entirely born in sins

The Greek that is translated as “you were entirely born in sins” or similar in English is translated as “you were born completely evil” in Ojitlán Chinantec, “not even being born yet you were a sinner” in Aguaruna, “you have done sin from the time you were born” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac, “you cursed one, you were born blind because of your evilness” in Yatzachi Zapotec, and “the way you were born shows that you are loaded with sin” in Rincón Zapotec.

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

blaspheme, blasphemy

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

figures of speech

The Greek that is translated as “figures of speech” or similar in English is translated in Ojitlán Chinantec as “telling words a little bit covered,” in Tenango Otomi as “comparisons,” in Navajo: “stories that teach,” and in Mezquital Otomi as “like a story” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.).

See also parable and image.

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.”

weapon

The Greek that is translated as “weapon” in English is translated as “machete” in Ojitlán Chinantec (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.).

Cephas

The Greek that is transliterated “Cephas” in English — and is an alternative name for Peter — is transliterated in Chinese Protestant translations as jīfǎ (traditional Chinese: 磯法, simplified Chinese: 矶法). The first character (磯 / 矶) is not only chosen because of its sound but also because of its meaning: “rock,” corresponding to the meaning of the Aramaic kēp̄ā (כֵּיפָא), to which the Greek Kēphâs (Κηφᾶς) refers and also alluding to Jesus’ proclamation in Matthew 16:18 (see Peter – rock).

Note that Catholic Chinese versions don’t follow the English pronunciation of “Cephas” with its opening [s] sound. They use kēfǎ (刻法) transliterating the [k] sound from the Aramaic and Greek. Kēfǎ does not carry the additional meaning of “rock.” (Source: Jost Zetzsche)

In the Neo-Aramaic language of Assyrian the terms used for both “Peter” (English transliteration of the Greek “πετρος”) and “Cephas” are identical (كِيپَا, pronounced kēpā). (Source: Ken Bunge)

The passage in John 1:42 (“You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter)” in English) is solved by various translations like this: “‘I am going to name you Cephas.’ Cephas means ‘Peter.’ Both mean ‘rock.'” (Ojitlán Chinantec), “I am naming you Cephas. ‘Cephas’ in the Jews’ language, ‘Peter’ in the Greek language, the meaning being ‘stone’.” (Alekano), “You will become known as Cephas,’ he said, which in our language means ‘rock.'” (Chol), or “You will be called Cephas and also Peter.” Tenango Otomi. (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

See also Peter – rock.

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.)

it is finished

For the Greek that is translated with an equivalent of “It is finished (or: completed)” in most English Bible translations a perfect tense is used that has no direct equivalent in English. It expresses that an event has happened at a specific point in the past but that that event has ongoing results. The English “Expanded Translation” by Kenneth S. Wuest (publ. 1961) attempted to recreate that by translating “It has been finished and stands complete.”

Irish uses yet a different system of tenses, resulting in these translations:

  • Atá sé ar na chríochnughadh (Bedell An Biobla Naomhtha, publ. early 17th century): “It is upon its completion”
  • Tá críoch curtha air (Ó Cuinn Tiomna Nua, publ. 1970): “Completion is put on it”
  • Tá sé curtha i gcrích (An Bíobla Naofa, publ. 1981): “It is put in completion”

Source for the Irish: Kevin Scannell

In Ojitlán Chinantec it is translated as “My work is finished, in Aguaruna as “It is completely accomplished, and in Mezquital Otomi as “Now all is finished which I was commanded to do.” (Source for this and above: 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 life was the light of all people

The Greek that is translated as “the life was the light of all people” or similar in English is translated in Huehuetla Tepehua as “that one who gives life, he is the one who gives understanding to the minds of men,” in Ojitlán Chinantec as “he teaches people the right and straight way according to truth, as if to say, he illumines them,” in Tzotzil (San Andres) as “The one that causes people to live, he is like light. This one who is like light…,” and in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac as “and he showed people what is truth. And thus he was as it were a light to the people.” (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.)

Levite

The Greek that is transliterated “Levites” in English (only the Contemporary English Version translates it as “temple helpers”) is translated in Ojitlán Chinantec as “temple caretakers,” Yatzachi Zapotec as “people born in the family line of Levi, people whose responsibility it was to do the work in the important church of the Israelites,” in Alekano as “servants in the sacrifice house from Jerusalem place,” and in Tenango Otomi as “helpers of priests.” (Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)