relative age of James and John

Many languages have terms for siblings that define whether one is younger or older in relation to another sibling.

Dave Brunn reports this from the translation into Lamogai (see p. 141f. and 181f.):

“Some languages, including Lamogai, have two different words for brother. One means ‘older brother,’ and the other means ‘younger brother.’ In many cases, these languages do not have a generic word that includes both. Relating this to translation, which of the sons of Zebedee do you think was older, James or John? The Bible does not tell us, but there are some clues. The names James and John occur together about twenty times in the New Testament. In every occurrence, James is named first. Since there is not much else to go on, most translators who have faced this issue have considered this to be enough evidence to say James must be the older brother. Here is how we translated this pair of names in Matthew 17:1 in the Lamogai New Testament:

“‘Jems akap ino tikino Jon’ (‘James along-with his younger-brother John’)

“Technically, ‘tikino‘ means younger sibling of the same sex and ‘udikino‘ older sibling of the same sex. A man would refer to his older brother as ‘udikino‘ and his younger brother as ‘tikino.’ And a woman would use the same terms for her older and younger sisters. The term for opposite-sex sibling (either a man to his sister or a woman to her brother) is ‘luku.'” (Source for this paragraph: private communication from Dave Brunn)

In the translation into Oaxaca Chontal, the same principle is applied. (Source: Bratcher / Nida 1961)

The Chilcotin translators have tried to circumvent specifying which of the two is older, even though the language also uses age-specific terms for siblings. In Mark 1:19 and Mark 3:17 it says Zebedee beyiqi… (“Zebedee’s sons…”) and therefore avoids stating their respective age. Likewise in Mark 5:37 it says Peter hink´an ˀelhcheliqi James belh John (“Peter and brothers James and John”) (source: Quindel King).

See also Peter (Simon) / Andrew (relative age).

make His paths straight, make ready the way of the Lord

The Greek (originally quotes from the Hebrew in Isaiah) that is translated as “(make ready the way of the Lord,) make His paths straight” or something similar in English is translated in Sa’a as “You, tidy up well the paths that are dirty.” Carl Gross reports: “The Sa’a people have a practice which beautifully captures the idea expressed in the Isaianic quote. One line of this was rendered ‘You, tidy up well the paths that are dirty.’ This may conjure up the idea of an anti-litter campaign, but assurances were given that, before a feast when other villages would come to visit, or when an important person was about to come, the whole village would go out and tidy up the road, removing stones, branches, and other obstacles, as well as litter. It is a road maintenance exercise, as well as a way of welcoming honored visitors.” (Source: Carl Gross)

In Chol it says “Make straight the way of the Lord: Go, clean up the path of our Lord” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125), in Teutila Cuicatec “prepare your hearts; straighten out your thoughts, so that you will be ready to receive our Lord,” in Michoacán Nahuatl “prepare your hearts for our Lord as you would prepare a road for a person you would honor” and in Highland Oaxaca Chontal “when a great man arrives you sweep the road; you make it nice. Well, our master will arrive. For this reason make your minds good” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.).


The Greek that is translated as “envy” in most English translations is, according to Nida (1952, p. 134), translated into Tzeltal and Tabasco Chontal in the following manner:

“Envy is bred of covetousness and self-centeredness. The Tzeltals, who recognize a covetous man as having a ‘small heart,’ say that an envious person has ‘a greedy heart.’ ‘Small hearts’ and ‘greedy hearts’ go together, and the soul shrinks in direct proportion to its greediness. The envious person is never satisfied, for he can never keep step with his own insatiable ego.

“The Chontal Indians, living in the low, swampy delta land of Tabasco in southern Mexico, regard envy in a more subtle way. They say of the man who is envious of his neighbor, ‘He did not want to see his neighbor.’ This describes the end result of envy. People cannot bear to see others enjoying the privileges which they insist should be their own. The envious man has acquired such a self-directed stare that he cannot take his eyes off self to see another’s enjoyment.”

In Central Mazahua is is translated as “jealous of each other, their fellow people” and in Sayula Popoluca as “hate those who have something.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

get behind me Satan

The Greek that is translated as “get behind me, Satan” or similar in English is translated in Highland Oaxaca Chontal as “Go away! Your word is like the word of Satan” and in Tzotzil as “Get away from me, you who are acting like Satan.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

they were utterly amazed at him

The Greek that is translated as “they were utterly amazed at him” or similar in English is translated in Highland Oaxaca Chontal as “they listened with their hearts quiet and said, He answered well.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

complete verse (Mark 11:16)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 11:16:

  • Uma: “He didn’t permit people to carry stuff through the yard of the House of God.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “He did not allow anybody to pass through the prayer-house carrying their things.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “He did not permit anyone to carry their equipment through the yard of the church.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “He also forbid those carrying loads from walking through the Temple area.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “He also forbade those carrying merchandise there in that like-a-yard of the Templo.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Highland Oaxaca Chontal: “Then he would not give anyone permission to carry their loads through the patio of the big church.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

complete verse (Mark 13:14)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 13:14:

  • Uma: “‘Long ago the prophet Daniel predicted the coming of one named ‘The evil Destroyer.’ (The one who read these words of prediction, carefully note its meaning!) So, when you see what Daniel predicted standing in a standing-place that is forbidden to him/it, people who dwell in Yudea should flee to the mountains.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “‘Na, in the future, you will see what destroys and what puts-down God there where it is not right for him/it to be. When you see this, the people who are there in Yahudiya should flee to the mountains. (Let the one who reads this understand it.)” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And he who is called the repulsive harmful thing, if you see him placed in the temple where he is not permitted, then those who are in the province of Judea should run away to the mountains. The one who reads this long ago prophecy about this should understand it.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “Jesus continued saying, ‘In-the-future there will be a ‘destroyer who is filthy in God’s sight’ who will stand where he has no authority/right. (The one who reads this should understand it.) When you see that, those who are staying in Judea, they must hurry to escape to the mountainous-area.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “You will see something really disgusting in the sight of God, which is standing where it ought not to stand, there in the Templo. (The one reading this is to try-to-understand.) Well, when this is happening, as for the taga Judea, they must run away to the mountains.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Highland Oaxaca Chontal: “There was a man whose name was Daniel. He told the words of God. Read his word with care so that you’ll understand it. You will see they will put an ugly scary thing in the big church. It has no right to be there. It will cause the big church to be abandoned. … “
  • Shuar: “The person who reads this let him understand. Daniel the teller of the things of God, told long ago about an abhorrent destructive thing. When you see that sitting (being) in the not-to-sit-place. … ” (Source for this and above: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)