An Intercultural Criticism of New Testament Translations

by Jean-Claude Loba-Mkole

The aim of this study is to show similarities and differences betweenGreek and Swahili texts of the New Testament, especially at the lexical, morphological,syntactic, and semantic levels. It uses an intercultural approach that comparesGreek, Latin, and Swahili texts, and argues that there is a great deal ofsimilarity between the Greek and the Swahili languages at the grammatical level,except for the Greek deponent form, which has no formal equivalent in Swahili.One of the most striking lexical findings concerns the mismatch between theGreek form of Jesus’s name and its Latin or Swahili translations. Both Latin andSwahili do not have formal articles, while the Greek language uses them evenbefore proper names. The original, authentic, and meaningful form of Jesus’sname is the Hebrew or Aramaic עוּשׁוֹהיְ , or עַוּשׁיֵ (“he saves”). The Latin Iesusand the Swahili Yesu/Yezu stand as correspondent transliterations of the meaninglessGreek ὁ Ἰησοῦς. In a Latin Church culture, the meaning of a propername in itself may not be that important, but in the Swahili target culture aproper name is bound to be meaningful and informative through its own wording.Consequently, the Swahili Yehoshua or Yeshua would be a more consideraterendering of Jesus’s name in view of the target culture frame and that of the mostoriginal biblical culture.

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