The Greek that is translated as “knock (on a door)” in English is translated as “call” (Zanaki, Yanesha’) “speak” (Tzeltal), or “clap” (Zarma).
This is sometimes due to the fact that doors are not being used in the respective cultures (as, for instance, in Yanesha’) or, as Nida (p. 45f.) explains, other cultural differences:
“One cannot say to the Zanaki people along the winding shores of sprawling Lake Victoria, ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock’ (Revelation 3:20). This would mean that Christ was declaring Himself to be a thief, for in Zanaki land thieves generally make it a practice to knock on the door of a hut which they hope to burglarize; and if they hear any movement or noise inside, they dash off into the dark. An honest man will come to a house and call the name of the person inside, and in this way identify himself by his voice. Accordingly, in the Zanaki translation it is necessary to say, ‘Behold I stand at the door and call.’ This wording might be slightly strange to us, but the meaning is the same. In each case Christ is asking people to open the door. He is no thief and He will not force an entrance; He knocks — and in Zanaki “He calls.” If anything the Zanaki expression is a little more personal than our own.”
Sources: Nida 1952 (Zanaki); Duff Tripp, p. 310 (Yanesha’); Reiling / Swellengrebel (Tzeltal, Zarma).
See also complete verse (Rev. 3:20).
The Greek (and Hebrew) that is translated on many English versions as “Zeal for your house will consume me” is translated in various ways in other languages:
- Yanesha’: “My protectiveness for your house completely possesses me.”
- Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “So very much I want the house of God to be honored. And because of this I am treated with contempt.”
- Tenango Otomi: “I look with respect on your house, even though I lose my life.”
- Lalana Chinantec: “I cannot stand it, so much do I value the house where they worship You.”
(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
See also zeal.
The Greek that is translated as “paralyzed” or “withered” in English is translated in Huehuetla Tepehua as “dried up in (their) bodies,” in Yanesha’ as “stiff,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “people whose bodies were dead,” and in Aguaruna as “deformed.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
The Hebrew that is typically transliterated as “Hosanna” n English is translated in Aguaruna as “Happily let him come,” in Asháninka as “Here is this one who will save us, this one who comes,” in Yanesha’ as “Let him be saved,” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac as “Worship God,” in Chol as “Greetings,” in Waffa as “The one who saves us,” in Navajo as “Let him be praised!,” and in Yatzachi Zapotec “God will help us now.”
The following story is relayed by Martha Duff Tripp as she led the translation of the New Testament into Yanesha’ (p.277):
Casper Mountain [an Amuesha translator] insists on giving full accounts of actions in a specific event. For example, when we read how Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the tomb, he insists, “Jesus would not just say, ‘Lazarus, come out’.” — “Why would Jesus not say that?” I ask in amazement. “Because he would know that Lazarus would have to get up first before he would come out. We need to say ‘Lazarus, I say to you, get up and come out’.” So be it! This is the way that Amusheas would express it.
The Greek that is rendered in English as “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full with the Holy Spirit” is translated in Tboli as “the Holy Spirit shall be with him,” in Shipibo-Conibo as “the Holy Spirit shall permeate him” (using a term said of medicines), in Cuyonon as “he shall be under the control of the Holy Spirit” (esp. Luke 4:1, Acts 7:55, Acts 11:24) in Ngäbere as “the full strength of the Holy Spirit shall stay in him,” in Tae’ (translation of 1933) as “he shall carry the Holy Spirit in his inner being” (sourse for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), and in Yamba and Bulu as “the Holy Spirit filled their hearts” (source: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff.).
The following story is relayed by Martha Duff Tripp as she led the translation of the New Testament into Yanesha’ (p. 310):
I continue to work with Casper Mountain [an Yanesha’ translator] on translation. As we start the book of Luke, we run into another problem. In Chapter 1, verse 15, the text reads (speaking of John the Baptist), “and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The Amueshas [Yanesha’s] have never associated their word for “fill” with anything except pots and baskets. How can a person be “filled”? Even their word for a full stomach is not the word for “fill.” We talk together about what “filled with the Holy Spirit” means (obsessed with or possessed by). The thought comes to me of what the Amueshas [Yanesha’s] say about the shaman. They say that he can “wear” the spirit of the tiger, that they can tell when he is wearing the tiger spirit because he then will act like a tiger. Their word for “wear” is the same word as to “wear or put on a garment.” Can this possibly be the way to say “filled with God’s Spirit”? As I cautiously question Casper about this, his face lights up immediately. “Yes, that is the way we would say it, he is ’wearing’ God’s Holy Spirit.”
See also Holy Spirit.
The Greek that is translated in English as “eternal life” is translated in various ways:
Lloyd Peckham explains the Mairasi translation: “In secret stories, not knowable to women nor children, there was a magical fruit of life. If referred to vaguely, without specifying the specific ‘fruit,’ it can be an expression for eternity.”
See also eternity / forever and salvation.
Following are a number of back-translations of John 15:13:
- Chol: “There is much love in the one who will give himself to die on behalf of his friends. There is no one who has more love than this.”
- Ojitlán Chinantec: “If one is willing to die for a friend, he has loved that one to completion.”
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “The biggest love is this, when a person gives up his life for a friend of his.”
- Shipibo-Conibo: “Only upon very really loving their friend can they want to die in his place.”
- Yanesha’: “There isn’t love which surpasses this: We let go of ourselves to die for our loved ones.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
- Uma: “If there is a person who gives his life so that his companion lives, his love is indeed big. There is no love greater than the love of a person who gives his life in order to help his companion.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “If a person submits to die because of his love for his friends, there is no human love greater than this.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “If there is a person who allows himself to be killed in order to free his friends, this is a sign that his friends are very dear in his breath. There is no dearness which can equal this.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “This is the largest love that a person is able-to-show, if he dies so that his friends may live.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “True valuing which can’t be exceeded is the valuing by a person who will give his life/breath in place of the life/breath of his friends.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “The most important thing one can do when he loves his friend is to give his life for his friend.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
The Hebrew adonai in the Old Testament typically refers to God. The shorter adon (and in two cases in the book of Daniel the Aramaic mare) is also used to refer to God but more often for concepts like “master,” “owner,” etc. In English Bible translations all of those are translated with “Lord” if they refer to God.
In English Old Testament translations, as in Old Testament translations in many other languages, the use of Lord (or an equivalent term in other languages) is not to be confused with Lord (or the equivalent term with a different typographical display for other languages). While the former translates adonai, adon and mare, the latter is a translation for the tetragrammaton (YHWH) or the Name of God. See tetragrammaton (YHWH) and the article by Andy Warren-Rothlin in Noss / Houser, p. 618ff. for more information.
In the New Testament, the Greek term kurios has at least four different kinds of use:
- referring to “God,” especially in Old Testament quotations,
- meaning “master” or “owner,” especially in parables, etc.,
- as a form of address (see for instance John 4:11: “Sir, you have no bucket”),
- or, most often, referring to Jesus
In the first and fourth case, it is also translated as “Lord” in English.
Most languages naturally don’t have one word that covers all these meanings. According to Bratcher / Nida, “the alternatives are usually (1) a term which is an honorific title of respect for a high-ranking person and (2) a word meaning ‘boss’, ‘master’, or ‘chief.’ (…) and on the whole it has generally seemed better to employ a word of the second category, in order to emphasize the immediate personal relationship, and then by context to build into the word the prestigeful character, since its very association with Jesus Christ will tend to accomplish this purpose.”
When looking at the following list of back-translations of the terms that translators in the different languages have used for both kurios and adonai to refer to God and Jesus respectively, it might be helpful for English readers to recall the etymology of the English “Lord.” While this term might have gained an exalted meaning in the understanding of many, it actually comes from hlaford or “loaf-ward,” referring to the lord of the castle who was the keeper of the bread (source: Rosin 1956, p. 121).
Following are some of the solutions that don’t rely on a different typographical display (see above):
- Navajo: “the one who has charge”
- Mossi: “the one who has the head” (the leader)
- Uduk: “chief”
- Guerrero Amuzgo: “the one who commands”
- Kpelle: “person-owner” (a term which may be applied to a chief)
- Central Pame: “the one who owns us” (or “commands us”)
- Piro: “the big one” (used commonly of one in authority)
- San Blas Kuna: “the great one over all” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Guhu-Samane: Soopara (“our Supervisor”) (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.)
- Balinese: “Venerated-one” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Yanesha’: “one who carries us” (source: Nida 1952, p. 159)
- Northern Emberá: Dadjirã Boro (“our Head”)
- Rarotongan: Atu (“master or owner of a property”)
- Gilbertese: Uea (“a person of high status invested with authority to rule the people”)
- Rotuman: Gagaja (“village chief”)
- Samoan: Ali’i (“an important word in the native culture, it derives from the Samoan understanding of lordship based on the local traditions”)
- Tahitian: Fatu (“owner,” “master”)
- Tuvalu: Te Aliki (“chief”)
- Fijian: Liuliu (“leader”) (source for this and six above: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1994, p. 329ff.)
- Bacama: Həmə miye: “owner of people” (source: David Frank in this blog post)
- Hopi: “Controller” (source: Walls 2000, p. 139)
- Ghomala’: Cyəpɔ (“he who is above everyone,” consisting of the verb cyə — to surpass or go beyond — and pɔ — referring to people. No human can claim this attribute, no matter what his or her social status or prestige.” (Source: Michel Kenmogne in Theologizing in Context: An Example from the Study of a Ghomala’ Christian Hymn)
- Binumarien:Karaambaia: “fight-leader” (Source: Oates 1995, p. 255)
Warlpiri: Warlaljamarri (owner or possessor of something — for more information tap or click here)
We have come to rely on another term which emphasizes God’s essential nature as YHWH, namely jukurrarnu (see https://tips.translation.bible/story/yhwh-%d7%99%d7%94%d7%95%d7%94%e2%80%8e/LINK). This word is built on the same root jukurr– as is jukurrpa, ‘dreaming.’ Its basic meaning is ‘timelessness’ and it is used to describe physical features of the land which are viewed as always being there. Some speakers view jukurrarnu in terms of ‘history.’ In all Genesis references to YHWH we have used Kaatu Jukurrarnu. In all Mark passages where kurios refers to God and not specifically to Christ we have also used Kaatu Jukurrarnu.
New Testament references to Christ as kurios are handled differently. At one stage we experimented with the term Watirirririrri which refers to a ceremonial boss of highest rank who has the authority to instigate ceremonies. While adequately conveying the sense of Christ’s authority, there remained potential negative connotations relating to Warlpiri ceremonial life of which we might be unaware.
Here it is that the Holy Spirit led us to make a chance discovery. Transcribing the personal testimony of the local Warlpiri pastor, I noticed that he described how ‘my Warlaljamarri called and embraced me (to the faith)’. Warlaljamarri is based on the root warlalja which means variously ‘family, possessions, belongingness’. A warlaljamarri is the ‘owner’ or ‘possessor’ of something. While previously being aware of the ‘ownership’ aspect of warlaljamarri, this was the first time I had heard it applied spontaneously and naturally in a fashion which did justice to the entire concept of ‘Lordship’. Thus references to Christ as kurios are now being handled by Warlaljamarri.” (Source: Stephen Swartz, The Bible Translator 1985, p. 415ff.)
- Mairasi: Onggoao Nem (“Throated One” — “Leader,” “Elder”) or Enggavot Nan (“Above-One”) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Obolo: Okaan̄-ene (“Owner of person(s)”) (source: Enene Enene)
- Angami Naga: Niepu (“master,” “owner”)
- Lotha Naga: Opvui (“owner of house / field / cattle”) — since both “Lord” and YHWH are translated as Opvui there is an understanding that “Opvui Jesus is the same as the Opvui of the Old Testament”
- Ao Naga: Kibuba (“human master,” “teacher,” “owner of property,” etc.) (source for this and two above: Nitoy Achumi in The Bible Translator 1992 p. 438ff.)
- Burmese: Ko taw (ကိုယ်တော်) (used as title and address for Jesus. “This term clearly has its root in the Religious language in Burmese. No ordinary persons are addressed or known by this pronoun because it is reserved for Buddhist monks, famous religious teachers, and in the case of Christianity, the Trinity.” (source: Gam Seng Shae in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 202ff.)
- Thai: phra’ phu pen cao (พระผู้เป็นเจ้า) (divine person who is lord) or ong(kh) cao nay (องค์เจ้านาย) (<divine classifier>-lord-boss) (source: Stephen Pattemore)
- Arabic often uses different terms for adonai or kurios referring to God (al-rabb الرب) and kurios referring to Jesus (al-sayyid الـسـيـد). Al-rabb is also the term traditionally used in Arabic Christian-idiom translations for YHWH, and al-sayyid is an honorary term, similar to English “lord” or “sir” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).
- Tamil also uses different terms for adonai/kurios when referring to God and kurios when referring to Jesus. The former is Karttar கர்த்தர், a Sanskrit-derived term with the original meaning of “creator,” and the latter in Āṇṭavar ஆண்டவர், a Tamil term originally meaning “govern” or “reign” (source: Natarajan Subramani).