peace (being at peace)

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)
  • momapu laro or “cold/cool-hearted” (as an adjective); mapuhio laro or “make the heart cool” (as a verb) (Moronene) (source: David Andersen)
  • Binumarien: “inner coolness” (source: Oates 1995, p. 249)

he told them to give her something to eat

The Greek that is translated as “he told them to give her something to eat” or similar in English is translated in Binumarien as “he told them to give her something to eat and they did.” Native speakers wouldn’t expect the action to have taken place unless specifically indicated (source: Oates, p. 199).

tongue

The Greek that is translated as “tongue” in English is translated in Binumarien as “lips and teeth” because those are the body parts that are associated with speech. (Source: Oates 1995, p. 269)

bugle, trumpet

1 Cor. 14:8 is translated in English as “And if the bugle (or: “trumpet”) gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” In the translation into Binumarien this verse resonated deeply with the translators.

Lynette Oates (1992, p. 278) explains: “[Translation team member] Des read the verse from 1 Corinthians, ‘If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for the battle?’

“‘That’s exactly right!’ Sisia[, another translation team member,] commented energetically. In the old days, a fight leader would give a battle call and everyone of his followers would immediately drop what he was doing, grab his bow and arrows and race off with him to battle. If he didn’t give a clear call, people would say, ‘What does he want?’ and not go. But if his call was unmistakable they would go.’

“He paused. Des could tell by his expression he had something else to add. That’s exactly what this work we are doing is all about. The Book in another language, Kate or Pidgin [two larger languages in Papua New Guinea with existing Bible translations that are difficult to understand for Binumarien speakers], is like an unclear call to us. We just don’t understand it. But in our own language it is clear. We know exactly what it is saying to us.’

“They translated several more verses till they came to the words, ‘I’d rather speak five words with my understanding than ten thousand with an unknown tongue’ [in 1 Cor. 14:19].’ Sisia reacted as if he had received an electric shock. He began to bounce up and down on his stool. He rocked his body from side to side and threw his hands about.

“‘That’s absolutely right!’ he almost shouted. If only those who first came had given us this Book in our language, we’d be better people today. Five words in your own tongue is better than words and words and words in someone else’s.’

“He continued to fling himself around. Paul would rather have five words in a known tongue than thousands in an unknown one. Paul’s right! He’s always right! If only we’d had just a few words in our own tongue from the beginning, things would have been so much better!'”

For the Old Testament version of a term that is often translated in English as “trumpet” see translations with a Hebraic voice (Joshua 6:3-5).

Lord

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 — 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.)
  • Seediq: Tholang, loan word from Min Nan Chinese (the majority language in Taiwan) thâu-lâng (頭儂): “Master” (source: Covell 1998, p. 248)
  • 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).
  • Burunge: Looimoo: “owner who owns everything” (in the Burunge Bible translation, this term is only used as a reference to Jesus and was originally used to refer to the traditional highest deity — source: Michael Endl in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 48)
  • Aguacateco: Ajcaw ske’j: “the one to whom we belong and who is above us” (source: Rita Peterson in Holzhausen / Riderer 2010, p. 49)