The Hebrew and Greek that are translated as “fear (of God)” (or: “honor,” “worship,” or “respect”) is translated as “to have respect/reverence for” (Southern Subanen, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Javanese, Tboli), “to make great before oneself” (Ngäbere), “fear-devotion” (Kannada — currently used as a description of the life of piety), “those-with-whom he-is-holy” (those who fear God) (Western Apache) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “obey” (Nyanja) (source: Ernst Wendland), or with a term that communicates awe (rather than fear of an evil source) (Chol) (source: Robert Bascom).
The Greek term that is translated as “apostle(s)” in English is (back-) translated in the following ways:
- Eastern Highland Otomi, Tzeltal, Western Kanjobal, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Copainalá Zoque, Chol, Balanta-Kentohe: “the sent ones”
- Kituba, Pamona, Mezquital Otomi, Central Pame: “messengers”
- Ngäbere: “word carriers”
- Southern Subanen: “those commanded to carry the message”
- San Blas Kuna: “witnesses to God” (meaning “those who speak up and out for God” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida, except Balanta-Kentohe: Rob Koops)
- Mairasi: sasiri atatuemnev nesovnaa or “sent witnesses” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Ekari: “one-who-goes-and-tells-for-someone” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Khmer: “Christtout” (“messenger representing Christ”) or when Jesus addresses them: “Tout robas Preah Ang” (“his messengers-representatives”) (source: Joseph Hong in The Bible Translator 1996, p. 233ff.)
- Pwo Karen: “eyeballs” (i.e., “right-hand men”) (source: David Clark)
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)
The Greek that is translated in English versions as “hell” (or “Gehenna”) is translated (1) by borrowing a term from a trade or national language (this is done in a number of Indian languages in Latin America, which have borrowed Spanish “infierno” — from Latin “inferno” Latin “infernus”: “of the lower regions”), (2) by using an expression denoting judgment or punishment, e.g. “place of punishment” (Loma), “place of suffering” (Highland Totonac, San Blas Kuna) and (3) by describing a significant characteristic: (a) the presence of fire or burning, e.g. “place of fire” (Kipsigis, Mossi), “the large bonfire” (Shipibo-Conibo), or (b) the traditionally presumed location, e.g. “the lowest place” (a well-known term in Ngäbere), “the place inside” long used to designate hell, as a place inside the earth (Aymara).
The Greek and Hebrew that are often translated as “miracles” or “miraculous powers” into English are translated as “things which no one has ever seen before” (San Blas Kuna), “thing marveled at” (Tepeuxila Cuicatec), “breathtaking thing” (Ngäbere), “long-necked thing” (referring to the onlookers who stretch their necks to see) (Huautla Mazatec), “sign done by God’s power” (Mossi), “supernatural power” (Javanese), “things that have heaven-strength” (Highland Totonac) (source for all above: Bratcher / Nida), “amazing thing” (Muna) (source: René van den Berg), or “impossible things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004).
See also wonder.
The Greek that is translated into English as “peace” is (back-) translated with a variety of idioms and phrases:
- “a song in the body” (Baoulé)
- “heart coolness” (Eastern Maninkakan)
- “to sit down in the heart” (South Bolivian Quechua)
- “quietness of heart” (Chol)
- “quiet goodness” (Kekchí)
- “having your hearts feel oneness for one another” (Tzeltal) (Source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
- “my heart sits down” (Northern Grebo)
- “coolness” (Pular)
- “rest within” (Lacandon)
- “to have one heart” (Miskito)
- “well-arranged soul” (Mashco Piro)
- “having a quiet mind” (Ngäbere)
- “completeness” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl) (source for this and six above: Nida 1952, p. 128ff.)
- “resting the heart” (Central Mazahua) (source: Nida 1952, p. 40)
- momapu laro or “cold/cool-hearted” (as an adjective); mapuhio laro or “make the heart cool” (as a verb) (Moronene) (source: David Andersen)
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
The Greek terms that are typically translated as “mercy” (or “compassion”) in English are translated in various ways. Bratcher / Nida classify them in (1) those based on the quality of heart, or other psychological center, (2) those which introduce the concept of weeping or extreme sorrow, (3) those which involve willingness to look upon and recognize the condition of others, or (4) those which involve a variety of intense feelings.
Here are some (back-) translations:
- Ngäbere: “tender heart”
- Mískito: “white heart”
- Amganad Ifugao: “what arises from a kind heart”
- Vai: “purity of heart”
- Western Kanjobal: “his abdomen weeps”
- Kipsigis: “to cry inside”
- Shilluk: “to cry continually within”
- Navajo: “to feel great sorrow” (“with the connotation of being about to cry”)
- Kpelle: “to see misery”
- Toro So Dogon: “to know misery”
- Western Highland Purepecha: “to be in pain for”
- San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “to be very sorry for”
- Mezquital Otomi: “to have increasing love for”
- Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “showing undeserved goodness” (“closely identified with grace”) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Yatzachi Zapotec: “pity-love”
- Central Mazahua: “very much pity people”
- Alekano: “help people who are suffering”
- Guhu-Samane: “feeling sorry for men” (source for this and three above: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.)
- Latvian: žēlastība, the same term that is also used for grace (source: Katie Roth)
- Iloko: asi — also means “pity” and is used for a love of the poor and helpless (source: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff.)
- Bilua: “forgiving love” (source: Carl Gross)
- Luang: “inside goodness” (source: Kathy and Mark Taber in Kroneman (2004), p. 533)
- Mairasi: “have good intestines” (see Seat of the Mind) (source: Lloyd Peckham)
The Greek that is rendered in English as “filled with the Holy Spirit” or “full with the Holy Spirit” is translated in Tboli as “the Holy Spirit shall be with him,” in Shipibo-Conibo as “the Holy Spirit shall permeate him” (using a term said of medicines), in Cuyonon as “he shall be under the control of the Holy Spirit” (esp. Luke 4:1, Acts 7:55, Acts 11:24) in Ngäbere as “the full strength of the Holy Spirit shall stay in him,” in Tae’ (translation of 1933) as “he shall carry the Holy Spirit in his inner being” (sourse for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), and in Yamba and Bulu as “the Holy Spirit filled their hearts” (source: W. Reyburn in The Bible Translator 1959, p. 1ff.).
The following story is relayed by Martha Duff Tripp as she led the translation of the New Testament into Yanesha’ (p. 310):
I continue to work with Casper Mountain [an Yanesha’ translator] on translation. As we start the book of Luke, we run into another problem. In Chapter 1, verse 15, the text reads (speaking of John the Baptist), “and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The Amueshas [Yanesha’s] have never associated their word for “fill” with anything except pots and baskets. How can a person be “filled”? Even their word for a full stomach is not the word for “fill.” We talk together about what “filled with the Holy Spirit” means (obsessed with or possessed by). The thought comes to me of what the Amueshas [Yanesha’s] say about the shaman. They say that he can “wear” the spirit of the tiger, that they can tell when he is wearing the tiger spirit because he then will act like a tiger. Their word for “wear” is the same word as to “wear or put on a garment.” Can this possibly be the way to say “filled with God’s Spirit”? As I cautiously question Casper about this, his face lights up immediately. “Yes, that is the way we would say it, he is ’wearing’ God’s Holy Spirit.”
See also Holy Spirit.
The Greek terms that are translated as “patient” or “patience” are translated in a variety of ways.
Eugene Nida (1952, p. 130) gives some examples:
“Peace is the quality of the soul; patience is the behavior of the soul. The Aymara of Bolivia have described patience well by the phrase ‘a waiting heart.’
“The Ngäbere of Panama describe patience in more vivid terms. They say that it is ‘chasing down your temper.’ The impatient person lets his temper run away with him. Patience requires one to “chase down his temper” and get it under control [see also Mairasi down below].
“The Yucateco describe patience as ‘strength not to fall.’ This seems to include almost more than patience, but it is important to note that this Yucateco translation recognizes that impatience means ‘falling.’ For some of us, who tend to take a certain secret pride in our impatience—describing it as energetic drive—it might be well to recognize that impatience is failure, while patience is strength.
“The San Blas Kuna in Panama use a rather strange phrase to depict patience. They say ‘not caring what happens.’ But this is not meant as condoning foolhardy indifference to life and danger. It reflects a kind of reckless confidence in God, a confidence not bred of desperation but of utter reliance. The patient person is not concerned about what happens; he is willing to wait in confidence.”
In Mairasi, the phrase that is employed is “stop (our) anger.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)
(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)
The Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek terms that are often translated as “worship” (also, “kneel down” or “bow down”) are likewise translated in other languages in certain categories, including those based on physical activity, those which incorporate some element of “speaking” or “declaring,” and those which specify some type of mental activity.
Following is a list of (back-) translations (click or tap for details):
- Javanese: “to prostrate oneself before”
- Malay: “to kneel and bow the head”
- Kaqchikel: “to kneel before”
- Loma (Liberia): “to drop oneself beneath God’s foot”
- Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “to wag the tail before God” (using a verb which with an animal subject means “to wag the tail,” but with a human subject)
- Tzotzil: “to join to”
- Kpelle: “to raise up a blessing to God”
- Kekchí: “to praise as your God”
- Cashibo-Cacataibo: “to say one is important”
- San Blas Kuna: “to think of God with the heart”
- Rincón Zapotec: “to have one’s heart go out to God”
- Tabasco Chontal: “to holy-remember” (source of this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
- Alur: rwo: “complete submission, adoration, consecration” (source: F. G. Lasse in The Bible Translator 1956, p. 22ff.)
- Obolo: itọtọbọ ebum: “expressing reverence and devotion” (source: Enene Enene)
- Ngäbere: “to cut oneself down before” (“This figure of speech comes from the picture of towering mahoganies in the forest which, under the woodman’s ax, quiver, waver, and then in solemn, thunderous crashing bury their lofty heads in the upstretched arms of the surrounding forest. This is the experience of every true worshiper who sees ‘the Lord, high and lifted up.’ Our own unworthiness brings us low. As the Valientes say, ‘we cut ourselves down before’ His presence. Our heads, which have been carried high in self-confidence, sink lower and lower in worship.)
- Tzeltal: “ending oneself before God.” (“Only by coming to the end of oneself can one truly worship. The animist worships his deities in the hope of receiving corresponding benefits, and some pagans in Christendom think that church attendance is a guarantee of success in this life and good luck in the future. But God has never set a price on worship except the price that we must pay, namely, ‘coming to the end of ourselves.'”) (Source of this and the one above: Nida 1952, p. 163)
- Folopa: “dying under God” (“an idiom that roughly back-translates “dying under God” which means lifting up his name and praising him and to acknowledge by everything one does and thanks that God is superior.”) (Source: Anderson / Moore, p. 202)
- Chokwe: kuivayila — “to rub something on” (“When anyone goes into the presence of a king or other superior, according to native law and custom the inferior gets down on the ground, takes a little earth in the fingers of his right hand, rubs it on his own body, and then claps his hands in homage and the greeting of friendship. It is a token of veneration, of homage, of extreme gratitude for some favor received. It is also a recognition of kingship, lordship, and a prostrating of oneself in its presence. Yet it simply is the applicative form of ‘to rub something on oneself’, this form of the verb giving the value of ‘because of.’ Thus in God’s presence as king and Lord we metaphorically rub dirt on ourselves, thus acknowledging Him for what He really is and what He has done for us.”) (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff.)
In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:
- For Mark 15:19 and Matt. 2:8 and 2:11: “uh’idma-rrama llia’ara” — “to kiss the fingernail and lick the heel”
- For Acts 16:14: ra’uli-rawedi — “to praise-talk about”
- For Acts 14:15, 15:20, 17:16, 17:25: hoi-tani — “serve right hand – serve left”
- For Acts 13:16 and 13:26: una-umta’ata — “respect-fear”
- For 2 Thess. 2:4: kola tieru awur nehla — “hold waist – hug neck”
Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.
Some key biblical terms that were directly transliterated from the Hebrew have ended up with unforeseen meanings in the lexicons of various recipient languages.
Take, for example, the English word “cherub,” from Hebrew “kĕrȗb.” Whereas the original Hebrew term meant something like “angelic being that is represented as part human, part animal” (…), the English word now means something like “a person, especially a child, with an innocent or chubby face.” Semantic shift has been conditioned in English by the Renaissance artistic tradition that portrayed cherubim in the guise of cute little Greek cupids. This development was of course impossible to foresee at the time when the first English translations borrowed this Hebrew word into the English Bible tradition, following the pattern of borrowing set by the Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament.
In Russian, the semantic shift of this transliteration was somewhat different: the -îm ending of “kĕrūbîm,” originally signifying plurality in Hebrew, has been reanalyzed as merely the final part of the lexical item, so that the term херувим (kheruvim) in Russian is a singular count noun, not a plural one. (A similar degrammaticalization is seen in
English writers who render the Hebrew plural kĕrūbîm as “cherubims.”) Apparently, this degrammaticalization of the Hebrew ending is what led the Russian Synodal translator of Gen 3:24 to mistakenly render the Hebrew as saying that the Lord God placed a kheruvim (accusative masculine singular in Russian) to the east of the garden of Eden, instead of indicating a plural number of such beings.
Source: Vitaly Voinov in The Bible Translator 2012, p. 17ff.
In Ngäbere the Hebrew that is translated in English as “cherub” is translated as “heavenly guard” (source: J. Loewen 1980, p. 107).