meek, meekness

The Greek that is often translated as “meek” or “meekness” in English is translated in Malba Birifor as hɛlɛlɛ. David B. Woodford (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 181) tells how that translation was uncovered: “Some words come by the accidents God provides. For a long while we had searched in vain for a word adequate to express ‘meekness.’ Then we gave up (temporarily), and took a walk outside for a break. The grain-stalks left after harvesting were beginning to sprout again, so I said [to the language assistant], ‘Look, they’re sprouting.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘they’re hɛlɛlɛ.’ ‘What does that mean?’ ‘That is the word we use for new leaves when they are big enough and strong enough to bend and not to break. We use it for people too, who are so strong inside that they don’t need or want to fight you. But if a person is hard and brittle like a dead leaf it means that he is not really strong.’ And that is surely a better word for Bible meekness than anything we can say in English!”

See also gentleness.