hypocrite

The Greek and Hebrew terms that are translated as “hypocrite” in English typically have a counterpart in most languages. According to Bratcher / Nida (1961, p. 225), they can be categorized into the following categories:

  • those which employ some concept of “two” or “double”
  • those which make use of some expression of “mouth” or “speaking”
  • those which are based upon some special cultural feature
  • those which employ a non-metaphorical phrase

Following is a list of (back-) translations from some languages:

The English version of Sarah Ruden (2021) uses “play-actor.” She explains (p. li): “A hupokrites is fundamentally an actor. The word has deep negativity in the Gospels on two counts: professional actors were not respectable people in the ancient world, and traditional Judaism did not countenance any kind of playacting. I write ‘play-actor’ throughout.”

See also hypocrisy.

peace (inner peace)

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated into English as “peace” (or “at ease”) is (back-) translated with a variety of idioms and phrases:

In American Sign Language it is signed with a compound sign consisting of “become” and “silent.” (Source: Yates 2011, p. 52)


“Peace” in American Sign Language (source )

See also peace (absence of strife) and this devotion on YouVersion .

cast lots

    The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “casting” or “drawing lots” in English is often translated with a specific idiom, such as “to take out bamboo slips” — 掣 籤 chè qiān (in most Mandarin Chinese Bibles), “each to pick-up which is-written (i.e. small sticks inscribed with characters and used as slots)” (Batak Toba), a term for divination by means of reed stalks (Toraja-Sa’dan).

    In some cases a cultural equivalent is not available, or it is felt to be unsuitable in this situation, e.g. in Ekari where “to spin acorns” has the connotation of gambling, one may have to state the fact without mentioning the means, e.g. “it came to him,” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel). In Shipibo-Conibo there was no equivalent for “casting lots” so the translation for Mark 15:24 is descriptive: “they shook little things to decide what each one should take” (source: Nida 1952, p. 47).

    Other solutions include:

    • Purari: “throw shells” (source: David Clark)
    • Kwara’ae (in Acts 1:26) “they played something like dice to find out who of the two God chose (God revealed his will that way)” (source: Carl Gross)
    • Navajo: “draw straws”
    • Yatzachi Zapotec “raffle”
    • Chol “choose by a game” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125)
    • Chichimeca-Jonaz: “threw one or two little hard things that had a sign…to see which person it would be”
    • Kekchí: “try with luck”
    • Lalana Chinantec: “there were little things they played with that made evident who it would be who would be lucky”
    • Chuj: “enter luck upon them”
    • Ayutla Mixtec: “put out luck” (Source for this and five above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
    • Lacandon: “play with small stones in order to see who was going to win” (source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

    In North Alaskan Inupiatun a term for “gambling” is used. The same Inupiatun term is also used in Esther 3:7, “though there winning and losing is not in view, but rather choosing by chance” (source: Robert Bascom)

    The stand-alone term that is translated “lots” in English is translated as “two pieces of potsherd” in Highland Totonac. (Source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)

fast (verb)

The Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek that is translated as “fast” in English is translated in Isthmus Mixe as “going without food to worship God” and in Lacandon as “leaving eating in order to talk to God.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

In Vidunda it is translated as “resting to eat.” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

spirit / flesh

The Greek terms that are translated “spirit” and “flesh” are a fundamental contrast, but one which is variously expressed in different languages. Often, however, “spirit” is equivalent to “heart” (Eastern Highland Otomi, Loma, Guerrero Amuzgo, Highland Puebla Nahuatl), and “flesh” may be rendered as “body” (Guerrero Amuzgo, Highland Puebla Nahuatl, Tzeltal) or “you yourself” (Central Tarahumara).

The following translations are illustrative of the contrastive expressions: “your hearts are ready but your bodies are weak” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “your heart is strong but you yourselves are not strong” (Central Tarahumara), “your heart has strength, but your body does not have strength” (Tzeltal), “your heart desires to do good, but your heart is weak,” in which “heart” must be used in both clauses since it not only stands for the center of the personality, but is also the symbol of typical human nature (Loma). (Source for this and all above Bratcher / Nida)

Other translations include “the mind is enthusiastic about doing what God wants it to but limited in the capacity of the body” (Ibaloi) or “Your body is tired but your inner man is not tired” (Lacandon). (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

In Guhu-Samane an idiomatic expression with “your desire is there, but sleep has slain your body” is used. (Source: Ernest Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. )

See also flesh (human nature).

pray

The Greek that is translated as “pray” in English is often translated as “talking with God” (Central Pame, Tzeltal, Chol, Chimborazo Highland Quichua, Shipibo-Conibo, Kaqchikel, Tepeuxila Cuicatec, Copainalá Zoque, Central Tarahumara).

Other solutions include:

  • “to beg” or “to ask,” (full expression: “to ask with one’s heart coming out,” which leaves out selfish praying, for asking with the heart out leaves no place for self to hide) (Tzotzil)
  • “to cause God to know” (Huichol)
  • “to raise up one’s words to God” (implying an element of worship, as well as communication) (Miskito, Lacandon) (Source of this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Shilluk: “speak to God” (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)
  • Mairasi: “talk together with Great Above One (=God)” (source: Enggavoter, 2004)
  • San Blas Kuna: “call to one’s Father” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
  • Ik: waan: “beg.” Terrill Schrock (in Wycliffe Bible Translators 2016, p. 93) explains (click or tap here to read more):

    What do begging and praying have to do with each other? Do you beg when you pray? Do I?

    “The Ik word for ‘visitor’ is waanam, which means ‘begging person.’ Do you beg when you go visiting? The Ik do. Maybe you don’t beg, but maybe when you visit someone, you are looking for something. Maybe it’s just a listening ear.

    When the Ik hear that [my wife] Amber and I are planning trip to this or that place for a certain amount of time, the letters and lists start coming. As the days dwindle before our departure, the little stack of guests grows. ‘Please, sir, remember me for the allowing: shoes, jacket (rainproof), watch, box, trousers, pens, and money for the children. Thank you, sir, for your assistance.’

    “A few people come by just to greet us or spend bit of time with us. Another precious few will occasionally confide in us about their problems without asking for anything more than a listening ear. I love that.

    “The other day I was in our spare bedroom praying my list of requests to God — a nice list covering most areas of my life, certainly all the points of anxiety. Then it hit me: Does God want my list, or does he want my relationship?

    “I decided to try something. Instead of reading off my list of requests to God, I just talk to him about my issues without any expectation of how he should respond. I make it more about our relationship than my list, because if our personhood is like God’s personhood, then maybe God prefers our confidence and time to our lists, letters, and enumerations.”

In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning (click or tap here to read more):

  • For Acts 1:14, 20:36, 21:5: kola ttieru-yawur nehla — “hold the waist and hug the neck.” (“This is the more general term for prayer and often refers to worship in prayer as opposed to petition. The Luang people spend the majority of their prayers worshiping rather than petitioning, which explains why this term often is used generically for prayer.”)
  • For Acts 28:9: sumbiani — “pray.” (“This term is also used generically for ‘prayer’. When praying is referred to several times in close proximity, it serves as a variation for kola ttieru-yawur nehla, in keeping with Luang discourse style. It is also used when a prayer is made up of many requests.”)
  • For Acts 8:15, 12:5: polu-waka — “call-ask.” (“This is a term for petition that is used especially when the need is very intense.”)

Source: Kathy Taber in Notes on Translation 1/1999, p. 9-16.

complete verse (Mark 3:22)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 3:22:

  • Uma: “There were also some Yahudi religion teachers who had just arrived from Yerusalem. Those religious teacher said: ‘Ah! He is possessed by Beelzebub, the king of all demons. It is that king of demons who has given him power to expel demons.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “There were some teachers of the religious law, who had come down from Awrusalam who spoke, they said, ‘That Isa is possessed by Belsebul, the leader of demons, that’s why he can cast-out the demons.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And there were teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem, and they said, ‘This person is possessed by Endedaman the boss of the demons, and because of this he is able to drive demons away from people.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “There were also some teachers of the law from Jerusalem who were saying, ‘Beelzebul has possessed him. That leader of the evil-spirits is who gave him power to cause-evil-spirits -to-leave.'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “The explainers of law who came from Jerusalem said, ‘He really is possessed by Beelzebub who is the leader of all the evil spirits. That one, that’s who gave him the ability to drive out evil spirits.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Lacandon: “…. ‘Jesus’ real boss is the devil. He gives him power to remove devils. Beelzebub is the name of his real boss. He is the one who rules all the devils.'” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)

complete verse (Mark 3:25)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 3:25:

  • Uma: “If people in a family constantly fight, their family will certainly split up.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “Likewise,’ said Isa, ‘if a family (magtewtey-anak) are not of the same mind but always quarrel, eventually they will be scattered.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “If there is a leader of a family and his followers quarrel with each other, their unity will soon fall apart.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “So also with a family, if they quarrel, they will separate.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Like that too will happen to a household of people. If they are divided up for they are having conflicts among themselves, of course they won’t last all-living-together.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Lacandon: “If they get mad with their relatives the ones who are housing together, they will leave housing together, and they will not house together again.” (Source: B. Moore / G. Turner in Notes on Translation 1967, p. 1ff.)