The Greek that is translated into English as “nonsense” or “idle tale” is translated as “empty talk” (Uab Meto), “wind talk” (Indonesian), “carried-around story” (Ekari), “purposeless talking” (Kele), “words that-frighten without-reason” (Toraja-Sa’dan), or “talk without foundation” (Pohnpeian, Chuukese) (source for all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), or “telling a fairy tale” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004).
The Greek and Hebrew term that is translated into English as “yoke,” the Afar translation uses koyta (poles of camel pack) which refers to two poles in front of the hump and two behind; elsewhere in agricultural Ethiopia the yoke is only in front of the hump.
In Chol it is translated with tajbal, a term for “headband” (for carrying) (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.). Likewise, in Kele, it is translated with njɛmbɛ, “a carrying strap worn around the head and across the chest or shoulders to support a burden of firewood, garden produce or even a child carried by this on the back or hip” (source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.).
In Kwasio it is translated with a term that refers to a “bulky piece of wood attached to the neck of a goat, preventing it from roaming freely in the brushy undergrowth.”
Joshua Ham explains: “When checking this verse in Kwasio, I was surprised to find that the Kwasio had a word for yoke. You see, none of the language groups we have worked with have a tradition of using animals to pull carts or plows. Since yokes don’t exist in the culture, there’s no need for a word for that concept in these languages.
“When I asked the Kwasio team about their word for yoke, they said that they don’t use yokes to help animals pull plows; rather, their word for yoke refers to a bulky piece of wood attached to the neck of a goat, preventing it from roaming freely in the brushy undergrowth. So while the exact use of a Kwasio yoke is not the same as a biblical yoke, there are a lot of similarities: in both cases, it’s a piece of wood around an animal’s neck that serves to keep the animal under control. While the overlap isn’t perfect, it’s pretty good — and almost certainly better than trying to squeeze in a distracting explanation of how yokes function in the biblical cultures.”
Adam Boyd (in The PNG Experience) tells this story about finding the right term in Enga: “Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:29-30 are some of the most difficult to translate into the Enga language. From the time that I became a Christian, I was taught that a yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to a plough or cart that they are to pull. This is an easy enough concept to understand for people who come from societies that make use of beasts of burden, but in Papua New Guinea, there are no beasts of burden. Consequently the concept of a yoke placed on animals is completely foreign. Thus, we have struggled greatly in our attempt to translate Matthew 11:29-30.
“Recently, however, I came to learn that a yoke can also refer to a wooden frame that a person places on his neck or shoulders to make it easier to carry a heavy load. Indeed, the Bible often makes figurative use of the word ‘yoke’ as it refers to people and not to beasts of burden (see 1 Kings 12:4-14). As I was pondering that idea, I began to notice that when Engan men carry heavy logs on one shoulder, they often balance the load by supporting it with a small stick placed across the other shoulder. A few weeks ago, it clicked in my mind that the small stick they use to make it easier to carry a heavy log is like a yoke.
“Excited by this realization, I quickly asked my friend Benjamin if the stick that men use to make it easier to carry a heavy log has a name in Enga. Sure enough it does. It is called a pyakende. With great anticipation, I asked the translation team if we could use the word pyakende to translate the word ‘yoke’. After wrestling with the phrasing for a little while, we came up with the following translation: ‘In order to remove the heaviness from your shoulders, take my pyakende. When you have taken it, you will receive rest. As my pyakende helps you, what I give you to carry is not heavy and you will carry it without struggling.’”
Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing how yokes were used in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)
The Greek that is often translated as “equality” in English is translated in Kele as likelemba, “which denotes the equal and alternate sharing of one’s share of food, wages or ration. When one has none or lacks a fair share, then a friend gives his share so that your abundance may supply their want at the present time, so that their abundance (on another occasion) may supply your need.” (source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.).
The phrase that is translated as “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” in English versions is rendered in Kahua with a term for belly/chest as the seat of the emotions.
The same phrase is translated into Kuy as “with all your heart-liver”to show the totality of one’s being. (Source: David Clark)
The whole phrase is translated in Tboli as “cause it to start from the very beginning of your stomach your loving God, for he is your place of holding.”
In Poqomchi’ (as in many other Mayan languages), the term “heart” covers both “heart” and “mind.”
(Sources: Bratcher / Nida, Reiling / Swellengrebel, and Bob Bascom [Ixcatlán Mazatec and Poqomchi’])
The Greek that is translated as “is acceptable” or “is welcome” in English is translated as “well received” (Sinhala), “to be considered-good” (Tae’), “to be liked” (Sundanese), “to be cherished” (Chuukese), “to be popular” (Pohnpeian), “to be believed with respect” (Kele), or “to be listened to” (Tboli).
The Greek that is translated as “he came to himself” or “he came to his senses” is (back-) translated in a number of ways:
- Sranan Tongo: “he came to get himself”
- Tzeltal: “his heart arrived”
- Thai (translation of 1967): “he sensed himself” (implying realization that he had done wrong)
- Kekchí: “it fell into his heart”
- Tagalog: “his self came back”
- Yaka, Chuukese, Pohnpeian: “he came to wisdom (or: became wise)”
- Kituba: “he understood himself”
- Uab Meto: “his heart came to life again”
- Kaqchikel: “he came out of his stupor”
- Lomwe, Yao: “he was turned, or, aroused (as from sleep), in his heart”
- Javanese: “he became-aware of his own condition”
- Kele: “he thought again about his affair” (source for all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
- Mairasi: “his own liver’s sky split” (In Mairasi, the liver is the seat of emotions) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
The Greek that is translated in English as “eternal life” is translated in various ways:
- Berik: “good living forever” (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 536)
- Asháninka: “keep on living”
- Aguaruna: “will always live”
- Yanesha’: “immortal state forever”
- North Alaskan Inupiatun: “endless life”
- Colorado: “live forever with God”
- Lalana Chinantec: “heart will be alive forever,” (source for this and five above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
- Tagalog: buhay na walang hanggan: “life which has no boundary”
- Iloko: biagna nga agnanayon: “continuing life” (source for this and one above: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff.)
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “life forever up in heaven” (source: Larson 1998, p. 279)
- Kele: loiko: “survival: enduring through crisis, catastrophe and death” (source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.).
- Mairasi as “life fruit” (source: Enggavoter 2004).
Lloyd Peckham explains the Mairasi translation: “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.”
Following are a number of back-translations of 1 John 2:10:
- Uma: “People who love their relatives, they stay in the light, and there isn’t anything that causes-their-downfall.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “But the one loving his fellow truster in Isa Almasi, he lives already in the light and there is nothing that causes him to sin.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “The person, by contrast, who loves his companion, he is the one whose mind has been illuminated by God, and his behaviour will not cause him to sin.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “But the one who loves his fellow-men, that’s the one who remains in the light, so there is no cause-for-sinning in him.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “But as for the person who values his sibling in believing, he is the one who is truly living in the light/enlightenment. Really if it’s like that, there’s no longer anything in/with him which can-lead-him-to-fall(fig.) into sin.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “He who loves his brother, then he is living good. There cannot be said of him that he is responsible if another person should sin.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
- Yatzachi Zapotec: “If we love our fellows we are constantly present where there is light because we are doing good, and no more will we fall doing evil.”
- Eastern Highland Otomi: “He who loves his sibling, habitually lives in God’s light and nowhere will he fall into sin.”
- Tzotzil: “If we love our Christian brethren, we are in the sunlight. Thus there is nothing now in our hearts to cause us to become evil (to do evil).” (Source for this and two above: John Beekman in Notes on Translation 12, November 1964, p. 1ff.)
- Kele: “He who loves his brother basks in the sunshine and thus is no root in the ground over which his brother might stumble.” (Source: William Ford in The Bible Translator 1957, p. 203ff.)