anchor (figurative)

The Greek that is translated into English as “anchor (of the soul)” in English is, due to non-existing nautical language, rendered as xuk’chotontib (“that which becomes unmovable”) in Chol (source: Steven 1979, p. 75), as “iron crab” in Bawm Chin (source; David Clark), as “foundation” in Tsou (source: Peng Kuo-Wei), in Mossi as “a strong and steadfast picketting-peg” (source: Nida 1952, p. 46) and in Enlhet as “that holds up like a rope” (source: See Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff).

In Kouya the translation is “the foundation which keeps a house secure.” Eddie Arthur tells this story: “A slightly more prosaic example comes from Paul’s sea voyages in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27, when Paul’s ship was facing a huge storm, there are several references to throwing out the anchor to save the ship. Now the Kouya live in a tropical rain-forest and have no vessels larger than dug-out canoes used for fishing on rivers. The idea of an anchor was entirely foreign to them. However, it was relatively easy to devise a descriptive term along the lines of ‘boat stopping metal’ that captured the essential nature of the concept. This was fine when we were translating the word anchor in its literal sense. However, in Hebrews 6:19 we read that hope is an anchor for our souls. It would clearly make no sense to use ‘boat stopping metal’ at this point as the concept would simply not have any meaning. So in this verse we said that faith was like the foundation which keeps a house secure. One group working in the Sahel region of West Africa spoke of faith being like a tent peg which keeps a tent firm against the wind. I hope you can see the way in which these two translations capture the essence of the image in the Hebrews verse while being more appropriate to the culture.”


The Greek that is translated as “firstborn” in English is translated “he/she that opens the gown” in Batak Toba (because formerly a woman stopped wearing a gown and started using a bodice after the birth of her first child) and “he/she that damages the stalk (i.e. the body)” in Uab Meto. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Bawm Chin, the term can imply the existence of younger siblings, so a translation is needed that brings out the fact that Jesus is superior to all else, not just the first of a series. (Source: David Clark)

See also firstborn (Jesus).

firstborn (Jesus)

In Bawm, the term that is translated into English as “firstborn” can imply the existence of younger siblings, so a translation is needed that brings out the fact that Jesus is superior to all else, not just the first of a series.

See also firstborn.


Bawm build with bamboo and thatch in their mountainous forests. They made the apostles and prophets become the roof ridge pole and Jesus the central uprights which support it. I asked why not the corner uprights since Greek has a term that is translated in English as ‘cornerstone.’ Bawm translators responded that the central uprights are more important than the corner ones, and Greek refers to the most important stone. (“Corner uprights” used in 1Tim 3:15.) (Source: David Clark)

In Mono, translators used “main post,” in Martu Wangka “two forked sticks with another long strong stick laid across” (see also 1 Peter 2:6-7.), and in Arrernte, the translation in 1Pet 2:7 (in English translation: “the stone . . . became the very cornerstone”) was rendered as “the foundation… continues to be the right foundation.” (Source for this and two above: Carl Gross)

Likewise, in Uripiv it also is the “post” (“The post that the builders rejected has now become the mainstay of the house.”) (Source: Ross McKerras)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is translated with a term denoting the “the principal part of the ‘house’ (or work)” (Source: Robert Bascom) and in Enlhet as “like the house-root” (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff.)

See also rock / stone, foundation on rock, and foundation.

slow to anger

The phrase that is typically translated in English as “slow to anger” is rendered in Bawm with the idiom “be of a long mind.”

father's wife

The Greek phrase that is typically translated as “father’s wife” and is understood as “stepmother” had to specifically be clarified in Bawm Chin as “stepmother.”


For the Greek that is translated as “unmarried” in English, Bawm Chin has one word that applies to both sexes, but for the Greek that is translated as “widows” (and could include both sexes) it uses one for each sex. (Source: David Clark)

The translation into Papiamento also uses separate words for “widower” (biudo) and “widow” (biuda). (Source: Marlon Winedt)


In the Bawm Chin culture there are no horses, but one kind of buffalo is guided by a rope in its mouth, so that was used here in the translation into Bawm Chin.


There are no lions in Bawm country, so the Bawm Chin translation uses “a tiger with a mane” where the Greek term for “lion” is used and in Sranan Tongo the “roaring lion” in 1 Peter 5:8 is a krasi tigri, an “aggressive tiger.”

In the Kahua culture, lions are not known either so the Kahua translation used “fierce animal.”

In 1 Peter 5:8, the Uripiv translation uses “a hungry shark” instead of a roaring lion.

Sources: David Clark for Bawm Chin and Kahua, Japini 2015, p. 33, for Sranan Tongo, and Ross McKerras for Uripiv)


For the Greek that is translated as “dragon” in English, the Bawm Chin translation uses a term referring to a mythical serpent (source: David Clark), Sranan Tongo uses the local bigi kaiman or “big Caiman” (source: Jabini 2015, p. 33) and Chinese translation typically use lóng 龙/龍 which brings it in conflict with Chinese culture where lóng 龙 has a highly positive connotation.

Simon Wong explains:

“The translation process often involves finding the lexical equivalent in the receptor language for words or expressions in the source language. If finding the equivalent of concrete objects from ancient times is challenging, identifying the equivalent for mythical (or legendary) figures is nearly unimaginable. In the English-speaking world (or perhaps in most European contexts), what is represented by the English word ‘dragon’ is often portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, but in Chinese culture, lóng 龙 (traditional script: 龍), the commonly accepted Chinese equivalent of ‘dragon’ always represents a cultural mascot of good fortune. It is the highest-ranking animal in the Chinese animal hierarchy; it is even surmised that the pronunciation represents the sound of thunder. Dragons were also identified with the emperors of China in the old days; ordinary people were not allowed to use any portrait of the dragon. It is only a relatively recent expression that the Chinese are called ‘people of the dragon’ and that its portrait is popularized. Many East Asian deities and demigods have dragons as their personal mounts or companions.

“The author of Revelation used the Greek δράκων (which is translated into English as ‘dragon’) to represent the mythical Satanic incarnation coming down from heaven. The most popular Protestant Chinese version (Chinese Union Version published in 1919) renders this Greek word δράκων as lóng 龙. This rendering represents a long tradition that can be traced back to the earliest Protestant translations of the 1820s. Since then, almost all Protestant Chinese versions have followed this tradition of using lóng 龙, a rendering that inevitably creates a cultural crash with Chinese culture. Many new converts are asked to demolish all vases or artefacts portraying this mythical figure, and some people are even asked to have their name changed if the character lóng 龙 is found in their names. While modern Catholic Chinese translations also use the same rendering, the first Catholic Chinese version (unpublished) which included the Book of Revelation (1813, by the French Jesuit Loui Antoine de Poirot) used the term mǎng 蟒 (meaning ‘python’). The python’s fierce nature carries a negative connotation that is far more appropriate and indeed conveys the meaning of the Greek word far more adequately than lóng 龙. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible with the Pentateuch completed in mid-3rd century B.C.), it was said that, when Moses and Pharoah’s priests threw their staffs on the ground, the staffs became δράκων (Exod 7:9, 10, 12). This Greek word was used to translate the Hebrew word ‘tanin‎,’ unmistakenly understood to be ‘serpent.’ Some recent Chinese translations rightly render it as móshé 魔蛇 (‘evil serpent’). As a translation strategy, it could also render δράκων phonetically dùlāgēn 杜拉根 (see Rev 12:3 footnote in the Revised Chinese Union Version).

“The different translation strategies that Protestant and Catholics employ shows the greater Protestant emphasis on the conversion experience. By using lóng 龙 for δράκων, Protestant translators emphasized the separation from the ‘old self’ (old lives), which in this case encompassed an element of Chinese culture that was often idolatrized. Catholic missionaries (especially the Jesuits), on the other hand, had a far more positive appreciation of Chinese culture that enabled them to see no such necessary point of demarcation from the recipient’s cultural context.”

Translation: Chinese


《启示录》作者用希腊文δράκων一词来描述撒但成为肉身,从天上坠落下来(启12:3,4,7,9,13,16,17,13:2,4)。最重要的新教中文圣经译本《和合本》(1919年出版)将这个希腊文词语译作"龙"。事实上,这个译法由来已久,可以追溯到马礼逊(Robert Morrison)在1823年发行的译本,或者馬殊曼和拉瑟(Marshman-Lassar)在1822年完成的译本。几乎所有新教中文圣经译本都沿用了"龙"的译法,这不可避免地与中国文化产生了冲突。有保守的传道人会要求初归信的人丢掉所有以这个神秘形象为图案的花瓶或艺术品,如果他们的名字中有"龙"字,传道人甚至会要求他们改名。第一本包含《启示录》的天主教中文圣经译本由法国耶稣会会士賀清泰神父(Louis Antoine de Poirot)在1813年译成,他采用了"蟒"的译法(并非完整,亦未有出版),然而现代的天主教中文圣经译本仍译作"龙"。"蟒"的凶猛体现出原词带负面形象的涵义。这种译法确实比"龙"合适的多,更加全面地表达出希腊文的意思。《七十士译本》是《希伯来圣经》的希腊文译本,其中的摩西五经于主前三世纪中翻译完成;这个译本叙述摩西与埃及术士争斗的故事时,说他们的杖变成了δράκων(出7:9,10,12)。《七十士译本》用这个希腊文词语来翻译希伯来文tanin,而tanin毫无疑问是指"蛇"。近期有中文译本将希腊文δράκων译作"魔蛇",这是很好的翻译。另外,δράκων也可以音译为"杜拉根"。参《和合本修订版》关于《启示录》12:3的脚注。


Translator: Simon Wong