Your Sign Questions Answered: FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY in Psalm 139:14

Your Sign Questions Answered: FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY in Psalm 139:14

By Suellen Bahleda
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

This article is part of a series, which answers sign questions from people who use Signing Savvy.

Signing Savvy - Please help!

I am trying to find a way to teach my child a scripture verse from one of her school lessons, but I cannot find signs for some of the words. The scripture is Psalm 139:14. The words are FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY. Fearfully would mean in awe or awesomely made. I’m not sure how to teach her this one. Wonderfully I am guessing would be the same as wonderful. Are there different signs for these to words?


There are so many layers here! The first problem in translation is that it has to be something that makes sense to a child.

The second is that this phrase is in the passive voice - it's the “mistakes were made,” rather than “I made a mistake.”

So, how would we interpret “mistakes were made”? I would sign SOMEONE MISTAKE or TRUE MISTAKE (as in yes, there were mistakes) or perhaps TRUE MISTAKE HAPPEN.

This is also one of my favorite verses in the Bible - I use it all the time as assurance for people who are in the hospital, hurt or broken... God made these amazing bodies that have enormous capacity to heal and fight for life.

I also love that this verse is used as the "proof text" for two traditionally oppositional groups - those who have pro-life convictions reference it as witness that the body is a precious creation, even as it is formed in the womb, and the LGBTQ+ community references it as witness that they are created whole and correct and perfectly and wonderfully, too.

Here it is in context:

Psalm 139:13-14

13 For you created my inmost being;
     you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
     your works are wonderful,
     I know that full well.

Verse 13 has its own translation challenges, but to focus on interpreting, not translating verse 14 in response to the question, I would combine 'fearfully' and 'wonderfully' by expanding WONDERFUL into MIRACLE (WONDER+WORK) and would sign MY BODY YOUR (to God) MIRACLE.

I don't know if that is a perfect answer, but as I continue to play with it, I like it.

Pastor Sue

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About the Author

Suellen BahledaAcross 20 years and several states, Suellen Bahleda became certified, interpreted, taught entry-level as well as advanced ASL and interpreting classes, and presented workshops. Now she is a pastor for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is the author of several American Sign Language books. She has also been a member of the Signing Savvy Advisory Board since 2015.

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