Just as in English, the language of the scriptures in Spanish presents a number of difficulties, even for native speakers. The basic reason for these difficulties is, of course, that the first translations of the Bible were made into 16th-Century Spanish and 17th-Century English, which have changed a great deal over the centuries. Language is constantly evolving and changing; discarding old terms, adding new ones, and modifying others. Take, for example, the old meaning of the word “suffer.” In the language of 17th Century England it meant to “allow” or “let,” as in the words of Jesus: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” In modern English, “suffer” no longer has that meaning and it could confuse someone who might think that the Lord wants the little children to suffer. There are many words in the scriptures such as “yea” and “behold” that we don’t use in every-day speech.
This same situation exists in Spanish. At first the LDS Church used versions of the Reina-Valera Bible. That translation was completed by Casiodoro de Reina in 1569 and revised by Cipriano de Valera in 1602. That was in the days of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote de la Mancha! Although there have been revisions and modernizations, the language of the Reina-Valera Bible was still very much “old Spanish.” In 2009 the LDS Church published a new translation of the 1909 Reina-Valera Bible, with even more modernization, but it deliberately kept a “scripture” feel.
When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he chose to translate it into “scriptural English,” that is, a format with words and expressions similar to those of the King James Version of the Bible. The translation of the Book of Mormon from English into Spanish has followed that same course, so the Spanish of the Libro de Mormón is also “scriptural language.” The Pearl of Great Price books of Moses and Abraham are also in that same style. The Doctrine and Covenants, while in a more modern format, uses many scriptural words and expressions. Recent additions to the Pearl of Great Price are in an even more modern style. Your reading of the scriptures in Spanish can be much easier if you understand the following concepts.
1. The Use of the vosotros Forms
Students of Spanish are used to the familiar tú, but its plural form, vosotros, is usually quite unfamiliar, just as the forms of its equivalent ye, are in modern English. The vosotros forms are still used in Spain in everyday speech, but not in Latin America. A shortened form vos is sometimes used.
For review we have included some of the forms here:
Subject and Object of Preposition:
vosotros/as = ye, you (pl.)
Direct and Indirect Object Pronoun:
os = you, to/for you (pl.)
vuestro/a(os/as) = your (pl.)
Examples of Verb Forms:
habláis = ye speak
coméis = ye eat
vivís = ye live
sois = ye are
vais = ye go
hablasteis = ye spoke
comisteis = ye ate
vivisteis = ye lived
hablabais = ye used to speak
comíais = ye used to eat
vivíais = ye used to live
hablaréis = ye will speak
comeréis = ye will eat
viviréis = ye will live
hablaríais= ye would speak
comeríais = ye would eat
viviríais = ye would live
habléis = that ye speak
comáis = that ye eat
viváis = that ye live
hablarais (hablaseis) = that ye spoke
habéis hablado = ye have spoken,
habíais comido = ye had eaten,etc.
hayáis hablado = that ye have spoken, etc.
hablad = speak
id = go
comed = eat
idos = go away
vivid = live
sed = be
gozaos = be joyful
alegraos = be happy
2. The Use of Archaic Expressions
Many expressions, no longer common in modern Spanish, are used to introduce a shift in theme, give admonishment, etc. Some of the most common are:
De cierto os digo =Verily I say unto you
Y aconteció que /Y sucedió que = And it came
He aquí = Behold
3. The Use of Archaic Words
Examples of less-frequently-used words that have been kept in the LDS Spanish Bible
The future is often used to indicate a strong command:
No matarás = No mates
Amarás a tu prójimo = Ama a tu prójimo
4. The Use of the Future Subjunctive
The future subjunctive existed in old Spanish to refer to some future, indefinite event or person. In modern Spanish the present or past subjunctive is used. In the LDS Bible the future subjunctive is sometimes kept in well-known verses to preserve a “scripture” feel.
It was also used with si as an indefinite future. In modern Spanish the past subjunctive is used.
Vosotros sois la sal de la tierra; pero si la sal perdiere su sabor, ¿con qué será salada?
5. Word changes
Where the Bible in English uses the word “elder”, Spanish usually uses “anciano”. An explanation is sometimes necessary to indicate that the priesthood office we refer to in Spanish as “élder” has the meaning of “anciano”. In the first version of the Spanish Hymnbook, the hymn Ye Elders of Israel was translated as Ancianos de Israel. In the new hymnbook, it has been changed to Oh élderes de Israel.
The priesthood offices of “bishop” and “patriarch” are sometimes “pastor” and “evangelista” in the Spanish bible.
Efesios 4:11 Y él mismo constituyó a unos apóstoles; y a otros, profetas; y a otros, evangelistas; y a otros, pastores y maestros;