Fishing for donkeys

Posted on Posted in Translation

By Martha Wade

“Jeffrey, you know that we need to revise Mat 21:3 where the draft says that they just “brought” the donkey to Jesus.  When you were a teenager, two men translated Luke and the consultant asked one of the translators, ‘How did they bring the donkey to Jesus?’ The translator thought about it for just a short time and then said, ‘They got a long stick and tied the front legs of the pig donkey here and the back legs here and then the two disciples lifted the stick up (with the donkey dangling by his feet) and carried the pig donkey to Jesus.”

Everyone knew how to carry “pigs”, but I was horrified and the consultant told me that we needed to revise it so that the pig donkey was walking.  So, we changed it to they pulled (the donkey) and the donkey came.  That is what we need to do in this verse too.  They pulled the donkey and the donkey came. Jeffrey thought about it for a minute and said, “We can add the “pull” word, but you really don’t want it saying ‘they pulled the donkey and the donkey came.'” “Why not? That is the way it is in Luke,” I said.  Jeffrey responded, “If you write it like that, it means that the men are stationary and they are pulling the donkey in (like a person reeling in a big fish).  That is not what was happening in the story.  The donkey was going along with the disciples.  What we need to say is that they were pulling and brought the donkey to Jesus.”

This was a minor change in the ending of one verb and a slight change of the next verb root, but by doing that, the donkey in Matthew is being pulled along with the disciples while they went rather than being reeled in by the disciples like a fish.

For over 20 years I thought we had it right, but this is one more thing that we will need to revise in Luke – sigh! Pray that God will show us all the other little things that also need to be revised before we publish the New Testament in Apal.

Martha is a Bible translator serving the Apal language group.

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