Pretty as a market plum

Gunu Parables

Photo Courtesy Bob Creson, Nugunu Visit, January 2012

Wycliffe translation consultant, Keith Patman, had not expected to see the word for “plum” right in the middle of 1 Peter 3:3, but there it was! The back translation into English read, “Wives, don’t try to be pretty like a market plum, by braiding your hair and putting on gold jewelry and beautiful clothes.”

Concerned for clear, natural and accurate translation, Keith asked the Gunu translation team, “Why did you use that?”

Their explanation made perfect sense. A favorite fruit in their area of Cameroon is the safou, or African plum. Sold in the local market, these plums, early in the day, look beautiful—all purple and shiny—and they taste great! But after a long day of sitting out in the warm West African sun, the plums still look pretty but they lose their freshness and they taste terrible!

So “pretty like a market plum” for the Gunu people is a metaphor for superficial beauty, and that’s exactly what Peter was talking about in 1 Peter 3:3. English translations of that verse refer to “outward adornment” or “outward beauty.”

“Don’t be concerned about outward beauty or fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (1 Peter 3:3 NLT)

While the context is Peter writing to women, I hope you can see a clear connection to men, too—let’s not miss that! True inner beauty for men and women comes from what’s in our heart—what’s on the inside—not from what’s outside of us. If we have a gentle and quiet spirit on the inside it will most likely be evident on the outside. And this is pleasing (precious) to God, according to Peter.

When Samuel was asked to select a King for Israel, he took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance…the Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:6-7 NLT) Jeremiah says the Lord searches our hearts and examines motives giving rewards according to what our actions deserve. (Jeremiah 17:10 NLT)

Finally, Jesus said, “…the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you [not what you eat].” (Matthew 15:18 NLT)

Let’s honor God and each other with our words and deeds. Make every effort NOT to be pretty like a market plum in the afternoon sun—pretty on the outside but bitter on the inside.


About Bob Creson

Husband, father, grandfather. Retired past President/CEO Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. Collaborating with inspired leaders who lead exceptional organizations to achieve exceptional results
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3 Responses to Pretty as a market plum

  1. Emily says:

    Reblogged this on Everlasting Word and commented:
    Sometimes getting the meaning across in a passage of Scripture can take interesting turns. These translators thought “Wives, don’t try to be pretty like a market plum, by braiding your hair and putting on gold jewelry and beautiful clothes” got the meaning across.
    This post by Wyciffe’s president explains why…

  2. David says:

    Reblogged this on D squared + J squared = Anderson and commented:
    DeAnna shared that plums here are nothing like what we were used to in the US. ( We tried them once and haven’t purchased them again. I can attest that they are shining on the outside and a taste like no other fruit on the inside, I’m not a fan of bitter fruit. When Keith Patman was checking 1 Peter 3:3 he found “plum” right in the middle and I can understand why he was surprised but they choose the right word for anyone who has ever eaten a Cameroonian “plum”.

  3. Megan says:

    This is one of my favorite things in Bible translation, learning colloquialisms from other languages that help make the intent of God’s word clearer. I attended Wycliffe’s Jungle Jump-Off program in 2000 and loved learning this stuff. To this day, I quote the South American dialect translation of Revelation 3:20, “‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” which became “I stand on your path and hoot.” I use it to explain to people the necessity of vernacular translation: to this people, only thieves knocked on the frames of their houses, and Jesus is not a thief! Friends “hoot” from the pathway to ask for entrance, and Jesus is a friend asking for entry. Wonderful, wonderful stuff!

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