. Interrupting his request helps to show how distressed the author feels.

Translation Strategies

If the style of poetry that is used in the source text would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider using it. If not, here are some other ways of translating it.

  1. Translate the poetry using one of your styles of poetry.
  2. Translate the poetry using one of your styles of elegant speech.
  3. Translate the poetry using your style of ordinary speech.

If you use poetry it may be more beautiful.
If you use ordinary speech it may be more clear.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked,
or stand in the pathway with sinners,
or sit in the assembly of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of Yahweh,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
(Psalm 1:1, 2 ULB)

The following are examples of how people might translate Psalm 1:1, 2.

  1. Translate the poetry using one of your styles of poetry.
    • The style in this example uses rhythm and rhyming words. It is adapted from the Scottish Psalter of 1650, which is in the public domain.
    • That man has perfect blessedness,
      who does not walk astray
      in counsel of ungodly men
      or stand in sinners way.
      Nor does he sit in scorner’s chair,
      but places his delight
      upon God’s law, and meditates
      on God’s law day and night.

  2. Translate the poetry using your style of elegant speech.

    • This is the kind of person who is truly blessed: the one who does not follow the advice of wicked people, or stop along the road to speak with sinners, or join the gathering of those who mock God. Rather he takes great joy in Yahweh's law, and he meditates on it day and night.
  3. Translate the poetry using your style of ordinary speech.

    • The people who do not listen to the advice of bad people are really happy. They do not spend time with people who continually do evil things or with those who do not respect God. They love to obey Yahweh's law, and they think about it all the time.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Symbolic Language

](#writing-symlanguage)*


Proverbs

This page answers the question: *What are proverbs, and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Parallelism

](#figs-parallelism)* * *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)*

Description

Proverbs are short sayings that give wisdom or teach a truth. People enjoy proverbs because they give a lot of wisdom in few words. Proverbs in the Bible often use metaphor and parallelism.

Reasons this is a translation issue

Each language has its own ways of saying proverbs. There are many proverbs in the Bible. They need to be translated in the way that people say proverbs in your language, so that people recognize them as proverbs and understand what they teach.

Examples from the Bible

A good name is to be chosen over great riches, and favor is better than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1 ULB)

This means that it is better to be a good person and to have a good reputation than it is to have a lot of money.

Like vinegar on the teeth and smoke in the eyes, so is the lazy person to those who send him. (Proverbs 10:26 ULB)

This means that a lazy person is very annoying to those who send him to do something.

The way of Yahweh protects those who have integrity, but it is destruction for the wicked. (Proverbs 10:29 ULB)

This means that Yahweh protects people who do what is right, but he destroys those who are wicked.

Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers over all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12 ULB)

This means that when people hate others, they are likely to fight. But if they love others, they will forgive the wrongs that others have done to them.

Look at the ant, you lazy person, consider her ways, and be wise. It has no commander, officer, or ruler, yet it prepares its food in the summer, and during the harvest it stores up what it will eat. (Proverbs 6:6-8 ULB)

This proverb encourages people not to be lazy but to work so they can have what they need.

Translation Strategies

If translating a proverb literally would be natural and give the right meaning in your language, consider doing that. If not, here are some options:

  1. Find out how people say proverbs in your language, and use one of those ways.
  2. If certain objects in the proverb are not known to many people in your language group, consider replacing them with objects that people know and that function in the same way in your language.
  3. Substitute a proverb in your language that has the same teaching as the proverb in the Bible.
  4. Give the same teaching but not in a form of a proverb.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Find out how people say proverbs in your language, and use one of those ways.
  2. A good name is to be chosen over great riches, and favor is better than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1 ULB)

    Here are some ideas for ways that people might say a proverb in their language.

    • It is better to have a good name than to have great riches, and to be favored by people than to have silver and gold.
    • Wise people choose a good name over great riches, and favor over silver and gold.
    • Try to have a good reputation rather than great riches.
    • Will riches really help you? I would rather have a good reputation.
  3. If certain objects in the proverb are not known to many people in your language group, consider replacing them with objects that people know and that function in the same way in your language.

    • Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so a fool does not deserve honor. (Proverbs 26:1 ULB)
      • It is not natural for a cold wind to blow in the hot season or for it to rain in the harvest season; And it is not natural to honor a foolish person.
  4. Substitute a proverb in your language that has the same teaching as the proverb in the Bible.

    • Do not boast about tomorrow. (Proverbs 27:1 ULB)
      • Do not count your chickens before they hatch.
  5. Give the same teaching but not in a form of a proverb.

    • A generation that curses their father and does not bless their mother, that is a generation that is pure in their own eyes, but they are not washed of their filth. (Proverbs 30:11-12 ULB)
      • People who do not respect their parents think that they are righteous, and they do not turn away from their sin.

Symbolic Language

This page answers the question: *What is symbolic language and how do I translate it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)*

Description

Symbolic language in speech and writing is the use of symbols to represent other things and events. In the Bible it occurs most in prophecy and poetry, especially in visions and dreams about things that will happen in the future. Though people may not immediately know the meaning of a symbol, it is important to keep the symbol in the translation.

Purposes of symbolism

  • One purpose of symbolism is to help people understand the importance or severity of an event by putting it in other, very dramatic terms.
  • Another purpose of symbolism is to tell some people about something while hiding the true meaning from others who do not understand the symbolism.

Reasons this is a translation issue

People who read the Bible today may find it hard to recognize that the language is symbolic, and they may not know what the symbol stands for.

Translation principles

  • When symbolic language is used, it is important to keep the symbol in the translation.
  • It is also important not to explain the symbol more than the original speaker or writer did, since he may not have wanted everyone living then to be able to understand it easily.

Examples from the Bible

Eat this scroll, then go speak to the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 3:1 ULB)

Ezekiel had a dream, and in his dream he was told to eat a scroll. Eating the scroll is a symbol of reading and understanding well what was written on the scroll, and accepting the words from God into himself.

After this I saw in the visions of the night a fourth animal, terrifying, frightening, and very strong. It had large iron teeth; it devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled underfoot what was left. It was different from the other animals, and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7 ULB)

The meaning of the underlined symbols is explained in Daniel 7:23-24 as shown below. The animals represent kingdoms, iron teeth represent a powerful army, and the horns represent powerful leaders.

This is what that person said, 'As for the fourth animal, it will be a fourth kingdom on earth that will be different from all the other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, and it will trample it down and break it into pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise, and another will arise after them. He will be different from the previous ones, and he will conquer the three kings. (Daniel 7:23-24 ULB)

I turned around to see whose voice was speaking to me, and as I turned I saw seven golden lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands there was one like a Son of Man.... He had seven stars in his right hand, and a sword with two sharp edges was coming out of his mouth.... As for the hidden meaning about the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:12, 16, 20 ULB)

This passage explains the meaning of the seven lampstands and the seven stars. The two-edged sword represents God's word and judgment.

Translation Strategies

  1. Translate the text with the symbols. Often the speaker or author explains the meaning later in the passage.
  2. Translate the text with the symbols. Then explain the symbols in footnotes.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Translate the text with the symbols. Often the speaker or author explains the meaning later in the passage.

    • After this I saw in the visions of night a fourth animal, terrifying, frightening, and very strong. It had large iron teeth; it devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled underfoot what was left. It was different from the other animals, and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7 ULB)

      People will be able to understand what the symbols mean when they read the explanation in Daniel 7:23-24:

    • As for the fourth animal ... It will devour ... As for the ten horns ...

  2. Translate the text with the symbols. Then explain the symbols in footnotes.

    • After this I saw the visions of night a fourth animal, terrifying, frightening, and very strong. It had large iron teeth; it devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled underfoot what was left. It was different from the other animals, and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7 ULB)
    • After this I saw the visions of at night a fourth animal,[1] terrifying, frightening, and very strong. It had large iron teeth;[2] it devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled underfoot what was left. It was different from the other animals, and it had ten horns.[3]

      [1] The animal is a symbol for a kingdom.
      [2] The iron teeth is a symbol for the kingdom's powerful army.
      [3] The horns are a symbol of powerful kings.

Symbolic Prophecy

This page answers the question: *What is symbolic language and how do I translate it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Types of Writing

](#writing-intro)* * *[Symbolic Language

](#writing-symlanguage)*

Description

Symbolic prophecy is a type of message that God gave to a prophet so that the prophet would tell others. These messages use images and symbols to show what God will do in the future.

The main books that have these prophecies are Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation. Shorter examples of symbolic prophecy are also found in other books, such as in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

The Bible tells both how God gave each message and what the message was. When God gave the messages, he often did so in miraculous ways such as in dreams and visions. When prophets saw these dreams and visions, they often saw images and symbols about God and heaven. Some of these images are a throne, golden lamp stands, a powerful man with white hair and white clothes, and eyes like fire and legs like bronze. Some of these images were seen by more than one prophet.

The prophecies about the world also contain images and symbols. For example, in some of the prophecies strong animals represent kingdoms, horns represent kings or kingdoms, a dragon or serpent represents the devil, the sea represents the nations, and weeks represent longer periods of time. Some of these images were also seen by more than one prophet.

The prophecies tell about the evil in this world, how God will judge the world and punish sin, and how God will establish his righteous kingdom in the new world he is creating. They also tell about things that will happen concerning heaven and hell.

Much of prophecy in the Bible is presented as poetry. In some cultures people assume that if something is said in poetry, then it might not be true or very important. However, the prophecies in the Bible are true and very important, whether they are presented in poetic forms or non-poetic forms.

Sometimes the past tense is used in these books for events that happened in the past. However, sometimes the past tense is used for events that would happen in the future. There are two reasons for us. When prophets told about things that they saw in a dream or vision, they often used the past tense because their dream was in the past. The other reason for using the past tense to refer to future events was to emphasize that those events would certainly happen. The events were so certain to happen, it was as if they had already happened. We call this second use of the past tense "the predictive past." See Predictive Past.

Some of these things happened after the prophets told about them, and some of them will happen at the end of this world.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Some of the images are hard to understand because we have never seen things like them before.
  • Descriptions of things that we have never seen or that do not exist in this world are hard to translate.
  • If God or the prophet used the past tense, readers may have difficulty knowing wehther he was talking about something that had aleady happened or something that would happen later.

Translation principles

  • Translate the images in the text. Do not try to interpret them and translate their meaning.
  • When an image appears in more than one place in the Bible, and it is described in the same way, try to translate it the same way in all those places.
  • If either poetic forms or non-poetic forms would imply to your readers that the prophecy is not true or is unimportant, use a form that would not imply those things.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to understand in what order the events described in the various prophecies happen. Simply write them as they appear in each prophecy.
  • Translate tense in a way that the readers can understand what the speaker meant. If readers would not understand the predictive past, it is acceptable to use the future tense.
  • Some of the prophecies were fulfilled after the prophets wrote about them. Some of them have not been fulfilled yet. Do not clarify in the prophecy when these prophecies were fulfilled or how they were fulfilled.

Examples from the Bible

The following passages describe powerful beings that Ezekiel, Daniel, and John saw. Images that come up in these visions include hair that is white as wool, a voice like many waters, a golden belt, and legs or feet like polished bronze. Though the prophets saw various details, it would be good to translate the details that are the same in the same way. The underlined phrases in the passage from Revelation also occur in the passages from Daniel and Ezekiel

In the middle of the lampstands there was one like a Son of Man, wearing a long robe that reached down to his feet, and a golden belt around his chest. His head and hair were as white as wool — as white as snow, and his eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, like bronze that had been refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many rushing waters. He had in his right hand seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp two-edged sword. His face was shining like the sun at its strongest shining. (Revelation 1:13-16)

As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow, and the hair of his head was like pure wool. (Daniel 7:9 ULB)

I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen, with a belt around his waist made of pure gold from Uphaz. His body was like topaz, his face was like lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and his feet were like polished bronze, and the sound of his words was like the sound of a great crowd. (Daniel 10:5-6)

Behold! The glory of the God of Israel came from the east; his voice was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. (Ezekiel 43:2 ULB)

The following passage shows the use of the past tense to refer to past events. The underlined verbs refer to past events.

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, that he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, heavens, and give ear, earth; for Yahweh has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:1-2 ULB)

The following passage shows the future tense and different uses of the past tense. The underlined verbs are examples of the predictive past, where the past tense is used to show that the events certainly will happen.

The gloom will be dispelled from her who was in anguish. In an earlier time he humiliated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the later time he will make it glorious, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who have lived in the land of the shadow of death, the light has shone on them. (Isaiah 9:1-2 ULB)


Translation Issues

Translating Son and Father

This page answers the question: *Why are these concepts important in referring to God?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Create Faithful Translations

](translation theory and practice.html#guidelines-faithful)* * *[Son of God and God the Father

](#guidelines-sonofgod)*

Wycliffe Associates supports Bible translations that represent the concepts "Father" and "Son" when they refer to God.

Biblical Witness

"Father" and "Son" are names that God calls himself in the Bible. The Bible shows that God called Jesus his Son:

After he was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water, and ... a voice came out of the heavens saying, "This is my beloved Son. I am very pleased with him." (Matthew 3:16-17 ULB)

The Bible shows that Jesus called God his Father:

Jesus said, "I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth ... no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son" (Matthew 11:25-27 ULB) (See also: John 6:26-57)

Christians have found that "Father" and "Son" are the ideas that most essentially describe the eternal relationship of the First and Second Persons of the Trinity to each other. The Bible indeed refers to them in various ways, but no other terms reflect the eternal love and intimacy between these Persons, nor the interdependent eternal relationship between them.

Jesus referred to God in the following terms:

Baptize them into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19 ULB)

The intimate, loving relationship between the Father and the Son is eternal, just as they are eternal.

The Father loves the Son.... (John 3:35-36; 5:19-20 ULB)

... the world will know that I love the Father, I do just as the Father commanded me. (John 14:31 ULB)

... no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son. (Luke 10:22 ULB)

The terms "Father" and "Son" also communicate that the Father and the Son are of the same essence; they are both eternal God.

Jesus ... said, "Father, glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you ... I glorified you on the earth ... Now Father, glorify me ... with the glory that I had with you before the world was created." (John 17:1-5)

But in these last days, [God the Father] has spoken to us through a Son, whom he appointed to be the heir of all things. It is through him that God also made the universe. He is the brightness of God's glory, the exact representation of his being. He even holds everything together by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:2-3 ULB)

Jesus said to him, "I have been with you for so long and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (John 14:9 ULB)

Human Relationships

Human fathers and sons are not perfect, but the Bible still uses those terms for the Father and Son, who are perfect.

Just as today, human father-son relationships during Bible times were never as loving or perfect as the relationship between Jesus and his Father. But this does not mean that the translator should avoid the concepts of father and son. The scriptures use these terms to refer to God, the perfect Father and Son, as well as to sinful human fathers and sons. In referring to God as Father and Son, choose words in your language that are widely used to refer to a human "father" and "son." In this way you will communicate that God the Father and God the Son are essentially the same (they are both God), just as a human father and son are essentially the same, both human and sharing the same characteristics.

Translation Strategies

  1. Think through all the possibilities that your language has to translate the words "son" and "father." Determine which words in your language best represent the divine "Son" and "Father."
  2. If your language has more than one word for "son," use the word that has the closest meaning to "only son" (or "first son" if necessary).
  3. If your language has more than one word for "father," use the word that has the closest meaning to "birth father," rather than "adoptive father."

See the pages for "God the Father" and "Son of God" in Translation Words for help with translating "Father" and "Son."


Son of God and God the Father

This page answers the question: *Who are the Son of God and God the Father?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Create Faithful Translations

](translation theory and practice.html#guidelines-faithful)*

God is one being, and he exists as the Holy Trinity, that is, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

One God

The Bible teaches that there is only one God.

In the Old Testament:

Yahweh, he is God, and there is no other God!! (1 Kings 8:60 ULB)

In the New Testament:

Jesus said,... "This is eternal life: That they know you, the only true God". (John 17:3 ULB)

(See also: Deuteronomy 4:35, Ephesians 4:5-6, 1 Timothy 2:5, James 2:19)

Three Persons: Old Testament Revelation

The Old Testament begins to reveal God's three persons.

God created the heavens ... The Spirit of God was moving ... "Let us make man in our image." (Genesis 1:1-2, 26 ULB)

But in these last days, he has spoken to us through a Son, whom he appointed to be the heir of all things. ... But to the Son he says, "Your throne, God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of justice. ... In the beginning, Lord, you laid the earth's foundation. The heavens are the work of your hands." (Hebrews 1:2, 10 ULB, quoting Psalm 45:6; 102:25)

Three Persons: New Testament Teaching

The Church has always found it necessary to state what the New Testament says about God by affirming that he exists in three distinct persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, "...Baptize them into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19 ULB)

God sent out his Son, born of a woman ... God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, who calls out, "Abba, Father." (Galatians 4:4-6 ULB)

See also: John 14:16-17, 1 Peter 1:2

Each person of God is fully God and is called "God" in the Bible.

Yet for us there is only one God, the Father ... (1 Corinthians 8:6 ULB)

Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God." Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and believed." (John 20:28-29 ULB)

But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the price of the land?... You have not lied to men, but to God." (Acts 5:3-4 ULB)

Each person is also distinct from the other two persons. All three persons can appear separately at the same time. In the verses below, God the Son is baptized while God the Spirit comes down and God the Father speaks from heaven.

After he was baptized, Jesus came up ... from the water.... He saw the Spirit of God coming down ... and a voice [the Father's] came out of the heavens saying, "This is my Beloved Son...." (Matthew 3:16-17 ULB)

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Translating Son and Father

](#guidelines-sonofgodprinciples)*


Textual Variants

This page answers the question: *Why does the ULB have missing or added verses, and should I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Choosing a Source Text

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-source-text)* * *[Original Manuscripts

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-manuscripts)*

Description

Thousands of years ago, people wrote the books of the Bible. Other people then copied them by hand and translated them. They did this work very carefully, and over the years many people made thousands of copies. However people who looked at them later saw that there were small differences between them. Some copiers accidentally left out some words, and some mistook a word for another that looked like it. Occasionally they added words or even whole sentences, either by accident, or because they wanted to explain something. Modern Bibles are translations of the old copies. Some modern Bibles have some of these sentences that were added. In the ULB, these added sentences are usually written in footnotes.

Bible scholars have read many old copies and compared them with each other. For each place in the Bible where there was a difference, they have figured out which wordings are most likely correct. The translators of the ULB based the ULB on wordings that scholars say are most likely correct. Because people who use the ULB may have access to Bibles that are based on other copies, the ULB translators included footnotes that tell about some of the differences between them.

Translators are encouraged to translate the text in the ULB and to write about added sentences in footnotes, as is done in the ULB. However, if the local church really wants those sentences to be included in the main text, translators may put them in the text and include a footnote about them.

Examples from the Bible

Matthew 18:10-11 ULB has a footnote about verse 11.

10See that you do not despise any of these little ones. For I say to you that in heaven their angels always look on the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11[1][1]The best ancient Greek copies do not have the sentence that some translations include, For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.

John 7:53-8:11 is not in the best earliest manuscripts. It has been included in the ULB, but it is marked off with square brackets ([ ]) at the beginning and end, and there is a footnote after verse 11.

53[Then every man went to his own house. ... 11She said, "No one, Lord." Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."][2]

[2]The best ancient copies do not have John 7:53-8:11.

Translation Strategies

When there is a textual variant, you may choose to follow the ULB or another version that you have access to.

  1. Translate the verses that the ULB does and include the footnote that the ULB provides.
  2. Translate the verses as another version does, and change the footnote so that it fits this situation.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

The translation strategies are applied to Mark 7:14-16 ULB, which has a footnote about verse 16.

  • 14He called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15There is nothing from outside of a person that can defile him when it enters into him. It is what comes out of the person that defiles him." 16[1]

    [1]The best ancient copies do not have verse 16. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.
  1. Translate the verses that the ULB does and include the footnote that the ULB provides.

    • 14He called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15There is nothing from outside of a person that can defile him when it enters into him. It is what comes out of the person that defiles him." 16[1]

      [1]The best ancient copies do not have verse 16. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.
  2. Translate the verses as another version does, and change the footnote so that it fits this situation.

    • 14He called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15There is nothing from outside of a person that can defile him when it enters into him. It is what comes out of the person that defiles him. 16If any man has ears to hear, let him hear." [1]

      [1]The best ancient copies do not have verse 16.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Chapter and Verse Numbers

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-chapverse)* * *[Original Manuscripts

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-manuscripts)* * *[Terms to Know

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-terms)* * *[The Original and Source Languages

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-original)*


Verse Bridges

This page answers the question: *Why are some verse numbers combined, such as “3-5” or “17-18”?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Structure of the Bible

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-bibleorg)*

Description

In rare cases, you will see in the Unlocked Dynamic Bible (UDB) that two or more verse numbers are combined, such as 17-18. This is called a verse bridge. This means that the information in the verses was rearranged so that the story or message could be more easily understood.

Examples from the Bible

In Genesis 47:1-2, the author tells about how Joseph introduced his brothers to Pharaoh before telling that Joseph took his brother to Pharaoh.

1Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, "My father and my brothers, their flocks, their herds, and all that they own, have arrived from the land of Canaan. See, they are in the land of Goshen." 2He took five of his brothers and introduced them to Pharaoh. (Genesis 47:1-2 ULB)

In the UDB the information is rearranged to show the order in which the events happened.

1-2Joseph chose five of his brothers to go with him to talk to the king. He introduced them to the king, and then he said, "My father and my brothers have come from Canaan land. They have brought all their sheep, goats, cattle, and everything else that they own, and they are living now in region of Goshen." (Genesis 47:1-2 UDB)

In Genesis 36:29-30, the author tells about the clans of the Horites being in the land of Seir after he lists the clans.

29These were the clans of the Horites: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, and Anah, 30Dishon, Ezer, Dishan. These were clans of the Horites, according to their clan lists in the land of Seir. (Genesis 36:29-30 ULB)

In the UDB, the the information about the Horites living in Seir is given first and is followed by the list of Horite clans. For many languages, this is a more logical order of information.

29-30The people groups who were descendants of Hor lived in Seir land. The names of the people groups are Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. (Genesis 36:29-30 UDB)

Translation Strategy

Order the information in a way that will be clear to your readers.

  1. If you put information from one verse before information from an earlier verse, put the first and last verse numbers at the beginning with a hyphen between them.

See how to mark verses in the translationStudio APP.

Examples of Translation Strategy Applied

  1. If you put information from one verse before information from an earlier verse, put the first and last verse numbers at the beginning with a hyphen between them.
    • 2you must select three cities for yourself in the middle of your land that Yahweh your God is giving you to possess. 3You must build a road and divide the borders of your land into three parts, the land that Yahweh your God is causing you to inherit, so that everyone who kills another person may flee there. (Deuteronomy 19:2-3)
      • 2-3you must divide into three parts the land that he is giving to you. Then select a city in each part. You must make good roads in order that people can get to those cities easily. Someone who kills another person can escape to one of those cities to be safe. (Deuteronomy 19:2-3 UDB)
    • 40These were the names of the heads of clans from Esau's descendants, according to their clans and their regions, by their names: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel, and Iram. These were the clan heads of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they possessed. This was Esau, the father of the Edomites. (Genesis 36:40-43 ULB)
      • 40-43Here is a list of all the people groups that were descendants of Esau: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel, and Iram. They all lived in the land of Edom. The land where each people group lived got the same name as the name of the people group. (Genesis 36:40-43 UDB)

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Chapter and Verse Numbers

](translation theory and practice.html#translate-chapverse)*


Unknowns

Translate Unknowns

This page answers the question: *How can I translate ideas that my readers are not familiar with?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Sentence Structure

](#figs-sentences)*

Description

Unknowns are things that occur in the source text that are not known to the people of your culture. The Translation Words pages and the Translation Notes will help you understand what they are. After you understand them, you will need to find ways to refer to those things so that people who read your translation will understand what they are.

We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish. (Matthew 14:17 ULB)

Bread is a particular food made by mixing finely crushed grains with oil, and then cooking the mixture so that it is dry. (Grains are the seeds of a kind of grass.) In some cultures people do not have bread or know what it is.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Readers may not know some of the things that are in the Bible because those things are not part of their own culture.
  • Readers may have difficulty understanding a text if they do not know some of the things that are mentioned in it.

Translation principles

  • Use words that are already part of your language if possible.
  • Keep expressions short if possible.
  • Represent God's commands and historical facts accurately.

Examples from the Bible

So I will turn Jerusalem into piles of ruins, a hideout for jackals. (Jeremiah 9:11 ULB)

Jackals are wild animals like dogs that live in only a few parts of the world. So they are not known in many places.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but are truly ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 ULB)

If wolves do not live where the translation will be read, the readers may not understand that they are fierce, wild animals like dogs that attack and eat sheep.

Then they tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not drink it. (Mark 15:23 ULB)

People may not know what myrrh is and that it was used as a medicine.

... to him who made great lights ... (Psalm 136:7 ULB)

Some languages have terms for things that give light, like the sun and fire, but they have no general term for lights.

your sins ... will be white like snow ... (Isaiah 1:18 ULB)

People in many parts of the world have not seen snow, but they may have seen it in pictures.

Translation Strategies

Here are ways you might translate a term that is not known in your language:

  1. Use a phrase that describes what the unknown item is, or what is important about the unknown item for the verse being translated.
  2. Substitute something similar from your language if doing so does not falsely represent a historical fact.
  3. Copy the word from another language, and add a general word or descriptive phrase to help people understand it.
  4. Use a word that is more general in meaning.
  5. Use a word or phrase that is more specific in meaning.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Use a phrase that describes what the unknown item is, or what is important about the unknown item for the verse being translated.
    • Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but are truly ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 ULB)
      • Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but are truly hungry and dangerous animals.

"Ravenous wolves" is part of a metaphor here, so the reader needs to know that they are very dangerous to sheep in order to understand this metaphor. (If sheep are also unknown, then you will need to also use one of the translation strategies to translate sheep, or change the metaphor to something else, using a translation strategy for metaphors. See Translating Metaphors.) * We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish. (Matthew 14:17 ULB) * We have here only five loaves of baked grain seeds and two fish

  1. Substitute something similar from your language if doing so does not falsely represent a historical fact.

    • your sins ... will be white like snow (Isaiah 1:18 ULB) This verse is not about snow. It uses snow in a figure of speech to help people understand how white something will be.
      • your sins ... will be white like milk
      • your sins ... will be white like the moon
  2. Copy the word from another language, and add a general word or descriptive phrase to help people understand it.

    • Then they tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused to drink it. (Mark 15:23 ULB) - People may understand better what myrrh is if it is used with the general word "medicine."
      • Then they tried to give Jesus wine mixed with a medicine called myrrh, but he refused to drink it.
    • We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish. (Matthew 14:17 ULB) - People may understand better what bread is if it is used with a phrase that tells what it is made of (seeds) and how it is prepared (crushed and baked).
      • We have here only five loaves of baked crushed seed bread and two fish.
  3. Use a word that is more general in meaning.

    • So I will turn Jerusalem into piles of ruins, a hideout for jackals. (Jeremiah 9:11 ULB)
      • So I will turn Jerusalem into piles of ruins, a hideout for wild dogs.
    • We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:17 ULB)
      • We have here only five loaves of baked food and two fish.
  4. Use a word or phrase that is more specific in meaning.

    • ... to him who made great lights ... (Psalm 136:7 ULB)
      • ... to him who made the sun and the moon ...

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Borrow Words

](#translate-transliterate)* * *[How to Translate Names

](#translate-names)*


Borrow Words

This page answers the question: *What does it mean to borrow words from another language and how can I do it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Translate Unknowns

](#translate-unknown)*

Description

The Bible has words for things that may not be part of your culture, and so your language may not have words for them. It also includes people and places that you may not have names for.

When that happens, you can "borrow" the word or the name into your own language. This means that you basically copy it from the other language. This page tells how to "borrow" words. (There are also other ways to translate words for things that are not in your language. See Translate Unknowns.)

Examples from the Bible

Seeing a fig tree on the roadside ... (Matthew 21:19 ULB)

If there are no fig trees where your language is spoken, there might not be a name for this kind of tree in your language.

Above him were the seraphim; each one had six wings; with two each covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (Isaiah 6:2 ULB)

Your language might not have a name for this kind of creature.

The declaration of the word of Yahweh to Israel by the hand of Malachi. (Malachi 1:1 ULB)

Malachi might not be a name that people who speak your language use.

Translation Strategies

There are several things to be aware of when borrowing words from another language.

  • Different languages use different scripts, such as the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, Devanagari, and Korean scripts. These scripts use different shapes to represent the letters in their alphabets.
  • Languages that use the same script might pronounce the letters in that script differently. For example, when speaking German, people pronounce the letter "j" the same way that people pronounce the letter "y" when speaking English.
  • Languages do not all have the same sounds or combinations of sounds. For example, many languages do not have the soft "th" sound in the English word "think," and some languages cannot start a word with a combination of sounds like "st" as in "stop."

There are several ways to borrow a word.

  1. If your language uses a different script from the language you are translating from, you can simply substitute each letter shape with the corresponding letter shape of the script of your language.
  2. You can spell the word as the other language spells it, and pronounce it the way your language normally pronounces those letters.
  3. You can pronounce the word similarly to the way the other language does, and adjust the spelling to fit the rules of your language.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If your language uses a different script from the language you are translating from, you can simply substitute each letter shape with the corresponding letter shape of the script of your language.

    • צְפַנְיָ֤ה - A man's name in Hebrew letters.
      • Zephaniah - The same name in Roman letters
  2. You can spell the word as the other language spells it, and pronounce it the way your language normally pronounces those letters.

    • Zephaniah - This is a man's name.
      • Zephaniah - The name as it is spelled in English, but you can pronounce it according to the rules of your language.
  3. You can pronounce the word similarly to the way the other language does, and adjust the spelling to fit the rules of your language.

    • Zephaniah - If your language does not have the "z", you could use "s". If your writing system does not use "ph" you could use "f". Depending on how you pronounce the "i" you could spell it with "i" or "ai" or "ay".
      • Sefania
      • Sefanaia
      • Sefanaya

How to Translate Names

This page answers the question: *How can I translate names that are new to my culture?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Translate Unknowns

](#translate-unknown)*

Description

The Bible has names of many people, groups of people, and places. Some of these names may sound strange and be hard to say. Sometimes readers may not know what a name refers to, and sometimes they may need to understand what a name means. This page will help you see how you can translate these names and how you can help people understand what they need to know about them.

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Readers may not know some of the names in the Bible. They may not know whether a name refers to a person or place or something else.
  • Readers may need to understand the meaning of a name in order to understand the passage.
  • Some names may have different sounds or combinations of sounds that are not used in your language or are unpleasant to say in your language. For strategies to address this problem, see Borrow Words.
  • Some people and places in the Bible have two names. Readers may not realize that two names refer to the same person or place.

Examples from the Bible

If readers do not know a particular name, they may not know what kind of thing it refers to.

You went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. The leaders of Jericho fought against you, along with the Amorites ... (Joshua 24:11 ULB)

  • Readers might not know that "Jordan" is the name of a river, "Jericho" is the name of a city, and "Amorites" is the name of a group of people.

Though most names in the Bible have meaning, most of the time, they are used simply to identify the people and places they refer to.

It was this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him. (Hebrews 7:1 ULB)

Sometimes the meaning of a name is especially important because it tells something about the person or thing that has that name.

First, the translation of his name means, "king of righteousness"; then he is also "king of Salem," that is, "king of peace." (Hebrews 7:2 ULB)

  • The author of Hebrews explains the meaning of the name "Melchizedek" and the title "king of Salem."

... she said, "Do I really continue to see, even after he has seen me?" Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; (Genesis 16:13-14 ULB)

  • Readers may not understand the second sentence if they do not know that "Beer Lahai Roi" means "Well of the Living One who sees me."

She named him Moses and said, "Because I drew him from the water." (Exodus 2:10 ULB)

  • Readers may not understand why she said this if they do not know that the name Moses sounds like the Hebrew words "pull out."

Some people had places have more than one name.

Saul was in agreement with his death. (Acts 8:1 ULB)

It came about in Iconium that Paul and Barnabas entered together into the synagogue ... (Acts 14:1 ULB)

  • Readers may not know that the names Saul and Paul refer to the same person.

Translation Strategies

  1. If readers cannot easily understand from the context what kind of a thing a name refers to, you can add a word to clarify it.
  2. If readers need to understand the meaning of a name in order to understand what is said about it, copy the name and tell about its meaning either in the text or in a footnote.
  3. Or if readers need to understand the meaning of a name in order to understand what is said about it, and that name is used only once, translate the meaning of the name instead of copying the name.
  4. If a person or place has two different names, use one name most of the time and the other name only when the text tells about the person or place having more than one name or when it says something about why the person or place was given that name. Write a footnote when the source text uses the name that is used less frequently.
  5. Or if a person or place has two different names, then use whatever name is given in the source text, and add a footnote that gives the other name.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If readers cannot easily understand from the context what kind of a thing a name refers to, you can add a word to clarify it.

    • You went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. The leaders of Jericho fought against you, along with the Amorites ... (Joshua 24:11 ULB)
      • You went over the Jordan River and came to the city of Jericho. The leaders of Jericho fought against you, along with the tribe of the Amorites ...
    • Shortly after, some Pharisees came and said to him, "Go and leave here because Herod wants to kill you." (Luke 13:31 ULB)
      • Shortly after, some Pharisees came and said to him, "Go and leave here because King Herod wants to kill you.
  2. If readers need to understand the meaning of a name in order to understand what is said about it, copy the name and tell about its meaning either in the text or in a footnote.

    • She named him Moses and said, "Because I drew him from the water." (Exodus 2:11 ULB)
      • She named him Moses, which sounds like 'drawn out,' and said, "Because I drew him from the water."
  3. Or if readers need to understand the meaning of a name in order to understand what is said about it, and that name is used only once, translate the meaning of the name instead of copying the name.

    • ... she said, "Do I really continue to see, even after he has seen me?" Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; (Genesis 16:13-14 ULB)
      • ... she said, "Do I really continue to see, even after he has seen me?" Therefore the well was called Well of the Living One who sees me;
  4. If a person or place has two different names, use one name most of the time and the other name only when the text tells about the person or place having more than one name or when it says something about why the person or place was given that name. Write a footnote when the source text uses the name that is used less frequently.

    • One man is called "Saul" before Acts 13 and "Paul" after Acts 13. You could translate his name as "Paul" all of the time, except in Acts 13:9 where it talks about him having both names.
    • ... a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:58 ULB)
      • ... a young man named Paul.[1]
        • The footnote would look like: [1]Most versions say Saul here, but most of the time in the Bible he is called Paul.
    • But Saul, who is also called Paul ... (Acts 13:9)
      • But Saul, who is also called Paul ...
  5. Or if a person or place has two names, use whatever name is given in the source text, and add a footnote that gives the other name.

    • For example, you could write "Saul" where the source text has "Saul" and "Paul" where the source text has "Paul."
    • ... a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:58 ULB)
      • ... a young man named Saul.[1]
        • The footnote would look like: [1]This is the same man who is called Paul beginning in Acts 13:9.
    • It came about in Iconium that Paul and Barnabas entered together into the synagogue ... (Acts 14:1 ULB)
      • It came about in Iconium that Paul[1] and Barnabas entered together into the synagogue ...
        • The footnote would look like: [1]This is the man who is called Saul before Acts 13.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Borrow Words

](#translate-transliterate)*


Assumed Knowledge and Implicit Information

This page answers the question: *How can I be sure that my translation communicates the assumed knowledge and implicit information along with the explicit information of the original message?

*

Description

When someone speaks or writes, he has something specific that he wants people to know or do or think about. He normally states this directly. This is explicit information.

The speaker assumes that his audience already knows certain things that they will need to think about in order to understand what he says. Normally he does not tell people these things, because they already know them. This is called assumed knowledge.

The speaker does not always directly state everything that he expects his audience to learn from what he says. Information that he expects people to learn from what he says even though he does not state it directly is implicit information.

Often, the audience understands this implicit information by combining what they already know (assumed knowledge) with what the speaker tells them directly (explicit information).

Reasons this is a translation issue

All three kinds of information (assumed knowledge, explicit information, and implicit information) are part of the speaker's message. If the audience does not have the knowledge that the speaker assumes they have, they will have trouble understanding the whole message.

The authors of the Bible books wrote for particular audiences who lived in particular places long ago. And the speakers in the Bible spoke to particular audiences who lived long ago. Modern readers may not know some of the things that the people in the Bible and the people who first read it knew. This can make it hard for them to understand what a speaker or writer said, and to learn things that the speaker left implicit. Translators may need to state explicitly some things that the original speaker or writer assumed his audience would know or be able to learn.

Examples from the Bible

Then a scribe came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20 ULB)

  • Jesus did not say what foxes and birds use holes and nests for, because he assumed that the scribe would have known that foxes sleep in holes in the ground and birds sleep in their nests. This is assumed knowledge.
  • Jesus did not directly say here "I am the Son of Man" but, if the scribe did not already know it, then that fact would be implicit information that he could learn because Jesus referred to himself that way. Also, Jesus did not state explicitly that he travelled a lot and did not have a house that he slept in every night. That is implicit information that the scribe could learn when Jesus said that he had nowhere to lay his head.

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the mighty deeds had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:21, 22 ULB)

  • Jesus assumed that the people he was speaking to knew that Tyre and Sidon were very wicked, and that the day of judgment is a time when God will judge every person. Jesus also knew that the people he was talking to believed that they were good and did not need to repent. Jesus did not need to tell them these things. This is all assumed knowledge.
  • An important piece of implicit information here is that because the people he was speaking to did not repent, they would be judged more severely than the people of Tyre and Sidon would be judged.

Why do your disciples violate the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. (Matthew 15:2 ULB)

  • One of the traditions of the elders was a ceremony in which people would wash their hands in order to be ritually clean before eating. People thought that in order to be righteous, they had to follow all the traditions of the elders. This was assumed knowledge that the Pharisees who were speaking to Jesus expected him to know.
  • By saying this, they were accusing his disciples of not following the traditions, and thus not being righteous. This is implicit information that they wanted him to understand from what they said.

Translation Strategies

If readers have enough assumed knowledge to be able to understand the full message (with the explicit and implicit information) then it is good to leave the assumed knowledge unstated and leave the implicit information implicit. If the readers do not understand the message because they lack the assumed knowledge, then follow one of these strategies:

  1. If readers cannot understand the message because they do not have certain assumed knowledge, then provide that knowledge explicitly.
  2. If readers cannot understand the implicit information, then state that information clearly, but try to do it in a way that does not imply that the information was new to the original audience.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If readers cannot understand the message because they do not have certain assumed knowledge, then provide that knowledge explicitly.

    • Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20 ULB)
      • Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes to live in, and the birds of the sky have nests to live in, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head and sleep."
    • But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:22 ULB)
      • But it will be more tolerable for those cities Tyre and Sidon, whose people were very wicked, at the day of judgment than for you.
      • But it will be more tolerable for those wicked cities Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you.
    • Why do your disciples violate the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. (Matthew 15:2 ULB)
      • Why do your disciples violate the traditions of the elders? For they do not go through the ceremonial handwashing ritual to make them ritually clean when they eat.
  2. If readers cannot understand the implicit information, then state that information clearly, but try to do it in a way that does not imply that the information was new to the original audience.

    • Then a scribe came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matthew 8:19, 20 ULB)
      • Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home to rest in. If you want to follow me, you will live as I live."
    • If the mighty deeds had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you (Matthew 11:22 ULB)
      • If the mighty deeds had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But at the day of judgment, God will punish you more severely than he will punish them.
      • If the mighty deeds which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But at the day of judgment, God will punish them less severely than he will punish you.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[When to Make Explicit Information Implicit

](#figs-explicitinfo)*


When to Make Explicit Information Implicit

This page answers the question: *What can I do if some of the explicit information seems confusing, unnatural, or unnecessary in our language?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Assumed Knowledge and Implicit Information

](#figs-explicit)*

Description

Some languages have ways of saying things that are natural for them but sound strange when translated into other languages. One of the reasons for this is that some languages say things explicitly that the other languages would leave as implicit information.

Reasons this is a translation issue

If you translate all of the explicit information from the source language into the target language explicitly, it could sound foreign, unnatural, or perhaps even unintelligent if the target language would not make that information explicit. Instead, it is best to leave that kind of information implicit in the target language.

Examples from the Bible

And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. (Judges 9:52 ESV)

In Biblical Hebrew, it was normal to start most sentences with a conjunction such as "and," "but," "or," or "for" to show the connection between sentences. In English, people do not normally start sentences with these words. If a writer starts many of his sentences with these words, it becomes tiresome for the English reader and gives the impression that the author was uneducated. Often in English, it is best to leave the idea of connection between sentences implicit and not translate the conjunction explicitly.

In Biblical Hebrew, it was normal to say that something was burned with fire. In English, the idea of fire is included in the action of burning, and so it is unnatural to state both ideas explicitly. It is enough to say that something was burned and leave the idea of fire implicit.

The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof." (Matthew 8:8 ULB)

In the biblical languages, it was normal to introduce direct speech with two verbs of speaking. One verb indicated the mode of address, and the other introduced the words of the speaker. English speakers do not do this, so it is very unnatural and confusing to use two verbs. For the English speaker, the idea of speaking is included in the idea of answering. Using two verbs in English implies two separate speeches, rather than just one. So in English, it is better to use only one verb of speaking.

Translation Strategies

If the explicit information of the source language sounds natural in the target language, then translate it as explicit information. If it does not sound natural, you can follow this strategy.

  1. If the explicit information does not sound natural in the target language or seems unnecessary or confusing, leave the explicit information implicit. Only do this if the reader can understand this information from the context. You can test this by asking the reader a question about the passage.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. If the explicit information does not sound natural in the target language or seems unnecessary or confusing, leave the explicit information implicit. Only do this if the reader can understand this information from the context. You can test this by asking the reader a question about the passage.

    • And Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it with fire. (Judges 9:52 ESV)

      • Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to burn it.
      • Abimelech came to the tower and fought against it and drew near to the door of the tower to set it on fire.
    • The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof." (Matthew 8:8 ULB)

      • The centurion answered, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof."

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[When to Keep Information Implicit

](#figs-extrainfo)*


When to Keep Information Implicit

This page answers the question: *When should I not make implicit information explicit?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Assumed Knowledge and Implicit Information

](#figs-explicit)* * *[When to Make Explicit Information Implicit

](#figs-explicitinfo)*

Description

Sometimes it is better not to state assumed knowledge or implicit information explicitly. This page gives some direction about when not to do this.

Translation principles

  • If a speaker or author intentionally left something unclear, do not try to make it more clear.
  • If the original audience did not understand what the speaker meant, do not make it so clear that your readers would find it strange that the original audience did not understand.
  • If you need to explicitly state some assumed knowledge or implicit information, try to do it in a way that it does not make your readers think that the original audience needed to be told those things.
  • Do not make it explicit if it throws the message out of focus and leads the readers to forget what the main point is.
  • Do not make assumed knowledge or implicit information explicit if your readers already understand it.

Examples from the Bible

Out of the eater was something to eat; out of the strong was something sweet. (Judges 14:14 ULB)

  • This was a riddle. Samson purposely said this in a way that it would be hard for his enemies to know what it meant. Do not make it clear that the eater and the strong thing was a lion and that the sweet thing to eat was honey.

Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." The disciples reasoned among themselves and said, "It is because we took no bread." (Matthew 16:6,7 ULB)

  • Possible implicit information here is that the disciples should beware of the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. But Jesus's disciples did not understand this. They thought that Jesus was talking about real yeast and bread. So it would not be appropriate to state explicitly in verse 6 that the word "yeast" refers to false teaching. The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant until they heard what he said in Matthew 16:11. This is shown below.

"How is it that you do not understand that I was not speaking to you about bread? Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of yeast in bread, but to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:11,12 ULB)

Translation Strategies

There are no translation strategies for this topic.


Biblical Distance

This page answers the question: *How can I translate the lengths and distances that are in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

](#translate-fraction)*

Description

The following terms are the most common measures for distance or length that were originally used in the Bible. Most of these are based on the sizes of the hand and forearm.

  • The handbreadth was the width of the palm of a man's hand.
  • The span or handspan was the width of a man's hand with the fingers spread out.
  • The cubit was the length of a man's forearm, from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger.
  • The "long" cubit is used only in Ezekiel 40-48. It is the length of a normal cubit plus a span.
  • The stadium (plural, stadia) referred to a certain footrace that was about 185 meters in length. Some older English versions translated this word as "furlong", which referred to the average length of a plowed field.

The biblical measures probably differed in exact length from time to time and place to place. So the metric values in the table below are close but not exactly equal to the biblical measures.

Original Measure Metric Measure
handbreadth 8 centimeters
span 23 centimeters
cubit 46 centimeters
"long" cubit 54 centimeters
stadia 185 meters

Translation principles

  1. The people in the Bible did not use modern measures such as meters, liters, and kilograms. Using the original measures can help readers know that the Bible really was written long ago in a time when people used those measures.
  2. Using modern measures can help readers understand the text more easily.
  3. Whatever measure you use, it would be good, if possible, to tell about the other kind of measure in the text or a footnote.
  4. If you do not use the Biblical measures, try not to give the readers the idea that the measurements are exact. For example, if you translate one cubit as ".46 meters" or even as "46 centimeters," readers might think that the measurement is exact. It would be better to say "half a meter," "45 centimeters," or "50 centimeters."
  5. Sometimes it can be helpful to use the word "about" to show that a measurement is not exact. For example, Luke 24:13 says that Emmaus was sixty stadia from Jerusalem. This can be translated as "about ten kilometers" from Jerusalem.
  6. When God tells people how long something should be, and when people make things according to those lengths, do not use "about" in the translation. Otherwise it will give the impression that God did not care exactly how long something should be.

Translation Strategies

  1. Use the measurements from the ULB. These are the same kinds of measurements that the original writers used. Spell them in a way that is similar to the way they sound or are spelled in the ULB. (see [[https://git.door43.org/Door43/en_ta/src/master/jit/translate-transliterate.md]])
  2. Use the metric measurements given in the UDB. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.
  3. Use measurements that are already used in your language. In order to do this you would need to know how your measurements relate to the metric system and figure out each measurement.
  4. Use the measurements from the ULB and include measurements that your people know in the text or a note.
  5. Use measurements that your people know, and include the measurements from the ULB in the text or in a note.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

The strategies are all applied to Exodus 25:10 below.

  • They are to make an ark of acacia wood. Its length must be two and a half cubits; its width will be one cubit and a half; and its height will be one cubit and a half. (Exodus 25:10 ULB)
  1. Use the measurements given in the ULB. These are the same kinds of measurements that the original writers used. Spell them in a way that is similar to the way they sound or are spelled in the ULB. (see [[https://git.door43.org/Door43/en_ta/src/master/jit/translate-transliterate.md]])

    • "They are to make an ark of acacia wood. Its length must be two and a half kubits; its width will be one kubit and a half; and its height will be one kubit and a half."
  2. Use the metric measurements given in the UDB. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.

    • "They are to make an ark of acacia wood. Its length must be one hundred and fifteen centimeters; its width will be sixty-nine centimeters; and its height will be sixty-nine centimeters."
  3. Use measurements that are already used in your language. In order to do this you would need to know how your measurements relate to the metric system and figure out each measurement. For example, if you measure things using the standard foot length, you could translate it as below.

    • "They are to make an ark of acacia wood. Its length must be 3 3/4 feet; its width will be 2 1/4 feet; and its height will be 2 1/4 feet."
  4. Use the measurements from the ULB and include measurements that your people know in the text or a note. The following shows both measurements in the text.

    • "They are to make an ark of acacia wood. Its length must be two and a half cubits (one hundred and fifteen centimeters); its width will be one cubit and a half (sixty-nine centimeters); and its height will be one cubit and a half (sixty-nine centimeters)."
  5. Use measurements that your people know, and include the measurements from the ULB in the text or in a note. The following shows the ULB measurements in notes.

    • "They are to make an ark of acacia wood. Its length must be one hundred and fifteen centimeters[1]; its width will be sixty-nine centimeters [2]; and its height will be sixty-nine centimeters."
      • The footnotes would look like:
        [1]two and a half cubits
        [2]one cubit and a half

Biblical Volume

This page answers the question: *How can I translate the measures of volume that are in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

Description

The following terms are the most common units of volume used in the Bible to state how much a certain container could hold. The containers and measurements are given for both liquids (such as wine) and dry solids (such as grain). The biblical measures probably differed in exact amount from time to time and place to place. The liter equivalents below are based on the ephah and the bath being equal to 22 liters.

Type Original Measure Relationship Liters
Dry omer 1/10 ephah 2 liters
Dry ephah -------- 22 liters
Dry homer 10 ephahs 220 liters
Dry cor 10 ephahs 220 liters
Dry seah 1/3 ephah 7.3 liters
Dry lethek 5 ephahs 110 liters
Liquid metrete -------- 40 liters
Liquid bath -------- 22 liters
Liquid hin 1/6 bath 3.7 liters
Liquid kab 1/3 hin 1.2 liters
Liquid log 1/4 kab 0.3 liters

Translation principles

  • The people in the Bible did not use modern measures such as meters, liters, and kilograms. Using the original measures can help readers know that the Bible really was written long ago in a time when people used those measures.
  • Using modern measures can help readers understand the text more easily.
  • Whatever measures you use, it would be good, if possible, to tell about the other kinds of measures in the text or a footnote.
  • If you do not use the Biblical measures, try not to give the readers the idea that the measurements are exact. For example, if you translate one hin as "3.7 liters," readers might think that the measurement is exactly 3.7 liters, not 3.6 or 3.8. It would be better to use a more approximate measure such as "three and a half liters" or "four liters."
  • When God tells people how much of something to use, and when people use those amounts in obedience to him, do not say "about" in the translation. Otherwise it will give the impression that God did not care exactly how much they used.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes the unit of measure is stated explicitly.

For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only one bath, and one homer of seed will yield only an ephah. (Isaiah 5:10 ULB)

Sometimes the Hebrew does not specify a particular unit of volume but only uses a number. In these cases, many English versions, including the ULB and UDB, add the word "measure."

When you came to a heap of twenty measures of grain, there were only ten; and when you came to the wine vat to draw out fifty measures, there were only twenty. (Haggai 2:16 ULB)

Translation Strategies For When the Unit of Measure is Stated Explicitly

  1. Use the measurements from the ULB. These are the same kinds of measurements that the original writers used. Spell them in a way that is similar to the way they sound or are spelled in the ULB. (see Borrow Words)
  2. Use the metric measurements given in the UDB. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.
  3. Use measurements that are already used in your language. In order to do this you would need to know how your measurements relate to the metric system and figure out each measurement.
  4. Use the measurements from the ULB and include measurements that your people know in the text or a note.
  5. Use measurements that your people know, and include the measurements from the ULB in the text or in a note.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

The strategies are all applied to Isaiah 5:10 below.

  • For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only one bath, and one homer of seed will yield only an ephah. (Isaiah 5:10 ULB)
  1. Use the measurements from the ULB. These are the same kinds of measurements that the original writers used. Spell them in a way that is similar to the way they sound or are spelled in the ULB. (see Borrow Words)

    • "For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only one bat, and one homer of seed will yield only an efa."
  2. Use the measurements given in the UDB. Usually they are metric measurements. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.

    • "For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only twenty-two liters and 220 liters of seed will yield only twenty-two liters."
  3. Use measurements that are already used in your language. In order to do this you would need to know how your measurements relate to the metric system and figure out each measurement.

    • "For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only six gallons, and six and a half bushels of seed will yield only twenty quarts."
  4. Use the measurements from the ULB and include measurements that your people know in the text or a note. The following shows both measurements in the text.

    • "For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only one bath (six gallons), and one homer (six and a half bushels) of seed will yield only an ephah (twenty quarts)."
  5. Use measurements that your people know, and include the measurements from the ULB in the text or in a note. The following shows the ULB measurements in footnotes.

    • "For a ten-yoke vineyard will yield only twenty-two liters,[1]and 220 liters[2]of seed will yield only twenty-two liters.[3]"
      • The footnotes would look like:
        [1]Twenty-two liters is one bath.
        [2]Two hundred twenty liters is one homer.
        [3]Twenty-two liters is one ephah.

Translation Strategies For When the Unit of Measure is Implied

  1. Translate literally by using the number without a unit.
  2. Use a generic word like "measure" or "quantity" or "amount."
  3. Use the name of an appropriate container, such as "basket" for grain or "jar" for wine.
  4. Use a unit of measure that you are already using in your translation.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

The strategies are all applied to Haggai 2:16 below.

  • When you came to a heap of twenty measures of grain, there were only ten; and when you came to the wine vat to draw out fifty measures, there were only twenty. (Haggai 2:16 ULB)
  1. Translate literally by using the number without a unit.

    • When you came to a heap of twenty of grain, there were only ten; and when you came to the wine vat to draw out fifty, there were only twenty.
  2. Use a generic word like "measure" or "quantity" or "amount."

    • When you came to a heap of twenty amounts of grain, there were only ten; and when you came to the wine vat to draw out fifty amounts, there were only twenty.
  3. Use the name of an appropriate container, such as "basket" for grain or "jar" for wine.

    • When you came to a heap of twenty baskets of grain, there were only ten; and when you came to the wine vat to draw out fifty jars, there were only twenty.
  4. Use a unit of measure that you are already using in your translation.

    • When you came to a heap of twenty liters of grain, there were only ten; and when you came to the wine vat to draw out fifty liters, there were only twenty.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Fractions

](#translate-fraction)* * *[When to Make Explicit Information Implicit

](#figs-explicitinfo)*


Biblical Weight

This page answers the question: *How can I translate the values of weight in the Bible?

*

Description

The following terms are the most common units of weight in the Bible. The term "shekel" means "weight," and many other weights are described in terms of the shekel. Some of these weights were used for money. The biblical measures differed in exact amount from time to time and place to place. So the metric values in the table below are close but not exactly equal to the biblical measures. The values below are based on the shekel being equal to 11.4 grams.

Original Measure Shekels Grams Kilograms
shekel 1 shekel 11.4 grams -
bekah 1/2 shekel 5.7 grams -
pim 2/3 shekel 7.6 grams -
gerah 1/20 shekel 0.57 grams -
mina 50 shekels 570 grams .57 kilograms
talent 3,000 shekels - 34.2 kilograms

Translation principles

  1. The people in the Bible did not use modern measures such as meters, liters, and kilograms. Using the original measures can help readers know that the Bible really was written long ago in a time when people used those measures.
  2. Using modern measures can help readers understand the text more easily.
  3. Whatever measure you use, it would be good, if possible, to tell about the other kind of measure in the text or a footnote.
  4. If you do not use the Biblical measures, try not to give the readers the idea that the measurements are exact. For example, if you translate one gerah as ".57 grams" readers might think that the measurement is exact. It would be better to say "half a gram."
  5. Sometimes it can be helpful to use the word "about" to show that a measurement is not exact. For example, 2 Samuel 21:16 says that Goliath's spear weighed 300 shekels. Instead of translating this as "3400 grams" or "3.4 kilograms," it can be translated as "almost three and one half kilograms."
  6. When God tells people how much something should weigh, and when people use those weights, do not say "about" or "almost" in the translation. Otherwise it will give the impression that God did not care exactly how much the thing should weigh.

Translation Strategies

  1. Use the measurements from the ULB. These are the same kinds of measurements that the original writers used. Spell them in a way that is similar to the way they sound or are spelled in the ULB. (see Borrow Words)
  2. Use the metric measurements given in the UDB. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.
  3. Use measurements that are already used in your language. In order to do this you would need to know how your measurements relate to the metric system and figure out each measurement.
  4. Use the measurements from the ULB and include measurements that your people know in the text or a note.
  5. Use measurements that your people know, and include the measurements from the ULB in the text or in a note.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

The strategies are all applied to Exodus 38:29 below.

  • The bronze from the wave offering weighed seventy talents and 2,400 shekels. (Exodus 38:29 ULB)
  1. Use the measurements from the ULB. These are the same kinds of measurements that the original writers used. Spell them in a way that is similar to the way they sound or are spelled in the ULB. (see Borrow Words)

    • "The bronze from the wave offering weighed seventy talent and 2,400 sekel."
  2. Use the metric measurements given in the UDB. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.

    • "The bronze that the people contributed was 2,450 kilograms plus 28 kilograms of bronze coins."
  3. Use measurements that are already used in your language. In order to do this you would need to know how your measurements relate to the metric system and figure out each measurement.

    • "The bronze from the wave offering weighed 5,460 pounds."
  4. Use the measurements from the ULB and include measurements that your people know in the text or a footnote. The following shows both measurements in the text.

    • "The bronze from the wave offering weighed seventy talents (2,450 kilograms) and 2,400 shekels (28 kilograms)."
  5. Use measurements that your people know, and include the measurements from the ULB in the text or in a footnote. The following shows the ULB measurements in notes.

    • "The bronze from the wave offering weighed 5,460 pounds.[1]"
      • The footnote would look like: [1]The Hebrew text has "seventy talents and 2,400 shekels."

Next we recommend you learn about:

](#translate-fraction)*


Biblical Money

This page answers the question: *How can I translate the values of money in the Bible?

*

Description:

In early Old Testament times, people weighed their metals such as silver and gold and would give a certain weight of that metal in order to buy things. Later people started to make coins that each contained a standard amount of a certain metal. The daric is one such coin. In New Testament times, people used silver and copper coins.

The two tables below show some of the most well-known units of money found in the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT). The table for Old Testament units shows what kind of metal was used and how much it weighed. The table for New Testament units shows what kind of metal was used and how much it was worth in terms of a day's wage.

Unit in OT Metal Weight
daric gold coin 8.4 grams
shekel various metals 11 grams
talent various metals 33 kilograms
Unit in NT Metal Day's Wage
denarius/denarii silver coin 1 day
drachma silver coin 1 day
mite/penny copper coin 1/64 day
shekel silver coin 4 days
talent silver 6,000 days

Translation principles

Do not use modern money values since these change from year to year. Using them will cause the Bible translation to become outdated and inaccurate.

Translation Strategies

The value of most money in the Old Testament was based on its weight. So when translating these weights in the Old Testament, see Biblical Weight. The strategies below are for translating the value of money in the New Testament

  1. Use the Bible term and spell it in a way that is similar to the way it sounds. (see Borrow Words)
  2. Describe the value of the money in terms of what kind of metal it was made of and how many coins were used.
  3. Describe the value of the money in terms of what people in Bible times could earn in one day of work.
  4. Use the Bible term and give the equivalent amount in the text or a note.
  5. Use the Bible term and explain it in a note.

Translation Strategies

The translations strategies are all applied to Matthew 18:28 below.

  • ... who owed him one hundred denarii. (Matthew 18:28 ULB)
  1. Use the Bible term and spell it in a way that is similar to the way it sounds. (see Borrow Words)

    • "... who owed him one hundred denali."
  2. Describe the value of the money in terms of what kind of metal it was made of and how many pieces or coins were used.

    • "... who owed him one hundred silver coins."
  3. Describe the value of the money in terms of what people in Bible times could earn in one day of work.

    • "... who owed him one hundred days' wages."
  4. Use the Bible term and give the equivalent amount in the text or a footnote.

    • "... who owed him one hundred denarii.[1]"
      • The footnotes would look like:
        [1]one hundred days' wages
  5. Use the Bible term and explain it in a footnote.

    • "... who owed him one hundred denarii.[1]"
      [1]A denarius was the amount of silver that people could earn in one day of work.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Borrow Words

](#translate-transliterate)* * *[Translate Unknowns

](#translate-unknown)*


Hebrew Months

This page answers the question: *What are the Hebrew months?

*

Description

The Hebrew calendar used in the Bible has twelve months. Unlike the western calendar, its first month begins in the spring of the northern hemisphere. Sometimes a month is called by its name (Abib, Ziv, Sivan), and sometimes it is called by its order in the Hebrew calendar year (first month, second month, third month).

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Readers may be surprised to read of months that they have never heard of, and they may wonder how those months correspond to the months that they use.
  • Readers may not realize that phrases such as "the first month" or "the second month" refer to the first or second month of the Hebrew calendar, not some other calendar.
  • Readers may not know when the first month of the Hebrew calendar begins.
  • The scripture may tell about something happening in a certain month, but readers will not be able to fully understand what is said about it if they do not know what season of the year that was.

List of Hebrew Months

This is a list of the Hebrew months with information about them that may be helpful in the translation.

Abib - (This month is called Nisan after the Babylonian exile.) This is the first month of the Hebrew calendar. It marks when God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt. It is at the beginning of the spring season when the late rains come and people begin to harvest their crops. It is during the last part of March and the first part of April on western calendars. The Passover celebration started on Abib 10. The Festival of Unleavened Bread was soon after Passover.

Ziv - This is the second month of the Hebrew calendar. This is during the harvest season. It is during the last part of April and the first part of May on western calendars.

Sivan - This is the third month of the Hebrew calendar. It is at the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the dry season. It is during the last part of May and the first part of June on western calendars. The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost is celebrated on Sivan 6.

Tammuz - This is the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar. It is during the dry season. It is during the last part of June and the first part of July on western calendars.

Ab - This is the fifth month of the Hebrew calendar. It is during the dry season. It is during the last part of July and the first part of August on western calendars.

Elul - This is the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar. It is at the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season. It is during the last part of August and the first part of September on western calendars.

Ethanim - This is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. This is during the early rain season which would soften the land for sowing. It is during the last part of September and the first part of October on western calendars. The Festival of Shelters and the Day of Atonement are celebrated in this month.

Bul - This is the eighth month of the Hebrew calendar. It is during the rainy season when people plough their fields and sow seed. It is during the last part of October and the first part of November on western calendars.

Kislev - This is the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar. This is at the end of the sowing season and the beginning of the cold season. It is during the last part of November and the first part of December on western calendars.

Tebeth - This is the tenth month of the Hebrew calendar. It is during the cold season when there may be rain and snow. It is during the last part of December and the first part of January on western calendars.

Shebat - This is the eleventh month of the Hebrew calendar. This is the coldest month of the year, and it has heavy rainfall. It is during the last part of January and the first part of February on western calendars.

Adar - This is the twelfth and last month of the Hebrew calendar. This is during the cold season. It is during the last part of February and the first part of March on western calendars. The feast called Purim is celebrated in Adar.

Examples from the Bible

You are going out of Egypt on this day, in the month of Abib. (Exodus 13:4 ULB)

You must eat unleavened bread from twilight of the fourteenth day in the first month of the year, until twilight of the twenty-first day of the month. (Exodus 12:18 ULB)

Translation Strategies

You may need to make some information about the months explicit. (see Assumed Knowledge and Implicit Information)

  1. Tell the the number of the Hebrew month.
  2. Use the months that people know.
  3. State clearly what season the month occurred in.
  4. Refer to the time in terms of the season rather than in terms of the month. (If possible, use a footnote to show the Hebrew month and day.)

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

The examples below use these two verses.

  • At that time, you will appear before me in the month of Abib, which is fixed for this purpose. It was in this month that you came out from Egypt. (Exodus 23:15 ULB)
  • It will always be a statute for you that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you must humble yourselves and do no work ... (Leviticus 16:29 ULB)
  1. Tell the number of the Hebrew month.

    • At that time, you will appear before me in the first month of the year, which is fixed for this purpose. It was in this month that you came out from Egypt.
  2. Use the months that people know.

    • At that time, you will appear before me in the month of March, which is fixed for this purpose. It was in this month that you came out from Egypt.
    • It will always be a statute for you that on the day I choose in late September you must humble yourselves and do no work ...
  3. State clearly what season the month occurred in.

    • At that time, you will appear before me in the spring, in the month of March, which is fixed for this purpose. It was in this month that you came out from Egypt.
    • It will always be a statute for you that in the autumn, on the tenth day of the seventh month, you must humble yourselves and do no work ...
  4. Refer to the time in terms of the season rather than in terms of the month.

    • It will always be a statute for you that in the day I choose in early autumn[1] you must humble yourselves and do no work ...
      • The footnote would look like: [1]The Hebrew says, "the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month."

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Ordinal Numbers

](#translate-ordinal)*


Numbers

This page answers the question: *How do I translate numbers?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Translate Unknowns

](#translate-unknown)*

Description

There are many numbers in the Bible. They can be written as words, such as "five" or as numerals, such as "5." Some numbers are very large, such as "two hundred" (200), "twenty-two thousand" (22,000), or "one hundred million" (100,000,000.)

Reasons this is a translation issue

  • Some languages do not have words for some of these numbers.
  • Translators need to decide how to translate numbers.
  • Translators need to decide whether to write them as words or numerals.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes authors used exact numbers.

When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived eight hundred years. He became the father of more sons and daughters. Jared lived 962 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:18-20 ULB)

  • The numbers 162, eight hundred, and 962 are exact numbers and should be translated with something as close to those numbers as possible.

Sometimes authors used rounded, or less exact, numbers.

Our sister, may you be the mother of thousands of ten thousands ... (Genesis 24:60 ULB)

  • This is a rounded number. It does not say exactly how many descendants she should have, but it was a huge number of them.

Translation Strategies

  1. Write numbers using numerals.
  2. Write numbers using your language's words or the gateway language words for those numbers.
  3. Write numbers using words, and put the numerals in parenthesis after them.
  4. Combine words for large numbers.
  5. Use a very general expression for very large rounded numbers and write the numeral in parentheses afterward.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

We will use the following verse in our examples: * Now, see, at great effort I have prepared for the house of Yahweh 100,000 talents of gold, one million talents of silver, and bronze and iron in large quantities. (1 Chronicles 22:14 ULB)

  1. Write numbers using numerals.

    • I have prepared for the house of Yahweh 100,000 talents of gold, 1,000,000 talents of silver, and bronze and iron in large quantities.
  2. Write numbers using your language's words or the gateway language words for those numbers.

    • I have prepared for the house of Yahweh one hundred thousand talents of gold, one million talents of silver, and bronze and iron in large quantities.
  3. Write numbers using words, and put the numerals in parenthesis after them.

    • I have prepared for the house of Yahweh one hundred thousand (100,000) talents of gold, one million (1,000,000) talents of silver, and bronze and iron in large quantities.
  4. Combine words for large numbers.

    • I have prepared for the house of Yahweh a hundred thousand talents of gold, a thousand thousand talents of silver, and bronze and iron in large quantities.
  5. Use a very general expression for very large rounded numbers and write the numeral in parentheses afterward.

    • I have prepared for the house of Yahweh a great amount of gold (100,000 talents), ten times that amount of silver (1,000,000 talents), and bronze and iron in large quantities.

Consistency in Writing Numbers

Consistency in your translation

Be consistent in your translations. Decide how the numbers will be translated, using numbers or numerals. There are different ways of being consistent.

  • Use words to represent numbers all of the time. (You might have very long words.)
  • Use numerals to represent numbers all of the time.
  • Use words to represent the numbers that your language has words for and use numerals for the numbers that your language does not have words for.
  • Use words for low numbers and numerals for high numbers.
  • Use words for numbers that require few words and numerals for numbers that require more than a few words.
  • Use words to represent numbers, and write the numerals in parentheses after them.

Consistency in the ULB and UDB

The Unlocked Literal Bible (ULB) and the Unlocked Dynamic Bible (UDB) use words for numbers that have only one or two words (nine, sixteen, three hundred). They use numerals for numbers that have more than two words (the numerals "130" instead of "one hundred thirty").

When Adam had lived 130 years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and he called his name Seth. After Adam became the father of Seth, he lived eight hundred years. He became the father of more sons and daughters. Adam lived 930 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:3-5 ULB)

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Ordinal Numbers

](#translate-ordinal)* * *[Fractions

](#translate-fraction)*


Ordinal Numbers

This page answers the question: *What are ordinal numbers and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Numbers

](#translate-numbers)*

Description

Ordinal numbers are used to tell the position of something in a series or list. Examples are "first," "second," "third," "fourth," and "fifth."

Ordinal Numbers in English

Most ordinal numbers in English simply have "-th" added to the end.

Numeral Number Ordinal Number
4 four fourth
10 ten tenth
100 one hundred one hundredth
1,000 one thousand one thousandth

Some ordinal numbers in English do not follow that pattern.

Numeral Number Ordinal Number
1 one first
2 two second
3 three third
5 five fifth
12 twelve twelfth

Reasons this is a translation issue:

Some languages do not have special numbers for showing the order of items in a series or list. There are different ways to deal with this.

Examples from the Bible

Sometimes ordinal numbers are used to show the position of physical objects in relation to each other.

You must place in it four rows of precious stones. The first row must have a ruby, a topaz, and a garnet. The second row must have an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. The third row must have a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row must have a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper. They must be mounted in gold settings. (Exodus 28:17-20 ULB)

  • This describes four rows of stones. The first row is probably the top row, and the fourth row is probably the bottom row.

Sometimes ordinal numbers are used to show the order of events in time.

The first lot went to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, ... the twenty-third to Delaiah, and the twenty-fourth to Maaziah. (1 Chronicles 24:7-18 ULB)

  • People tossed lots, and one lot went to each of these people in the order given.

Sometimes it is not clear what the ordinal numbers are showing. T

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then those who do powerful deeds ... (1 Corinthians 12:28 ULB)

  • This is a list of the kinds of workers that God gave to the church. They may be listed in order of importance, in order of when their work began, or in order of something else.

Translation Strategies

If your language has ordinal numbers and using them would give the right meaning, consider using them. If not, here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Use "one" with the first item and "another" or "the next" with the rest.
  2. Tell the total number of items and then list them or the things associated with them.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Tell the total number of items, and use "one" with the first item and "another" or "the next" with the rest.

    • The first lot went to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, ... the twenty-third to Delaiah, and the twenty-fourth to Maaziah. (1 Chronicles 24:7-18 ULB)
      • There were twenty-four lots. One lot went to Jehoiarib, another to Jedaiah,  another  to Harim, ... another to Delaiah, and the last went to  Maaziah.
      • There were twenty-four lots. One lot went to Jehoiarib, the next to Jedaiah,  the next  to Harim, ... the next to Delaiah, and the last went to  Maaziah.
    • A river went out of Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon. It is the one which flows throughout the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good. There is also bdellium and the onyx stone. The name of the second river is Gihon. This one flows throughout the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14 ULB)
      • A river went out of Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and became four rivers. The name of one is Pishon. It is the one which flows throughout the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good. There is also bdellium and the onyx stone. The name of the next river is Gihon. This one flows throughout the whole land of Cush. The name of the next river is Tigris, which flows east of Asshur. The last river is the Euphrates.
  2. Tell the total number of items and then list them or the things associated with them.

    • The first lot went to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, the third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, ... the twenty-third to Delaiah, and the twenty-fourth to Maaziah. (1 Chronicles 24:7-18 ULB)
      • They cast twenty-four lots. The lots went to Jerhoiarib, Jedaiah, Harim, Seorim, ... Delaiah, and Maaziah.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Fractions

](#translate-fraction)*


Fractions

This page answers the question: *What are fractions and how can I translate them?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Numbers

](#translate-numbers)*

Description

Fractions are a kind of number that refer to equal parts of a thing or to equal groups within a larger group of people or things. An item or a group of items is divided into two or more parts or groups, and a fraction refers to one or more of those parts or groups.

For the drink offering, you must offer a third of a hin of wine. (Numbers 15:7 ULB)

A hin is a container used for measuring wine and other liquids. They were to think about dividing a hin container into three equal parts and fill up only one of those parts, and offer that amount.

... a third of the ships were destroyed. (Revelation 8:9 ULB)

There were many ships. If all those ships were divided into three equal groups of ships, one group of ships was destroyed.

Most fractions in English simply have "-th" added to the end of the number.

Number of parts the whole is divided into Fraction
four fourth
ten tenth
one hundred one hundredth
one thousand one thousandth

Some fractions in English do not follow that pattern.

Number of parts the whole is divided into Fraction
two half
three third
five fifth

Reasons this is a translation issue

Some languages do not use fractions. They may simply talk about parts or groups, but they do not use fractions to tell how big a part is or how many are included in a group.

Examples From the Bible

Now to one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given an inheritance in Bashan, but to the other half, Joshua gave an inheritance beside their brothers in the land west of the Jordan. (Joshua 22:7 ULB)

The tribe of Manasseh divided into two groups. The phrase "one half of the tribe of Manasseh" refers one of those groups. The phrase "the other half" refers to the other group.

The four angels who had been prepared for that very hour, that day, that month, and that year, were released to kill a third of mankind. (Revelation 9:15 ULB)

If all the people were to be divided into three equal groups, then the number of people in one group would be killed.

You must also offer with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, one-fourth of a hin of wine for the drink offering for each lamb. (Numbers 15:5 ULB)

They were to imagine dividing a hin of wine into four equal parts and prepare the amount equal to one of them.

Translation Strategies

If a fraction in your language would give the right meaning, consider using it. If not, you could consider these strategies.

  1. Tell the number of parts or groups that the item would be divided into, and then tell the number of parts or groups that is being referred to.
  2. For measurements such as for weight and length, use a unit that your people might know or the unit in the UDB.
  3. For measurements, use ones that are used in your language. In order to do that you would need to know how your measurements relates to the metric system and figure out each measurement.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Tell the number of parts or groups that the item would be divided into, and then tell the number of parts or groups that is being referred to.

    • A third of the ocean became blood ... (Revelation 8:8 ULB)
      • It was like they divided the ocean into three parts, and one part of the ocean became blood.
    • ... then you must offer with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil. (Numbers 15:9 ULB)
      • ... then you must divide an ephah of fine flour into ten parts and divide a hin of oil into two parts. Then mix three of those parts of the flour with one of the parts of oil. Then you must offer that grain offering along with the bull.
  2. For measurements, use the measurements that are given in the UDB. The translators of the UDB have already figured how to represent the amounts in the metric system.

    • The charge was two-thirds of a shekel ... (1 Samuel 13:21 ULB)
      • They needed to pay about eight grams of silver ... (1 Samuel 13:21 UDB)
    • ... three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil. (Numbers 15:9 ULB)
      • ... about six and one-half liters of finely ground flour mixed with about two liters of olive oil. (Numbers 15:9 UDB)
  3. For measurements, use ones that are used in your language. In order to do that you would need to know how your measurements relates to the metric system and figure out each measurement.

    • ... three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil. (Numbers 15:9 ULB)
      • ... six quarts of fine flour mixed with two quarts of oil.

Next we recommend you learn about:

  • *[Ordinal Numbers

](#translate-ordinal)* * *[Biblical Money

](#translate-bmoney)*


Symbolic Action

This page answers the question: *What is a symbolic action and how do I translate it?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Translate Unknowns

](#translate-unknown)*

Description

A symbolic action is something that someone does in order to express a certain idea. For example, in some cultures people nod their head up and down to mean "Yes" or turn their head from side to side to mean "No." In the Bible, sometimes people perform symbolic actions and sometimes they only refer to the symbolic action. Symbolic actions do not mean the same things in all cultures.

Reasons this is a translation issue

An action may have a meaning in one culture, and a different meaning or no meaning at all in another culture. For example, in some cultures raising the eyebrows means "I am surprised" or "What did you say?" In others cultures it means "Yes."

In the Bible people did things that had certain meanings in their culture. When we read the Bible we might not understand what someone meant if we interpret the action based on what it means in our own culture.

Translators need to understand what people in the Bible meant when they used symbolic actions. If an action does not mean the same thing in their own culture, they need to figure out how to translate what the action meant.

Examples from the Bible

Behold, a man named Jairus ... fell down at Jesus's feet ... (Luke 8:41 ULB)

Meaning of symbolic action: He did this to show great respect to Jesus.

Look, I am standing at the door and am knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to his home and will eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 ULB)

Meaning of symbolic action: When people wanted someone to welcome them into their home, they stood at the door and knocked on it.

Translation Strategies

If people would correctly understand what a symbolic action meant to the people in the Bible, consider using it. If not, here are some strategies for translating it.

  1. Tell what the person did and why he did it.
  2. Do not tell what the person did, but tell what he meant.
  3. Use an action from your own culture that has the same meaning. Do this only in poetry, parables, and sermons. Do not do this when there actually was a person who did a specific action.

Examples of Translation Strategies Applied

  1. Tell what the person did and why he did it.

    • Behold, a man named Jairus ... fell down at Jesus's feet ... (Luke 8:41 ULB)
      • Behold, a man named Jairus ... fell down at Jesus's feet in order to show that he greatly respected him ...
    • Look, I am standing at the door and am knocking. (Revelation 3:20 ULB)
      • Look, I am standing at the door and knocking on it, asking you to let me in.
  2. Do not tell what the person did, but tell what he meant.

    • Behold, a man named Jairus ... fell down at Jesus's feet ... (Luke 8:41)
      • Behold, a man named Jairus ... showed Jesus great respect ...
    • Look, I am standing at the door and am knocking. (Revelation 3:20)
      • Look, I am standing at the door and asking you to let me in.
  3. Use an action from your own culture that has the same meaning.

    • Behold, a man named Jairus ... fell down at Jesus's feet ... (Luke 8:41 ULB) - Since Jairus actually did this, we would not substitute an action from our own culture.
    • Look, I am standing at the door and am knocking. (Revelation 3:20 ULB) - Jesus was not standing at a real door. Rather he was speaking about wanting to have a relationship with people. So in cultures where it is polite to clear one's throat when wanting to be let into a house, you could use that.
      • Look, I am standing at the door and clearing my throat.

Biblical Imagery

Biblical Imagery

This page answers the question: *What kinds of imagery are commonly used in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Introduction to Figures of Speech

](#figs-intro)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Imagery is language in which an image is paired with another idea so that the image represents the idea. This includes metaphors, similes, metonymies, and cultural models. Most of these things in a language come from broad patterns of pairings between images and ideas, but some do not. These pages on Biblical Imagery tell about patterns of imagery in the Bible.

The patterns of pairings found in the Bible are often unique to the Hebrew and Greek languages. It is useful to recognize these patterns because they repeatedly present translators with the same problems on how to translate them. Once translators think through how they will handle these translation challenges, they will be ready to meet them anywhere they see the same patterns.

Common Patterns in Metaphors and Similes

A metaphor occurs when someone speaks of one thing as if it were a different thing. The speaker does this in order to effectively describe the first thing. For example, in "My love is a red, red rose," the speaker is describing the woman he loves as beautiful and delicate, as though she were a flower.

A simile is like a metaphor, except that it uses words such as "like" or "as" as a signal to the audience that it is a figure of speech. A simile using the image above would say, "My love is like a red, red rose."

"see Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns for links to pages showing common patterns of pairings between ideas in metaphors and similes."

Common Metonymies

In metonymy, a thing or idea is called not by its own name, but by the name of something closely associated with it.

"see Biblical Imagery - Common Metonymies for a list of some common metonymies in the Bible"

Cultural Models

Cultural models are mental pictures of parts of life or behavior. These pictures help us imagine and talk about these things. For example, Americans often think of many things, including marriage and friendship, as if they were machines. Americans might say, "His marriage is breaking down," or "Their friendship is going full speed ahead."

The Bible often speaks of God as if he were a shepherd and his people were sheep. This is a cultural model.

Yahweh is my shepherd; I will lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1 ULB)

He led his own people out like sheep and guided them through the wilderness like a flock. (Psalm 78:52 ULB)

Some of the cultural models in the Bible were used much by the cultures in the Ancient Near East, and not only by the Israelites.

"see Biblical Imagery - Cultural Models for a list of cultural models in the Bible."


Biblical Imagery - Common Metonymies

This page answers the question: *What are some common metonymies used in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery

](#biblicalimageryta)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some common metonymies from the Bible are listed below in alphabetical order. The word in all capital letters represents an idea. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

A CUP or bowl represents what is in it

My cup runs over. (Psalm 23:5 ULB)

There is so much in the cup that it runs over the top of the cup.

For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26 ULB)

People do not drink cups. They drink what is in the cup.

The MOUTH, LIPS, or TONGUE represents speech or words

A fool's mouth is his ruin, and he ensnares himself with his lips. (Proverbs 18:7 ULB)

The words of one who speaks rashly are like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

Oh, how I would encourage you with my mouth! (Job 16:5 ULB)

I heard you when you boasted against me with your mouth; you said many things against me. I heard them. (Ezekiel 35:13 ULB)

In these examples the mouth, lips, and tongue refer to what a person says.

The MEMORY OF A PERSON represents his descendants

The memory of a person represents his descendants, because they are the ones who should remember and honor him. When the Bible says that someone's memory dies, it means that either he will not have any descendants, or his descendants will all die.

You rebuked the nations; you have destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name forever. The enemy crumbled like ruins when you overthrew their cities. All remembrance of them has perished. (Psalm 9:5-6 ULB)

His roots will be dried up beneath; above will his branch be cut off. His memory will perish from the earth. (Job 18:16-17 ULB)

The face of Yahweh is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. (Psalm 34:16 ULB)

ONE PERSON represents a group of people

For the wicked person boasts of his deepest desires; he blesses the greedy and insults Yahweh. (Psalm 10:3 ULB)

This does not refer to a particular wicked person, but to wicked people in general.

A PERSON'S NAME represents his descendants

Gad—raiders will attack him, but he will attack them at their heels. Asher's food will be rich, and he will provide royal delicacies. Naphtali is a doe let loose; he will have beautiful fawns. (Genesis 49:19-21 ULB)

The names Gad, Asher, and Naphtali refer not only to those men, but to their descendants.

A PERSON represents himself and the people with him

It came about that when Abram entered into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was very beautiful. (Genesis 12:14 ULB)

Here when it says "Abram" it represents Abram and all the people traveling with him. The focus was on Abram.

PIERCING represents killing

His hand pierced the fleeing serpent. (Job 26:13 ULB)

This means that he killed the serpent.

Look, he is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. (Revelation 1:7 ULB)

"Those who pierced him" refers to those who killed Jesus.

SINS (INIQUITY) represent punishment for those sins

Yahweh has placed on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 ULB)

This means that Yahweh placed on him the punishment that should have gone to all of us.


Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

This page answers the question: *In the Bible, what ideas are often used to represent other ideas?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery

](#biblicalimageryta)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Simile

](#figs-simile)*

Description

In all languages, most metaphors come from broad patterns of pairings of ideas in which one idea represents another. For example, some languages have the pattern of pairing height with "much" and pairing being low with "not much," so that height represents "much" and being low represents "not much." This could be because when there is a lot of something in a pile, that pile will be high. So also if something costs a lot money, in some languages people would say that the price is high, or if a city has more people in it than it used to have, we might say that its number of people has gone up. Likewise if someone gets thinner and loses weight, we would say that their weight has gone down.

The patterns found in the Bible are often unique to the Hebrew and Greek languages. It is useful to recognize these patterns because they repeatedly present translators with the same problems on how to translate them. Once translators think through how they will handle these translation challenges, they will be ready to meet them anywhere.

For example, one pattern of pairings in the Bible is of walking with "behaving" and a path with a kind of behavior. In Psalm 1:1 walking in the advice of the wicked represents doing what wicked people say to do.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked. (Psalm 1:1 ULB)

This pattern is also seen in Psalm 119:32 where running in the path of God's commands represents doing what God commands. Since running is more intense than walking, the idea of running here might give the idea of doing this whole-heartedly.

I will run in the path of your commandments. (Psalm 119:32 ULB)

Reasons this is a translation issue

These patterns present three challenges to anyone who wants to identify them:

Determining whether or not there are paired ideas

When looking at a particular expression, the translator needs to know whether or not it represents something. This can only be done by considering the surrounding text. The surrounding text shows us, for example, whether "lamp" refers concretely to a container with oil and a wick for giving light or whether "lamp" is an image that represents life. (see "FIRE or LAMP represents life" in Biblical Imagery - Natural Phenomena) In 1 Kings 7:50, a lamp trimmer is a tool for trimming the wick on an ordinary lamp. In 2 Samuel 21:17 the lamp of Israel represents King David's life. When his men were concerned that he might "put out the lamp of Israel," they were concerned that he might be killed.

Solomon also had made the cups, lamp trimmers, basins, spoons, and incense burners, all of which were all made of pure gold. (1 Kings 7:50 ULB)

Ishbi-Benob...intended to kill David. But Abishai son of Zeruiah rescued David, attacked the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, "You must not go to battle anymore with us, so that you do not put out the lamp of Israel." (2 Samuel 21:16-17 ULB)

Identifying paired ideas

When looking at particular metaphors in the Bible, it is not always obvious what two ideas are paired with each other. For example, it may not be immediately obvious that the expression, "It is God who puts strength on me like a belt" (Psalm 18:32 ULB) is based on the pairing of clothing with moral quality. In this case, the image of a belt represents strength. (see "Clothing represents a moral quality" in Biblical Imagery - Man-made Objects)

Identifying combinations of paired ideas

Expressions that are based on these pairings of ideas frequently combine together in complex ways. Moreover, they frequently combine with—and in some cases are based on—common metonymies and cultural models. (see Biblical Imagery - Common Metonymies and Biblical Imagery - Cultural Models)

For example, in 2 Samuel 14:7 below, "the burning coal" is an image for the life of the son, who represents what will cause people to remember his father. So there are two patterns of pairings here: the pairing of the burning coal with the life of the son, and the pairing of the son with the memory of his father.

They say, 'Give into our hand the man who struck his brother, so that we may put him to death, to pay for the life of his brother whom he killed.' And so they would also destroy the heir. Thus they will put out the burning coal that I have left, and they will leave for my husband neither name nor descendant on the surface of the earth. (2 Samuel 14:7 ULB)

Links to Lists of Images in the Bible

The following pages have lists of some of the ideas that represent others in the Bible, together with examples from the Bible. They are organized according to the kinds of image:


Biblical Imagery - Animals

This page answers the question: *What are some examples of animals and animal body parts that are used as images in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible involving body parts and human qualities are listed below in alphabetical order. The word in all capital letters represents an idea. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

An ANIMAL HORN represents strength

God is my rock. I take refuge in him. He is my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, the one who saves me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3 ULB)

The "horn of my salvation" is the strong one who saves me.

There I will make a horn to sprout for David. (Psalm 132:17 ULB)

The "horn" of David is King David's military strength.

BIRDS represent people who are in danger and defenseless

This is because some birds are easily trapped.

I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies. (Lamentations 3:52 ULB)

Save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:5 ULB)

A fowler is a person who catches birds.

We have escaped like a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. (Psalm 124:7 ULB)

A snare is a small trap.

BIRDS THAT EAT MEAT represent enemies who attack swiftly

In Habakkuk and Hosea, Israel's enemies who would come and attack them were compared to an eagle.

Their horsemen come from a great distance—they fly like an eagle hurrying to eat. (Habakkuk 1:8 ULB)

An eagle is coming over the house of Yahweh. ... Israel has rejected what is good, and the enemy will pursue him. (Hosea 8:1, 3 ULB)

In Isaiah, God called a certain foreign king a bird of prey because he would come quickly and attack Israel's enemies.

I call a bird of prey from the east, the man of my choice from a distant land. (Isaiah 46:11 ULB)

A BIRD'S WINGS represent protection

This is because birds spread their wings over their chicks to protect them from danger.

Protect me like the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings from the presence of the wicked ones who assault me, my enemies who surround me. (Psalm 17:8-9 ULB)

Here is another example of how the wings represent protection.

Be merciful to me, God, be merciful to me, for I take refuge in you until these troubles are over. I stay under your wings for protection until this destruction is over. (Psalm 57:1 ULB)

DANGEROUS ANIMALS represent dangerous people

In Psalms, David referred to his enemies as lions.

My life is among lions; I am among those who are ready to devour me. I am among people whose teeth are spears and arrows, and whose tongues are sharp swords. (Psalm 57:4 ULB)

Peter called the devil a roaring lion.

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil is stalking around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ULB)

In Matthew, Jesus called false prophets wolves because of the harm they did to people by their lies.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but are truly ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 ULB)

In Matthew, John the Baptist called the religious leaders vipers because of the harm they did by teaching lies. Vipers are a kind of poisonous snake.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him for baptism, he said to them, "You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath that is coming? (Matthew 3:7 ULB)

EAGLES represent strength

He satisfies your life with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. (Psalm 103:5 ULB)

For Yahweh says this, "See, the enemy will come flying like an eagle, spreading out his wings over Moab." (Jeremiah 48:40 ULB)

SHEEP or a FLOCK OF SHEEP represents people who need to be led or are in danger

My people have been a lost flock. Their shepherds have led them astray in the mountains. (Jeremiah 50:6 ULB)

He led his own people out like sheep and guided them through the wilderness like a flock. (Psalm 78:52 ULB)

Israel is a wandering sheep driven away by lions. First the king of Assyria devoured him; then after this, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon broke his bones. (Jeremiah 50:17 ULB)

See, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Watch out for people! They will deliver you up to councils, and they will whip you in their synagogues. (Matthew 10:16 ULB)


Biblical Imagery - Body Parts and Human Qualities

This page answers the question: *What are some examples of body parts and human qualities that are used as images in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible involving body parts and human qualities are listed below in alphabetical order. The word in all capital letters represents an idea. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

The BODY represents a group of people

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27 ULB)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, that is, Christ. Christ builds the whole body, and it is joined and held together by every supporting ligament, and when each part works together, that makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ULB)

In these verses, the body of Christ represents the group of people who follow Christ.

The FACE represents someone's presence

Do you not fear me—this is Yahweh's declaration—or tremble before my face? (Jeremiah 5:22 ULB)

To be before someone's face is to be in their presence, that is, to be with them.

The FACE represents someone's attention

Every man of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart, or who puts the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and who then comes to a prophet—I, Yahweh, will answer him according to the number of his idols. (Ezekiel 14:4 ULB)

To put something before one's face is to look at it intently or pay attention to it.

Many are those who seek the face of the ruler. (Proverbs 29:26 ULB)

If someone seeks another person's face, he hopes that the person will pay attention to him.

Why do you hide your face and forget our affliction and our oppression? (Psalm 44:24 ULB)

To hide one's face from someone is to ignore him.

The FACE represents surface

The famine was over all the face of the whole land. (Genesis 41:56 ULB)

They cover the face of the earth and they are right now next to me. (Numbers 22:5 ULB)

The HAND represents a person's agency or power

God has burst through my enemies by my hand like a bursting flood of water. (1 Chronicles 14:11 ULB)

"Yahweh has burst through my enemies by my hand" means "Yahweh has used me to burst through my enemies."

Your hand will seize all your enemies; your right hand will seize those who hate you. (Psalm 21:8 ULB)

"Your hand will seize all your enemies" means "By your power you will seize all your enemies."

Look, Yahweh's hand is not so short that it cannot save. (Isaiah 59:1 ULB)

"His hand is not short" means that he is not weak.

The HEAD represents the ruler, the one who has authority over others

God put all things under Christ's feet and gave him to the church as head over all things. (Ephesians 1:22 ULB)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, and Christ himself is its Savior. (Ephesians 5:22-23 ULB)

A MASTER represents anything that motivates someone to act

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24 ULB)

To serve God is to be motivated by God. To serve money is to be motivated by money.

A NAME represents the person who has that name

May your God make the name of Solomon better than your name, and make his throne greater than your throne." 1 Kings 1:47 (ULB)

See, I have sworn by my great name—says Yahweh. My name will no longer be called upon by the mouths of any of the men of Judah in all the land of Egypt." (Jeremiah 44:26 ULB)

If someone's name is great, it means that he is great.

Yahweh, I beg you, listen now to the prayer of your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight to honor your name. (Nehemiah 1:11 ULB)

To honor someone's name is to honor him.

A NAME represents the fame or reputation of a person

You must no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and your idols. (Ezekiel 20:39 ULB)

To profane God's name is to profane his reputation, that is, to profane how people think about him.

For I will make my great name holy, which you have profaned among the nations. (Ezekiel 36:23 ULB)

To make God's name holy is to cause people to to see that God is holy.

Your servants have come here from a land very far away, because of the name of Yahweh your God. We have heard a report about him and about everything that he did in Egypt. (Joshua 9:9 ULB)

The fact that the men said they heard a report about Yahweh shows that "because of the name of Yahweh" means because of Yahweh's reputation.

The NOSE represents anger

The foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, Yahweh, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. (Psalm 18:15 ULB)

By the blast of your nostrils the waters were piled up. (Exodus 15:8 ULB)

Smoke went up from out of his nostrils, and blazing fire came out of his mouth. (2 Samuel 22:9 ULB)

A blast of air or smoke coming from someone's nose shows his great anger.

RAISED EYES represents arrogance

For you save afflicted people, but you bring down those with proud, uplifted eyes! (Psalm 18:27 ULB)

Uplifted eyes show that a person is proud.

God humbles a proud man, and he saves the one with lowered eyes. (Job 22:29 ULB)

Lowered eyes show that a person is humble.

The SON OF SOMETHING shares its qualities

No son of wickedness will oppress him. (Psalm 89:22 ULB)

A son of wickedness is a wicked person.

May the groans of the prisoners come before you; with the greatness of your power keep the children of death alive. (Psalm 79:11 ULB)

Children of death here are people whom others plan to kill.

Once we all lived among these people, fulfilling the evil desires of our sinful nature, and carrying out the desires of the body and of the mind. We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of humanity. (Ephesians 2:3 ULB)

Children of wrath here are people with whom God is very angry.

Translation Strategies

(see the Translations Strategies on Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns)


Biblical Imagery - Farming

This page answers the question: *What are some examples in the Bible of images taken from farming?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible related to farming are listed below. The word in all capital letters represents an idea. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does appear.

A FARMER represents God, and the VINEYARD represents his chosen people

My well beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He spaded it, removed the stones, and planted it with an excellent kind of vine. He built a tower in the middle of it, and also built a winepress. He waited for it to produce grapes, but it only produced wild grapes. (Isaiah 5:1-2)

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. (Matthew 20:1 ULB)

There was a man, a landowner. He planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a winepress in it, built a watchtower, and rented it out to vine growers. Then he went into another country. (Matthew 21:33 ULB)

The GROUND represents people's hearts (inner being)

For Yahweh says this to each person in Judah and Jerusalem: 'Plow your own ground, and do not sow among thorns. (Jeremiah 4:3 ULB)

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom but does not understand it.... This is the seed that was sown beside the road. What was sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy....What was sown among the thorn plants, this is the person who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word.... The seed that was sown on the good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands it. (Matthew 13:19-23 ULB)

Break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek Yahweh.... (Hosea 10:12 ULB)

SOWING or PLANTING represents actions or attitudes, and REAPING or GATHERING, represents judgment or reward

According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it. (Job 4:8 ULB)

Do not be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man plants, that he will also gather in. For he who plants seed to his own sinful nature, from the sinful nature will gather destruction. The one who plants seed to the Spirit, from the spirit will gather in eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 ULB)

THRESHING and WINNOWING represent the separation of evil people from good people

After farmers harvest wheat and other types of grain, they bring them to a threshing floor, a flat place with hard ground, and have oxen pull heavy wheeled carts or sleds without wheels over the grain to thresh it, to separate the usable grains from the useless chaff. Then they take large forks and winnow the threshed grain by throwing it up in the air so the wind can carry off the chaff while the grains fall back to the threshing floor, where they can be gathered and used for food. (See the information in Translation Words for help with translating "thresh" and "winnow.")

So I will winnow them with a pitchfork at the gates of the land. I will bereave them. I will destroy my people since they will not turn from their ways. (Jeremiah 15:7 ULB)

His winnowing fork is in his hand to thoroughly clear off his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse. But he will burn up the chaff with fire that can never be put out. (Luke 3:17 ULB)

GRAFTING represents God's allowing the Gentiles to become his people

For if you were cut out of what is by nature a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into a good olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree? For I do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, of this mystery, so that you may not be wise in your own thinking: A partial hardening has come upon Israel until the full number of the Gentiles comes in. (Romans 11:24-25 ULB)

RAIN represents God's gifts to his people

...he comes and rains righteousness on you. (Hosea 10:12 ULB)

For the land that drinks in the rain that often comes on it, and that gives birth to the plants useful to those for whom the land was worked—this is the land that receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and is near to a curse. Its end is in burning. (Hebrews 6:7-8 ULB)

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit from the ground and he is patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. (James 5:7 ULB)


Biblical Imagery - Human Behavior

This page answers the question: *What are some examples of things people do that are used as images in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible involving human behavior are listed below. The word in all capital letters represents an image. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

BEING BENT OVER represents being discouraged

Yahweh supports all who are falling and raises up all those who are bent over. (Psalm 145:14 ULB)

BIRTH PAINS represent the suffering that is necessary to achieve a new condition

Be in pain and labor to give birth, daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor. For now you will go out of the city, live in the field, and go to Babylon. There you will be rescued. There Yahweh will rescue you from the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4:10 ULB)

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. But all these things are only the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:7-8 ULB)

My little children, again I am in the pains of childbirth for you until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19 ULB)

BEING CALLED SOMETHING represents being that thing

The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth. (Isaiah 54:5b ULB)

This is because he actually is the God of the whole earth.

The one who is wise in heart is called discerning. (Proverbs 16:21a ULB)

This is because he actually is discerning.

He will ... be called the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:32 ULB)

This is because he actually is the Son of the Most High.

So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35 ULB)

This is because he actually is the Son of God.

CLEANLINESS represents being acceptable for God's purposes

Noah built an altar to Yahweh. He took some of the clean animals and some of the clean birds, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20 ULB)

The priest will examine him again on the seventh day to see if the disease is better and has not spread farther in the skin. If it has not, then the priest will pronounce him clean. It is a rash. He must wash his clothes, and then he is clean. (Leviticus 13:6 ULB)

CLEANSING or PURIFYING represents making something acceptable for God's Purposes

He must go out to the altar.... He must sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and set it apart to Yahweh, away from the unclean actions of the people of Israel. (Leviticus 16:18-19 ULB)

This is because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you from all your sins so you will be clean before Yahweh. (Leviticus 16:30 ULB)

UNCLEANLINESS represents not being acceptable for God's purposes

You may eat any animal that has a split hoof and that also chews the cud. However, some animals either chew the cud or have a split hoof, and you must not eat them, animals such as the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have a split hoof. So the camel is unclean to you. (Leviticus 11:3-4 ULB)

If any of them dies and falls on anything, that thing will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, leather, or sackcloth. Whatever it is and whatever it is used for, it must be put into water; it will be unclean until evening. Then it will be clean. (Leviticus 11:32 ULB)

MAKING SOMETHING UNCLEAN represents making it unacceptable for God's purposes.

Or if anyone touches anything God has designated as unclean, whether it be the carcass of an unclean wild animal or the carcass of any unclean livestock or unclean creatures that move along the ground, even though he was not aware of what he had done, he has become unclean and is guilty. (Leviticus 5:2 ULB)

BEING CUT OFF FROM SOMETHING represents being separated from it

Uzziah, the king, was a leper to the day of his death and lived in a separate house since he was a leper, for he was cut off from the house of Yahweh. (2 Chronicles 26:21 ULB)

BEING CUT OFF represents being killed

So you must keep the Sabbath, for it must be treated by you as holy, reserved for him. Everyone who defiles it must surely be put to death. Whoever works on the Sabbath, that person must surely be cut off from his people. (Exodus 31:14-15 ULB)

Whoever does not humble himself on that day must be cut off from his people. Whoever does any work on that day, I, Yahweh, will destroy him from among his people. (Leviticus 23:29-30 ULB)

But he was cut off from the land of the living. (Isaiah 53:8 ULB)

COMING AND STANDING BEFORE SOMEONE represents serving him

How blessed are your wives, and how blessed are your servants who constantly stand before you, because they hear your wisdom. (1 Kings 10:8 ULB)

Steadfast love and faithfulness come before you. (Psalm 89:14 ULB)

Steadfast love and faithfulness are also personified here. (see Personification)

DRUNKENNESS represents suffering, and WINE represents judgment

Too much wine makes a person weak, and he staggers. So too, when God judges people, they become weak and stagger. So the idea of wine is used to represent God's judgment.

You have made your people see difficult things; you have made us drink the wine of staggering. (Psalm 60:3 ULB)

But God is the judge; he brings down and he lifts up. For Yahweh holds in his hand a cup of foaming wine, which is mixed with spices, and pours it out. Surely all the wicked of the earth will drink it to the last drop. (Psalm 75:8 ULB)

He will also drink some of the wine of God's wrath, the wine that has been poured undiluted into the cup of his anger. (Revelation 14:10 ULB)

EATING UP represents destroying

God will bring [Israel] out of Egypt. He will have strength like a wild ox. He will eat up the nations who fight against him. He will break their bones to pieces. He will shoot them with his arrows. (Numbers 24:8 ULB)

Another word for "eat up" is devour.

Therefore as the tongue of fire devours stubble, and as the dry grass goes down in flame, so their root will rot, and their blossom will blow away like dust. (Isaiah 5:24 ULB)

Therefore Yahweh will raise up against him Rezin, his adversary, and will stir up his enemies, the Arameans on the east, and the Philistines on the west. They will devour Israel with open mouth. (Isaiah 9:11-12 ULB)

I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword will devour flesh with the blood of the killed and the captives, and from the heads of the leaders of the enemy. (Deuteronomy 32:42 ULB)

FALLING UPON or BEING UPON represents affecting

Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, so the man slept. (Genesis 2:21 ULB)

Will not his majesty terrify you, and the dread of him fall upon you? (Job 13:11 ULB)

Then the Spirit of Yahweh fell on me and he said for me to say ... (Ezekiel 11:5 ULB)

Now look, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will become blind. (Acts 13:11 ULB)

FOLLOWING SOMEONE represents being loyal to him

They broke away from Yahweh, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, the very gods of the peoples who were around them, and they bowed down to them. They provoked Yahweh to anger because they broke away from Yahweh and worshiped Baal and the Ashtoreths. (Judges 2:12-13 ULB)

For Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and he followed Molech, the disgusting idol of the Ammonites. (1 Kings 11:5 ULB)

Not one of them who despised me will see it, except for my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit. He has followed me fully; I will bring him into the land which he went to examine. His descendants will possess it. (Numbers 14:23-24 ULB)

INHERITING represents permanently possessing something

Then the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)

The blessing of God's complete rule is given as the permanent possession to those to whom the King is speaking.

Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Neither does what is perishable inherit what is imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50 ULB)

People cannot receive the kingdom of God in its complete form as a permanent possession while they are still in their mortal bodies.

An INHERITANCE represents something that someone permanently possesses

You will bring them and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance. (Exodus 15:17 ULB)

The mountain where God will be worshiped is viewed as his permanent possession.

Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as your inheritance. (Exodus 34:9 ULB)

Moses asks God to still accept the people of Israel as his special possession, that is, as the people permanently belonging to him.

... the richness of his glorious inheritance among all God's holy people. (Ephesians 1:18 ULB)

The wonderful things that God will give all who are set apart for him is viewed as their permanent possession.

An HEIR represents someone who is given something to possess forever

so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7 ULB)

Listen, my beloved brothers, did not God choose the poor of the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ULB)

It was by faith that Noah...condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7 ULB)

LYING DOWN represents DYING

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up a descendant after you, (2 Samuel 7:12 ULB)

[Ask them,] 'Are you really more beautiful than anyone else? Go down and lie down with the uncircumcised!' They will fall among those who were killed by the sword! [Egypt] is given to the sword; [her enemies] will seize her and her multitudes! (Ezekiel 32:19-20 ULB)

REIGNING OR RULING represents controlling

This happened so that, as sin ruled in death, even so grace might rule through righteousness for everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21 ULB)

Therefore do not let sin rule in your mortal body in order that you obey its lusts. (Romans 6:12 ULB)

RESTING or a RESTING PLACE represents a permanent beneficial situation

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, should I not seek a place for you to rest, so that things may go well for you?" (Ruth 3:1 ULB)

Therefore I vowed in my anger that they would never enter into my resting place. (Psalm 95:11 ULB)

This is my resting place forever; I will live here, for I desire [Zion]. (Psalm 132:14 ULB)

The nations will seek him out, and his resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10 ULB)

RISING, STANDING UP represents acting

Rise up for our help and redeem us for the sake of your covenant faithfulness. (Psalm 44:26 ULB)

SEEING SOMETHING represents being there

You will not let your faithful one see the pit. (Psalm 16:10 ULB)

SELLING represents handing over to someone's control. BUYING represents removing from someone's control

[Yahweh] sold [the Israelites] into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim. (Judges 3:8 ULB)

SITTING is ruling

A throne will be established in covenant faithfulness; and one from David's tent will faithfully sit there. (Isaiah 16:5 ULB)

STANDING represents successfully resisting

Hear, Israel; you are about to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, and cities that are great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard people say, 'Who can stand before the sons of Anak?' (Deuteronomy 9:1-2 ULB)

Who can stand before his wrath? Who can resist the fierceness of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken apart by him. (Nahum 1:6 ULB)

WALKING represents behaving and PATH (WAY) represents behavior

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked. (Psalm 1:1 ULB)

For Yahweh approves of the way of the righteous. (Psalm 1:6 ULB)

Turn from me the path of deceit. (Psalm 119:29 ULB)

I will run in the path of your commandments. (Psalm 119:32 ULB)


Biblical Imagery - Man-made Objects

This page answers the question: *What are some examples things people make that are used as images in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible involving man-made objects are listed below in alphabetical order. The word in all capital letters represents an image. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

BRONZE represents strength

He trains ... my arms to bend a bow of bronze. Psalm 18:34 ULB)

CHAINS represent control

Let us tear off the shackles they put on us and throw off their chains. Psalm 2:3

CLOTHING represents moral qualities (emotions, attitudes, spirit, life)

It is God who puts strength on me like a belt. (Psalm 18:32 ULB)

Righteousness will be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his hips. (Isaiah 11:5 ULB)

May my adversaries be clothed with shame; may they wear their shame like a robe. (Psalm 109:29 ULB)

I will clothe his enemies with shame. (Psalm 132:18 ULB)

A SNARE (A LIGHT TRAP FOR BIRDS WORKED BY CORDS) represents death

For he will rescue you from the snare of the hunter. (Psalm 91:3 ULB)

The cords of death surrounded me, and the snares of sheol confronted me. (Psalm 116:3 ULB)

The cords of the wicked have ensnared me. (Psalm 119:61 ULB)

The wicked have set a snare for me. (Psalm 119:110 ULB)

The wicked is ensnared by his own actions. (Psalm 9:16 ULB)

They mingled with the nations and learned their ways and worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. (Psalm 106:35-36 ULB)

In this case the snare was a persuasion to do evil, which leads to death.

A TENT represents a house, home, people in one's home, descendants

God will likewise destroy you forever; he will take you up and pluck you out of your tent. (Psalm 52:5 ULB)

The house of wicked people will be destroyed, but the tent of upright people will flourish. (Proverbs 14:11 ULB)

A throne will be established in covenant faithfulness, and one from David's tent will faithfully sit there. (Isaiah 16:5 ULB)


Biblical Imagery - Natural Phenomena

This page answers the question: *What are some examples of things in nature that are used as images in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible involving natural phenomena are listed below. The word in all capital letters represents an image. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

LIGHT represents someone's face (This often combines with FACE represents someone's presence)

Yahweh, lift up the light of your face on us. (Psalm 4:6 ULB)

For they did not obtain the land for their possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, because you were favorable to them. (Psalm 44:3 ULB)

They did not reject the light of my face. (Job 29:24 ULB)

Yahweh, they walk in the light of your face. (Psalm 89:15 ULB)

LIGHT represents goodness, and DARKNESS represents evil

But if your eye is bad, your whole body is full of darkness. Therefore, if the light that is in you is actually darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23 ULB)

SHADOW or DARKNESS represents death

Yet you have severely broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. (Psalm 44:19)

FIRE represents extreme feelings, particularly love or anger

Surging waters cannot quench love. (Song of Songs 8:7 ULB)

For a fire is kindled by my anger and is burning to the lowest sheol. (Deuteronomy 32:22 ULB)

Therefore, the anger of Yahweh was set on fire against Israel. (Judges 3:8 ULB)

When Yahweh heard this, he was angry; so his fire burned against Jacob, and his anger attacked Israel. (Psalm 78:21 ULB)

FIRE OR A LAMP represents life

They say, 'Give into our hand the man who struck his brother, so that we may put him to death, to pay for the life of his brother whom he killed.' So they would also destroy the heir. Thus they will put out the burning coal that I have left, and they will leave for my husband neither name nor descendant on the surface of the earth. (2 Samuel 14:7 ULB)

Ishbi-Benob... intended to kill David. But Abishai son of Zeruiah rescued David.... Then the men of David swore to him, saying, "You must not go to battle anymore with us, so that you do not put out the lamp of Israel (2 Samuel 21:17 ULB)

I will give one tribe to Solomon's son, so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 11:36 ULB)

Nevertheless for David's sake, Yahweh his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up his son after him in order to strengthen Jerusalem. (1 Kings 15:4 ULB)

Indeed, the light of the wicked person will be put out; the spark of his fire will not shine. The light will be dark in his tent; his lamp above him will be put out. (Job 18:5-6 ULB)

For you give light to my lamp; Yahweh my God lights up my darkness. (Psalm 18:28 ULB)

A dimly burning wick he will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3 ULB)

A WIDE SPACE reperesents safetey, security, and ease

They came against me on the day of my distress but Yahweh was my support! He set me free in a wide open place; he saved me because he was pleased with me. (Psalm 18:18-19 ULB)

You have made a wide place for my feet beneath me, so my feet have not slipped. (2 Samuel 22:37 ULB)

You made people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us out into a spacious place. (Psalm 66:12 ULB)

A NARROW SPACE represents danger or difficulties

Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness; give me room when I am hemmed in. Have mercy on me and listen to my prayer. Psalm 4:1 ULB)

For a prostitute is a deep pit, and an immoral woman is a narrow well. (Proverbs 23:27 ULB)

LIQUID represents a moral quality (emotion, attitude, spirit, life)

Yahweh has burst through my enemies before me like a bursting flood of water. (2 Samuel 5:20 ULB)

But he will make a full end to his enemies with an overwhelming flood. (Nahum 1:8 ULB)

I am being poured out like water. (Psalm 22:14 ULB)

It will come about afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. (Joel 2:28 ULB)

For it is great, the anger of Yahweh that has been poured out on us. (2 Chronicles 34:21 ULB)

WATER represents what someone says

A quarreling wife is a constant dripping of water. (Proverbs 19:13 ULB)

His lips are lilies, dripping with myrrh. (Song of Songs 5:13 ULB)

My groaning is poured out like water. (Job 3:24 ULB)

The words of a man's mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a flowing stream. (Proverbs 18:4 ULB)

FLOODING WATER represents disaster

I have come into deep waters, where the floods flow over me. (Psalm 69:2 ULB)

Do not let the floods of water overwhelm me. (Psalm 69:15 ULB)

Reach out your hand from above; rescue me out of many waters, from the hands of these foreigners. (Psalm 144:7 ULB)

A SPRING OF WATER represents the origins of something

The fear of Yahweh is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 14:27 ULB)

A ROCK represents protection

Yahweh is my rock, my fortress, the one who brings me to safety; he is my God, my rock; I take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:2 ULB)

Listen to me; rescue me quickly; be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me. (Psalm 31:2)

For in the day of trouble he will hide me in his shelter; in the cover of his tent he will conceal me. He will lift me high on a rock! Then my head will be lifted up above my enemies all around me. (Psalm 27:5-6)


Biblical Imagery - Plants

This page answers the question: *What are some examples of plants that are used as images in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery - Common Patterns

](#bita-part1)* * *[Metaphor

](#figs-metaphor)* * *[Metonymy

](#figs-metonymy)*

Description

Some images from the Bible involving plants are listed below in alphabetical order. The word in all capital letters represents an idea. The word does not necessarily appear in every verse that has the image, but the idea that the word represents does.

A BRANCH represents a person's descendant

In the examples below, Isaiah wrote about one of Jesse's descendants and Jeremiah wrote about one of David's descendants.

A shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his root will bear fruit. The Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. (Isaiah 11:1-2 ULB)

See, days are coming—this is Yahweh's declaration—when I will raise up for David a righteous branch. He will reign as king; he will act wisely and cause justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23:5 ULB)

In Job when it says "his branch will be cut off," it means that he will not have any descendants.

His roots will be dried up beneath; above will his branch be cut off. His memory will perish from the earth; he will have no name in the street. (Job 18:16-17 ULB)

A PLANT represents a person

God will likewise destroy you forever; he will ... root you out of the land of the living. (Psalm 52:5 ULB)

A PLANT represents an emotion or attitude

Just as planting one kind of seed results in that kind of plant growing, behaving in one way results in that kind of consequence.

The emotion or attitude in the verses is underlined below.

Sow righteousness for yourselves, and reap the fruit of covenant faithfulness. (Hosea 10:12 ULB)

According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap it. (Job 4:8 ULB)

For the people sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7 ULB)

You have turned ... the fruit of righteousness into bitterness. (Amos 6:12 ULB)

At that time, what fruit then did you have of the things of which you are now ashamed? (Romans 6:21 ULB)

A TREE represents a person

He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water that produces its fruit in its season, whose leaves do not wither; whatever he does will prosper. (Psalm 1:3 ULB)

I have seen the wicked and terrifying person spread out like a green tree in its native soil. (Psalm 37:35 ULB)

I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. (Psalm 52:8 ULB)


Biblical Imagery - Cultural Models

This page answers the question: *What are cultural models and what are some cultural models found in the Bible?

*

In order to understand this topic, it would be good to read:

  • *[Biblical Imagery

](#biblicalimageryta)*

Description

Cultural models are mental pictures of parts of life or behavior. These pictures help us imagine and talk about these topics. For example, Americans often think of many things, even marriage and friendship, as if they were machines. Americans might say "His marriage is breaking down" or "Their friendship is going full speed ahead." In this example, human relationships are modeled as a MACHINE.

Some cultural models, or mental pictures, found in the Bible are listed below. First there are models for God, then models for humans, things, and experiences. Each heading has the model written in capital letters. That word or phrase does not necessarily appear in every verse, but the idea does.

God is modeled as a HUMAN BEING

Although the Bible explicitly denies that God is a human being, he is often spoken of as doing things that humans do. But God is not human, so when the Bible says that God speaks, we should not think that he has vocal chords that vibrate. And when it says something about him doing something with his hand, we should not think that he has a physical hand.

If we hear the voice of Yahweh our God any longer, we will die. (Deuteronomy 5:25 ULB)

I have been strengthened by the hand of Yahweh my God. (Ezra 7:28 ULB)

The hand of God also came on Judah, to give them one heart, to carry out the command of the king and leaders by the word of Yahweh. (2 Chronicles 30:12 ULB)

The word "hand" here is a metonym that refers to God's power. (See: Metonymy)

God is modeled as a KING

For God is the King over all the earth. (Psalm 47:7 ULB)

For the kingdom is Yahweh's; he is the ruler over the nations. (Psalm 22:28 ULB)

Your throne, God, is forever and ever; a scepter of justice is the scepter of your kingdom. (Psalm 45:6 ULB)

This is what Yahweh says, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. (Isaiah 66:1 ULB)

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. (Psalm 47:8 ULB)

God is modeled as a SHEPHERD and his people are modeled as SHEEP

Yahweh is my shepherd; I will lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1 ULB)

His people are sheep.

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95:7 ULB)

He leads his people like sheep.

He led his own people out like sheep and guided them through the wilderness like a flock. (Psalm 78:52 ULB)

He is willing to die in order to save his sheep.

I am the good shepherd, and I know my own, and my own know me. The Father knows me, and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice so that there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-15 ULB)

God is modeled as a WARRIOR

Yahweh is a warrior. (Exodus 15:3 ULB)

Yahweh will go out as a warrior; as a man of war he will stir up his zeal. He will shout, yes, he will roar his battle cries; he will show his enemies his power. (Isaiah 42:13 ULB)

Your right hand, Yahweh, is glorious in power; your right hand, Yahweh, has shattered the enemy. (Exodus 15:6 ULB)

But God will shoot them; suddenly they will be wounded with his arrows. (Psalm 64:7 ULB)

For you will turn them back; you will draw your bow before them. (Psalm 21:12 ULB)

A leader is modeled as a SHEPHERD and those he leads are modeled as SHEEP

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, "Look...when Saul was king over us, it was you who led the Israelite army. Yahweh said to you, 'You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become ruler over Israel.' " (2 Samuel 5:1-2 ULB)

"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture—this is Yahweh's declaration." (Jeremiah 23:1 ULB)

Therefore be careful about yourselves, and about all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be careful to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. I know that from even among you some men shall come and distort the truth, in order to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30 ULB)

The eye is modeled as a LAMP

Variations of this model and the model of the EVIL EYE are found in many parts of the world. In most of the cultures represented in the Bible, these models included the following elements:

People see objects, not because of light around the object, but because of light that shines from their eyes onto those objects.

The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is good, the whole body is filled with light. (Matthew 6:22 ULB)

This light shining from the eyes carries with itself the viewer's character.

The appetite of the wicked craves evil; his neighbor finds no favor in his eyes. (Proverbs 21:10 ULB)

Envy and cursing are modeled as looking with an EVIL EYE at someone, and favor is modeled as looking with a GOOD EYE at someone

The primary emotion of a person with the evil eye is envy. The Greek word translated as "envy" in Mark 7 is "eye," which refers here to an evil eye.

He said, "It is that which comes out of the person that defiles him. For from within a person, out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts..., envy.... (Mark 7:20-22 ULB)

If a person's eye is evil, that person is envious of other people's money.

The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is good, the whole body is filled with light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body is full of darkness. Therefore, if the light that is in you is actually darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:22-24 ULB)

A person with a good eye can put a blessing on someone by looking at him.

If I have found favor in your eyes... (1 Samuel 27:5 ULB)

Life is modeled as BLOOD

In this model, the blood of a person or an animal represents its life.

But you must not eat meat with its life—that is its blood—in it. (Genesis 9:4 ULB)

If blood is spilled or shed, someone has been killed.

Whoever sheds man's blood, by man will his blood be shed. (Genesis 9:6 ULB)

This person would not die by the hand of the one who wanted to avenge the blood that was shed, until the accused person would first stand before the assembly. (Joshua 20:9 ULB)

If blood cries out, nature itself is crying out for vengeance on a person who killed someone. (This also includes personification, because the blood is pictured as someone that can cry out. See: Personification)

Yahweh said, "What have you done? Your brother's blood is calling out to me from the ground. (Genesis 4:10 ULB)

A country is modeled as a WOMAN, and its gods are modeled as HER HUSBAND

It came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, the people of Israel turned again and prostituted themselves by worshiping the Baals. They made Baal-Berith their god. (Judges 8:33 ULB)

The nation of Israel is modeled as GOD'S SON

When Israel was a young man I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1 ULB)

The sun is modeled as BEING IN A CONTAINER AT NIGHT

Yet their words go out over all the earth and their speech to the end of the world. He has pitched a tent for the sun among them. The sun is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber and like a strong man who rejoices when he runs his race. (Psalm 19:4-5 ULB)

Psalm 110 pictures the sun as being in the womb before it comes out in the morning.

From the womb of the dawn your youth will be to you like the dew. (Psalm 110:3 ULB)

Things that can move fast are modeled as having WINGS

This is especially true of things that move in the air or the sky.

The sun is modeled as a disc with wings, which allow it to "fly" through the air from east to west during the daytime. In Psalm 139, "the wings of the morning" refers to the sun. In Malachi 4 God called himself the "sun of righteousness" and he spoke of the sun as having wings.

If I fly away on the wings of the morning and go to live in the uttermost parts across the sea... (Psalm 139:9 ULB)

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2 ULB)

The wind moves quickly and is modeled as having wings.

He was seen on the wings of the wind. (2 Samuel 22:11 ULB)

He rode on a cherub and flew; he glided on the wings of the wind. (Psalm 18:10 ULB)

You walk on the wings of the wind. (Psalm 104:3 ULB)

Futility is modeled as something that the WIND can blow away

In this model, the wind blows away things that are worthless, and they are gone.

Psalm 1 and Job 27 show that wicked people are worthless and will not live long.

The wicked are not so, but are instead like the chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:4 ULB)

The east wind carries him away, and he leaves; it sweeps him out of his place. (Job 27:21 ULB)

In Job 30:15, Job complains that his honor and prosperity are gone.

Terrors are turned upon me; my honor is driven away as if by the wind; my prosperity passes away as a cloud. (Job 30:15 ULB)

Human warfare is modeled as DIVINE WARFARE

When there was a war between nations, people believed that the gods of those nations were also at war.

This happened while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, those whom Yahweh had killed among them, for he also inflicted punishment on their gods. (Numbers 33:4 ULB)

What nation is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom you, God, went and rescued for yourself?...You drove out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you rescued from Egypt. (2 Samuel 7:23 ULB)

The servants of the king of Aram said to him, "Their god is a god of the hills. That is why they were stronger than we were. But now let us fight against them in the plain, and surely there we will be stronger than they." (1 Kings 20:23 ULB)

Constraints in life are modeled as PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES

The verses below are not about real physical boundaries but about difficulties or the lack of difficulties in life.

He built a wall around me and I cannot escape. He made my chains heavy. (Lamentations 3:7 ULB)

He blocked my path with a wall of hewn stone; he made my paths crooked. (Lamentations 3:9 ULB)

Measuring lines have been laid for me in pleasant places. (Psalm 16:6 ULB)

Dangerous places are modeled as NARROW PLACES

In Psalm 4 David asks God to rescue him.

Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness; give me room when I am hemmed in. Have mercy on me and listen to my prayer. (Psalm 4:1 ULB)

A distressing situation is modeled as a WILDERNESS

When Job was distressed because of all the sad things that happened to him, he spoke as if he were in a wilderness. Jackals and ostriches are animals that live in the wilderness.

My heart is troubled and does not rest; days of affliction have come on me. I have gone about like one who was living in the dark, but not because of the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. I am a brother to jackals, a companion of ostriches. (Job 30:27-29 ULB)

Wellbeing is modeled as PHYSICAL CLEANLINESS, and evil is modeled as PHYSICAL DIRTINESS

Leprosy is a disease. If a person had it, he was said to be unclean.

Behold, a leper came to him and bowed before him, saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing. Be clean." Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matthew 8:2-3 ULB)

An "unclean spirit" is an evil spirit.

When an unclean spirit has gone away from a man, it passes through waterless places and looks for rest, but does not find it. (Matthew 12:43 ULB)