baptize with the Holy Spirit

The Greek that is translated in English as “baptize with the Holy Spirit” is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “(baptize so that) the Holy Spirit will come upon/enter you” (source: Robert Bascom) and in Mairasi as “wash with the Holy Spirit” (“water” baptism is “wash with water”) (source: Enggavoter 2004).

Other languages translate as follows:

  • Rincón Zapotec: “be baptized with the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit will come to be with you”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “God’s Holy Spirit will possess you”
  • Chuj: “God’s Spirit will be given to you”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “be baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit”
  • Mayo: “receive the Holy Spirit in the same way you receive baptism”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “the Great Spirit will enter your hearts” (Source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

See also Holy Spirit and baptism / baptize.

everything they owned was held in common

The Greek that is translated as “everything they owned was held in common” or similar in English is translated as “no one said, ‘This is mine.’ They owned everything together” in Isthmus Mixe, as “not one of them considered their things apart, because they considered their things as if they belonged to all of them” in Teutila Cuicatec, as “there was no person who said that one thing was his alone. But everything of theirs one only its thusness by them all” in Chuj. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

insects that fly, swarming insects

The Hebrew that is translated as “insects that fly” or “swarming insects” in English is translated as “small animals with wings like flies” in Mam, “insects that fly in big groups” in Chuj, and “animals that fly and have more than two legs” in Kaqchikel. None of these languages has a pre-existing category for insects.

See also birds of the air / fish of the sea.

singular vs. plural (Neh. 2:12-15)

The narrative in Nehemiah 2:12-15 mentions that Nehemiah is accompanied by a number of other people. Yet, the verb forms (and pronouns) in this and the preceding verses are all singular in the Hebrew text. In the Chuj translation everything is retold in plural forms, except the verb forms of “inspect” in verses 13 and 15 since Nehemiah “had not confided in the men what his plans are, so presumably only he is inspecting walls.”

For the Mam on the other hand, translation consultant and the translators reached a different decision: “The team and I discussed this issue in depth and concluded that the level of leadership of the other men was so extremely low (they are only mentioned once and were not even aware of the purpose of the trip) that the singulars could stand.”

right hand of

The Greek and Hebrew that is typically translated as “(to the) right hand of” is often translated much more descriptively in other languages. In Yakan it is translated as “at the right side, here in the greatest/most important/most honored place/seat,” in Mezquital Otomi as “the right hand, at the place of honor,” in Chuj as “exalted at the right hand,” in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “in a high place there at the right,” in Lalana Chinantec as “make great,” in Isthmus Mixe as “given great authority,” in Morelos Nahuatl as “placed big” or “heart-strengthens me,” in Isthmus Mixe as “stays with me,” (source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August, 1966, p. 86ff), and in Teutila Cuicatec as “in all authority at the right side” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).

In Lamnso’, the seat on the right-hand side signifies that the person seated there would have a higher position than the one to his left (vs. just being a seat of honor). To circumvent any misunderstanding of the biblical text, the translation here refers to the “highest seat next to God.” (Source: Karl Grebe in Holzhausen 1991, p. 52)

greatest of all shrubs

The Greek that is translated as “the greatest of all shrubs” or similar in English is translated in Chuj as “larger than all the plants we plant each year,” and in Shuar as “larger than all weeds” (Some “weeds” grow to over ten feet.) (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

cast lots

The Greek that is translated as “casting” or “drawing lots” in English is often translated with a specific idiom, such as “to take out bamboo slips” — 掣 籤 chè qiān (in most Chinese Bibles), “each to pick-up which is-written (i.e. small sticks inscribed with characters and used as slots)” (Batak Toba), a term for divination by means of reed stalks (Toraja-Sa’dan).

In some cases a cultural equivalent is not available, or it is felt to be unsuitable in this situation, e.g. in Ekari where “to spin acorns” has the connotation of gambling, one may have to state the fact without mentioning the means, e.g. “it came to him,” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel). In Shipibo-Conibo there was no equivalent for “casting lots” so the translation for Mark 15:24 is descriptive: “they shook little things to decide what each one should take” (source: Nida 1952, p. 47).

Other solutions include:

  • Purari: “throw shells” (source: David Clark)
  • Kwara’ae (in Acts 1:26) “they played something like dice to find out who of the two God chose (God revealed his will that way)” (source: Carl Gross)
  • Navajo: “draw straws”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec “raffle”
  • Chol “choose by a game” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
  • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “threw one or two little hard things that had a sign…to see which person it would be”
  • Kekchí: “tried with luck
  • Lalana Chinantec: “there were little things they played with that made evident who it would be who would be lucky”
  • Chuj: “entered luck upon them”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “put out luck” (Source for this and five above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Lacandon: “play with small stones in order to see who was going to win” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

In North Alaskan Inupiatun a term for “gambling” is used. The same Inupiatun term is also used in Esther 3:7, “though there winning and losing is not in view, but rather choosing by chance” (source: Robert Bascom)

The stand-alone term that is translated “lots” in English is translated as “two pieces of potsherd” in Highland Totonac. (Source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)

amazed and astonished

The Greek that is translated as “amazed and astonished” or similar in English is translated as “remained speechless and marveled” in Morelos Nahuatl, “their thinking went round and round” in Coatlán Mixe, “They lost their abdomens. They stared very much” in Chuj, and “it startled them and they were thinking it over inside their hearts” in Chichimeca-Jonaz. (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

See also amazed / astonished / marvel.

fellowship

The Greek that is translated in English as “fellowship” or “communion” is translated in Huba as daɓǝkǝr: “joining heads.” (Source: David Frank in this blog post)

Other translations include: “they were very happy since they were with their brothers” (Lalana Chinantec), “always well they talk together” (Chichimeca-Jonaz), “were at peace with each other” (Chuj), “they accompanied the other believers” (San Mateo del Mar Huave, “they were united together” (Ayutla Mixtec), “their hearts were happy because they all thought alike” (Eastern Highland Otomi). (Source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all

The Greek that is translated as “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” or similar in English is translated in Tzotzil as “If anyone wants to be thought of as the most important, let him humble himself, let him help all people,” in Chuj as “If there is one man wants to lift up himself among you, he must make himself lowly before you. He must enter as the servant of you all, he said,” and in Choapan Zapotec as “If a person wants to command his fellow-men, he must consider himself to be as a person who has no authority, let him work without pay for anyone.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

See also complete verse (Mark 9:35).