The Greek that is translated as “crown of thorns” in English is translated in Navajo as “a hat of a plant that had sharp thorns,” in North Alaskan Inupiatun as “a head-gear of prickly branches,” in Aguaruna as “a thing to crown him with out of thorns,” and in Chol as “woven thorns.”
The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “praise (God)” in English is translated as “make-great” / “make-great the name of” (Tae’), “to speak well of” (Western Highland Purepecha), “lift up the name of” (San Blas Kuna, Kpelle), “to sing the name of” (Huehuetla Tepehua), “to make good” (Highland Totonac), “to say good about” (Tzeltal), or “to make known something good about” (Navajo). (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
In Dan a figurative expression for praising God is used: “pushing God’s horse.” “In the distant past people closely followed the horses ridden by chiefs, so ‘pushing’ them.” (Source: Don Slager)
The German Good News Bible (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch) (1st edition: 1968, 2nd edition: 1982, 3rd edition: 1997) says this about the translation of the Greek expressions that in English are often translated as “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” respectively:
“An example for how a term evolved is the rendering of ‘heavenly kingdom’ or ‘kingdom of God.’ A verbatim translation will be misunderstood by most readers today: as if it talks about a kingdom that is located in heaven, when in reality it refers in the Bible to God being the ruler, to that area in which that rule has been realized and everything that human beings can expect because of that. Dependent on the context, the term is therefore translated differently in this present version: When it focuses on the presence of God’s kingdom it is rendered as ‘God establishes his rule’ (‘Gott richtet seine Herrschaft auf’), when the focus is on the future it is translated as ‘Once God finalizes his creation (or ‘work’) . . . ‘ (‘Wenn Gott sein Werk vollendet . . .’), and when the focus is on that finished creation it is ‘God’s new world’ (‘Gottes neue Welt’).” (p. 299)
The respective translation choice in that German translation:
- kingdom (of God / heaven) (presence of God’s rule)
- kingdom (of God / heaven) (God’s finalized creation in the future)
- kingdom (of God / heaven) (God’s new world)
Daud Soesilo writes this about the translation of those terms in the Malay translation:
In the New Testament [of the Revised Malay Translation (Alkitab Berita Baik, 1996)] “the Kingdom of God/Heaven” does not refer primarily to a region, or place, or to a political or national territory.
The meaning of “kingdom” is fundamentally that of “sovereignty” or “rule.” Since the primary idea is that of kingship, kingly rule, or sovereignty of God, rather than of the sphere or realm in which his rule operates, the sense of this term should be expressed in translation as “kingly rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than by the literal “kingdom.” The most common literal translation of the term “Kingdom of God” in Malay is “Kerajaan Allah.” “Kerajaan Syurga” is used for its variant “Kingdom of Heaven.” However, careful linguistic analysis of the meaning and usage of the term “kerajaan” “kingdom” shows that when it is unmarked it carries the following components:
- a territory
- in which a king rules
- his people
Thus the expressions “Kerajaan Allah” and “Kerajaan Syurga” have primarily a territorial sense, rather than expressing the idea of “kingly rule.” This means, then, that we should consider replacing the literal renderings “Kerajaan Allah/Syurga” with expressions that are better able to give the New Testament meaning of “he basileia tau theou,” as expressed in the following components:
- God’s kingly rule, including his activity in bringing about his rule in this world
- the people God rules over, in particular those who accept his rule in their lives,
- the situation in which God rules completely, which is the consummation of God’s activity of bringing about God’s rule. (This is the situation which the German Common Language Bible “Die Gute Nachricht” translates as “God’s New World.” From one point of view, however, this use of the expression is the one that relates most closely to the “territory” sense mentioned above.)
The Malay translation team has tried to render the expression “he basileia tou theou” faithfully and meaningfully according to the main focus in each context in which it occurs. However, to help readers who are looking for the formal features of the term, we have added footnotes that give a literal rendering. (Source: Daud Soesilo in The Bible Translator 2001, p. 239ff.)
(See also Barclay Newman in: The Bible Translator 1974, p. 401ff.)
Likewise in the Gurung translation the term was also, depending on context, rendered in four different ways:
- God’s power at work in the world,
- the personal response to God, in obedience and receiving blessing,
- God’s future open ruling of the world,
- the ultimate blessings of God’s rule in heaven.
(Source: Warren Glover in The Bible Translator 1978, p. 231ff. — here you can also find a comprehensive list of examples where which translation was applied.)
Following is a list of (back-) translations from other languages:
- Tzeltal: “persons like these will reach God’s government” (as in Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16: “the Kingdom of God belongs to those”) or “the jurisdiction of God” (in the sense of where God has the authority)
- Western Kanjobal: “receive God as king”
- Copainalá Zoque: “like God to rule over”
- San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “agree to God reigning over”
- Kekchí: “power (or authority) of God”
- Laka: “God’s commanding”
- Javanese: “the rule of God”
- Huave: “where God rules”
- Huastec: “God as ruler”
- San Blas Kuna: “God’s government”
- Navajo: “what God has charge of”
- Sayula Popoluca: “to have God rule over”
- Tzotzil: “to have God as chief”
- Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “the leadership of God”
- Wayuu: “where God is chief” (this and examples above in Bratcher / Nida)
- Fuyug “God’s clan”
- Mono: “sana lala’aha nang” – “area of chiefly rule”
- Martu Wangka: “The Father looks after his own relatives” (source for this and the two preceding: Carl Gross)
- Caribbean Javanese: Kratoné Allah (“God’s seat (of a king)”)
- Sranan Tongo: Tiri fur Gado (“the Ruling of God”) or Kownukondre fur Gado (“King’s land of God”)
- Eastern Maroon Creole: A Nyun Tii fu Massa Gadu / Saramaccan: Di Njunjun Tii u Gadu (both: “the New ruling of God”) (source for this and 2 above: Jabini 2015)
Umiray Dumaget Agta: “protectorate of God” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
In Mairasi, a language “where people would rather say something in a new way than in an old way,” there are a number of translations, including “Great Above One’s (=God) rule,” “His power,” “His control,” or “His place of authority/power.” (Source: Enggavoter 2004)
See also your kingdom come.
The Greek that is translated as “seamless” in many English translation is translated in Aguaruna as “not sewn when they made it,” in Chol as “not stitched,” in Navajo as “woven in one piece from the top down,” and in Lalana Chinantec as “no joint in it at all.”
(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
The Greek that is translated into English as “crucify” is translated into Naro with xgàu which literally means “to stretch” as is done with a skin after slaughtering in order to dry it. The word is also widely accepted in the churches. (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
In Ghari it becomes “hammer to the cross” (source: David Clark), in Loma “fasten him to a spread-back-stick” (source: Bratcher / Nida), in Sundanese “hang him on a crossbeam” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), in Aguaruna “fasten him to the tree,” in Navajo “nail him to the cross”, in Yatzachi Zapotec “fasten him to the cross” (source for this and two above (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), and in Apali the different aspects of the crucifixion have to be spelled out: “nail to a tree piece put cross-wise, lift up to stand upright (for the crucified person) to die (and in some contexts: to die and rise again)” (source: Martha Wade).
See also cross.
The Greek that is often translates as “glutton” in English is translated with figurative expressions or descriptive phrases such as “one who has just stomach” (Navajo), “a stomach-for food” (Pohnpeian), “one who eats-much” (Chuukese), or “one who thinks only of eating” (Ekari).
See also glutton (Titus).
The Greek that is translated as “casting” or “drawing lots” in English is often translated with a specific idiom, such as “to take out bamboo slips” — 掣 籤 chè qiān (in most Chinese Bibles), “each to pick-up which is-written (i.e. small sticks inscribed with characters and used as slots)” (Batak Toba), a term for divination by means of reed stalks (Toraja-Sa’dan). In some cases a cultural equivalent is not available, or it is felt to be unsuitable in this situation, e.g. in Ekari where “to spin acorns” has the connotation of gambling, one may have to state the fact without mentioning the means, e.g. “it came to him,” (source for this and all above: Reiling / Swellengrebel). In Shipibo-Conibo there was no equivalent for “casting lots” so the translation for Mark 15:24 is descriptive: “they shook little things to decide what each one should take” (source: Nida 1952, p. 47).
In Purari it is translated as “throw shells” (source: David Clark), in Kwara’ae (in Acts 1:26) as “they played something like dice to find out who of the two God chose (God revealed his will that way)” (source: Carl Gross), in Navajo as “draw straws,” in Yatzachi Zapotec as “raffle,” in Chol “choose by a game” (source for this and above: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.), and in North Alaskan Inupiatun a term for “gambling” is used. The same Inupiatun term is also used in Esther 3:7, “though there winning and losing is not in view, but rather choosing by chance” (source: Robert Bascom)
The stand-alone term that is translated “lots” in English is translated as “two pieces of potsherd” in Highland Totonac. (Source: Ronald D. Olson in Notes on Translation January, 1968, p. 15ff.)
The Greek that is translated in English as “sour wine” or “vinegar” is translated in North Alaskan Inupiatun as “wine,” in Navajo as “sour grape juice,” in Aguaruna “bitter drink, and in tip_language language=”7658”]Yatzachi Zapotec[/tip_language] as “cheap wine.”
(Source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.)
The Greek and Hebrew that is translated as “doubt” in English versions is translated with a term in Tzeltal that means “heart is gone.” (Nida 1952, p. 122)
In other languages it is represented by a variety of idiomatic renderings, and in the majority of instances the concept of duality is present, e.g. “to make his heart two” (Kekchí), “to be with two hearts” (Punu), “to stand two” (Sierra de Juárez Zapotec), “to be two” or “to have two minds” (Navajo), “to think something else” (Tabasco Chontal), “to think two different things” (Shipibo-Conibo), “to have two thoughts” (Yaka and Huallaga Huánuco Quechua), or “two-things-soul” (Yucateco).
In some languages, however, doubt is expressed without reference to the concept of “two” or “otherness,” such as “to have whirling words in one’s heart” (Chol), “his thoughts are not on it” (Baoulé), or “to have a hard heart” (Piro). (Source: Bratcher / Nida, except for Yucateco: Nida 1947, p. 229 and Huallaga Huánuco Quechua: Nida 1952, p. 123)
In Chokwe “kwalajala is ‘to doubt.’ It is the repetitive of kuala, ‘to spread out in order, to lay (as a table), to make (as a bed),’ and is connected with kualula ‘to count.’ [It is therefore like] a person in doubt as one who can’t get a thing in proper order, who lays it out one way but goes back again and again and tries it other ways. It is connected with uncertainty, hesitation, lack of an orderly grasp of the ‘count’ of the subject.” (Source: D. B. Long in The Bible Translator 1952, p. 87ff.)
The Greek that is often translated as “greet no one” in English is translated literally in some languages where greetings take a notoriously long time, but elsewhere the intended meaning is conveyed by translations like “do not delay for salutations” (Sinhala), “do not pause … to give even one person greetings” (Kituba), and in some cases the concept of greeting is abandoned, such as “don’t-waste-time talking to people you meet” (Tboli or “do not loiter … for useless words” (Navajo).
The Greek and Hebrew that are translated as “worry” or “anxious” in English are translated in Navajo as “my mind is killing me.” (Source: Nida 1952, p. 24)
Nida (1952, p. 124) also gives other examples:
“The Piro in Peru use almost the same idiom when they say that a worried man is ‘one who is hard chased.’ The worried person is like a pursued animal in the forest trying to elude the hunter. The impenetrable jungle of the future, the failing strength, and the exhaustion of doubt all press hard upon the soul. And one’s heart seems to fail and even disappear. This is the very phrase employed by the Tzeltal Indians in the rugged mountains of southern Mexico. They describe ‘worry’ by the words ‘their hearts are gone.'”
The Greek that is mostly translated as “virgin” in English can be translated as “woman that is untouched” in Batak Toba or “a woman with a whole (i.e. unopened) body” in Uab Meto. In some cases, however, such terms, or descriptive phrases like, “a woman who has not been with a man,” are felt to be too outspoken. Hence, in English versions the rendering has been toned down from “virgin,” via “maiden” (Goodspeed 1923/1935, Rieu 1954), to “girl” (New English Bible 1961/1970), and in Batak Toba from “woman that is untouched” to “girl” (lit. “female child”).
Similar words for “girl,” “unmarried young woman,” suggesting virginity without explicitly stating it, are found in Marathi, Apache, or Kituba. Cultural features naturally influence connotations of possible renderings, for instance, the child marriage customs in some Tboli areas, where the boy and girl are made to sleep together at the initial marriage, but after that do not live together and may not see each other again for years. Hence, the closest attainable equivalent, “female adolescent,” does not imply that a young girl is not living with her husband, and that she never had a child, but leaves uncertain whether she has ever slept with a male person or not. Accordingly, in Luke one has to depend on Luke 1:34 to make clear that Mary and Joseph had not had sexual intercourse. A different problem is encountered in Pampanga, where birhen (an adaptation of Spanish “virgen” — “virgin”), when standing alone, is a name of the “Virgin Mary.” To exclude this meaning the version uses “marriageable birhen,” thus at the same time indicating that Mary was relatively young. (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
In Navajo, the term that is used is “no husband yet” (Source: Wallis, p. 106) and in Gola the expression “trouser girl.” “In the distant past young women who were virgins wore trousers. Those who were not virgins wore dresses. That doesn’t hold true anymore, but the expression is still there in the language.” (Source: Don Slager)
The term in Djimini Senoufo is katogo jo — “village-dance-woman” (women who have been promised but who are still allowed to go to dances with unmarried women). (Source: Übersetzung heute 3/1995)