Translation of "Lord's Day" in Romance Languages

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the interpretation of "Lord's day," but rather to notice its rendering in the Romance languages.

By W.E. Howell

In Revelation 1:10 occurs the only instance in the New Testament in which the phrase "Lord's day" is used. In the original Greek the phrase is kuriake hem era. The word kuriake here used is an adjective modifying the noun heraera, meaning day. In. English our only adjective for Lord is lordly. But this word is used only in the social sense of pertaining to an aristocrat or noble, or one who acts in the manner of such a lord. It does not express the meaning of kuriake in the Scripture phrase. Consequently it is rendered with the word "Lord's."

It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the interpretation of "Lord's day," but rather to notice its rendering in the Romance languages. In Span­ish, the Enzenas (1543), the Valera and Valera Revised, and the Scio edi­tions all use "El dia de Domingo." In the Hispano-Americana, translated by a joint committee of the American and British Bible Societies, the rendering is "Y cierto Domingo" in the text, with "El dia del Senor" in the margin.

In French,. the Ostervald, the Sacy, and the Martin translations all use "Un Jour de dimanche" The Segond and the Crampon use "Au jour du Sei­gneur." The Synodale uses "Le jour du Seigneur," putting in the margin, "C'est-à-dire un dimanche," which, translated, means, "That is, a Sunday."

In Italian, the Diodati uses "Nel giorno della Domenica," while the Dio­dati Revised uses "Nel giorno di Do­menica," with the margin reading, "Nel giorno del Signore."

In the Portuguese, both the D'Almeida and the Brazilian translations use "No dia do Senhor."

The word "Domingo" in Spanish, the word "Dimanche" in French, and the word "Domenica" in Italian, are all derived from the Latin Dominus, which means a householder or lord. It is the term in common usage in each lan­guage respectively, to designate Sun­day among the days of the week. Hence in these three languages Reve­lation 1:10 really reads, "I was in the Spirit on the day of Sunday,' " or more simply, "on Sunday."

The words "Senor" in Spanish, "Sei­gneur" in French, and "Signore" in Italian are all titles of respect used be­fore proper names in common usage, and as in Greek, German, and other languages, are likewise used in trans­lating "Lord" in the New Testament elsewhere than in Revelation 1:10. In Greek the word so used is kurios, being the same word commonly used as a prefix to a proper name or to desig­nate the head of the house or of a business firm, but in the New Testa­ment applied to Christ. It is easy to see, therefore, that in. Revelation 1:10 in Greek the adjective form of the same word is used to describe the day on which John was in the Spirit. If the Spanish, French, and Italian had followed this same rule and given an accurate translation, they would have used in Revelation 1:10 respectively the phrases, "El dia del Seilor," "Le jour du Seigneur," and "Nei giorno del Signore." These are used in the mar­gin of some of the translations, and in the text in French in three transla­tions, though one of these three says in the margin, "That is, a Sunday."

The Portuguese is the only one of the four Romance languages that fol­lows uniformly the accurate rendering from the Greek in the phrase, "No dia do Senhor."

Correspondence with the secretaries of the American and British Bible Societies regarding the error appearing in the text of most of the translations in three of these Romance languages, as pointed out above, brought forth the acknowledgment that the word "Lord" is usually translated "Seflor" or "Sei­gneur" or "Signore," respectively, in the Spanish, French, and Italian, but that "centuries of usage justify the continuation of the translation," as the reason why the British Bible Society has not made any correction of the error in the translations it is distribut­ing. The reason given. by the secretary of the American Bible Society, after consulting his committee, is a similar one, namely, "The committee asked me to say that the merit of your suggestion [that the translation of "Lord's day" as Sunday is not an accurate rendering of the original Greek] has been recog­nized in the margin of the Hispano­Americana New Testament, but that the committee does not feel it desirable to undertake alteration of a long-used version such as the Valera, except when extended processes of revision are contemplated."

The value of our correspondence with these societies that distribute so many thousands of these Bibles, lies in the fact that they both acknowledge the error in the translation of "Lord's day" as Sunday, even though they are reluctant to make a change in transla­tions of long standing. It is only fair to them to say, however, that it is their policy not to make isolated corrections in a translation of long standing until a general revision is made. We may live in hope that such a revision and such a correction of Revelation 1:10 will be made in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, we are safe in pointing out that the translation of "Lord's day" as Sunday is an unjusti­fiable translation of "Lord's day" in this verse, and is positively misleading to the readers who do not know this.  

Washington., D. C.

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By W.E. Howell

November 1932

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