conversion, convert, turn back

The Greek that is often rendered in English as “to be converted” or “to turn around” is (back-) translated in a number of ways:

  • North Alaskan Inupiatun: “change completely”
  • Purepecha: “turn around”
  • Highland Totonac: “have one’s life changed”
  • Huautla Mazatec: “make pass over bounds within”
  • San Blas Kuna: “turn the heart toward God”
  • Chol: “the heart turns itself back”
  • Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “self-heart change”
  • Pamona: “turn away from, unlearn something”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “turn around from the breast”
  • Luvale: “return”
  • Balinese: “put on a new behavior” (compare “repentance“: “to put on a new mind”)
  • Tzeltal: “cause one’s heart to return to God” (compare “repentance”: “to cause one’s heart to return because of one’s sin”)
  • Pedi: “retrace one’s step” (compare “repentance”: “to become untwisted”)
  • Uab Meto: “return” (compare “repentance”: “to turn the heart upside down”)
  • Northwestern Dinka: “turn oneself” (compare “repentance”: “to turn the heart”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Central Mazahua: “change the heart” (compare “repentance”: “turn back the heart”) (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • In Elhomwe, the same term is used for “conversion” and “repentance” (source: project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Western Kanjobal: “molt” (like a butterfly) (source: Nida 1952, p. 136)
  • Latvian: atgriezties (verb) / atgriešanās (noun) (“turn around / return”) which is also the same term being used for “repentance” (source: Katie Roth)
  • Isthmus Mixe: “look away from the teaching of one’s ancestors and follow the teachings of God”
  • Highland Popoluca: “leave one’s old beliefs to believe in Jesus” (source for thsi and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

salvation

The Greek that is translated with “salvation” in English is translated in the following ways:

  • San Blas Kuna: “receive help for bad deeds” (“this help is not just any kind of help but help for the soul which has sinned)
  • Northwestern Dinka: “help as to his soul” (“or literally, ‘his breath'”) (source for this and the one above: Nida 1952, p. 140)
  • Central Mazahua: “healing the heart” (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Tzeltal: col: “get loose,” “go free,” “get well” (source: Marianna C. Slocum in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 49f. )
  • Aari: “the day our Savior comes” (in Rom 13:11) (source: Loren Bliese)

in Mairasi its is translated as “life fruit” or “life fruit all mashed out.” Lloyd Peckham explains: “In secret stories, not knowable to women nor children, there was a magical fruit of life. If referred to vaguely, without specifying the specific ‘fruit,’ it can be an expression for eternity.” And for “all masked out” he explains: “Bark cloth required pounding. It got longer and wider as it got pounded. Similarly, life gets pounded or mashed to lengthen it into infinity. Tubers also get mashed into the standard way of serving the staple food, like the fufu of Uganda, or like poi of Hawaii. It spreads out into infinity.” (See also eternity / forever)

In Lisu a poetic construct is used for this term. Arrington (2020, p. 58f.) explains: “A four-word couplet uses Lisu poetic forms to bridge the abstract concrete divide, an essential divide to cross if Christian theology is to be understood by those with oral thought patterns. Each couplet uses three concrete nouns or verbs to express an abstract term. An example of this is the word for salvation, a quite abstract term essential to understanding Christian theology. To coin this new word, the missionary translators used a four-word couplet: ℲO., CYU. W: CYU (person … save … person … save). In this particular case, the word for person was not the ordinary word (ʁ) but rather the combination of ℲO., and W: used in oral poetry. The word for ‘save’ also had to be coined; in this case, it was borrowed from Chinese [from jiù / 救]. These aspects of Lisu poetry, originally based on animism, likely would have been lost as Lisu society encountered communism and modernization. Yet they are now codified in the Lisu Bible as well as the hymnbook.”

See also save and save (Japanese honorifics) / salvation (of God) (Japanese honorifics).

covenant

The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that are translated as “covenant” in English are translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:

  • Mossi: “helping promise”
  • Vai: “a thing-time-bind” (i.e. “an arrangement agreed upon for a period of time”)
  • Loma (Liberia): “agreement”
  • Northwestern Dinka: “agreement which is tied up” (i.e. “secure and binding”)
  • Chol: “a word which is left”
  • Huastec: “a broken-off word” (“based on the concept of ‘breaking off a word’ and leaving it with the person with whom an agreement has been reached”)
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “a death command” (i.e. “a special term for testament”)
  • Piro: “a promised word”
  • Eastern Krahn: “a word between”
  • Yaka: “promise that brings together” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Nabak: alakŋaŋ or “tying the knot” (source: Fabian 2013, p. 156)
  • Nyamwezi: ilagano: “agreement, contract, covenant, promise” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Q’anjob’al: “put mouths equal” (representing agreement) (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. )
  • Manikion, Indonesian: “God’s promise” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Natügu: nzesz’tikr drtwr: “oneness of mind” (source: Brenda Boerger in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 164)
  • Tagalog: tipan: mutual promising on the part of two persons agreeing to do something (also has a romantic touch and denotes something secretive) (source: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff. )
  • Tagbanwa: “initiated-agreement” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Guhu-Samane: “The concept [in Mark 14:24 and Matthew 16:28] is not easy, but the ritual freeing of a fruit and nut preserve does afford some reference. Thus, ‘As they were drinking he said to them, ‘On behalf of many this poro provision [poro is the traditional religion] of my blood is released.’ (…) God is here seen as the great benefactor and man the grateful recipient.” (Source: Ernest Richert in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff. )
Law (2013, p. 95) writes about how the Ancient Greek Septuagint‘s translation of the Hebrew berith was used by the New Testament writers as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments (click or tap here to read more):

“Right from the start we witness the influence of the Septuagint on the earliest expressions of the Christian faith. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of his blood being a kaine diatheke, a ‘new covenant.’ The covenant is elucidated in Hebrews 8:8-12 and other texts, but it was preserved in the words of Jesus with this language in Luke 22:20 when at the Last Supper Jesus said, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Jesus’s blood was to provide the grounds for the ‘new covenant,’ in contrast to the old one his disciples knew from the Jewish scriptures (e.g., Jeremiah 31:31-34). Thus, the earliest Christians accepted the Jewish Scriptures as prophecies about Jesus and in time began to call the collection the ‘Old Testament’ and the writings about Jesus and early Christianity the ‘New Testament,’ since ‘testament’ was another word for ‘covenant.’ The covenant promises of God (berith in Hebrew) were translated in the Septuagint with the word diatheke. In classical Greek diatheke had meant ‘last will, testament,’ but in the Septuagint it is the chosen equivalent for God’s covenant with his people. The author of Hebrews plays on the double meaning, and when Luke records Jesus’ announcement at the Last Supper that his blood was instituting a ‘new covenant,’ or a ‘new testament,’ he is using the language in an explicit contrast with the old covenant, found in the Jewish scriptures. Soon, the writings that would eventually be chosen to make up the texts about the life and teachings of Jesus and the earliest expression of the Christian faith would be called the New Testament. This very distinction between the Old and New Testaments is based on the Septuagint’s language.”

See also establish (covenant) and covenant (book).

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Covenant in the Hebrew Bible .

saint

The Greek that is translated as “saint” in English is rendered into Highland Puebla Nahuatl as “one with a clean hearts,” into Northwestern Dinka as “one with a white hearts,” and into Western Kanjobal as “person of prayer.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 146)

Other translations include:

seal with the promised Holy Spirit

The Greek that is translated as “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” in English is translated in Northwestern Dinka as “You were branded in the heart by the Holy Spirit who was promised.”

Nida (1952, p. 54) tells this story: “The Northwestern Dinkas do not employ seals to indicate ownership nor do they confirm an agreement by using sealing wax and a signet ring, but they do mark ownership of their cattle by branding them. When speaking of the Christian’s relationship to God, it is not enough to use the words ‘to brand,’ but this phrase has been expanded and enriched by the words ‘in the heart’.”

In Alekano it is translated as “(God) having bestowed his spirit on you, you have become accompanied with God’s ownership-mark.” (Source: Larson 1998, p. 134)

In Gumatj, the concept of a “seal” (or “letter”) is unknown so the translation team used an expression that relates to a traditional custom. When a man is planning to build a dugout canoe, he goes into the forest and looks for a tree that is particularly well suited for that task. He then marks the tree with his knife to claim it for his use. That term for marking the tree was used in the translation for “seal.” (Source: Holzhausen 1991, p. 44f.)

repent, repentance

The Greek and Hebrew that is often translated as “repent” or “repentance” is (back-) translated in various ways (click or tap here to see the rest of this insight):

  • Western Kanjobal: “think in the soul”
  • Kekchí: “pain in the heart”
  • Northwestern Dinka: “turn the heart”
  • Pedi: “become untwisted”
  • Baoulé: “it hurts to make you quit it” (source for this and above: Nida 1952, p. 137)
  • Balinese: “putting on a new mind”
  • Chicahuaxtla Triqui: “be sorry on account of one’s sins”
  • Uab Meto: “turn the heart upside down” (source for this and the two above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Central Mazahua / Chichimeca-Jonaz: “turn back the heart” (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
  • Suki: biaekwatrudap gjaeraesae: “turn with sorrow” (source: L. and E. Twyman in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 91ff. )
  • Yamba and Bulu: “turn over the heart” (source: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff. )
  • Chichewa: kutembenuka mtima (“to be turned around in one’s heart”) (source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 319ff. )
  • Caribbean Javanese: mertobat (“tired of old life”)
  • Saramaccan: bia libi ko a Massa Gadu (“turn your life to the Lord God”)
  • Sranan Tongo: drai yu libi (“turn your life”) or kenki libi (“change life”)
  • Eastern Maroon Creole: dai yu libi (“turn your life”) (source for this and 3 above: Jabini 2015)
  • Eggon: “bow in the dust” (source: Kilgour, p. 80)
  • Embu: “change heart” (“2 Cor. 7:10 says ‘For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.’ In ordinary speech the terms ‘repent’ and ‘regret’ are used interchangeably in Embu, so that this verse comes out as: ‘godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no repentance,’ which is contradictory. The problem was solved by using ‘changing heart’ in the first, and ‘sadness’ in the second.”) (source: Jan Sterk)
  • Anuak: “liver falls down”
  • Kafa: “return from way of sin to God” (source for this and the one above: Loren Bliese)
  • Latvian: atgriezties (verb) / atgriešanās (noun) (“turn around / return” — see turn around / convert) (source: Katie Roth)
  • Obolo: igwugwu ikom: “turn back (from evil)” (source: Enene Enene)
  • Mairasi: make an end (of wrongdoing) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Luchazi: ku aluluka mutima: “turn in heart” (source: E. Pearson in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 160ff. )
  • Chokwe: kulinkonyeka: “fold back over” or “go back on oneself” (source D.B. Long in The Bible Translator 1953, p. 135ff. ).
  • Muna: dofetompa’ao dhosa bhe dodoli ne Lahata’ala: “radically-end sin and to turn to God” (source: René van den Berg)
  • Bacama: por-njiya: “fetch sand” (“Before the coming of Christianity 100 years ago, when the elders went to pray to the gods, they would take sand and throw it over each shoulder and down their backs while confessing their sins. Covering themselves with sand was a ritual to show that they were sorry for what they had done wrong, sort of like covering oneself with sackcloth and ashes. Now idol worship for the most part is abandoned in Bacama culture, but the Christian church has retained the phrase por-njiya to mean ‘repent, doing something to show sorrow for one’s sins’” — source: David Frank in this blog post .)
  • “In Tzotzil two reflexive verbs to communicate the biblical concept of repentance are used. Xca’i jba means to know or to reflect inwardly on one’s self. This self inquiry or self examination is similar to the attitude of the prodigal son where Luke 15:17 records that ‘he came to his senses.’ Broke, starving, and slopping hogs, the prodigal admitted to himself that he was in the wrong place. The second reflexive verb ‘jsutes jba’ means turning away from what one is and turning to something else. In a sense, it is deciding against one’s self and toward someone else. It is similar to the attitude of the prodigal son when he said, ‘I will get up and go to my father’ (v. 18).” (source: Aeilts, p. 118)
  • Enlhet “exchange innermosts.” “Innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind (for other examples see here). (Source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff. )
  • San Blas Kuna: “sorry for wrong done in the heart” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff. )
  • Desano: “change your bad deeds for good ones”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “put your hearts and minds on the good road”
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “change your thinking about evil and walk in the way of God”
  • San Mateo del Mar Huave: “just remember that you have done wicked, in order that you might do good”
  • Coatlán Mixe: “heart-return to God” (source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Sierra de Juárez Zapotec: “get on the right road”
  • Isthmus Zapotec: “heart becomes soft” (source for this and above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Tibetan: ‘gyod tshangs byed (འགྱོད་​ཚངས་​བྱེད།), lit. “regret + pure” (source: gSungrab website )

See also: convert / conversion / turn back and see Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”

save

The Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin that is translated as a form of “save” in English is translated in Shipibo-Conibo with a phrase that means literally “make to live,” which combines the meaning of “to rescue” and “to deliver from danger,” but also the concept of “to heal” or “restore to health.”

In San Blas Kuna it is rendered as “help the heart,” in Laka, it is “take by the hand” in the meaning of “rescue” or “deliver,” in Huautla Mazatec the back-translation of the employed term is “lift out on behalf of,” in Anuak, it is “have life because of,” in Central Mazahua “be healed in the heart,” in Baoulé “save one’s head” (meaning to rescue a person in the fullest sense), in Guerrero Amuzgo “come out well,” in Northwestern Dinka “be helped as to his breath” (or “life”) (source: Bratcher / Nida), and in Noongar barrang-ngandabat or “hold life” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

In South Bolivian Quechua it is “make to escape” and in Highland Puebla Nahuatl, it is “cause people to come out with the aid of the hand.” (Source: Nida 1947, p. 222.)

See also salvation and save (Japanese honorifics).