By Martha Wade
A year ago I sent out the following story to my supporters:
“Where were the angels sitting?” I asked as I looked at John 20:12 and thought to myself, “Please don’t tell me that it says what I think it says.” But sure enough, when I read the text again to them and watched their strange expressions, I knew that we needed to do some revising. By some little glitch in a tense or some missing particle, one angel was sitting on the place where Jesus’ feet had been put (and still were so that he was sitting on top of Jesus’ feet) and the other was sitting on the place where Jesus’ head had been put (and still was so he was sitting on top of Jesus’ head). I am still not sure what particle needs to be added, but I am pretty sure that it is not good for the angels to be sitting on top of Jesus’ dead body and announcing that he is risen from the dead. If that had been the only place where the women’s checking group had caught a strange problem in the text, I would have rejoiced, but time after time, they found things that just were not correct even though on the surface they looked fine.
This last week the national translators and I finished revising John. When we got to this verse, I asked them if they noticed anything wrong. One of them started smiling but didn’t say anything. I then told them what one of the girls said that it said and the men said that the women were once again correct in pointing out an error. Once the problem was recognized, one of the older translators suggested that we insert the word “empty space” where it was appropriate. The verse (John 20:12) now reads, “She did it and she saw two ones with talk from the head [two angels] characterized by very white skin burning things [clothing]. They were sitting there at the empty space where they had got Jesus’ body and went inside and put it and it was there and she saw. One of the ones with talk from the head [angel] sat there at the empty space where Jesus put his head. One of the ones with talk from the head sat there at the empty space where he put his feet. ” There are still a few questionable places in this translation that we will be checking with the consultant next year, but at least the angels are no longer sitting on top of Jesus’ dead body.
Martha is a Bible translator and consultant serving with the Apal language group.