leaven

The Greek that is translated in English as “leaven” or “yeast” is translated in Alekano as “bile.”

Ellis Deibler (in Holzhausen 1991, p. 46f. explains): “A translation helper from the Gahuku people [one of the tribes that speak Alekano] and I had just finished translating chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians. In it, Paul gives instructions to the Corinthians on how to behave toward an immoral man in the church. In verse 6 it says ‘Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?’ Patiently, I explained to my trusted translation helper all about leaven and its function in baking bread. He shook his head in resignation and said, ‘We can try to translate it that way if you want, but people won’t understand. They don’t know how to bake bread, just as they don’t know what leaven is or what it does. How then will they understand what Paul is saying here? But …’ he added, following a sudden inspiration, ‘there would be another way. When we slaughter an animal, there’s a small part on its body that we never cut up, because otherwise when we cook it, all the rest of the meat becomes inedible.’ I could tell that he was thinking of bile. It was also clear to me that he had found a fitting example from the culture of his people. ‘We can translate it this way,’ he continued, ‘the gall bladder is a small thing, but if just a little of it is cooked together with the meat, the whole dish becomes so bitter that it cannot be eaten. Don’t you know that?’ He was quite confident in his version of translating this verse, but I had reservations. ‘What about the next verse, then, where Paul says to clean sweep out the old leaven?’, I asked. ‘Oh, that’s not difficult,’ he replied. Then he explained to me that it is customary among the Gahuku to use the word leaven figuratively to refer to an evil quality in a person, and added, ‘We can simply say, ‘Expel this disgusting stuff from your midst, and you will be truly palatable.” I thought about his suggestion for a while and discussed it at length with other colleagues. After that, I too was convinced that we had found an excellent substitute for the biblical figure of speech ‘leaven,’ and one that the Gahukus could not misunderstand. After all, they know a lot about cooking meat, but nothing at all about baking bread.”

See also leaven.

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