become like one of us, let us go down, let us make

The Hebrew that is translated as “let us make,” “become like one of us,” and “let us go down” or similar in English in Genesis 1:26, Genesis 3:22, and Genesis 11:7 had to be examined closely in Bura-Pabir.

Andy Warren-Rothlin explains: “God appears to refer to himself in the plural, and it seems important to retain this, even though we don’t know whether it is a reference to the Trinity (the Bura translation team’s view) or a hint at a polytheistic background or the ‘council of God’ (e.g. Ps 82:1). Bura has three words for ‘we’ — an exclusive one (referring to speaker and others, excluding the addressee), an inclusive ‘dual’ one (referring to the speaker and one addressee), and an inclusive ‘plural’ one (referring to the speaker and more than one addressee). We agreed to use the latter, which allows for a Trinity, pantheon or divine council; the only interpretation it excludes is one which reads this as referring to just the Father and the Son (which some may think is the case).”

See also clusivity.

the anger of the LORD was kindled against them

The Hebrew that is translated as “the anger of the Lord was kindled against them” or similar in English is translated in Bura-Pabir as MTHLAKU ku ɓzi ka duna ata kəra ɗa or “the Lord did take heart on their head,” a Bura idiom that describes something similar to the Hebrew idiom used here. (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

hardened / stubborn

The Hebrew and Greek that is typically translated in English as “hardened” or “stubborn” is translated in the Hausa Common Language Ajami Bible idiomatically as taurin kai or “tough head.”

Other languages spoken in Nigeria translate similarly: Abua uses oḅom ẹmhu or “strong head,” Bura-Pabir kəra ɓəɓal or “hard head,” Gokana agẹ̀ togó or “hard/strong head,” Igede egbeju-ọngịrị or “hard head,” Dera gɨddɨng koi or “strong head,” Reshe ɾiʃitə ɾigbaŋgba or “strong head,” and Chadian Arabic has raas gawi (رَاسْكُو قَوِي) or “hard head.” (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

Tagalog translates it as “hardened head.” (Source: Peng Kuo-Wei)

See also stubborn / hardness of heart and hardness of heart.

fringe, tzitzvit

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “fringe” or “tzitzit” in many English translations is translated in Uma as “the decorations [lit.: “fruit”] of clothes” (source: Uma Back Translation), in Tenango Otomi as “clothing that reaches the ground” (source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation) and in Mairasi as “wings of the garments” (source: Enggavoter 2004).

In Bura-Pabir a term is used that is traditionally used for the tassels worn on clothes by hunters. (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about tzitzvits (source: Bible Lands 2012)

use the name

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “(wrongful) use the name (of the Lord)” or similar is translated in Bura-Pabir as ká thləma or “call name,” while at the same time also meaning “swear.” “This is a good translation, since it rightly implies the context of swearing oaths.” (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)


Some key biblical terms that were directly transliterated from the Hebrew have ended up with unforeseen meanings in the lexicons of various recipient languages.

Take, for example, the English word “cherub,” from Hebrew “kĕrȗb.” Whereas the original Hebrew term meant something like “angelic being that is represented as part human, part animal” (…), the English word now means something like “a person, especially a child, with an innocent or chubby face.” Semantic shift has been conditioned in English by the Renaissance artistic tradition that portrayed cherubim in the guise of cute little Greek cupids. This development was of course impossible to foresee at the time when the first English translations borrowed this Hebrew word into the English Bible tradition, following the pattern of borrowing set by the Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament.

In Russian, the semantic shift of this transliteration was somewhat different: the -îm ending of “kĕrūbîm,” originally signifying plurality in Hebrew, has been reanalyzed as merely the final part of the lexical item, so that the term херувим (kheruvim) in Russian is a singular count noun, not a plural one. (A similar degrammaticalization is seen in English writers who render the Hebrew plural kĕrūbîm as “cherubims.”) Apparently, this degrammaticalization of the Hebrew ending is what led the Russian Synodal translator of Genesis 3:24 to mistakenly render the Hebrew as saying that the Lord God placed a kheruvim (accusative masculine singular in Russian) to the east of the garden of Eden, instead of indicating a plural number of such beings. (Source: Vitaly Voinov in The Bible Translator 2012, p. 17ff.)

In Ngäbere the Hebrew that is translated in English as “cherub” is translated as “heavenly guard” (source: J. Loewen 1980, p. 107), in Nyamwezi as v’amalaika v’akelubi or “Cherubim-Angel” to add clarity, in Vidunda as “winged creature” (source for this and before: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext), and in Bura-Pabir as “good spirit with wings” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).

See also ark of the covenant.