Kingdom (of God / heaven)

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The German Good News Bible (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch) (1st edition: 1968, 2nd edition: 1982, 3rd edition: 1997) says this about the translation of the Greek expressions that in English are often translated as “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” respectively:

“An example for how a term evolved is the rendering of ‘heavenly kingdom’ or ‘kingdom of God.’ A verbatim translation will be misunderstood by most readers today: as if it talks about a kingdom that is located in heaven, when in reality it refers in the Bible to God being the ruler, to that area in which that rule has been realized and everything that human beings can expect because of that. Dependent on the context, the term is therefore translated differently in this present version: When it focuses on the presence of God’s kingdom it is rendered as ‘God establishes his rule’ (Gott richtet seine Herrschaft auf), when the focus is on the future it is translated as ‘Once God finalizes his creation (or ‘work’) . . . ‘ (Wenn Gott sein Werk vollendet . . .), and when the focus is on that finished creation it is ‘God’s new world’ (Gottes neue Welt).” (p. 299)

The respective translation choice in that German translation:

Likewise in the Gurung translation the term was also, depending on context, rendered in four different ways:

  • God’s power at work in the world,
  • the personal response to God, in obedience and receiving blessing,
  • God’s future open ruling of the world,
  • the ultimate blessings of God’s rule in heaven.

(Source: Warren Glover in The Bible Translator 1978, p. 231ff. — here you can also find a comprehensive list of examples where which translation was applied.)

Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages:

  • Tzeltal: “persons like these will reach God’s government” (as in Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16: “the Kingdom of God belongs to those”) or “the jurisdiction of God” (in the sense of where God has the authority)
  • Copainalá Zoque: “like God to rule over”
  • San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “agree to God reigning over”
  • Kekchí: “power (or authority) of God”
  • Laka: “God’s commanding”
  • Javanese: “the rule of God”
  • Huave: “where God rules”
  • Huastec: “God as ruler”
  • San Blas Kuna: “God’s government”
  • Navajo: “what God has charge of”
  • Sayula Popoluca: “to have God rule over”
  • Tzotzil: “to have God as chief”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “the leadership of God”
  • Wayuu: “where God is chief” (this and examples above in Bratcher / Nida)
  • Fuyug “God’s clan”
  • Mono: “sana lala’aha nang” – “area of chiefly rule”
  • Martu Wangka: “The Father looks after his own relatives” (source for this and the two preceding: Carl Gross)
  • Caribbean Javanese: Kratoné Allah (“God’s seat (of a king)”)
  • Sranan Tongo: Tiri fur Gado (“the Ruling of God”) or Kownukondre fur Gado (“King’s land of God”)
  • Eastern Maroon Creole: A Nyun Tii fu Massa Gadu / Saramaccan: Di Njunjun Tii u Gadu (both: “the New ruling of God”) (source for this and 2 above: Jabini 2015)
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “protectorate of God” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Lalana Chinantec: “how God is the boss of people’s hearts”
  • Chuj: “everything which is in God’s hand” (source for this and one above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

In Mairasi, a language “where people would rather say something in a new way than in an old way,” there are a number of translations, including “Great Above One’s (=God) rule,” “His power,” “His control,” or “His place of authority/power.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)

In Q’anjob’al, the translators stumbled on an additional difficulty. Newberry and Kittie Cox (in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff.) explain: “‘The kingdom of God’ may be translated ‘where God supervises’ (or literally ‘guards’). However, in Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17 it is not possible to speak of ‘receiving the kingdom of God,’ for this would imply that one simply takes over the responsibility for guarding God’s country while He rests. Accordingly, the translation is adapted to meet the cultural and linguistic requirements of the language by the form ‘receive God as king.’

See also your kingdom come.

heir

In Highland Puebla Nahuatl there is no immediate equivalent for the Greek that is translated with the English term “heir.” So here an expression is used that means “someone who will receive the property (or: things).” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 200f.) Likewise Chimborazo Highland Quichua the translation is “those who receive what belongs to theiir father” (source: Julia Woodward in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 140ff.)ἀσύνθετος

hypocrite

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The Greek and Hebrew terms that are translated as “hypocrite” in English typically have a counterpart in most languages. According to Bratcher / Nida (1961, p. 225), they can be categorized into the following categories:

  • those which employ some concept of “two” or “double”
  • those which make use of some expression of “mouth” or “speaking”
  • those which are based upon some special cultural feature
  • those which employ a non-metaphorical phrase

Following is a list of (back-) translations from some languages:

The English version of Sarah Ruden (2021) uses “play-actor.” She explains (p. li): “A hupokrites is fundamentally an actor. The word has deep negativity in the Gospels on two counts: professional actors were not respectable people in the ancient world, and traditional Judaism did not countenance any kind of playacting. I write ‘play-actor’ throughout.”

See also hypocrisy.

conversion, convert, turn back

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The Greek that is often rendered in English as “to be converted” or “to turn around” is (back-) translated in a number of ways:

  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “to change completely”
  • Purepecha: “to turn around”
  • Highland Totonac: “to have one’s life changed”
  • Huautla Mazatec: “to make pass over bounds within”
  • San Blas Kuna: “turn the heart toward God”
  • Chol: “the heart turns itself back”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “self-heart change”
  • Pamona: “to turn away from, unlearn something”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “to turn around from the breast”
  • Luvale: “to return”
  • Balinese: “to put in a new behavior” (compare “repentance“: “to put on a new mind”)
  • Tzeltal: “to cause one’s heart to return to God” (compare “repentance”: “to cause one’s heart to return because of one’s sin”)
  • Pedi: “to retrace one’s step” (compare “repentance”: “to become untwisted”)
  • Uab Meto: “to return” (compare “repentance”: “to turn the heart upside down”)
  • Northwestern Dinka: “to turn oneself” (compare “repentance”: “to turn the heart”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Central Mazahua: “changing the heart” (compare “repentance”: “turning back the heart”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Western Kanjobal: “to molt” (like a butterfly) (source: Nida 1952, p. 136)
  • Latvian: atgriezties (verb) / atgriešanās (noun) (“turn around / return”) which is also the same term being used for “repentance” (source: Katie Roth)

justification, justify

The Greek that is translated as “justify” in English is translated into Tzotzil in two different ways. One of those is with Lec xij’ilatotic yu’un Dios ta sventa ti ta xc’ot ta o’ntonal ta xch’unel ti Jesucristoe (“we are seen well by God because of our faith in Jesus Christ”) (source: Aeilts, p. 118) and the other is “God sees as righteous” (source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.).

Other (back-) translations include:

go in peace

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “go in peace” into English is an idiomatic expression of farewell which is translatable in other languages as an idiomatic expression as well: “go with sweet insides” (Shilluk), “rejoice as you go” (Central Mazahua), “go in quietness of heart” (Chol), “go happy” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “being happy, go” (Central Tarahumara), or “go and sit down in your heart” (Tzeltal).

peace (being at peace)

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The Greek that is translated into English as “peace” is (back-) translated with a variety of idioms and phrases:

  • “a song in the body” (Baoulé)
  • “heart coolness” (Eastern Maninkakan)
  • “to sit down in the heart” (South Bolivian Quechua)
  • “quietness of heart” (Chol)
  • “quiet goodness” (Kekchí)
  • “having your hearts feel oneness for one another” (Tzeltal) (Source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • “my heart sits down” (Northern Grebo)
  • “coolness” (Pular)
  • “rest within” (Lacandon)
  • “to have one heart” (Miskito)
  • “well-arranged soul” (Mashco Piro)
  • “having a quiet mind” (Ngäbere)
  • “completeness” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl) (source for this and six above: Nida 1952, p. 128ff.)
  • “resting the heart” (Central Mazahua) (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “joy in heart” (source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • momapu laro or “cold/cool-hearted” (as an adjective); mapuhio laro or “make the heart cool” (as a verb) (Moronene) (source: David Andersen)
  • “inner coolness” (Binumarien) (source: Oates 1995, p. 249)

confess (sin)

The Greek that is typically translated as “confess” in English in the context of these verses is translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:

  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal: “to say openly”
  • San Blas Kuna: “to accuse oneself of his own evil”
  • Kankanaey: “telling the truth about their sins”
  • Huastec: “to take aim at one’s sin” (“an idiom which is derived from the action of a hunter taking aim at a bird or animal”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Tabasco Chontal: “saying ‘It is true, I’ve done evil'” (source: Larson 1998, p. 204)
  • Central Pame: “pulling out the heart” (“so that it may be clearly seen — not just by men, but by God”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 155)
  • Shipibo-Conibo: “to say, It is true we have sinned” (source: Nida 1964, p. 228)
  • Obolo: itutumu ijo isibi: “speaking out sin” (source: Enene Enene).

save

The Greek term that is translated as a form of “save” in English is translated in Shipibo-Conibo with a phrase that means literally “to make to live”, which combines the meaning of “to rescue” and “to deliver from danger,” but also the concept of “to heal” or “restore to health.”

In San Blas Kuna it is rendered as “to help the heart,” in Laka, it is “to take by the hand” in the meaning of “rescue” or “deliver,” in Huautla Mazatec the back-translation of the employed term is “lift out on behalf of,” in Anuak, it is “to have life because of,” in Central Mazahua “to be healed in the heart,” in Baoulé “to save his head” (meaning to rescue a person in the fullest sense), in Guerrero Amuzgo “to come out well,” and in Northwestern Dinka “to be helped as to his breath” (or “life”).(Source: Bratcher / Nida.)

In South Bolivian Quechua it is “to make to escape” and in Highland Puebla Nahuatl, it is “to cause people to come out with the aid of the hand.” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 222.)

saint

The Greek that is translated as “saint” in English is rendered into Highland Puebla Nahuatl as “those with clean hearts,” into Northwestern Dinka as “those with white hearts,” and into Western Kanjobal as “people of prayer.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 146)

Other translations include:

  • Ixcatlán Mazatec: “followers of Jesus” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Tzeltal: “whom God possesses”
  • Highland Totonac: “children of God”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “clean-hearted people” (source for this and two above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Garifuna: “people consecrated to God”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “the ones who believe God’s words”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “those of God’s”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “people God has cleansed” (source for this and three above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

spirit / flesh

The Greek terms that are translated “spirit” and “flesh” are a fundamental contrast, but one which is variously expressed in different languages. Often, however, “spirit” is equivalent to “heart” (Eastern Highland Otomi, Loma, Guerrero Amuzgo, Highland Puebla Nahuatl), and “flesh” may be rendered as “body” (Guerrero Amuzgo, Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal) or “you yourself” (Central Tarahumara).

The following translations are illustrative of the contrastive expressions: “your hearts are ready but your bodies are weak” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “your heart is strong but you yourselves are not strong” (Central Tarahumara), “your heart has strength, but your body does not have strength” (Tzeltal), “your heart desires to do good, but your heart is weak,” in which “heart” must be used in both clauses since it not only stands for the center of the personality, but is also the symbol of typical human nature (Loma). (Source for this and all above Bratcher / Nida)

In Guhu-Samane an idiomatic expression with “your desire is there, but sleep has slain your body” is used. (Source: Ernest Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff.)