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Feb 23, 2018

What does "poor in spirit" mean?

Written by Elizabeth B.

The Bena translation team chooses to focus on the heart

- Mbeya, Tanzania

"Blessed are the poor in spirit." Translators in the Bena language community met a challenge in those words from Jesus. "The Bena word for ‘poor' would be understood only in a context of physical needs," said Elizabeth Broomhall, the team's Translation Advisor. "The translators' preference was to eliminate this word, and put the focus right onto the spiritual meaning."


benacheck2017smlTranslators for the Bena language project, together with
Elizabeth Broomhall (Translation Advisor), check the
final section of Matthew’s Gospel. (photo: Mary Pence)

After working on the passage together, the team ended up with "Vafuunyililwe avakwiwona vakeepile u-Nguluvi mu numbula," which roughly translates back into English as, "Blessed are those who see themselves as short of God in the heart."

"My perception," added Broomhall, "is that this verse is based on longing for God himself, and not only what he can bless us with." Now, the team believes it has a good draft translation they can test in their language community.

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