firstborn

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).

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 Enxet 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.”

dragon

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) and Chinese translation typically often 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

很多时候,翻译者需要为原语言中的词语或表达找出对等译词。寻找与古时实体事物对等的译词已经颇具挑战,要确定神话(或传说)中实体事物的对等词更是难上加难。在英语世界中,或者说在大多数欧洲语言中,与英文dragon类似的形象通常指有待驯服或战胜的悪兽。一般来说,这个英文词在中文里面的对等词是"龙"(拼音lóng),但是在中国文化中,龙是一个代表吉祥的形象。龙在中国文化中是最高等的动物;也有说法指"龙"这字的发音仿似雷声。在中国古代,皇帝都被称为"龙",一般人不能采用龙的肖象。中国人被称为"龙的传人"可能是比较晚期的民间说法,同时使用龙的肖象也普遍起来。东亚地区的许多神明和半神都以龙为坐骑或侍从。

《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。

基督新教非常强调人的归正经验,弃绝"老我"(旧的生命)是人重生的一个记号。马礼逊(或马殊曼)和后来的所有中文译本将δράκων译作"龙",可能反映这个观念,另外中国文化中的要素经常会被偶像化也是一个考虑。然而,天主教传教士(特别是耶稣会会士)对于中国文化的认识要正面得多,他们认为把"龙"与中国文化语境相隔离是毫无必要的。

Translator: Simon Wong

widows

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)

cornerstone

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 the “cornerstone” is “two forked sticks with another long strong stick laid across.” (See also 1 Peter 2:6-7.)

In Arrernte, the translation in 1Pet 2:7 (in English translation: “the stone . . . became the very corner stone”) was rendered as “the foundation… continues to be the right foundation.” (Source for this and two above: Carl Gross)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is translated with a term denoting the “the principal part of the ‘house’ (or work).” (Source: Robert Bascom)

See also rock / stone.