The word moruti is used generally to refer to a church pastor. Pastors are baruti in common Setswana discourse. How this translation problem came about perhaps may be explained by the fact that those who established churches across the Tswana land from the areas of Kuruman, where the Bible was first translated into an African language, to the land of Khama the Great who believed so much in God that he constructed for him a most spectacular temple, spent much time teaching; not just Christian doctrine, but also teaching general education studies that included reading and writing, agriculture and other essential skills for the morafe. However the concepts of teaching and pastoring amongst the Tswana predate Christianity. The concepts were lexicalized many years before through the practices of bogwera and bojale as well as through the pastoral life of caring for livestock. Moruti is a personal noun derived from the verb ruta (to teach) mo + ruta + -i = moruti. Moruti is therefore one who teaches, a teacher. The biblical text 1Cor 12:28: “…third are teachers…” is therefore translated correctly “…ba boraro baruti…” since it renders teachers as baruti. Nothing would be interesting about this observation if we had teachers in Setswana general vocabulary referred to as baruti. However this is not the case. Teachers are not called baruti. They are called barutabana. Setswana translates the term baruti into pastors. Now this is the problem. Teachers in a classroom are called barutabana while teachers in the Bible are called baruti. How did it happen that in the domain of Education teachers are barutabana while in the domain of Religion they become baruti? What about those teachers who are not teaching children? I am here thinking of lecturers in colleges and teachers of adult classes. Certainly these are not barutabana because the people they teach are not children (bana) but adults. In certain quarters these are referred to as barutabagolo, which is a weak attempt at making the term for a teacher more applicable to adults as well. We must however be careful, we are not actually right in claiming: “…in the domain of Education teachers are barutabana while in the domain of Religion they become baruti.” What we find is that in the same domain of Religion, teachers are called baruti and pastors are also called baruti. The Bible translates the term teachers accurately as baruti while in the day to day running of the church the term pastors is translated to baruti. But are the words pastors and teachers the same? Not at all. We must return to the biblical text. Ephesians 4:11 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” The Setswana text reads: “Ke ene yo o tlhomileng bangwe go nna baaposetoloi, ba bangwe go nna baporofeti, ba bangwe go nna baefangele, ba bangwe go nna badisa le baruti”
What we see here is that the word pastor is an agricultural term that translates to modisa; a de facto herdboy, who takes care of a herd of believers, or in the biblical language, he takes care of the flock. The image of a church leader as a pastor, a herdboy who takes care of God’s flock runs across the entire Bible. The very judgment is a matter of God separating the goats from the sheep. One of the Proverbs says to leaders: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds” or Jeremiah 3:15 “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jesus also revealed himself and even God as a shepherd. Church leaders should therefore be called badisa and not baruti because they are pastors and not necessarily teachers. I am not here claiming that pastors cannot be teachers at the same time, or that they aren’t. I am instead grappling with words and their equivalence across the two languages of English and Setswana. The term baruti (teachers) must not only be restricted to those in the Bible, because that is not what the translators of the Bible intended. They did not attempt to restrict the use of the term baruti to the Christian or religious domain. Teachers in schools should also be referred to as baruti because ba a ruta. There is nothing religious about the term baruti; in fact when the Bible was translated into Setswana, the term baruti simply meant a teacher, one who teaches. It lacked any restricted theological connotations that it now has. It is time that the users of the Setswana language claimed the word baruti to its original meaning of one who teaches. The Bible translators were also accurate in translating the term that refers to students or disciples. They translated the term as barutwana. Unfortunately that is not what we call them. How students developed into baithuti it isn’t clear. The word barutwana for students is ideal since it refers to those who are being taught or trained. It acknowledges the presence of a teacher in the learning process. The word baithuti on the other hand, negates the active role of a teacher. It falsely assumes that learners are in some kind of self-directed independent learning process devoid of an instructor. Unfortunately barutwana has also become fossilized and restricted as a term for the religious domain. It is actually impossible to imagine the word barutwana in any other context, except that of the disciples of Jesus Christ. However, barutwana is a good word for referring to students in general and must be seized by writers and speakers of Setswana to express the meaning of students in general.
There are a lot of words in the Setswana Bible that need to be revisited, partly because language changes; it grows, ages and dies; partly also because conceptually they do not capture the central meaning of certain theological concepts. Take for example the term baptize which in Setswana is rendered as kolobetsa. Now go kolobetsa is to make wet while to baptize is to bury under water (from Greek baptizein: to immerse or bury under water). That certainly is more than to make someone/something wet which can be easily achieved with a mug full of water!