Polish language series: Zalim ja jest stróżem brata mego?

Here now is a comparison of two versions of a single verse, Genesis 4:9 (in Polish, Księga Rodzaju 4:9). This is the verse in the story of Cain and Abel where God asks Cain where his brother Abel is, after Abel’s having been killed by his brother in the field.

So does Genesis 4:9 read in English, in the King James Version:

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?

The two versions to be compared are drawn from the Biblia Tysiąclecia (BT), year 2012; and the Biblia Jakuba Wujka (BJW), year 1923.

Biblia Tysiąclecia 2012

Wtedy Bóg zapytał Kaina: Gdzie jest brat twój, Abel? On odpowiedział: Nie wiem. Czyż jestem stróżem brata mego?

Translation from the Polish: Then God asked Cain: Where is thy brother Abel? He responded: I know not. Am I ever the keeper of my brother?

Wtedy (then) Bóg zapytał Kaina (God asked Cain): Gdzie jest (where is) brat twój (brother thy), Abel? (Abel?). On odpowiedział (he responded): Nie wiem (I know not). Czyż jestem (am I ever) stróżem (as keeper) brata mego? (of brother my?).

Cain’s name in Polish is Kain. The declension of Kain is presented below, in the next section.

The Polish for thy brother is expressed in this verse as brat twój (brother thy), but twój brat (thy brother) is also possible in Polish.

The Polish for I know not is nie wiem, with nie (not) placed before the verb wiem (I know).

Czy is employed in Polish to ask a yes-no question: czy jestem? (am I?); czyż is the emphatic form: czyż jestem? (am I ever?).

The masculine noun stróż means keeper; it is found in this verse in instrumental position as stróżem, which may be understood as meaning as keeper.

The Polish for my brother is expressed in this verse as brat mój (brother my), but mój brat (my brother) is also possible in Polish; more precisely, the text employs the genitive brata mego (of brother my), with mego brata (of my brother) also being possible in Polish. In place of mego, Polish also knows the form mojego. See also: Declension of Polish possessive pronouns.

Biblia Jakuba Wujka 1923

I rzekł Pan do Kaina: Gdzie jest Abel brat twój? Który odpowiedział: Niewiem: Zalim ja jest stróżem brata mego?

Translation from the Polish: And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel thy brother? Who responded: I know not. Am I the keeper of my brother?

I (and) rzekł Pan (said Lord) do Kaina (unto Cain): Gdzie jest (where is) Abel (Abel) brat twój? (brother thy?). Który odpowiedział (who responded): Niewiem (I know not): Zalim ja jest (am I) stróżem (as keeper) brata mego? (of brother my?).

Whereas in the BT we encountered Bóg zapytał (God asked), the BJW reads rzekł Pan (said Lord). The Polish for God is Bóg, whereas Pan means the Lord. There is of course no word for the in Polish, wherefore the Lord is simply expressed as Pan. The perfective verb zapytać means to ask; the perfective verb rzec, on the other hand, means to say. In the BT, we encountered the nominative first, followed by the verb: Bóg zapytał (God asked); in the BJW, we find the verb placed before the nominative: rzekł Pan (said Lord). The nominative may come before or after the verb in Polish.

Kaina, in rzekł Pan do Kaina, is genitive in form, given that it follows the preposition do (unto). The declension of Kain is presented below.

Declension of Kain (m.)

nom. Kain
gen. Kaina
dat. Kainowi
acc. Kaina
instr. Kainem
loc. Kainie
voc. Kainie

Whereas in the BT we encountered on odpowiedział (he responded), we find który odpowiedział (who responded) in the BJW.

The Polish for I know not is nie wiem; this takes in the BJW the spelling niewiem, as one word.

The BT employs czy (more precisely, the emphatic czyż) to ask a yes-no question; in the BJW, it is rather zali which is used to do the same. Ja jestem means I am, with the em of jestem being the marker of the first-person singular. This first-person singular marker is shifted to the end of zali to form zalim, and jest is left unmarked for person.