vain (worship)

The Greek that is translated into English as “vain” or “in vain” in English is (back-) translated in various ways:

  • Cashibo-Cacataibo: “say I am important, but they do not believe it”
  • Kekchí: “has no meaning when they praise me”
  • Toraja-Sa’dan, Pamona: “uselessly”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “uselessly they remember”
  • Farefare: “their religion is their mouth”
  • Southern Subanen: “their worship has no meaning”
  • Tzotzil: “they say they love me, but this means nothing”
  • Southern Bobo Madaré: “they worship me but they do not mean what they say”
  • Central Mazahua: “it is of no value that they honor me”
  • San Blas Kuna: “their thinking is not in their hearts” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Mairasi: “tribute of theirs for me [which] will-be-on-their-own” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • Guhu-Samane: “with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me” (“‘In vain’ caused puzzlement [because] why should their efforts to worship God produce no results, try as they may? [But the idiom] ‘with the front teeth of their mouths they worship me’ comes from the picture of one who is making a pretense at eating food, hence their deceit is apparent.’ Source: Ernest L. Richert in Notes on Translation December 1963: p. 4-7; reprinted in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff.)

salvation

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

  • San Blas Kuna: “to 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: “to get loose,” “to go free,” “to 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 expains: “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.

go in peace

The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “go in peace” into English is an idiomatic expression of farewell which is translatable in other languages as an idiomatic expression as well: “go with sweet insides” (Shilluk), “rejoice as you go” (Central Mazahua), “go in quietness of heart” (Chol), “go happy” (Highland Puebla Nahuatl), “being happy, go” (Central Tarahumara), or “go and sit down in your heart” (Tzeltal).

obedience

The Greek that is translated in English typically as “obedience” is translated in Tepeuxila Cuicatec as “thing hearing.” “For to hear is to obey.” (Source: Marjorie Davis in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 34ff.)

In Huba it is translated as hya nǝu nyacha: “follow (his) mouth.” (Source: David Frank in this blog post)

In Central Mazahua it is translated as “listen-obey” and in Huehuetla Tepehua as “believe-obey.” (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

first fruits of his creatures

The Greek that is translated as “first fruits of his creatures” or similar in English is translates in Central Mazahua as “first of his people,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “the first harvest which they gather to give to God,” or in Rincón Zapotec as “a first harvest of all that which God himself made.”

(Source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.)

throne

The Greek that is translated into English versions as “throne” is translated into Naro as ntcõó-q’oo: “he will rule.” The figure of the “throne” cannot be translated in the egalitarian Naro culture, so the idea had to be expressed more explicitly. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)

In other languages it is translated as “stool/seat of the king” (Marathi), “seat of commanding/chieftainship” (Highland Totonac, Kituba), “seat of the Supreme one (lit. of-him-who-has-the umbrella)” (Toraja-Sa’dan — the umbrella being a well-known symbol of power in various parts of South and South-East Asia), “glorious place to sit” (Ekari) (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “where God sits and rules” (Estado de México Otomi), “where God reigns” (Central Mazahua) (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), or “bed of kingship” (Kafa) (source: Loren Bliese).

peace (being at peace)

(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)

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

men committing shameless acts with men

The Greek that is translated as “men committing shameless acts with men” or similar in English is translated aw “man with man they did all filthiness without shame” in Isthmus Zapotec, as “an unclean and shameful thing they did with their bodies, men with men” in Yatzachi Zapotec, and as “they slept with their fellow men. They did that which gives shame” in Central Mazahua. (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)

the perfect law - the law of liberty

The Greek that is translated as “the perfect law, the law of liberty” or similar in English is translated in Central Mazahua as “God has set us free so that we are able to obey his word,” in Rincón Zapotec as “the law of God which is perfect and is able to cause us to be saved,” in Mezquital Otomi as “God’s new word frees us in order that our life will be good,” and in Eastern Highland Otomi as “the new word which is like a law strengthens our hearts so that with pleasure we will obey it.”

(Source: Ellis Deibler in Notes on Translation July, 1967, p. 5ff.)

sackcloth

The Hebrew or Greek which are translated into English as “sackcloth” are rendered into Chamula Tzotzil as “sad-heart clothes.” (Source: Robert Bascom)

Pohnpeian and Chuukese translate it as “clothing-of sadness,” Eastern Highland Otomi uses “clothing that hurts,” Central Mazahua “that which is scratchy,” and Tae’ and Zarma “rags.” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing what a sackcloth looked like in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also you have loosed my sackcloth.

mercy

(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:

slanderer

The Greek that is translated as “slanderer” or “backbiter” or similar in English is translated as “raised up lies about their fellow people” in Central Mazahua, as “talk ugly about their fellows” in Chicahuaxtla Triqui, as “those who give a vicious twist to what they hear” in Highland Totonac, and as “hunted people’s sin” in Huehuetla Tepehua. (Source: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)