entête
To translate is also to interpret. In an interpretation, we can "stick" to the text in order to properly convey the local color and style of the evangelist, just as we can try to "repeat it differently", to transpose into a new cultural environment a text that belongs to another culture. All translators experience this tension: remaining faithful to the original author while taking into account the contemporary audience. As my perspective is to make the various gospel narratives current, I allowed myself a certain freedom, in particular when facing specific expressions. I provide below a justification of my choices.

The following is a list of words that I suggest as a translation to a number of Greek words, when this translation differs from the one usually proposed by our modern bibles.


What Does It Mean To Actualize the Gospels?
Greek Term Usual translation My translation Rationale
agapaō /
phileō
To love To love / to like In the Gospels, these two Greek verbs are used almost equivalently to speak either of the love of God for humanity or for his Son, or of the love of men for neighbor or for God. This equivalence is reflected, for example, in John when he speaks of the disciple whom Jesus loved and where he uses the verb agapaō, except once it is phileō (Jn 20: 2). We have the same situation in John 21 when Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves him: the first two times it is the verb agapaō which is used, the third time it is phileō. Is there a nuance in Greek between the two verbs? According to Xavier Léon-Dufour in his Dictionary of the New Testament, the verb phileō designates more the inclination towards someone or something and is often used to express the love of friendship. For example, Jesus' affection for Lazarus in John is expressed by phileō. Or, the sign of affection agreed by Judas to identify Jesus with Gethsemane and which translates as "to give a kiss" is expressed by the verb phileō. For this reason, I opted to translate as often as possible agapaō by "to love" and phileō by "to like" in order to express this little nuance and to make feel that it is not the same Greek word behind the translated text. Example: Jn 21: 15 Glossary on Love
amēn legō hymin Truly I tell you Truly I assure you It is usually translated as "amen" or "truly, I tell you". In everyday language, you almost never hear "amen", exceept in church. The word "amen" expresses firmness, solidity and safety. "To say Amen is to proclaim that one takes for true what has just been said" (X.-A. Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology). And so, only saying "I tell you" does not really translate this "firmness". So it seems to me that today the idea is rendered by the expression "Truly, I assure you". Example: Jn 6: 47; Jn 10: 1; Jn 21: 18; Lk 4: 24; Mk 10: 29; Mk 12: 38; Mt 5: 18; Mt 11: 9; Mt 21: 31; Mt 25: 13; Mt 25: 40; Mt 26: 21.
angelos Angel Messenger of God It is usually translated as "angel". In the Old Testament and in the religions of the ancient Near East, one imagine God like kings with their whole court where particular groups exercise various functions. Just as a king only contacts a subject through a messenger, so does God, they say. Moreover, in the Antiqity internal thoughts were presented as a dialogue with someone. So, rather than keeping this old imagery, I preferred to render the idea that someone believes that an event is a message from God by translating aggelos, which means in Greek "sent", by messenger or message of God. Example: Lk 16: 22; Lk 24: 23; Mk 1: 13; Mt 1: 20; Mt 2: 13; Mt 13: 39; Mt 16: 27; Mt 25: 31.
aphiēmi tas hamartias To forgive sins To liberate from waywardnesses It is usually translated as "to forgive sins". In the Catholic world, the word sin seems to me too linked to the catalog of sins offered by the ecclesiastical milieu and to the legal power of the priest to remit them. At the time of writing the gospels, such a restrictive and legal vision does not exist. In addition, speaking of forgiveness introduces us into a mercantile context of debt and debt forgiveness, whereas, in our more personalist world, the diversion from past mistakes is seen more as a liberation from an alienating situation. It therefore seems to me that talking about liberation and waywardness allows us to establish a broader context and more focused on the growth of the person, while maintaining the idea that life is oriented towards God, and that the distance from He is an alienation. Example: Jn 20: 23, Lk 7: 47; Lk 11: 4; Mk 1: 4; Mt 1: 21.
basileia tou theou Kingdom of God Domain of God / World of God The Greek expression is translated by "kingdom of God". It is needless to recall that the kingdoms disappeared with the kings, and only its symbolic meaning remains. It seems to me, however, that the Greek expression, when it refers to the idea of an area apart from others and different, reserved for the faithful of God, would be better rendered today by "domain of God", because domain is the appropriate term to designate a vast territory under the control of a person. On the other hand, when the expression intends to designate an environment marked by the proximity of God and the renewal of a united people whose attitude would be in tune with God, then I prefer to translate by "world of God". This world is both started and to come. It carries the features of God through the attitudes and actions of men. Example: (domain of God): Lk 6: 20; Lk 22: 29; Mk 10: 23; Mt 11: 11; Mt 21: 31; Mt 21: 43; Mt 22: 2; Mt 25: 34. Examples (world of God): Lk 8: 1; Lk 9: 11; Lk 11: 2; Lk 9: 60; Lk 22: 16; Mk 1: 15; Mk 12: 34; Mk 14: 12-26; Mt 4: 17; Mt 5: 19; Mt 23: 9; Mt 26: 29.
charis Grace Overflowing love It is usually translated as "grace". In common parlance, the word is mostly used in the sense of forgiveness: asking for the grace of a prisoner. We also hear it to designate behavior marked with beauty and finesse: the person moves gracefully. In religious circles, it is used to speak of the mysterious force of God. In the New Testament, one tends to use this word in reference to the Hebrew word ḥēsēd which indicates the tenderness and the generous and unfailing goodness of God. It seems to me that the expression "overflowing love" can translate this idea. Example: Jn 1: 17: Lk 2: 41-52.
daimōn Demon Evil impulses It is usually translated as "demon". In fact, in the Greek milieu, the term indicated the various divine beings which could exert an influence either good or bad on the humans. But in the Jewish and Christian milieu, because of faith in a single God, all these beings have been brought down to the level of harmful powers, sources of all evils. And today, popular circles have developed many stories full of great imagination around the mythical figure of the demon. To move away a little from these stories and rediscover the original experience, it seems to me preferable to translate "demon" by "evil impulse". Example: Lk 8: 2; Mk 1: 32; Mk 16: 17; Mt 15: 21-28.
diabolos Devil Adverse desire It is usually translated as "devil". The verb diaballō means to throw aside and on the other, therefore to divide, accuse, slander. As for the word itself, it designates the stick that was put across the wheels of a chariot to stop it. So it refers to everything that is contrary to the movement of life, to projects, to mission. In the New Testament, this "wrench thrown into something" is personified in the guise of a being similar to Satan. It seems to me that the way to make sense of the word today is to translate by "adverse desire" either to the mission of Jesus or to the world of God. Example: Lk 4: 2; Mt 13: 39; Mt 25: 41
doxa Glory Extraordinary quality of a being It is usually translated as "glory". Today this word very often designates the reputation of people or groups who know a very big celebrity and who are acclaimed everywhere. And this period is very ephemeral. Now, it happens in the New Testament that this word is used to designate exactly this reality, and the word doxa must be translated by "glory". But more often it has God, or Christ, or the Christian as object. In these cases, it translates the Hebrew word kābôd which means: to have weight, i.e. to be very important, powerful and to command respect. But at what level is this importance and this power, when we are before Jesus, for example, who looks like the "suffering servant". In particular, the evangelist John will use doxa extensively to speak of the revelation of the identity of the Father and of Jesus, and the summit of this revelation being the elevation of Jesus on the cross. It seemed to me that the expression "the extraordinary quality of being" could translate the idea of revelation of identity whose strength and power is in his infinite love. It is this quality of being that Jesus shares with his Father and which he allows the believer to access. Examples: Jn 1: 14; Jn 2: 11; Jn 9: 24; Jn 21: 19; Lk 21: 27; Lk 24: 26; Mk 10: 37; Mk 13: 26; Mt 25: 31. Glossary on glory"
doxazō Glorify Recognize / reveal the extraordinary quality of a being Following what we have just said about our translation of doxa, we offer various translations of the verb doxazō. The expression "give glory" or "glorify" someone speaks of praising him, and is well suited when doxa refers to human glory. In John, doxa designates the identity of Jesus, the quality of being that he shares with the Father, and then in the scenes concerning Jesus and his Father the verb doxazō refers to the revelation of this extraordinary quality of being. On the other hand, for the audience, when they are invited to give glory to God in the Gospels, they are asked to recognize his sovereignty and his authority, so doxazō becomes an invitation to recognize this extraordinary quality of being. Hence the various translations: glorify, reveal or recognize the extraordinary quality of being. Examples: Jn 11: 4; Jn 12: 23; Jn 13: 31; Jn 15: 8; Jn 16: 14; Jn 21: 19; Lk 2: 20; Lk 7: 16; Lk 17: 15; Mt 5:16.
engizō Has come near Has begun to reach us It is usually translated as "has come near" or "is near" or "is there" in relation to the Kingdom of God. In theology, this expression is explained by faith that the Kingdom of God has already begun with the coming of Jesus, but that it remains unfinished and will not be completed until the end of time. So there is an "already" and a "not yet". To express this idea that Jesus already reaches us by his Spirit, and that it is now up to us to continue his work with the same Spirit, I prefer to translate by: the world of God "has begun to reach us". Example: Mk 1: 15; Mt 4: 17.
ergon Work Action It is usually translated as "work". This word is mainly used today to designate either the good deeds of a person or an organization, ie the works of the Pope, or the works or achievements specific to an art or to express the effort of a lifetime, ie the work of Victor Hugo, the work of Jackson Pollock, the work of a lifetime. It is rarely used in everyday conversation to designate this dimension of life where someone intervenes, acts, takes action. So I preferred to translate this Greek word by "action", which shows the tension between what we can see of men and of God, and what we cannot see as ideas. Examples: Jn 9: 3; Mt 11: 2; Mk 14: 6; Jn 4: 34; Jn 14: 10.
eulogēmenos
/ eulogeō
Blessed / Bless Filled by / Recognize the loving care of God It is usually translated as "to bless" or "being blessed". In common parlance, the term "blessed" means above all "to be protected" or "to be consecrated". But in the Hebrew world, the verb bārak has primarily God as its subject; because God alone fills the whole universe with his blessings. A human being can only bless by delegation, i.e. by asking God to spread his benefits. And to say that we bless God can only mean recognizing the blessings granted by God; we then underline both what God does and the feelings it arouses in the believer. Also, to say that a person is blessed is to say that he or she is filled by the loving care of God, and the act of blessing in a person means that he or she recognizes the loving care of God. Examples: Lk 1: 42; Lk 1: 64. Glossary on blessing in the Old Testament
geenna Hell Ravine where garbage is deposited It is usually translated as "hell". The Greek word refers to a ravine in the south of Jerusalem which, at the time of Jesus, was used as dumping ground and where one burned rubbish and litter. As in all garbage dumps, there was a fire there to burn everything. With the remains of plant food that one could throw away, one can easily understand that the worms accumulated. So it seems logical to me to translate geenna by "ravine where garbage is deposited". Example: Mk 9: 43.
grammateus Scribe Bible scholar It is usually translated as "scribe", i.e. one who can write. But today the ability to write is practically the prerogative of everyone. At the time of the New Testament, knowing how to read and write was restricted to a group of specialists, whose work consisted mainly in studying the Bible (Old Testament), in order to fully understand and interpret the various religious laws. This is why they are considered "specialists of the Bible" and so could be called "Bible scholars". Examples: Lk 15: 2 (1); Lk 15: 2 (2); Lk 22: 66; Mk 1: 22; Mk 8: 31; Mk 12: 28; Mk 14: 1; Mt 2: 4; Mt 5: 20; Mt 16: 21. Scribes according to J.P. Meier
hina plērōthē to rhēthen hypo kyriou To fulfill what has been written / spoken To reach a complete understanding of what has been written / spoken It is usually translated as "so that all what has been written be fulfilled". The fulfillment of biblical writings is an ambiguous expression, often misunderstood: we sometimes imagine a form of determinism, biblical writing giving in a way a scenario that actors must execute (for example, about the betrayal of Judas: "I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, 'The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'", Jn 13:18). However, this expression was used by the early Christians to describe the experience where, on the one hand, the Old Testament took on a new and definitive meaning with the event of Jesus (for example, the suffering servant of Isaiah foreshadowed the fate of Jesus), and on the other hand, the surprising events which marked the life of Jesus found an explanation thanks to a renewed reading of the Old Testament (for example, how to explain that Jesus was wrong in the choice of Judas, hence the use of Psalm 41 which allows one to say that all of this is part of the journey of being faithful to God). It is not easy to find the right expression to describe this experience of understanding of the early Christians. So I suggest various variations around the expression "to reach a complete understanding of what has been written". Examples: Lk 24: 44; Mt 1: 22; Mt 2: 15; Mt 4: 14; Mt 13: 35.
huios tou anthrōpou Son of Man New Adam It is usually translated as "Son of Man". This expression is almost incomprehensible to our contemporaries. Used by Jesus to speak of him, it refers to the Jewish apocalyptic figure where a humiliated people will one day taste great honors in the world of God and will exercise the function of judge over the peoples of the earth. Basically, it designates the renewed man, as intended by its Creator. So, it seemed to me that the way to convey this idea was to use the expression: "New Adam". For Adam, which means: earth, designates the primordial man, and it is this renewed being that Jesus wanted to be. Examples: Jn 3: 13; Jn 6: 53; Jn 6: 62; Jn 9: 35; Jn 13: 31; Lk 6: 22; Lk 9: 58; Lk 18: 8; Lk 19: 10; Lk 21: 27; Lk 22: 48; Mk 8: 27-35; Mk 9: 9; Mk 13: 33; Mt 13: 37; Mt 16: 13; Mt 24: 37-44; Mt 25: 31; Mt 26: 24. Saint Paul talks about Jesus using the same terms.
kyrios Lord / Master / Teacher Lord / Master / Mister It is usually translated as "Lord". This translation is well suited when it comes to God, because the Jews, to avoid pronouncing the name of God, said in Hebrew Adonai (Lord), and the Septuagint rendered it by the Greek term of kyrios. The early Christians also attributed this term to the risen Jesus, and therefore must be translated: Lord. But the Gospels, to describe Jesus' relationship with his disciples in his ministry, also put the term kyrios in the mouth of the disciples, and at this time it must be translated: master, which is normal in a master-disciple relationship. However, sometimes the term is also used in everyday life to call a stranger, for example, or in the ordinary relationships of two people. In this case, I preferred to translate kyrios by "mister". Besides, the latter is the evolution of the word "master". Examples: Lk 13: 8; Jn 12: 21; Mt 13: 27. Glossary on Lord
lytron Ramson Price to pay It is usually translated as "ransom". The Greek verb lyō, which shares the same root, literally means "to detach, to untie, to liberate". In Semitic antiquity, as evidenced by the Old Testament, one could release a prisoner of war or redeem a slave by paying a ransom. To explain how the life of Jesus, including his death and resurrection, had a liberating impact on humanity, the early Christians used the ancient example of the ransom paid. Today the word "ransom" has a negative connotation, whereas it is used in the criminal context of bandits who have surreptitiously captured an individual and demands a sum of money to give him back his freedom. This meaning absolutely does not suit what Jesus achieved. Also, to translate the idea that the liberating work of Jesus involves a price, the price of an unconditional gift of himself, the gift of his life, I preferred to translate lytron by "price to pay". In common parlance, we talk about the price to pay to obtain such and such a thing, for example giving up a lucrative career to devote more time to his family. Example: Mk 10: 45.
makarios Blessed Bravo It is usually translated as "blessed". However, this word is not usually used in everyday language to introduce an assertion. For example, nobody would say in common parlance: "Blessed, the newlyweds, because you love yourself". But above all the word wants to translate a state of luck or happiness. However, would it not be paradoxical to say: "You are lucky you who are poor", or, "You are in happiness if you are persecuted". The French Jew André Chouraqui proposed several years ago to translate by "Move on!" ("En marche" in French) based on the meaning of the Hebrew word ʾešer. For my part, I think this idea would be better rendered by "Bravo", because it also implies the idea of: "come on, continue". The expression is intended both to be a source of encouragement and to indicate that the person is on the right track. Examples: Lk 6: 20; Lk 23: 29; Mt 5: 1-12; Mt 11: 6; Mt 16: 17.
metanoia / hypostrephō Repentance / Conversion New direction to one's life / to let one's be transformed Metanoia is usually translated either by "conversion" or by "repentance". But in common parlance, the word conversion is often restricted to membership in a religious group or a particular philosophy (i.e. converting to Islam, converting to vegetarianism). The word repent is seen too often in the context of a culprit who regrets his fault. The Greek word literally means to change your mind. To find the idea of an awakening, of a new orientation that takes one's life and of adhering to a new vision of things and a new way of living, it seemed to me better to use the expression "set a new direction to one's life". The Greek word hypostrephō literally translates "to return", but it is usually necessary to read it with its symbolic meaning to change direction, and therefore to reorient one's life. At the same time, the initiator of a conversion is God, it is his love that he pours into our hearts, so that a conversion is above all a surrender to this love, the acceptance to let this love do its job and guide us. In this case, it is better to translate as "to be transformed by life". So, according to the context, we will translate either by emphasizing the human dimension of conversion (new direction to one's life), or to the divine dimension (being transformed). Examples: Lk 3: 3; Lk 13: 3; Lk 17: 15; Lk 24: 47; Mk 1: 4; Mc 1, 9; Mk 1: 15; Mk 6: 12; Mt 4: 17.
misthos Reward Value It is usually translated by reward. But if the word "reward" exists in parent-child relationships to compensate for effort, it cannot translate the reality of a relationship to God. As X.-L. Dufour in his Vocabulary of Biblical Theology points out: "retribution is the result of a visit from God, who validates by judgment the work of the servant". Very often, the Greek word thus wants to express a judgment or the perception of God on the person. So it seemed to me that the best word to convey this idea is that of value, i.e. the value of a person in the eyes of God. Example: Lk 6: 23.
nephelē Cloud Mystery / mysteriously The cloud or clouds is a symbol in the Old Testament which represents the mystery of the divine presence; because the cloud is both opaque and luminous, and therefore can express the fact that God is present in our lives without fully revealing its mystery, therefore a God both present and veiled. A column of cloud guided the Jewish people during the exit from Egypt, then became a wall preventing the Egyptians from approaching. In Sinai, the cloud becomes the symbol of God's transcendence. Finally, in the apocalyptic narratives the cloud comes to express the fact that justice and final truth will come from God, through his beings or his chosen being. As my deep faith is that God does not normally manifest himself in a vivid way, and especially is not found up there in the cosmos, but on the contrary, appears in the core of our lives, it seems to me that the same idea can be rendered today by "mysterious presence"; it reflects our faith that God acts in our lives, but that his presence remains at the same time veiled. Examples: Lk 21: 27; Mk 13: 26.
ōphthē He has appeared He or she experienced It is usually translated as "he has appeared", as in the expression: "the Lord is risen, he has appeared to Simon." Note immediately that the Greek verb is used in the passive and should be translated literally: "he was seen". Why this passive, why the gospel didn't use the active voice and said: "Simon saw the Lord"? The likely answer is that we are in the world of the inexpressible, a world that eludes us, and what Simon has experienced is not on the same level as seeing his neighbor or seeing a dog or seeing a tree. What Simon experienced is from the world of the inner experience of faith. Also, to keep the uniqueness and unspeakable character of what Simon experienced, I prefer to translate the Greek expression "Jesus was seen" by "he experienced the presence of Jesus", without being able to specify what this experience consists of. Example: Lk 22: 43; Lk 24: 34; Mk 9: 4; Mt 17, 3.
parabolē Parable Story from life / comparison / figure In common parlance, the word "parable" refers to an allegorical tale or a roundabout way of speaking. But this word does not adequately translate the meaning of the gesture of Jesus who wants to explain what the kingdom of God is by using images taken from everyday life: his goal is not to use an enigmatic language, but use comparisons of situations that audiences can understand, as good teaching would do. The whole story is the subject of the comparison. It was only later, in the time of the early Church, that these narratives became a form of enigma and were allegorized, ie each pictorial element of the narrative took on a symbolic meaning in itself, in view of a catechetical teaching.

The Greek term means: comparison. So we are in the world of analogy: as this thing is, so is this other thing. It can be translated by image, example, comparison, similarity, history, or illustration. When Jesus offers a story with a certain development, I prefer to translate "story from life" to make the idea that he offers a scene familiar to his audience. When the scene is very short, I prefer to translate by comparison or image. The gospels sometimes contain references to the Old Testament where the Hebrew word equivalent is that of mashal, which of course means comparison, but also proverb, fable, or enigmatic speech. In these cases, I prefer to translate by figurative or enigmatic speech. Examples: Lk 18: 1; Mt 13: 24; Mt 13: 31; Mt 13: 33; Mt 13: 35.

paraclētos Advocate / comforter Supporter It is usually translated as "advocate" or "comforter". It is a word that appears only in the Johannine tradition throughout the Bible. It is made up of the preposition para (from beside), and the verb kaleō (to call), and therefore designates someone called by his side. John undoubtedly borrowed it from the local vocabulary where it designates someone - a non-professional - who comes to support an acquaintance, during a trial. Given the climate of the whole of the Gospel of John where we are witnessing a huge trial while the community is on the dock, facing the opposing forces of society, called "the world", paraclētos is sometimes translated by lawyer or defender. On the other hand, in the modern context where there is not really a confrontation between two social groups, I preferred to translate by "supporter", ie someone who is next to us to help us and support us to go through what we have to live. Examples: Jean 14: 16; Jean 14: 26; Jean 15: 26. On paraclētos, see the glossary on the Spirit
pneuma akatharton Unclean spirit Disturbed mind It is usually translated as "unclean spirit". But today the word unclean refers either to something impur (removing impurities from copper ore) or to something unhygienic (unclean water). However in the Semitic world it rather refers to a deviation from a certain social order or to a classification of the world (unclean animals). This idea of a broken order seems to me well rendered by the word "disturbed", like someone today who disturb the right mood. Examples: Mk 1: 23; Mk 6: 7; Lk 6: 18.
sarx Flesh Human nature It is usually translated as "flesh". Today the word flesh is used to designate the soft part of the body, as opposed to the bones, or even the external appearance of the body like the skin. However in the Gospels the word flesh intends to translate the embodied, limited and sinful dimension of the human being. So it seemed to me preferable to use the expression "human nature" to translate this reality. Examples: Mk 14: 38; Mt 16: 17.
sēmeion Sign action revealing the presence of God / wonder It is usually translated as "sign". A sign describes the fact that a thing or an event has a meaning in the eyes of a human being, or that it refers to another thing, to another event or to a dimension of the person: the precursory signs of the revolution, a sign of intelligence. It is also used in the sense of a symptom: signs of fatigue. In the biblical world, and more particularly with the Evangelist John, the word is used in a more specific and more religious sense to point to an event which reveals the beneficent action of God in our world; in Jesus, the event in question concerns his action. So, to make this idea more explicit, I opted for the expression "action revealing the presence of God". Examples: Mk 16: 17; Jn 9: 16; Jn 2: 23; Jn 6: 2; Jn 6: 14; Jn 20: 30. But when this word is found in the mouths of people who have no faith, then I prefer to translate it by "wonder", because one look at the extraordinary aspect of Jesus' actions without grasping the link with God. Examples: Lk 23: 8; Jn 2: 18.
sou ek dexiōn kai heis ex aristerōn kathisōmen Seated at the right hand Share the authority It is usually translated as "seated at the right hand". The image refers to the royal world of antiquity where those who sat on the king's right and left were his right arm and his left arm, i.e. shared his authority to rule over the kingdom. In particular, the one who was at the "right hand" shared his authority more intimately. So I preferred to forget this old image and express the explicit meaning of "sharing authority". Exemple: Lk 22: 69; Mk 10: 40; Mk 14: 62; Mk 16: 19; Mt 26: 64.
sōzō / sōtēria Save / salvation Liberate / liberation It is usually translated as "to save" or "salvation". In common parlance, salvation indicates escape from danger or death. But in contemporary Christian circles, this word has seen its meaning restricted to the fact of finding oneself with God after death. To keep the idea of gradually escaping what alienates us so that our being reaches all its grandeur, it seems to me that we must translate it by "liberation" or to be "liberated". Examples: Jn 3: 17; Jn 4: 42; Jn 10: 9; Lk 3: 3; Lk 9: 9; Lk 9: 10; Lk 17: 19; Mk 16: 16.

talanton Talent Six hundred thousand dollars It is the strongest Greek coin and corresponded to around thirty kilograms of silver. It was the equivalent of 6,000 denarii. However, we also know that a denarius was usually the salary of a day laborer. To give us an idea of what that represents, we could set the daily laborer's salary today at $ 100, which would give six hundred thousand dollars for one talent, and almost three million dollars for five talents. Example: Mt 25: 14-30.

 

On currency in the Bible, see our Glossary