Messiah, Kristuq or Thikthawn Lahaiti

In the New Testament the word "Christos" is primarily joined with "Yesous" as a proper name for Jesus. But "Christos" by itself is used as both a name as well as a title. When it comes to translation, there is a difference in how we handle titles and names.

Names are meant to properly identify people, and in translation, the only adjustment needed is to match the spelling with the sound system of the target language. But when it comes to a title, it is ideal to translate the meaning. Father, Teacher, Lord — these are all titles that exist in each language, and we simply choose the one that matches most closely with the Greek titles. But what about the Messianic title "Anointed One"? Most English versions simply translate it as "Christ" in the NT, even when the text is clearly referring to the Messianic title.

Use a Name: Many languages share the same double use that English has with the name of Christ. When I worked on John’s Gospel with the Rawang team in Myanmar in November 2019, we decided that it was best to keep using "Kristuq" for the name and for the title. They have been teaching the Bible to their people for decades, and it would be a considerable change to introduce a title in the 70 or so places where "Christ" means "Messiah."

Borrow a Title: I had that same discussion with the Taisun Chin team in Myanmar as we checked John 4 in February 2020. Their people have never had a translation of the Bible, but they are familiar with other Chin Bibles that have borrowed the spelling of the title "Messiah" along with its accompanying meaning. The team got excited about making this title use of Christ clear. We decided that rather than using "Kharih," they will now translate these title uses with the transliterated Hebrew name, "Messiah."

Find a Word: In 2019 I also met with the Uppu team in Myanmar for their first translation workshop ever. We started with the book of Matthew, which required working very hard to choose the spellings for their biblical names. Deciding on the name of Christ also meant determining how to render the title for Messiah. But since there are so few believers in Uppu, there is no familiarity with the borrowed title of Messiah like there is with BI's other Chin projects. The Uppu also do not have a history of translating "Kharit" for both the name and title like the Rawang do, because Uppu has never had any translation of the Bible before!

As we talked about the meaning of "Messiah," I learned that the Uppu can create a title with the same meaning as "Messiah," using words that are recognized by readers without any explanation. "Thikthawn Lahaiti" literally means "one who receives anointing."

Three languages, three different yet correct ways to communicate this wonderful truth of Christ’s person and work!

- J.W.