public example / triumphal procession

Grace Fabian tells the story of the translation of these concepts in Colossians 2:15 and 2 Corinthians 2:14 respectively into Nabak (in: Fabian 2013, p. 86f.):

“We [Fabian and her co-translator, Kondo] discussed Colossians 2:15. That verse talks about Christ making a ‘public spectacle’ of Satan when he died on the cross.

“’Public spectacle,’ how do you say that in Nabak?

“We set it aside and moved to 2 Corinthians, but we hit a snag at 2:14. I wondered how we could ever express these concepts in the Nabak language. The scene is a triumphal procession of Paul’s day accompanied by the sweet odors from the burning of spices in the streets. Then we talked about the cinnamon bark that the Nabaks burn to create the pungent aroma during their dancing and how our lives are a fragrance to the Lord and to others around us because the Good News is within us.

“At last, we were satisfied that we had stated these verses in Corinthians clearly at least, it was the best we could do for now. It was time for coffee break, and Kondo stepped outside to stretch. He noticed the rose bushes growing next to the office wall, lovingly planted and cared for by my husband, which were now budding, and blooming. ‘That’s the way we are most of the time,’ In commented.

“I wasn’t sure what he meant but he continued, ‘The rose has a beautiful fragrance, but no one knows it until the rose blooms. Most often we Christians stay tightly closed like these buds.’ He held a bud gently between his fingers as he continued. ‘We often keep the Good News to ourselves, but the verses we translated today are telling us to open up and let the fragrance of Christ come out.’

“In the afternoon we continued. ‘Sweet aroma’ was one thing, but what about ‘triumphal procession?’

“We talked about the humiliation conquered people would feel being led through the crowds of cheering victors and presented to the king.

“To my surprise Kondo said, ‘This isn’t a problem to translate. We do almost the same as Bible times.’ He described a traditional song and dance that the Nabaks enjoyed performing when their victorious warriors came home from battle. He even demonstrated how the victors flap their loincloth in the faces of their defeated foes to humiliate them; we realized we had the expression we needed for that other troublesome verse in Colossians about public spectacle. So, in Nabak we say, ‘When Jesus died on the cross he took away the bow and arrows from Satan. Jesus disarmed him, and, in a manner of speaking, He flapped His loincloth in their faces.’”

she poured the ointment on his head

The Greek that is translated as “she poured the ointment on his head” or similar in English is translated in Nabak as “She did not parcel it out drop by drop, she poured it on Jesus head.”

Grace Fabian (in: Fabian 2013, p. 136) explains: “In Nabak, they like to say things in parallel, first the negative, then the same thought in a positive sentence. So verse three says, ‘She did not parcel it out drop by drop, she poured it on Jesus head.’”

rhetorical questions in Romans 8:31-35

The rhetorical questions in Greek that are also translated with rhetorical questions in English in Romans 8:31-35 had to be transformed in Nabak.

Grace Fabian (in: Fabian 2013, p. 149) explains: “Zumbek [Fabian’s co-translator] and I took fresh courage and started in. I had expected [the translation of Romans] to be much more difficult than it really was. We found Paul’s debate very logical except the rhetorical questions. For instance, in Romans 8:31-34 Paul is not asking questions for information. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ Paul and the people in the Greco-Roman world of his day would know that the answer is, ‘No one.’

“The Nabaks do not have this grammatical device in their language. They immediately start asking, ‘Who can separate us? Let me think now.’ So we changed the question to a statement, ‘No one can separate us from the love of Christ. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.’ Then the list of specific situations follows and each one is eliminated as a threat to our security. The rephrasing resulted in correct and satisfying comprehension. We liked the flow of the Nabak words.”

See also rhetorical questions in Kadiwéu.

snow (color)

The Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that is translated in English as “(as white as) snow” is translated in San Miguel El Grande Mixtec as “(as white as) volcano frost,” the only white kind of frost that is known in that language (source: Nida 1947, p. 160.). Likewise, it is translated in Chichewa as matalala or “hail stones,” since “hail in Central Africa, when it occurs, is also white” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 72).

In Obolo it is translated as abalara: “white cloth” (source: Enene Enene), in Bambam and Bura-Pabir as “like the white of cotton” (source: Phil Campbell in Kroneman 2004, p. 500 and Andy Warren-Rothlin), in Muna as “white like cotton flowers” (source: René van den Berg), in Sharanahua as “like fresh Yuca root” (source: Holzhauen / Riderer 2010, p. 72), in Tagbanwa as “white like just broken waves” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation), in Chitonga as “as the cattle egret ” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 130), in Nabak as “white as a white cockatoo ” (source: Grace Fabian ), and in Cerma “white like the full moon,” except in Psalm 51:7 where the Cerma translators chose “wash me with water until I shine” (source: Andrea Suter in Holzhauen / Riderer 2010, p. 36).

In Gbaya, in most cases an ideophone (term that expresses what is perceived by the five senses) is employed to depict strong intense whiteness (either ndáká-ndáká or kpúŋ-kpúŋ are used for the ideophones), sometimes in combination with “cotton.” Interestingly, for Rev. 1:14 where the color of the hair of the “Son of Man” is described, the use of cotton was questioned since it “would create the unpleasant image of an untidy person with disheveled hair or of a mourner with unkempt appearance.” It was eventually used, but only with a footnote that gives additional information by mentioning the French loan word neige for “snow.” In the two cases where the color white refers to the color of the skin of leprosy (Num. 12:10 and 2 Kings 5:27), the image of hail is used in the first to describe the pale white of leprous skin, while the ideophone ndáká-ndáká is used for dramatic effect in the second. (Source: Philip Noss)

See also frost and this devotion on YouVersion .


The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin that are translated as “covenant” in English are translated in a variety of ways. Here are some (back-) translations:

  • Mossi: “helping promise”
  • Vai: “a thing-time-bind” (i.e. “an arrangement agreed upon for a period of time”)
  • Loma (Liberia): “agreement”
  • Northwestern Dinka: “agreement which is tied up” (i.e. “secure and binding”)
  • Chol: “a word which is left”
  • Huastec: “a broken-off word” (“based on the concept of ‘breaking off a word’ and leaving it with the person with whom an agreement has been reached”)
  • Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “a death command” (i.e. “a special term for testament”)
  • Piro: “a promised word”
  • Eastern Krahn: “a word between”
  • Yaka: “promise that brings together” (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Nabak: alakŋaŋ or “tying the knot” (source: Fabian 2013, p. 156)
  • Nyamwezi: ilagano: “agreement, contract, covenant, promise” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Q’anjob’al: “put mouths equal” (representing agreement) (source: Newberry and Kittie Cox in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 91ff. )
  • Manikion, Indonesian: “God’s promise” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Natügu: nzesz’tikr drtwr: “oneness of mind” (source: Brenda Boerger in Beerle-Moor / Voinov, p. 164)
  • Tagalog: tipan: mutual promising on the part of two persons agreeing to do something (also has a romantic touch and denotes something secretive) (source: G. Henry Waterman in The Bible Translator 1960, p. 24ff. )
  • Tagbanwa: “initiated-agreement” (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Guhu-Samane: “The concept [in Mark 14:24 and Matthew 16:28] is not easy, but the ritual freeing of a fruit and nut preserve does afford some reference. Thus, ‘As they were drinking he said to them, ‘On behalf of many this poro provision [poro is the traditional religion] of my blood is released.’ (…) God is here seen as the great benefactor and man the grateful recipient.” (Source: Ernest Richert in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff. )
Law (2013, p. 95) writes about how the Ancient Greek Septuagint‘s translation of the Hebrew berith was used by the New Testament writers as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments (click or tap here to read more):

“Right from the start we witness the influence of the Septuagint on the earliest expressions of the Christian faith. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of his blood being a kaine diatheke, a ‘new covenant.’ The covenant is elucidated in Hebrews 8:8-12 and other texts, but it was preserved in the words of Jesus with this language in Luke 22:20 when at the Last Supper Jesus said, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Jesus’s blood was to provide the grounds for the ‘new covenant,’ in contrast to the old one his disciples knew from the Jewish scriptures (e.g., Jeremiah 31:31-34). Thus, the earliest Christians accepted the Jewish Scriptures as prophecies about Jesus and in time began to call the collection the ‘Old Testament’ and the writings about Jesus and early Christianity the ‘New Testament,’ since ‘testament’ was another word for ‘covenant.’ The covenant promises of God (berith in Hebrew) were translated in the Septuagint with the word diatheke. In classical Greek diatheke had meant ‘last will, testament,’ but in the Septuagint it is the chosen equivalent for God’s covenant with his people. The author of Hebrews plays on the double meaning, and when Luke records Jesus’ announcement at the Last Supper that his blood was instituting a ‘new covenant,’ or a ‘new testament,’ he is using the language in an explicit contrast with the old covenant, found in the Jewish scriptures. Soon, the writings that would eventually be chosen to make up the texts about the life and teachings of Jesus and the earliest expression of the Christian faith would be called the New Testament. This very distinction between the Old and New Testaments is based on the Septuagint’s language.”

See also establish (covenant).

complete verse (Colossians 2:15)

Following are a number of back-translations of Colossians 2:15:

  • Uma: “When Kristus was killed on the cross, he defeated all the evil spirits who have-authority and have-power, and he clearly announced that victory of his.” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “And there on that post the demons/tempters who have authority were really defeated by Almasi. Their authority to rule was taken away by Almasi and he showed to all people that he was the winner.” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And as for those supernatural beings who are demons who have authority, God removed their authority and by means of His defeating them by means of the death of Christ on the cross, he showed that they no longer had any power to resist.” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “And also by means of that death of his on the cross, God removed the authority of the powerful unseen-ones and showed that they were already defeated in the sight of all that exists.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “And because also of the death of Jesu-Cristo there on the cross, all that can’t be seen which have big knowledge/skill (usually occult) and authority have also had their strength removed from them. They really have been caused to surrender by God and he made them like captives that he openly-displayed, the proof that he had defeated them.” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
  • Tenango Otomi: “When Christ died on the cross, he threw to the ground the word of the boss here in the world, because those who were empowered, all of them went to the ground. In full sight they were shamed because he won out over all.” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
  • Nabak: “When Jesus died on the cross he took away the bow and arrows from Satan. Jesus disarmed him, and, in a manner of speaking, He flapped His loincloth in their faces.” (See here)