bless(ed)

The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated into English as “(to) bless” or “blessed” is translated into a wide variety of possibilities.

The Hebrew term barak (and the Aramaic term berak) also (and originally) means “to kneel” (a meaning which the word has retained — see Gen. 24:11) and can be used for God blessing people (or things), people blessing each other, or people blessing God. While English Bible translators have not seen a stumbling block in always using the same term (“bless” in its various forms), other languages need to make distinctions (see below).

In Bari, spoken in South Sudan, the connection between blessing and knees/legs is still apparent. For Genesis 30:30 (in English: “the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned”), Bari uses a common expression that says (much like the Hebrew) , ‘… blessed you to my feet.'” (Source: P. Guillebaud in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff.)

Other examples for the translation of “bless” when God is the one who blesses include:

  • “to think well of” (San Blas Kuna)
  • “to speak good to” (Amganad Ifugao)
  • “to make happy” (Pohnpeian)
  • “to-cause-to-live-as-a-chief” (Zulu)
  • “to sprinkle with a propitious (lit. cool) face,” (a poetic expression occurring in the priests’ language) (Toraja Sa’dan) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • “give good things” (Mairasi) (source: Enggavoter 2004)
  • “asking good” (Yakan) (source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • “praised, saying good things” (Central Yupik) (source: Robert Bascom)
  • “greatly love” (Candoshi-Shapra (source: John C. Tuggy)
  • “good luck — have — good fortune — have” (verbatim) ꓶꓼ ꓙꓳ ꓫꓱꓹ ꓙꓳ — ɯa dzho shes zho (Lisu). This construction follows a traditional four-couplet construct in oral Lisu poetry that is usually in the form ABAC or ABCB. (Source: Arrington 2020, p. 58)

In Tagbanwa a phrase is used for both the blessing done by people and God that back-translates to “caused to be pierced by words causing grace/favor” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

Ixcatlán Mazatec had to select a separate term when relating “to people ‘blessing’ God” (or things of God): “praise(d)” or “give thanks for” (in 1 Cor. 10:16) (“as it is humans doing the ‘blessing’ and people do not bless the things of God or God himself the way God blesses people” — source: Robert Bascom). Eastern Bru and Kui also use “praise” for this a God-directed blessing (source: Bru back translation and Helen Evans in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 40ff.) and Uma uses “appropriate/worthy to be worshipped” (source: Uma back translation).

When related to someone who is blessing someone else, it is translated into Tsou as “to speak good hopes for.” In Waiwai it is translated as “may God be good and kind to you now.” (Sources: Peng Kuo-Wei for Tsou and Robert Hawkins in The Bible Translator 1962, pp. 164ff. for Waiwai.)

Some languages associate an expression that originally means “spitting” or “saliva” with blessing. The Bantu language Koonzime, for instance, uses that expression for “blessing” in their translation coming from either God or man. Traditionally, the term was used in an application of blessing by an aged superior upon a younger inferior, often in relation to a desire for fertility, or in a ritualistic, but not actually performed spitting past the back of the hand. The spitting of saliva has the effect of giving that person “tenderness of face,” which can be translated as “blessedness.” (Source: Keith Beavon)

See also bless (food and drink), blessed (Christ in Mark 11:9), and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

nations

The Greek and Hebrew that is translated in these verses as “nations” in English is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec with a term emphasizing people (as opposed to territory).

kiss

The Hebrew and the Greek that is usually directly translated as “kiss” in English is translated more indirectly in other languages because kissing is deemed as inappropriate, is not a custom at all, or is not customary in the particular context (see the English translation of J.B. Phillips, 1960 in Rom. 16:16: “Give each other a hearty handshake”). Here are some examples:

  • Pökoot: “greet warmly” (“kissing in public, certainly between men, is absolutely unacceptable in Pökoot.”) (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
  • Chamula Tzotzil, Ixcatlán Mazatec, Tojolabal: “greet each other warmly” or “hug with feeling” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Afar: “gaba tittal ucuya” (“give hands to each other”) (Afar kiss each other’s hands in greeting) (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Roviana: “welcome one another joyfully”
  • Cheke Holo: “Love each other in the way-joined-together that is holy” (esp. in Rom. 16:16) or “greet with love” (esp. 1Thess. 5:26 and 1Pet. 5.14)
  • Pitjantjatjara: “And when you meet/join up with others of Jesus’ relatives hug and kiss them [footnote], for you are each a relative of the other through Jesus.” Footnote: “This was their custom in that place to hug and kiss one another in happiness. Maybe when we see another relative of Jesus we shake hands and rejoice.” (esp. Rom. 16:16) (source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
  • Balanta-Kentohe and Mandinka: “touch cheek” or “cheek-touching” (“sumbu” in Malinka)
  • Mende: “embrace” (“greet one another with the kiss of love”: “greet one another and embrace one another to show that you love one another”) (source for this and two above: Rob Koops)
  • Gen: “embrace affectionately” (source: John Ellington)
  • Kachin: “holy and pure customary greetings” (source: Gam Seng Shae)
  • Kahua: “smell” (source: David Clark) (also in Ekari and Kekchí, source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • San Blas Kuna: “smell the face” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
  • Nyanja: “to suck” (“habit and term a novelty amongst the young and more or less westernized people, the traditional term for greeting a friend after a long absence being, ‘to clap in the hands and laugh happily'”)
  • Medumba: “suck the cheek” (“a novelty, the traditional term being ‘to embrace.'”)
  • Shona (version of 1966): “to hug”
  • Balinese: “to caress” (source for this and three above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Colorado: earlier version: “greet in a friendly way,” later revision: “kiss on the face” (Bruce Moore [in: Notes on Translation 1/1992), p. 1ff.] explains: “Formerly, kissing had presented a problem. Because of the Colorados’ limited exposure to Hispanic culture they understood the kiss only in the eros context. Accordingly, the original translation had rendered ‘kiss’ in a greeting sense as ‘greet in a friendly way’. The actual word ‘kiss’ was not used. Today ‘kiss’ is still an awkward term, but the team’s judgment was that it could be used as long as long as it was qualified. So ‘kiss’ (in greeting) is now ‘kiss on the face’ (that is, not on the lips).)

mind of Christ

The Greek that is typically translated as “mind of Christ” in English is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “we follow the thoughts of Christ.”

zeal

The Greek that is often translated in English as “zeal” is translated in Moken as “great love” (“my zeal” — cewui lak tho: “my great love.”) (Source: Gam Seng Shae)

In Ixcatlán Mazatec it is likewise translated in these verses as “love, commitment, enthusiasm” (not jealousy). (Source: Robert Bascom)

male prostitutes, sodomites

The Greek that is translated by some English versions as “male prostitutes, sodomites” is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “feminine men and men who sleep with feminine men” since the typically-used term for “homosexual” is the passive or feminine partner, while here both passive and active partners are specified.

saint

The Greek that is translated as “saint” in English is rendered into Highland Puebla Nahuatl as “those with clean hearts,” into Northwestern Dinka as “those with white hearts,” and into Western Kanjobal as “people of prayer.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 146)

Other translations include:

  • Ixcatlán Mazatec: “followers of Jesus” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Tzeltal: “whom God possesses”
  • Highland Totonac: “children of God”
  • Yatzachi Zapotec: “clean-hearted people” (source for this and two above: Waterhouse / Parrott in Notes on Translation October 1967, p. 1ff.)
  • Garifuna: “people consecrated to God”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “the ones who believe God’s words”
  • Ayutla Mixtec: “those of God’s”
  • Tepeuxila Cuicatec: “people God has cleansed” (source for this and three above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)

death vs. life

The terms in the verse in 2 Corinthians that are translated as “death” and “life” in English are translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “physical death” and “spiritual life.”

The verse in Ephesians (in English: “dead”) is comparably translated as “spiritually dead.”

desires of the flesh

The Greek that is often translated as “desires of the flesh” in English is translated in Ixcatlán Mazatec as “human desires.”

In Enlhet it is translated as “wantings of the innermost.” “Innermost” or valhoc is a term that is frequently used in Enlhet to describe a large variety of emotions or states of mind (for other examples see here). (Source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1969, p. 24ff.)

prophesy

The Hebrew and the Greek that are translated in English versions as “prophesy” are translated into Anuak as “sing a song” (source: Loren Bliese), into Balanta-Kentohe as “passing on message of God” (source: Rob Koops), and into Ixcatlán Mazatec with a term that does not only refer to the future, but is “speak on behalf of God” (source: Robert Bascom).

Other translations include: “God making someone to show something in advance” (Ojitlán Chinantec), “God causing someone to think and then say it” (Aguaruna), “speaking God’s thoughts” (Shipibo-Conibo), “God made someone say something” “Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac) (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125), “proclaim God’s message” (Teutila Cuicatec), “speak for God” (Chichimeca-Jonaz), “preach the Word of God” (Lalana Chinantec), “speak God’s words” (Tepeuxila Cuicatec), “that which God’s Spirit will cause them to say they will say” (Mayo) (source for this and four above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.), and “say what God wants people to hear” (tell people God wod dat e gii oona fa say) (Gullah) (source: Robert Bascom).

In Luang it is translated with different shades of meaning:

  • For Acts 3:18, 3:21, 3:25: nurwowohora — “mouth says words that don’t come from one’s own mind.” (“This term refers to an individual’s speaking words that are not his because either a good or bad spirit is at work through him. The speaker is not in control of himself.”)
  • For Acts 19:6, Acts 21:9: nakotnohora — “talk about.” (“The focus of this term is on telling God’s message for the present as opposed to the future.”)
  • For Acts 21:11: rora — “foretell” (“The focus of this term is giving God’s message concerning the future. The person who speaks is aware of what he is doing and he is using his own mind, yet it is with God’s power that he foretells the future.”)

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

See also prophet and prophesy / prophetic frenzy.