This paper attempts to compare and comment on the first ten sentences of Luke chapter ten in two Bible versions; one written in English language specifically ‘Holy Bible of King James Version of 1611’ and the other one written in Tumbuka language in titled ‘Mazgu Gha Chiuta’. In addition, the paper will also highlight the problems of Bible translation and this will finally lead to conclusion.


Without doubts, the most translated book in the world is the Bible. This is supported by the research which was carried on in 1994 by the United Bible Society in which out of the estimated 3000 languages of the world, 341 had completed Bibles. 822 languages remained with very few parts to be completed in the Bible and the Bible translation was in progress in 1000 languages (institute perevoda Biblii, 1996:227). The translation of the Bible came in due to the fact that many people have not been able to read the language in which the original manuscript of the Bible was written. In addition, the Christian faith development dictated that the good news must reach all the people around the universe. Therefore, many people have tried to translate the Bible for so long. However, research has shown that “about three percent of the translated Bible’s texts varies across all the manuscripts” http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/robert_beecham/whichbib.htm


The ‘Tumbuka bible version’ and the ‘king James version’ are giving completely different information in some sentences as shown below.

3.1 Heading of Luke Chapter Ten

The heading of Luke chapter ten in the two manuscripts of the Bibles is completely different. The Tumbuka version is talking about Jesus sending out the seventy two apostles while the king James version is talking about the mission of the seventy. However, seventy and seventy two are completely different figures.

Tumbuka Version Kutumika kwa wasambiri 72 ‘sending of the seventy two apostles’
King James Version ‘the mission of the seventy’

The information in these two bibles vary because translators do not have the original manuscript of the bible, but copies of copies of copies and this causes many problems in translating the bible from the source language to a target language. Translators themselves do not know which of these copies is correct and which one is not since all of them look completely different and rich in originality.

3.2 The First Ten Sentences of Luke Chapter Ten.

There are a number of differences and similarities in Tumbuka and King James versions of the Bible. The first sentence of this chapter in these two versions is different. The Tumbuka one is emphasizing on the seventy two and moving two by two while the King James version is advocating for the seventy apostles being sent two by two to a place where he himself was about to go. Although the second and third sentences have different grammatical structures in the two languages, they basically convey the same information.

The fourth sentence in this chapter is not the same in the sense that their grammatical structure and content in the two Bible versions are different. Take for instance;

Tumbuka Version: Mungayeghanga chibeta, panji thumba, panji virato;
Mungenda katauzganga munthu mu nthowa ‘don’t take any purse or
Bag or shoes; don’t stop to greet anyone on the road’.

King James Version: Cary neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute
no man by the way.

The terms bag and scrip are not exactly the same. However, readers of these two Bible versions may get different interpretation from the same Chapter and the same sentence because of the differences in the content of the information.

The fifth sentence was well translated in these two manuscripts. They convey the same information. Nevertheless, sentence six is not conveying the same information in the the two Bible versions in the sense that

Tumbuka Version say ….peace loving person…. While the
King James version say ….. son of peace….

The use of ‘son of peace’ in King James version may sound ambiguous because the son of peace is strictly referring to Jesus Christ of Nazareth but in this context, the apostles are Jesus Christ and in addition the text is generally talking about any peaceful person in the home setting. The use of ‘peace loving person’ in Tumbuka Version is more sounding and neutral for both male and female sexes than the use of ‘son’ which has to do with gender sensitivity. The king James version would have tried to use other neutral terms like ‘person’ to refer to anyone in the home and the world as a whole.

Sentences Seven, eight, nine and ten are conveying the same information in the two manuscript texts of the two bible versions. However, minor differences exist in the two texts in terms of language competence and some grammatical structures.


It is a well known fact that the Bible is a collection of ancient writings in its original and untranslated form. The New Testament was initially written in a number of languages like Greek, Hebrew, and Roman. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and some messages in these texts are still carried on in many cultures today.
This imply that a variety of literally styles on myths, legends, prophecy and exhortation existed in these languages. These varieties makes Bible translation a hard task for the translators as they are compiled to learn more and more cultures and languages.

With reference to the highlighted problems in Tumbuka and King James versions above, it is clear that Bible translation is not an easy task. Many Bible versions of different languages or the same language differ in some ways for a number of reasons. Some of these are that firstly, Translators do not have the original manuscript of the bible but copies of copies of copies and this is one of the basic problem inherent in the Bible. Translators do not know which of all these copies is correct and rich in originality and which one is not correct since non of them are identical as seen in the Tumbuka and the English king James Versions of the Bible.

Secondly, the Bible is addressing a lot of people who belong to different cultures and traditions. Translating the cultures of the people in which the original copy of the Bible was written is a challenge on its own. Snell Hornby argues that the Bible is written for different uses to both readers and listeners and translating or reproducing it from the source to target language carrying the same information and for the same purpose is not possible (Ibid, 275). This is further supported by Eugene Nida who pointed out that since no two languages are identical, there can be no absolute correspondence between languages. No two languages can be translated in exactly the same way. This case has been reflected in the Tumbuka version and the Holy Bible of the King James Version in which there is no complete correspondence between the two manuscript texts.

Thirdly, the different grammatical structure of languages also contributes to the problems of Bible Translation. For instance, one word in Tumbuka version cutters more than two words in the English Language. Consider sentence number four in Luke chapter ten in both Bibles;

Tumbuka Version: Mungayeyanga ‘do not carry’
King James Version: Carry neither

These grammatical problems are of different natures for instance, some languages like English have two present tenses while Tumbuka and other languages have one. Tumbuka have no specific pronouns to distinguish males from females like pronouns he and she of the English language.

Comprehension and grasping of the intended meaning is one of the problems of Bible translation because there are a number of factors to be considered. Some of these are that the translator will need to understand the ancient language in terms of the source of the texts which may be difficulty to read. Problems may also arise from the text if there are inconsistencies in the use of some terminologies. Ambiguous words and incomplete texts are part of the problems faced by the translators. Unexplained neologized terms are also a challenge to the translators and finally the translator will need to know the culture of both the source and the target language.


The concept of Bible Translation came in because the majority of people worldwide were unable to read the language in which the original manuscript text of the bible was initially written. Therefore, people have long tried to translate the Bible from the original text to many languages including Tumbuka and English the focus of this paper. Due to different cultures and variation in languages, the original message of the Bible has been partly distorted by the various translations attached to it from one language to another world wide. Yet, research today has proved that “about three percent of the Bible’s text vary across all the manuscripts”. These variations have also been found in Tumbuka Version and King James version of the Holy Bible as shown in the main body of the paper. Because languages are changing each and every day, many original words found in the Bible have lost or changed their meaning. This trend is expected in the coming Bible versions because everything in the world is changing.

It was pointed out that there are a number of challenges of translation in general and for Bible in particular. Some of these challenges are concerned with problems with the source of the text and language, problems in translating the poetic expressions, problems with cultural references and finally, problems of linguistic and grammatical expressions. With respect to problems of translating the Bible specifically the case of Tumbuka version and King James Version, it was pointed out that translators do not have the original manuscript of the Bible but copies of copies of copies and therefore, it is difficult for them to tell which copy is original or not. It was also stated that translation between two languages can not be exactly and precisely because no two languages are exactly the same. Languages of the world have different grammatical structures and they being used by people from different cultures. Because of these problems, we are likely to have more different versions of the Bibles in the near future.


Bible society of South Africa. (1982). Holy Bible: King James Version 1611.
Cape Town: Bible society of South Africa. South Africa.

Bible society of south Africa. (1952). Mazgu Gha Chiuta. Cape Town: Bible society of
South Africa. South Africa.

Nida, E. A. (1964). Towards a Science of Translation. Leiden: Brill.

Institute perevoda Biblii. (1996). linggvisticheskie, istorikokul’turnye I bogoslovskie
Aspekty. Materially Konferentzii. Moskva, 28-29 noyambrya 1994.
Moscow: institute perevoda Biblii.

Snell-Hornby, M.Honog, G. H. Kussmaul, P. schitti, P.A. (1998). Handbuch Translation

About Sitwe

Sitwe Benson Mkandwire is a researcher, teacher and writer. He is currently based at the University of Zambia, School of Education, Department of Language and Social Sciences Education.
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