illegitimate children

The Greek that is translated “illegitimate children” or similar in English is translated as:

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “children of an unknown father”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “children of the streets”
  • Chol: “those who were born because of the lust of men”
  • Navajo: “born in adultery”
  • Yanesha’: “born from an unmarried person” (source for this and above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

I came that they might have life and have it abundantly

The Greek that is translated as “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” or similar in English has been translated in a a variety of ways:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “I came so that people might have life, and that they might be happy in their lives.”
  • Aguaruna: “But I, on the other hand, came saying ‘That they might live; that they might live contentedly, lacking nothing.'”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “I came in order to give eternal life and so that they would be extremely happy.”
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “I have come so that the sheep will live, and so that they will live very well.”
  • Asháninka: “I came to give them life, to really give them all life.”
  • Yanesha’: “For this I came, so that you will live, completely exceedingly.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “I have come in order to give them their new life, which is better life.” (Source for this and above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

specificity in sequence of actions

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.

Hosanna

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.”
John 12:13

gospel

In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage, e.g. “good story” (Navajo), “joyful telling” (Tausug), “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237), or cohuen ñoñets or “good news” in Yanesha’ (source: Martha Duff in Holzhausen 1991, p. 11)

Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul:

“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”

no one comes to the Father but by me

The Greek that is translated as “no one comes to the father, but by me” is translated in various ways:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “one can go to my Father unless he is saved by me”
  • Aguaruna: “no one, just by himself, is able to arrive where my Father is, but with me he is able to arrive”
  • Asháninka: “no one just goes to my Father. I am the one who will take you”
  • Yanesha’: “no one approaches to where Father is if they do not first come to me”
  • Chol: “there is no one who will arrive where my Father is, except those who are in my care
  • Alekano: “by passing me there is no way to approach my Father”

(Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

filled with the Holy Spirit, full with the Holy Spirit

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.

knock

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).

Moses during the Transfiguration

“In a number of languages, including Yanesha’ of Peru, there is an obligatory morpheme that must be suffixed to the name of any person referred to after his death. An interesting problem arises in the transfiguration account as to whether or not Moses’ name should have the ‘dead’ suffix. The translators have decided to leave the suffix off the name of Moses in the transfiguration story, since his obvious physical presence would be contradictory to the reference to his death. They are using it with the names of the characters of the Old Testament when they are mentioned in the New in other contexts and with the names of characters of the New Testament only if they have reason to believe that the person was dead when the record was written.” (Source: Larson 1998, p. 46)

Zeal for your house will consume me

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.

paralyzed

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)

die in your sin

The Greek that is translated as “die in your sin” or similar in translated as