Peace be with you

The Greek that is typically translated as “Peace be with you” in English is translated in Ojitlán Chinantec as “Have peaceful happy hearts,” in Huehuetla Tepehua as “Don’t be sad in your hearts,” in Aguaruna as “Be content,” in Shipibo-Conibo as “Think very good,” in Isthmus Mixe as “Don’t worry,” and in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac as “May it go well with you.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

right hand of

The Greek and Hebrew that is typically translated as “(to the) right hand of” is often translated much more descriptively in other languages. In Yakan it is translated as “at the right side, here in the greatest/most important/most honored place/seat,” in Mezquital Otomi as “the right hand, at the place of honor,” in Chuj as “exalted at the right hand,” in Chichimeca-Jonaz as “in a high place there at the right,” in Lalana Chinantec as “make great,” in Isthmus Mixe as “given great authority,” in Morelos Nahuatl as “placed big” (source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August, 1966, p. 1ff), and in Teutila Cuicatec as “in all authority at the right side” (source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.).


The Greek that is translated into English as “anchor” in English is, due to non-existing nautical language, rendered as kayo’ barko (“an instrument that keeps the boat from drifting”) in Chol (source: Steven 1979, p. 76), “iron hooks” (“that make the boat stop”) in Isthmus Mixe, “irons called ‘anchors’ with ropes” in Teutila Cuicatec (source for this and above: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.), “an iron attached to a rope attached to the boat so that it may not drift away” in Lalana Chinantec (source: John Beekman in Notes on Translation, March 1965, p. 2ff.), and “big canoe stopping metal” in Kouya.

Eddie Arthur tells the story of the translation into Kouya: “A slightly more prosaic example comes from Paul’s sea voyages in the Book of Acts. In Acts 27, when Paul’s ship was facing a huge storm, there are several references to throwing out the anchor to save the ship. Now the Kouya live in a tropical rain-forest and have no vessels larger than dug-out canoes used for fishing on rivers. The idea of an anchor was entirely foreign to them. However, it was relatively easy to devise a descriptive term along the lines of ‘boat stopping metal’ that captured the essential nature of the concept. This was fine when we were translating the word anchor in its literal sense. However, in Hebrews 6:19 we read that hope is an anchor for our souls. It would clearly make no sense to use ‘boat stopping metal’ at this point as the concept would simply not have any meaning. So in this verse we said that faith was like the foundation which keeps a house secure. One group working in the Sahel region of West Africa spoke of faith being like a tent peg which keeps a tent firm against the wind. I hope you can see the way in which these two translations capture the essence of the image in the Hebrews verse while being more appropriate to the culture.

See also ship / boat, rudder, and anchor (figurative).

complete verse (John 1:21)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 1:21:

  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “They said to him, ‘Who are you then? Are you Elijah, the person who spoke God’s word long ago?’ And he said to them, ‘I am not he.’ Then they said to him again, ‘Are you the person who is to come to speak the Word of God to us?’ And he answered and said to them, ‘Not I.’ “
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: ” What then? Are you Elijah: Who are you? Are you the prophet of God called Elijah? I am not: I am not Elijah.”
  • Aguaruna: No, I am not Elijah. Are you the prophet: But what are you? Are you the teller of God’s word who will come, that one?”
  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “Are you that man who will tell God’s words?”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “Are you the prophet of God for whom we are waiting?”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “Are you God’s messenger, the one Moses talked about?”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)

complete verse (John 3:30)

Following are a number of back-translations of John 3:30:

  • Huehuetla Tepehua: “It is necessary that it be known that he is the great one. But it is necessary that I be thought nothing of.”
  • Aguaruna: “He will be more surpassing. I will not be great, I will be small.”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “He must be honored by many people, but I will no longer be honored.”
  • Chol: “Christ must be the more important one. I must be made less important.”
  • Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac: “It is necessary that they follow Jesus more and more and that they follow me less and less.”

(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)