blaspheme, blasphemy

The Greek that is translated as “blasphemy” or “blaspheme” is (back-) translatated in various forms:


The Hebrew that is typically transliterated as “Hosanna” n English is translated in Aguaruna as “Happily let him come,” in Asháninka as “Here is this one who will save us, this one who comes,” in Yanesha’ as “Let him be saved,” in Xicotepec De Juárez Totonac as “Worship God,” in Chol as “Greetings,” in Waffa as “The one who saves us,” in Navajo as “Let him be praised!,” and in Yatzachi Zapotec “God will help us now.”
John 12:13

fear (of God)

The Hebrew and Greek that are translated as “fear (of God)” (or: “honor,” “worship,” or “respect”) is translated as “to have respect/reverence for” (Southern Subanen, Western Highland Purepecha, Navajo, Javanese, Tboli), “to make great before oneself” (Ngäbere), “fear-devotion” (Kannada — currently used as a description of the life of piety), “those-with-whom he-is-holy” (those who fear God) (Western Apache) (source for this and above: Reiling / Swellengrebel), “obey” (Nyanja) (source: Ernst Wendland), or with a term that communicates awe (rather than fear of an evil source) (Chol) (source: Robert Bascom).

relative age of Andrew and Peter (Simon)

Many languages have terms for siblings that define whether one is younger or older in relation to another sibling.

In the case of Peter (Simon) and Andrew, Simon was assumed to be the older of the two brothers in Navajo because he typically is mentioned first. (See Wallis 2000, p. 103f.)

In Batak Karo, the Greek term for the English term “brother” “is the term for a male having the same father and mother as the reference person, ‘brother.’ The general term for this in Batak Karo is ‘sembuyak,’ but the language prefers a particular kinship term in relation to the reference person. The Revised Standard Version translates the first part of Matt 4:18 as follows: ‘As he walked by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother.’ The first problem here is how to translate ‘two brothers.’ In Batak Karo, if translated literally it will mean that the speaker and the ‘two brothers’ are all brothers. Therefore the relationship between the ‘two’ has to be stated, that they are related to one another as brothers, which in Karo is ‘dua kaiak si sembuyak’ (literally ‘two persons who are from the same womb’). The second problem is the relationship between Simon and Andrew: which of them is older? On the basis of Semitic usage, the older is usually mentioned first (see Gen 4:8; 35:23). So Andrew is Simon’s younger brother; and therefore the translation will be ‘Petrus ras agina Andreas’ (‘Peter and his younger brother, Andrew’).” (Source: M.K. Sembiring in The Bible Translator 1992, p. 217ff.)

The Chilcotin translators tried to circumvent specifying who of the two is older, even though the language also uses age-specific terms for siblings. In Mark 1:16, they have used the generic term ˀelhcheliqi (“brother” without specifying who is older). (Source: Quindel King)

See also James / John (relative age).


(To view the different translations of this term in a simplified graphical form on a new page, click or tap here.)

The Greek terms that are typically translated as “mercy” (or “compassion”) in English are translated in various ways. Bratcher / Nida classify them in (1) those based on the quality of heart, or other psychological center, (2) those which introduce the concept of weeping or extreme sorrow, (3) those which involve willingness to look upon and recognize the condition of others, or (4) those which involve a variety of intense feelings.

Here are some (back-) translations:

figures of speech

The Greek that is translated as “figures of speech” or similar in English is translated in Ojitlán Chinantec as “telling words a little bit covered,” in Tenango Otomi as “comparisons,” in Navajo: “stories that teach,” and in Mezquital Otomi as “like a story” (source: M. Larson / B. Moore in Notes on Translation February 1970, p. 1-125.).

See also parable and image.

apostle, apostles

The Greek term that is translated as “apostle(s)” in English is (back-) translated in the following ways:


The Greek that is translated into English as “perplexed” is translated as “his heart was gone” in Tzeltal, “hard chased” (as in animals in a hunt) in Piro, “his mind was killing him” in Navajo, “his stomach rose up” in Farefare, “he was very irresolute” (i.e. “it was all wrong with him”) in Indonesian, or “his heart was very divided” in Javanese.

See also Seat of the Mind for traditional views of “ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling.”

color of buds

“The rod was described as a dead piece of stick cut from a certain tree. The informant wanted to know what kind of tree, and when told that it was an almond tree, he asked what color the blossoms were. The encyclopedia disclosed that almond trees in the Middle East bear yellow blossoms. He had to know this before he could give the proper term for “budded,” since the color of the bud is incorporated in the word. The translation is: . . . Éran bigish ch’il nahalingo bilátah da’iichiihée “Aaron his-stick plant it-being-like its-top-along plural-something- (unidentified subject) -were-becoming-yellowish-red-the-former-one.” (Source: Faye Edgerton in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 25ff.)

Note: This translation is different from the one of the final version published, see


In choosing a word for the Greek that is typically translated as “gospel” in English, a number of languages construct a phrase meaning “good news,” “joyful report” or “happiness-bringing words.” In some instances such a phrase may be slightly expanded in order to convey the proper meaning, e.g. “new good word” (Tzotzil), or it may involve some special local usage, e.g. “good story” (Navajo), “joyful telling” (Tausug), “joyful message” (Toraja-Sa’dan) (source for this and all above: Bratcher / Nida), or “message of God” (Shilluk) (source: Nida 1964, p. 237)

Vitaly Voinov tells this story about the translation into Rutul:

“In Rutul, it was only during the most recent consultant checking session that I realized that the Rutul word for Gospel – Incir (from Arabic إنجيل — Injil) — sounds and looks exactly like the word that means ‘fig’ in Rutul. This is a case of homonymy, in which two completely non-related words from differing historical sources have come to sound exactly alike. Most Rutul speakers know that incir means ‘fig’ because they grow this fruit in their yard or buy it at the market every week. However, because the religious sphere of discourse was heavily disparaged during the Soviet era, most people simply never encountered Incir with the meaning of ‘Gospel.’ This meaning of the word, which Rutuls of the pre-Soviet era knew from the Koran, simply fell into disuse and never had much reason for returning into contemporary Rutul since there is no Christian church established among the people. So if the translator continues to use the term Incir as the rendering for ‘Gospel,’ he runs the risk that most readers will, at best, read the word with a smile because they know that it also means ‘fig,’ and, at worst, will completely misunderstand the word. The seemingly ‘easy’ solution in this case is for the translator to use a Rutul neologism meaning ‘Joyful Message’ or ‘Good News,’ [see above] instead of Incir; but in fact it is not all that easy to make this change if the translator himself insists on using the historical word because at least some Rutuls still understand it as meaning ‘Gospel.’ This is a situation in which the translation team has to gradually grow into the understanding that a fully intelligible translation of Scripture is preferable to one that maintains old words at the cost of alienating much of the readership.”