It is amazing how two different worlds can collide. We have been preparing material for an upcoming translation check and we have been working through the book of Mark. As we worked on chapter 14 we came to the section where Jesus and his disciples are in the garden of Gethsemane and Judas Iscariot leads a mob out to find and arrest Jesus. Verse 48 says: “Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take me’?”
We discussed the meaning of the term “robber” trying to find a Mwinika term that covered the idea of “revolutionary” or “dangerous criminal.” The term needed to carry the idea that the person the mob was searching for was dangerous enough to warrant the heavily armed multitude. One of the most common local terms for this sort of criminal is “ninja”. Apparently they have watched enough martial arts films to associate the term ninja with groups of people who break into houses at night and are known to kill people. Over time the term has become mainstream and it is now a common Mwinika way of describing that class of criminal. Any time someone has a relative or a friend who is mugged or robbed it is always attributed to the “ma-ninja”. So my translation helpers were sure we should translate this passage to say “have you come out against me with swords and clubs because I am such a dangerous ninja?”
I had to chuckle to myself. Somehow the idea of Jesus being a dangerous ninja had never suggested itself in my mind. I had the funny feeling that two worlds were colliding, or maybe even three worlds. I ended up asking my language helpers if they had another term for dangerous criminals that wasn’t borrowed from martial arts films. They did, and we used it, but not before I had my little laugh.