I find no crime in him

The Greek that is translated as “I find no crime in him” or similar in English is translated as “Not a single fault do I find in this man” in Ojitlán Chinantec, “I don’t find any sin in this man” in Huehuetla Tepehua, “It is not known to me even a little bit of bad which he has done” in Aguaruna, “I think this man has no sin” in Chol, and “It is not apparent that this man is guilty” in Yatzachi Zapotec.

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

fishing

The Ghari translation uses different terms for “fishing”: with nets when fishing for fish and with a line when fishing for men. (Source: David Clark)

The translation for “fishing” (when referring to catching fish) in Ojitlán Chinantec is “catching water animals” and in Aguaruna “killing fish.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

purple

The Greek that is translated as “purple” in English is translated as “blue-red” in Ojitlán Chinantec.

In Kasua was a little bit more involved, as Rachel Greco recalls (in The PNG Experience):

“The Kasua people of Western Province have no word for the color purple. They have words for many other colors: black, red, white, yellow, green, and blue, but not for the color of royalty.

“About nine New Testament passages mention people placing a purple robe on Jesus. The Kasua translation team always wanted to use the word ‘red,’ or keyalo, to describe the robe. Tommy, one of the translation team helpers, disagreed because this is not historically accurate or signifies the royalty of Jesus.

“One of the main rules of translation is that the team must stick to the historical facts when they translate a passage. If they don’t, then how can the readers trust what they’re reading is true? Other questions about truth could bubble in the reader’s minds about the Scriptures. For this reason, Tommy was not willing to change the word purple. So the team hung up the problem, hoping to revisit it later with more inspiration.

“God did not disappoint.

“Years later, Tommy hiked with some of the men near their village. They saw a tree that possessed bulbous growths growing on the side of it like fruit. These growths were ‘the most beautiful color of purple I’d ever seen,’ explained Tommy.

“’What is the name of this tree?’ Tommy asked the men.

“’This is an Okani tree,’ they replied.

“Tommy suggested, ‘Why don’t you, in those passages where we’ve been struggling to translate the color purple, use ‘they put a robe on Jesus the color of the fruit of the Okani tree’?

“’Yeah. We know exactly what color that is,’ the men said enthusiastically.

“Everyone in their village would also visualize this phrase accurately, as the Okani tree is the only tree in that area that produces this kind of purple growth. So now, among the Kasua people, in his royal purple robe, Jesus is shown to be the king that he is.”

the light

The Greek that is often translated as “the light” in English is translated as “the one who teaches the right and straight, the one who, as you might say, illuminates people” in Ojitlán Chinantec and “who was like a light since he teaches what is truth” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac. (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)

mixture of myrrh with aloes

The Greek that is translated as a “mixture of myrrh with aloes” refers a mixture of “a fragrant resin used for embalming the dead” (myrrh) and a “powdered aromatic sandalwood, spoken of as providing perfume for the bed or clothes” (aloes) (source: Newman / Nida),

Ojitlán Chinantec translates it as “fragrant powder, resin powder and wood powder mixed” and Chol as “a wood that gives a fragrant smell when it is rotten.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

thirst (figuratively)

The Greek that is translated as “thirst” in English is translated in Ojitlán Chinantec as “with a dry heart”. (Source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

blaspheme, blasphemy

The Greek that is translated as “blasphemy” or “blaspheme” is (back-) translatated in various forms:

illegitimate children

The Greek that is translated “illegitimate children” or similar in English is translated as:

  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “children of an unknown father”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “children of the streets”
  • Chol: “those who were born because of the lust of men”
  • Navajo: “born in adultery”
  • Yanesha’: “born from an unmarried person” (source for this and above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)

feed my lambs

The Greek that is translated as “feed my lambs” in English is translated as “teach my people my words, as if to say you will feed my little sheep” in Ojitlán Chinantec, “teach my word to the men who are like lambs” in Huehuetla Tepehua, “help those who believe in me” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac, “teach the people who have just begun to trust in me” in Yatzachi Zapotec and “now do like a shepherd does. Take care of the people who believe in me” in Tenango Otomi.

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

See alsotend my sheep.

devil

The Greek that is translated in English as “devil” is sometimes translated with indigenous specific names, such as “the avaricious one” in Tetelcingo Nahuatl or “the malicious deity” in Toraja-Sa’dan. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In Yoruba it is translated as èṣù. “Èṣù is thought of as bringing evil, but also as giving protection. The birth of a child may be attributed to him, as the names given to some babies show, Èṣùbiyi (Èṣù brought this forth), and Èṣùtoyin (Èṣù is worthy of praise).” (Source: John Hargreaves in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 39ff.)

In Muna, it is translated as Kafeompu’ando seetani: “Master of the evil-spirits” (source: René van den Berg) and in Mairasi as owe er epar nan: “headman of malevolent spirits” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Huehuetla Tepehua
as “chief of demons,” and in Ojitlán Chinantec as “head of the worldlings” (source for the last two: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125).

In Lak and Shughni it is translated with terms of feminine gender. Vitaly Voinov tells this story:

“In the Lak language of Dagestan, the names ‘Iblis’ and ‘sheytan’ (referring to Satan and his minions, respectively) in this language were borrowed from the Arabic Islamic tradition, but they entered Lak as feminine nouns, not masculine nouns. This means that they grammatically function like nouns referring to females in Lak; in other words, Laks are likely to think of Iblis as a woman, not a man, because of the obligatory grammatical patterning of Lak noun classes. Thus, when the team explained (in Russian) what the Lak translation of Jesus’ wilderness temptation narrative at the beginning of Matthew 4 said, it sounded something like the following: ‘After this, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Iblis… .The temptress came to Jesus, and she said to Him…’

“Since this information (that the devil is a female spirit) is part of the very name used for Satan in Lak, nothing can really be done about this in the translation. The Lak translator did not think that the feminine gender of Iblis should cause any serious misunderstandings among readers, so we agreed to leave it in the translation. Prior to this, I had never heard about languages in which the devil is pictured as a woman, but recently I was told by a speaker of the Shughni language that in their language Sheytan is also feminine. This puts an interesting spin on things. The devil is of course a spirit, neither male nor female in a biologically-meaningful sense. But Bible translators are by nature very risk-aversive and, where possible, want to avoid any translation that might feed misleading information to readers. So what can a translator do about this? In many cases, such as the present one, one has to just accept the existing language structure and go on.”