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Every Language: Listening To The Multilingual GodSample

Every Language: Listening To The Multilingual God

DAY 6 OF 7

How to address Jesus

As English speakers, we address God in our prayers as "you." But many other languages use two (or more) different forms of address. French has two forms of the pronoun "you"—tu and vous—as does Spanish with usted and tu. In each case, you would use the first "you" when you speak to a person you're familiar with and the second for a person you don't know well or who might have a higher status. 

Greek—the original language of the New Testament—does not have this differentiation, but some translators have felt it was unnatural and confusing to omit a distinction used in their everyday speech, including the translation into Tuvan, a language in south-central Siberia.

The Greek text itself does not provide any immediate clues as to which of the forms of address should be used, so translators have to analyze the social standing of the main characters in each situation, especially in the gospels and the book of Acts, to make decisions about how to translate.

For example, in Tuvan angels always address people with the formal pronoun to show them respect. John the Baptist addresses Jesus with a formal pronoun to point out that the respect he has for Jesus is more important than the fact that he is also a relative. On the other hand, when John criticizes Herod for his moral shortcomings, he uses the familiar—and in this case, derogatory—pronoun, even though Herod occupies a much superior position.

Interestingly, Jesus' disciples address him during his ministry with the formal address. This is to be expected because Jesus is their teacher and we expect disciples to address their teacher with respect. What might be more surprising is that Jesus speaks to his disciples in the same way, showing his attitude of respect toward them as well. Even more surprising, though, is this: After the resurrection, his followers speak to Jesus with the informal "you," indicating a new intimacy to their risen Lord and Savior. 

How do you speak to Jesus when you pray? Would you be more likely to address him with a sense of distance, as to royalty, or with a feeling of intimacy, as to a personal savior? Focus today on praying to him with words that help to capture this sense of intimacy along with the Tuvan believers.


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About this Plan

Every Language: Listening To The Multilingual God

God’s communication with humanity was intended from the beginning for “every nation, tribe, and language.” While all languages are equally competent in expressing the message of the Bible, each language has unique capaci...


We would like to thank United Bible Societies - Global Mission Team for providing this Plan. For more information, please visit:

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