complete verse (John 17:10)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 17:10:

  • Chol: “All who belong to you also are mine. All who are mine are yours. My greatness has been shown in the believers.”
  • Mezquital Otomi: “All mine are yours and all yours are mine. We own them together. My glory appears in them.”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “And all the people who follow me are your children. And thus it is, whoever are your children are also my children. I receive honor because of what they do.”
  • Central Pame: “. . . It is apparent that I am glorious when the people I rule live righteously.”

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

bread, loaf

The Greek term that is translated in English as “bread” or “loaf” is translated in Chol as waj, the equivalent of a tortilla.

John Beekman (in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 180f.) explains: “The word ‘bread’ in Scripture primarily occurs as either a specific term for bread (including the Lord’s Supper), or as a generic term for food. It is not surprising, however, the some aboriginal groups use something other than bread as the staff of life. The Chols, with their cultural focus in the cultivation of corn, use waj, a type of thin corn flake. Since a meal is not complete without this main item of food, the term has been extended to include any other foods which may be served along with waj. While bread is known to them, its use is limited to a few occasions during the year when it functions as a dessert. In translating this term in the Chol New Testament, consistent use has been made of the word waj whenever the function of bread as a basic food was in focus. John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” was thus translated with this word. If the word for bread had been used, it was feared that the Chol would compare Christ to the desirable, but not absolutely necessary, dessert.”

In Samo, it is translated as “Sago,” which serves “like ‘bread’ for the Hebrews, as a generic for food in the Samo language. It is a near-perfect metonymy that has all the semantic elements necessary for effective communication.” (Source: Daniel Shaw in: Scriptura 96/2007, p. 501ff.)


The Greek that is translated as “adultery” (typically understood as “marital infidelity”) in English is (back-) translated in the following ways:

  • Highland Totonac: “to do something together”
  • Yucateco: “pair-sin”
  • Ngäbere: “robbing another’s half self-possession” (compare “fornication” which is “robbing self-possession,” that is, to rob what belongs to a person)
  • Kaqchikel, Chol: “to act like a dog”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan: “to measure the depth of the river of (another’s) marriage.”
  • Inupiaq; “married people using what is not theirs” (compare “fornication” which is “unmarried people using what is not theirs” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • In Purari: “play hands with” or “play eyes with”
  • In Hakha Chin the usual term for “adultery” applies only to women, so the translation for the Greek term that is translated into English as “adultery” was translated in Hakha Chin as “do not take another man’s wife and do not commit adultery.”
  • In Falam Chin the term for “adultery” is the phrase for “to share breast” which relates to adultery by either sex. (Source for this and three above: David Clark)
  • In Ixcatlán Mazatec a specification needs to be made to include both genders. (Source: Robert Bascom)

See also adulterer and adulteress.

care for no man, defer to no one

The Greek that is translated into English as “care for no man” or “defer to no one” (in the sense of not seeking anyone’s favor) is translated in Tabasco Chontal as “you say the same thing to everyone” and in Shilluk as “you show the same respect to everyone.” In Shipibo-Conibo it is “in your mind no one is anything,” in Chol it is “your heart is equally straight in the presence of all men” and in Tzeltal “it does not matter who — all of us are equal as far as you are concerned.”

complete verse (John 1:5)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:5:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “That one who gives understanding to the minds of men, he was like a light that shines where it is dark. But the one who walks where it is dark (the devil) couldn’t overcome him.”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “For people are in the evil way, as if to say, they are in darkness. But he illuminates people. The evil one did not prevail over that one who illuminates people.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “He is like a light which illuminates where it is dark. And the devil, he is of the darkness but he cannot conquer the light.”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “The person who is the word has light for the hearts of mankind. Even though there is very much evil in this world where he arrived, the evil did not shut off his light.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Chol: “The light of the world shows itself in the midst of a very dark world. This very dark world was not able to put out the light.” Wilbur Aulie (in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 109ff.) explains the use of “put out the light” (click here to display)

    “The problem of multiple meanings is often involved in the rendering of figures. Some hold that Greek katelaben in John 1:5 means both ‘to grasp with the mind’ (i.e., ‘to comprehend’) and ‘to grasp with the hand’ (i.e., to overcome’). Many translators are obliged to make a choice here. In Chol there is no choice, since the darkness cannot comprehend, even metaphorically speaking. It was therefore rendered: ‘The darkness did not put out the light’.”

  • Uma: “That light shone/shines in the darkness, and the darkness was/is not able to kill it/him.” (NOTE: The verb “kill” can be used of putting out a light or fire)

complete verse (John 3:6)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 3:6:

  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “That which originates from the body of a person is the body of a person. That which originates from the Spirit of God is spirit.”
  • Aguaruna: “Those born from people are people. Those born by God’s spirit, they have God’s spirit.”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “All the children of human beings are human beings by birth. All who are born another time, this being the work of the Holy Spirit, these are new people.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “One who is a child of people, he has his flesh and bones. And one who has his new life by the power of the Holy Spirit, he has the Spirit of God.”
  • Chol: “He who is born of a mother is given a body. He who is born of the spirit is given life in his heart.”
  • Alekano: “One that people give birth to will surely have a person’s soul. One that the Spirit gives birth to, he will surely have the Spirit’s soul.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “A child, when it is born, if his parents are only people, is also only a person. But in order for a person to live anew, only the Holy Spirit can cause it.”
  • Lalana Chinantec: “People’s flesh and blood causes our flesh and blood to be alive when we are born. But the great Spirit of God causes our hearts to be alive.”

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

anchor (figurative)

The Greek that is translated into English as “anchor (of the soul)” in English is, due to non-existing nautical language, rendered as xuk’chotontib (“that which becomes unmovable”) in Chol (source: Steven 1979, p. 75), as “iron crab” in Bawm Chin (source; David Clark), as “foundation” in Tsou (source: Peng Kuo-Wei), in Mossi as “a strong and steadfast picketting-peg” (source: Nida 1952, p. 46) and in Enxet as “that holds up like a rope” (source: See Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff).

In Kouya the translation is “the foundation which keeps a house secure.” Eddie Arthur tells this story: “A slightly more prosaic example comes from Paul’s sea voyages in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27, when Paul’s ship was facing a huge storm, there are several references to throwing out the anchor to save the ship. Now the Kouya live in a tropical rain-forest and have no vessels larger than dug-out canoes used for fishing on rivers. The idea of an anchor was entirely foreign to them. However, it was relatively easy to devise a descriptive term along the lines of ‘boat stopping metal’ that captured the essential nature of the concept. This was fine when we were translating the word anchor in its literal sense. However, in Hebrews 6:19 we read that hope is an anchor for our souls. It would clearly make no sense to use ‘boat stopping metal’ at this point as the concept would simply not have any meaning. So in this verse we said that faith was like the foundation which keeps a house secure. One group working in the Sahel region of West Africa spoke of faith being like a tent peg which keeps a tent firm against the wind. I hope you can see the way in which these two translations capture the essence of the image in the Hebrews verse while being more appropriate to the culture.”

complete verse (John 1:17)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:17:

  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “Moses taught the ancestors of us Israelites the law of God, but Jesus Christ came to teach that God loves mankind, and he teaches us all the true words of God.”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “The law about the things of God, the one who gave it was Moses. But the love which was to us and the truth came into being because of Jesus Christ.”
  • Umiray Dumaget Agta: “Even though Moses was caused to speak the rules of God, Jesus Christ was the one appointed to show mercy and to declare the truth.”
  • Guerrero Amuzgo: “. . . but Jesus Christ is the source of all favor and of the words that are true.”
  • Chol: “Jesus Christ came and gave us the goodness of his heart and truth.”
  • Tenango Otomi: “By means of Moses the law of God is known. But by means of Jesus Christ the love of God and the true word are known.” (Source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And by means of Moses, God brought down to earth the laws. But by means of Jesus, God brought down to earth his love/grace for us and the true doctrine.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo back-translation)
  • Uma: “From the prophet Musa we received the Law of the Lord God.
    But [it is] from Yesus Kristus that we really know God,
    and his grace to us.” (Source: Uma back-translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Because God gave his laws to Moises which he was commanding us, but that grace/mercy of his and truth concerning himself, he caused us to comprehend through Jesu-Cristo.” (Source: Tagbanwa back-translation)