Category: Translation Thoughts (Page 1 of 3)

Summary: Gospel of John

The Gospel of John: A Summary

Chapter One:

Jesus is the Word of Life. John the Baptist is introduced, as are the first disciples. Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael.

Chapter Two:

Jesus performs his first miracle: water into wine. He goes to the Temple and drives out the money changers. He speaks of the Temple being torn down—his body. He knows human nature.

Chapter Three:

Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. John the Baptist sees Jesus as most important—he comes from heaven.

Chapter Four:

The Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus heals an official’s son—his second miracle.

Chapter Five:

The healing at the pool involves a man who couldn’t get to pool in time—I guess he had to get there first. Jesus heals him on the Sabbath and upsets the Jewish leaders to the extent that they want to kill him. Jesus counters with an astounding argument that includes the statement: “ a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (25). His witness is what the Scriptures say about him.

Chapter Six:

Jesus feeds the five thousand, then walks on water. The people  find Jesus and he tells them he is the Bread of Life and has the words of eternal life: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (63).

Chapter Seven:

Jesus goes to the Festival of Shelters secretly. He teaches in the Temple with such authority that religious leaders question his authority. Some people wonder if he is the Messiah. Guards are sent to arrest him but cannot. He speaks of life-giving water and it causes division among the crowd. The Jewish authorities do not believe.

Chapter Eight:

Jesus is the light of the world. A woman is caught in adultery and says that “Whoever follows me will have the light of life and never walk in darkness” (12). Jesus tells them that they are of their father the devil and are not free. They claim Abraham is their father and he tells them “Before Abraham was born, I am” (59).

Chapter Nine:

Jesus heals a man born blind. The Pharisees investigate the healing and question the man and his parents. He reminds the Parisees that they are spiritually blind.

Chapter Ten:

Jesus is the good shepherd. He gives a parable about the sheep knowing the voice of their master and that the Father has sent him to give up his life. He is rejected as the Son of God.

Chapter Eleven:

Jesus is the resurrection and the life and he proves this by raising Lazarus from the dead. But from then on the Jewish authorities make up their minds to kill Jesus.

Chapter Twelve:

Jesus is anointed by Mary. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Some  Greeks seek for Jesus and go to Philip to ask where Jesus is. Jesus then speaks about his death but the people do not believe, despite his miracles. God had closed their eyes.

Chapter Thirteen:

Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. His example of humility confounds Peter. Jesus predicts his betrayal and Peter’s denial. He gives a new commandment: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (34).

Chapter Fourteen:

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He gives the promise of the Holy Spirit: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (26).

Chapter Fifteen:

Jesus is the real vine and the Father is the gardener: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (5). The world hated him so it will hate us too.

Chapter Sixteen:

Jesus tells about the work of the Holy Spirit: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (13). There will be sadness because Jesus is leaving the disciples but thre will be gladness when they see him again, “the kind of gladness that no one can take away from you” (22b). Despite hardship, there will be victory over the world.

Chapter Seventeen:

Jesus prays for the disciples, that they will be kept safe from the evil one. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (20).

Chapter Eighteen:

Jesus is arrested, betrayed by Judas. He appears before the High Priest Annas; Peter denies him. The High Priest questions Jesus; Peter denies Jesus again; Jesus is taken to Pilate and sentenced to death.

Chapter Nineteen:

Pilate has Jesus whipped and then tries to find a way to free him, but the Chief priests and Temple guards, as well as the crowd, want him crucified. He is crucified and dies. His side is pierced and then Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus and, with the aid of Nicodemus, buries him.

Chapter Twenty

Jesus is resurrected and appears to Mary Magdalene and then his disciples. He singles out doubting Thomas to examine him. The purpose of the book: “But these [stories of miracles] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (31).

Chapter Twenty-one:

Jesus appears to seven disciples who are fishing. Jesus dialogues with Peter about his love for him. Peter is concerned about John but Jesus tells him “If I want him to live until I come, what is that to you? Follow me” (22). The conclusion: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (25).

Summary: Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark: A Summary

Chapter One

Mark pictures Jesus as a man of action and the stories in Mark are repeated in Matthew and Luke. In fact, there are only four stories in Mark that are not in the other Gospels: 1) the crowd by the lake (3.7-12); 2) the parable of the growing seed (4.26-29); 3) where Jesus heals a deaf-mute (7.31-37); and 4) the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida (8.22-26).

Mark begins his account with the preaching of John the Baptist (1.1-8), and then moves directly to the baptism and temptation of Jesus (1.9-20). The rest of chapter tells of Jesus healing: 1) a man with an evil spirit (1.21-28); 2) Simon’s mother-in-law and many other people who were brought to him; and 3) a man with leprosy (1.40-45). In the midst of all this He was traveling throughout Galilee and preaching in synagogues and driving out demons (1.35-39).

Chapter Two

The first story in chapter two is an account of Jesus healing a paralyzed man at Capernaum (2.1-12), whose sins he also forgives—much to the annoyance of the teachers of the Law. He then calls Levi to be one of his disciples—a man who was a tax collector and therefore despised. He even had a meal with Levi and “other outcasts” (15).

On another occasion the Pharisees were comparing him with John the Baptist (2.18-22), who with his disciples fasted. Jesus didn’t and this puzzled his critics. He compared his work with “new wineskins” and “new cloth,” a fresh approach to God’s teaching.

The final story in chapter two (2.23-27) is a lesson about the Sabbath and its function as helping man, but not as a law to be followed at the cost of everything else.

Chapter Three

Jesus is again healing, this time at the synagogue—a man with a paralyzed hand (1-6), a case that upset “some people” and the Pharisees because it was done on the Sabbath. Jesus became angry with them and accused them of being stubborn, yet he felt sorry for them.

Jesus leaves that area and goes to Lake Galilee, but a large crowd follows him. So many people followed him to the Lake that he had to get in a boat and get away from the crowd. And people with evil spirits recognized Jesus as the “Son of God.” However, Jesus “sternly ordered” (12) the evil spirits to tell no one who he was.

At this point Jesus calls the men to him and chooses the twelve apostles: Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas Iscariot.

After “going home” (20), a large crowd still follows him and his disciples. We are told they had no time to eat and some worried onlookers told Jesus’s family that he had gone mad (21). In fact, the teachers of the Law said that Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Matthew 12-24-37), gave him power to drive out demons. They didn’t dispute the presence or power of demons they simply assumed that Jesus was in their group. Jesus’s reply (Luke 11:19) must have stopped them in their tracks: “Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.”

Their accusation allowed Jesus to tell the parable of Satan driving out Satan, in which case the kingdom of Satan would fall apart. It is clear that Jesus was doing his work by the power of the Holy Spirit because he follows with this strict warning: “

About this time Jesus’s mother and brothers arrive and try to find him. The claim by Catholics is that these are male relatives and not biological children of Mary. They need this explanation to allow for the perpetual virginity of Mary—in other words, Joseph her husband never had sex with her!

Jesus doe however allow a broad and metaphorical definition to “Mother and brothers” saying that those who do what God wants are not only mother and brother, but also “sister” (35).

Chapter Four

One of the most famous and well-known of Jesus’s parables is the story and interpretation of the man who went out to sow grain (3). The story represents the Kingdom of God and various responses to the words of Jesus as he preaches about it. Just prior to the story, Jesus told the disciples the reason why he spoke in parables: “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables” (11). The outsiders would see but never perceive, hear but never understand.

There are two other parables in chapter four: 1) the parable of a lamp not being put under the bed, and 2) the parable of the mustard seed.

The final story in the chapter is when Jesus calms a storm, which terrifies everyone and causes them to ask “Who is this man?”

Chapter Five

There are two healing stories in this chapter and both are dramatic. In the first story a man with evil spirits is healed when Jesus commands a bunch of them to leave the man and enter 2,000 pigs. Unfortunately for the owners, the pigs rush into a lake and are drowned. The healed man, now in his “right mind” goes back to his home area and tells the people about Jesus.

The second healing includes a third. The second takes place when an official at a synagogue named Jairus has a sick daughter. Jesus starts out with him to heal the daughter when another healing (the third) takes place, this time a woman “who had suffered terribly from severe bleeding for twelve years” (25). She finds Jesus in the crowd and touches his garment and is instantly healed.

When the official Jairus and Jesus (and others) reach the house they are told that his daughter is already dead. Jesus assures the mourners that the girl is “only sleeping” and goes to her room, touches her and heals her. He speaks Aramaic (Tabitha koumLittle girl, I tell you to get up”) when he takes her by the hand and heals her.

Chapter Six

Despite all the healing Jesus is doing, he is rejected at Nazareth, his hometown and by his relatives and family. The people did not have faith (6).

At this point Jesus sends out the 12 disciples for their own ministry, driving “out many demons, and rub bed olive oil on many sick people and healed them” (13).

In this chapter we read of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod and his wife Herodias, who had been the wife of his brother. The daughter of Herodias dances for Herod and he is so enthralled that he promises her anything. She consults with mama, who wants John’s head on a platter. She gets it.

There are three more stories in chapter six. In the first Jesus feeds 5,000 (men—women and children are not counted) with five loaves and two fish. In the second he walks on water, scaring his disciples who were in a boat out of their wits. In the third story Jesus heals the sick in Gennesaret, many just by touching his cloak (56).

Chapter Seven

Jesus begins this chapter by examining and commenting on some of the teachings of the “ancestors,” a matter in which the Pharisees are hypocrites—summed up  as “You put aside God’s command and obey the teachings of men” (8).

Addressing the crowd, Jesus reminds them (and the disciples later) that it is the evil things inside them that make them unclean and not what they eat (15, 23).

There are two further stories in the chapter: In one Jesus comments on a woman’s faith—a woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter from a demon; in another he heals a deaf-mute, again using an Aramaic word (Ephphatha, which means “open up.”)

Chapter Eight

Jesus feeds 4,000 with seven loaves and a few small fish, and then sends the people away and he, with his disciples leave for the district of Dalmanutha.

Soon after some Pharisees ask for a miracle but Jesus leaves them and starts back across the Lake. It turns out the disciples had forgotten to take along enough bread so Jesus uses this to warn them of “the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They have no idea what this means so Jesus reminds them of the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000.

There follows the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida by spitting on his eyes, then placing his hands on them. The man is ordered not to go back to the village.

At this point Peter, after questioned by Jesus, declares that Jesus is the Messiah. He, too, is told not to tell anyone.

The chapter concludes and extends to the first verse of chapter nine with Jesus teaching the disciples about his forthcoming death, a matter that disturbed the disciples so much that Jesus has to rebuke Peter: “Get away from me Satan. Your thoughts don’t come from God but from man” (33). They and the crowd are reminded that they must “carry his cross and follow me” (34) and not be ashamed of him.

Chapter Nine

The outstanding story in this chapter is of the transfiguration, where Jesus, with Peter, James and John encounter Elijah and Moses on a high mountain.

When they rejoin the rest of the disciples Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit, one that the disciples could not heal because of their lack of faith and sufficient prayer (29). The chapter includes Jesus again reminding the disciples that he will be killed. Again, they do not understand his teaching and begin to argue about who is the greatest among them. Then Jesus takes a little child and reminds them that welcoming them includes welcoming him.

The disciples are upset because a man, who is not of their group, is driving out demons. Jesus replied “whoever is not against us is for us” (40). The final is a warning about losing one’s faith and the temptations to sin.

Chapter Ten

Jesus teaches about divorce, he blesses little children and gives a parable about a rich man and a poor man who wanted to enter the Kingdom only to be told that he must sell everything and then follow Jesus. He didn’t and the disciples were perplexed, claiming they had left everything to follow him. Jesus assures them that none of their losses can compare with what they will receive in the coming age.

Jesus then speaks a third time about his impending death… Following this James and John come to him and ask to sit at his left and right hand in the Kingdom. Jesus reminds them of the cost and of the attitude: “if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all” (43).

The final story in the chapter is on the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Jericho.

Chapter Eleven

Jesus enters Jerusalem and goes to the Temple. The next day he curses the fig tree, which he later explains in terms of faith and judgment.

In Jerusalem the chief priests and other officials again question Jesus about his authority. He “answers” with the question about John’s baptism (“from God or from man”), which they cannot answer. “Neither will I tell you, then, by what right I do these things” (33).

Chapter Twelve

The parable of the tenants in the vineyard is a story of the rejection of Christ, but the stone rejected turns out to be the most important one (9, quoting Psalm 118:12-13). Jesus is then questioned about paying taxes, marriage after the resurrection, the greatest commandment and the Messiah. To prove the latter he quotes Psalm 110:1 (The Lord said to my Lord…). Jesus also warns against the teachers of the Law who take advantage of widows. He then uses the example of widow’s offering as a poor woman who gave everything.

Chapter Thirteen

In this chapter there are a series of warnings: the destruction of the temple, persecutions of Christians, the “Awful Horror.” All of this must take place before the coming of the “Son of Man.” No one knows when this will take place but the natural cycle of the fig tree should serve as a lesson.

Chapter Fourteen

Before the Passover and there is a plot against Jesus. However, a woman anoints him with oil at Bethany. Judas agrees to betray Jesus but he eats the Passover meal with him and the other disciples. At the Lord’s Supper he speaks of his forthcoming death and shortly after this he predicts Peter’s denial—on this same night before the rooster crows.

Jesus goes to Gethsemane to pray, taking Peter, James and John with him. They fall asleep and shortly afterward Judas betrays him and he is arrested. He then appears before the Council and the High Priest. They vote that he should be put to death and the disciples abandon him, including Peter, who denies Jesus three times.

Chapter Fifteen

Jesus appears before Pilate and is sentenced to death. The soldiers make fun of him and he is crucified. He shouts Eloi, Eloi, lema sabehthani? Which means “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” (34). Jesus then dies and is buried.

Chapter Sixteen

The last chapter is all about the resurrection. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, go to the tomb where they are confronted by an angel telling them that Jesus is alive. He appears Mary Magdalene, two of his followers, and the eleven before he is taken up into heaven.


“Exegetical Hay”


According to the Cambridge dictionary, when one “makes hay” in reference to something said, one uses the “opportunity to get the most benefit” out of the occasion, so the expression is often used in a “competitive situation.” Small wonder, then, theologians can “make hay” with their interpretation of some (perhaps most) passages in the Bible.

I used the “exegetical hay” expression in our men’s Bible study some time ago and at least one of the participants didn’t know what I meant, not simply the phrase, but the word “exegetical” in particular. I wasn’t tying to be cute: we were studying John, Chapter 21 and I noted that in reference to the exchange between Jesus and Peter where many preachers make “exegetical hay” out of it. They take the two Greek words for “love” and determine that Jesus was querying the degree of love that Peter had for him. It is a great chapter to make hay in: the difference between sheep and lambs, and whether Peter should feed, tend or care for them, give the theological farmer something to fuss about.

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Random Thoughts on Translation



Two recent studies, in particular, have prompted my thoughts: Theological Interpretation of Scripture by Stephen E. Fowl (Cascade Books, 2009) and the volume on “Scripture”, published by Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics by Baylor University (2014).

Of course, as a Bible translator I have thought about translation for decades, beginning in 1958 when by wife and I, as members of SIL International and the Wycliffe Bible Translators, began working in Papua New Guinea. We had been assigned to work as linguist-translators with a group of people known as the Kewa, who resided in the Southern Highlands.

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An Analogy: Baseball, Linguistics, and Translation


We need to first of all remind ourselves that all analogies break down at some point because we are comparing two things that are not completely alike. This one too breaks down at a number of points.

Let us suppose that a certain sport – say American baseball – is recognized as a professional sport. Upon what basis is this judgment made? First of all, the players are paid to play baseball, so it is professional in that sense. Someone or some agency or company supports them. We also note that one of the major considerations is the level of performance of the team, as determined by playing against other professional teams. Statistics are kept to support the claims.

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