blue as the sky

In English translations it says that “God stood on a platform of sapphire as blue as the sky.” The translator transliterated sapphire, and said the platform was as black as the sky since the Maan word for blue includes the color black also. We decided to say that the platform was the color of the sky, without specifying the color. That way a light blue color will be in view.


The Hebrew that is translated as “exile” in English is translated in Maan as “war prisoner.” (Source: Don Slager)

glory has departed from Israel

The Hebrew phrase that is translated in English as “the glory has departed from Israel” refers to the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines and therefore the glory of God leaving Israel. A first draft into Maan said “The light has left Israel.” Since no Maan word for ‘glory” that matches the concept in the Hebrew text well could be found, it was translated as “The glorious presence of God has left Israel.”

clean animals, unclean animals

The phrases that are translated as “clean animals” and “unclean animals” in English: The first draft into Maan had “animals not cursed” and “cursed animals,” which did not express correctly the idea of ritually pure and impure animals. So it was changed to “animals accepted by God for sacrifices” and “animals not accepted by God for sacrifices.”

In Kwere it is translated as animals “which are eaten” vs. “which are not eaten”. (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

cardinal directions

The cardinal directions “east” and “west” are easy to translate into Maan here since the language uses “where the sun comes up” and “where the sun goes down.” For “north” the translator had “facing toward the sun rising to the left,” and for “south” she had “facing toward the sun rising to the right.” So the listener had to think hard before knowing what direction was in view when translating “to the north and south, to the east and west.” So, in case all four directions are mentioned, it was shortened by saying simply “all directions.” (Source: Don Slager) Likewise, Yakan has “from the four corners of the earth” (source: Yakan back-translation) or Western Bukidnon Manobo “from the four directions here on the earth” (source: Western Bukidnon Manobo back-translation).

Kankanaey is “from the coming-out and the going-away of the sun and the north and the south” (source: Kankanaey back-translation), Northern Emberá “from where the sun comes up, from where it falls, from the looking [left] hand, from the real [right] hand” (source: Charles Mortensen), Amele “from the direction of the sun going up, from the direction of the sun going down, from the north and from the south” (source: John Roberts), Ejamat “look up to see the side where the sun comes from, and the side where it sets, and look on your right side, and on your left” (source: David Frank in this blog post).

In Lamba, only umutulesuŵa, “where the sun rises” and imbonsi, “where the sun sets” were available as cardinal directions that were not tied to the local area of language speakers (“north” is kumausi — “to the Aushi country” — and “south” kumalenje — “to the Lenje country”). So “north” and “south” were introduced as loanwords, nofu and saufu respectively. The whole phrase is kunofu nakusaufu nakumutulesuŵa nakumbonsi. (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)

“West” is translated in Tzeltal as “where the sun pours-out” and in Kele as “down-river” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel).

In Morelos Nahuatl, “north” is translated as “from above” and “south” as “from below.” (Source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

The Hebrew text that gives instructions where to place items in the tabernacle with the help of cardinal directions (north and south) had to be approached in the Bambam translation specific to spacial concepts of that culture.

Phil Campbell explains: “There are no words in Bambam for north and south. In Exodus 26:35, God instructs that the table is to be placed on the north side and the lamp on the south side inside the tabernacle. The team wants to use right and left to tell where the lamp and table are located. In many languages we would say that the table is on the right and the lampstand is on the left based on the view of someone entering the tabernacle. However, that is not how Bambam people view it. They view the placement of things and rooms in a building according to the orientation of someone standing inside the building facing the front of the building. So that means the table is on the left side and the lampstand is on the right side.”

See also cardinal directions / left and right.


One translation challenge into Maan concerned how to express the idea that Sarah no longer had monthly periods. The draft prepared by a female translator used a euphemism that was very vague. As a result, the other translators did not know what was in view. After a long discussion it was decided to say that Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing.

See also hemorrhages / flow of blood and the way of women / menstruate.

The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge

The Hebrew proverb that is translated as “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” in English is rendered in Medumba with the existing proverb “They, the others, have eaten caterpillars; And we have got a stomach ache.” (Source: Jan de Waard in The Bible Translator 1971, p. 146ff.)

In Maan, the translation is “Parents ate green grapes, but their children’s teeth were sour.” (Source: Don Slager)